Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba’s anime was something of a surprise hit. Although the manga on which it was based ran in the popular comic anthology magazine Weekly Shonen Jump alongside other series like My Hero Academia and One Piece, it didn’t have as much of a following as some of the more well-known series.
Since it aired, however, everything changed, perhaps most exemplified by the manga now having sold over 100 million units worldwide — about four times the sales of My Hero Academia, and about equal to Attack on Titan (although across 22 volumes compared to Titan’s current count of 31).
Friday, during the panel for Demon Slayer’s feature film at the 2020 NYCC Metaverse, Chris Han of Funimation and Anthony Foronda of Aniplex of America discussed the anime series and what made it resonate with viewers. They also gave a hint at what fans should expect to see in the film, and some news on when North American fans might be able to see the movie.
The series is set in Japan during an unspecified time during the Taisho era (roughly sometime between 1912 and 1926), and follows brother and sister Tanjiro and Nezuko Kamado. Tanjiro, upon returning from selling charcoal to help make ends meet for his family, finds them all murdered by a demon except for his sister Nezuko, who has become a demon herself. The two travel together, looking for a way to return Nezuko to human form, leading Tanjiro to join a secret group of demon-slaying swordsmen. The hunters use special breathing techniques that allow them to imbue their weapons with elemental properties in order to slay normally unkillable demons.
The empathy Tanjiro displays not just for other people, but for the demons as well, was an aspect that was frequently brought up on the panel as to the show’s and Tanjiro’s appeal as a protagonist. With Anthony saying, “We don’t see a lot of empathy in heroes in shounen, and we see that with him.”
Although Tanjiro is part of a group killing demons, he still manages to remain empathetic see his targets as more than monsters. Something they surmised might come a bit from his sister being turned into a demon, that if she can refrain from killing humans to survive, then there might be others like her. And so in a sense he acts not to kill them, but set them free from this terrible path they ended up on.
Han and Foronda also discussed the show’s beautiful animation from studio ufotable (pronounced like U.F.O. table). Chris described the appeal of the show’s animation as animated GIFs you would want to see in an art museum. “[Millennials] long to be able to go into an art museum and see like GIFs in motion, like in pictures and paintings in frames. It’s like seeing that as an anime series. And I think that’s where ufotable knocks it out of the park.”
They ended the panel discussing Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train aka Demon Slayer: Infinity Train, which is releasing in Japan next Friday, Oct. 16. Announcing that it would be coming to North American theaters early in 2021.
Mugen Train, unlike many anime films for long running series, is continuing the series’ story. The film sees Tanjiro and his friends assisting one of the twelves’ strongest swordsmen in the Demon Slayer corps., the flame hashira Kyojuro Rengoku, in investigating the mysterious disappearances of people from a train.
Which causes them to cross paths with Enmu, one of the 12 elite guard of main antagonist and demon lord Muzan Kibutsuji, who has made the train into their personal hunting ground. Enmu was seen briefly at the end of the anime series as Muzan admonished the lower six after one of their own was defeated.
The 26-episode anime series is currently available to stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation. There is also a Blu-ray release of the first 13 episodes on sale now.