Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Vol. 1

By Koyoharu Gotouge. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

It has to be said that the title of this series is not its strong point – you get the sense that they kept the Japanese title as a subtitle in order to make it searchable on Amazon, separated from the countless other demon slayers. The premise, too, seems to be fairly traditional and straight down the middle. A young man living with his family out in the boonies (it’s later shown this is the Taisho era – around the 1910s or so) returns home one day to find his family slaughtered and his sister a demon. A demon hunter also shows up to take care of the sister, but her brother defends her, and proceeds to try to a) learn how to get stronger so he can protect his sister, and b) try to find out how to stop her wanting to eat humans. The latter is easily done as she simply comas her way out of the story after a bit, so the former takes precedence. This means the series lives and dies on its action sequences.

The good news is that the action sequences are good. There’s lots of horrific images, and this is not a manga to read if you don’t want to see limbs flying off and people you love lying in a pool of their own blood. Tanjiro is a very earnest young lad in everything he does, and he takes on his training in that mode as well – he is here to SAVE HIS SISTER and kill demons, and he’s all out of sister. He’s a nice kid at heart, which proves to be a bit of a stumbling block for everyone teaching him about demon slaying, as they think he’s not suited for it. He proves to be far more effective than they’d expected, though. His training is not the most original in the world (I have to split that giant boulder in only one blow?), but I was never bored, and the demon we meet in the cliffhanger is pretty damn awful. You want Tanjiro to succeed and be able to save his sister.

The sister, unfortunately, is the weak link here, as once she’s a demon she doesn’t really get to speak. There was a brief moment when I thought she might actually be the comic relief – the bit where we see her bottom half sticking out of the far-too-small basket Tanjiro brought to carry her made me laugh out loud. Sadly, it’s about the only comedic bit in this otherwise very serious series, and once he actually starts his training she rather conveniently slips into a coma so that she’s not off trying to eat people while he gets stronger. I am hopeful that she will wake up, and slightly less hopeful that she might gain some character depth as well. The series is 11+ volumes in Japan, so clearly we have a ways to go. But this is a good start, if a bit straight-laced and serious minded. I’d read it if you enjoy horror/action in an about equal ratio.

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