Review/discussion about: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Kimetsu no Yaiba claims to slay demons.
But the only thing it really puts to rest are its chances at being a worthwhile anime.
Kimetsu no Yaiba begins with terror. A common evening like any other has Tanjirou returning home to discover that nearly everyone in his family has been slaughtered. The only survivor is his sister Nezuko, but she has mysteriously turned into a demon instead while still retaining part of her human faculties. Now tasked with returning her to normal, the two embark on a demon-slaying quest.
Credit where credit is due, Kimetsu no Yaiba strings together a set of cool action sequences and lively events for many of its key moments. Be it Zenitsu charging up for an insane lightning strike or Nezuko herself taking part in a leg-shattering “soccer match”, the show knows how to make its various skirmishes exciting. Perhaps that’s to be expected, what with the katanas and abilities present in each scenario. However, the anime ensures that even its grandest moves and its silent attacks provide a litany of awe.
Past the spectacle, though? The anime falls apart.
Most notably, Kimetsu no Yaiba avoids subtlety entirely when the majority of its scenes force in exposition to an unnecessary degree. It’s okay to hear the thoughts of Tanjirou now and again, but when almost every time he takes an action or ponders the situation, it disrupts the flow of those cool action sequences. In turn, this stop-and-go internal monologuing creates a whiplash effect in the narrative since the anime cannot go onward without a stop for explanation purposes.
The show also bounces between different parts of its narrative without much staying power. Important scenes miss emotional weight. Flashbacks lack intrigue. Comedy bits do not land their mark. It’s a hodgepodge of attempts at creating a story that appears interesting yet cannot muster the correct amount of execution.
Worse still, it becomes tough to justify any of the supposed positivity within Kimetsu no Yaiba. Thematically speaking, the anime explores concepts of forgiveness and judging someone by their character as opposed to their surface. That’s well and good – except for the fact that its centered on gluttonous monsters, ravenous villains, and evil demons. Meaning, their violent darkness and corrupt moral behavior are nigh impossible to excuse, especially so when Tanjirou seems alone in such an endeavor. The brisk attempts at establishing sympathy for the lame villains doesn’t add much justification either when they feel more like poor tries at eliciting drama rather than sincere links to those themes.
ART & ANIMATION
Despite the troubles with its story elements, Kimetsu no Yaiba still manages to curate a visual repertoire that pushes past these woes with exceptional skill.
The animation stands out. Tanjirou and crew run, jump, and slide all over the place as they deal with adversaries or train to become better swordsmen. Same goes for Nezuko and others of her ilk; they have supernatural skills that permit them irregular actions and thus wild movements.
These animations are bolstered by a neat use of CG portions. The anime blends them rather seamlessly with the traditional style, giving the fights greater freedom in what can go down. Truth be told, seeing Tanjiro walk away on his own comes off as robotic, but the awesome water effects and general showmanship from the characters nevertheless upholds this nifty blending.
Artistically, Kimetsu no Yaiba does well as well. Its character designs are vibrant and diverse, providing a cast of people and demons alike that range in colors, outfits, and accessories. Scars, boar masks, elegant clothing options. There’s too many characters to go through, and there are too many combinations to list, but suffice it to say that Tanjirou, Nezuko, and nearly everyone involved in the anime have looks that go with their personalities while remaining true to the fantasy and the period of the era.
Unfortunately, Kimetsu no Yaiba cannot quite follow through everywhere with its artistry. The different settings for the show retreaded the same locales, namely forests and the inside of a house or two. Compared to the pizazz that the rest of the art and animation provided, the repetitive, uninteresting locations don’t live up to the same standards. Similarly, its desire to at times go completely silly in its visuals aligns with its weak comedy but acts as a deterrent to what is already well done.
At the minimum, its approach to lighting captures a more sinister mood for the premise. Plus, the facial expressions and detailed contours give the characters better reactions and stronger presence during either the more intense or more laidback scenes. So, while the anime has a couple of missteps, it certainly has a lot going for it visually overall.
Kimetsu no Yaiba falls apart again with its characters and the character writing.
Their most glaring downfall: total inclusion. Which is to say that they basically have none. The anime seems perfectly content introducing a new person, using them for their allotted segment, and then ignoring them for the rest of the show. This odd affinity is usually okay for those one-off or extreme side characters, but the show applies this sentiment to some of its bigger players too.
For instance, Kibutsuji, the literal final boss of the entire story, has his introduction rather early (at about episode seven or so), but he’s essentially neither seen nor heard from again until the last episode, calling into question why he was brought in at the beginning to begin with. The medical duo likewise seen around the same time never show up again despite potentially being the ones to have the cure to Nezuko’s dilemma. Tanjirou’s mentor also has no relevance after his initial involvement save for a mention to a letter he writes at a pivotal point.
It goes on. There are the ghost people who aided Tanjirou’s training in the first few episodes of the show that are practically never referenced again. Then there are the Hashira warriors Tanjirou meets at the palace. They arrive, give a line or two, and then almost all of them disappear for the rest of the final arc. Most egregious of all is the one angry guy at that competition to join the demon-slayer ranks; his only other appearance occurs in the finale for less than thirty seconds as an off-hand reminder that he exists (and that his frame in the visuals of the opening track wasn’t disregarded).
To be fair, the context for meeting some of these characters makes sense. Kibutsuji shows up to demonstrate just how twisted and downright demonic the dude happens to be, and the Hashira are there to witness Nezuko, a demon, not wanting human blood to confirm that it’s now true that not every demon is a lost cause. Even so, the overwhelming number of “vital” characters who are whisked away, tossed aside, or otherwise ignored does not go unnoticed. Indeed, if Kimetsu no Yaiba doesn’t seem to care about them, then why should the audience?
This huge problem of total inclusion does not apply to its main characters: Tanjirou, Nezuko, Zenitsu, and Inosuke. Instead, they have their own problems to deal with.
Tanjirou is a morally good fellow. Arguably, he’s pretty much alone in being a purely positive influence within the story. He has tons of optimism. He trains hard despite setbacks. He shows gratefulness towards others. He’s a metaphoric light in the darkness. Sadly, there’s not much else to him. He has no real personal conflicts besides needing to improve as a fighter, so his arc and his meaning within the narrative have next to no thematic exploration, keeping him from reaching his true potential as a character.
Similar thoughts go for Nezuko. Her main role within Kimetsu no Yaiba isn’t to be the more-human-than-demon example but rather the major catalyst for Tanjirou himself. She gives him his purpose, and therefore she could very well be considered the most pivotal character in the anime. Sadly again, though, she’s relegated to the sidelines (read: an empty wooden box) where she sleeps for literally huge chunks of the story. She’s only called upon when the narrative demands, equating her to a an all-too-convenient tool to be used at the story’s leisure.
As for Zenitsu and Inosuke, they don’t fare much better. Zenitsu hardly changes (if at all) over the course of the season, and his measly backstory reveals his scaredy-cat origins without much substance. Surprisingly, then, Inosuke has the best turn around. Hostile and aggressive at first, he slowly becomes more friendly to his two new buddies as they work together to win. He doesn’t drop his serrated edge per se, but seeing him be more accepting is a nice shift to his character.
MUSIC & SOUND
Kimetsu no Yaiba has some audio chops to recognize.
The main three voice actors deserve a shoutout for sure. Natsuki Hanae as Tanjirou walks that fine line between naivete and honesty, capturing the dude’s kindness through the tone of his speech. Hiro Shimono as Zenitsu hopefully stayed hydrated during recording for the mass amount of crying and yelling he did for most of his on-screen parts. And Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Inosuke, ever the veteran of his craft, performs at an elite level as his guttural and rough delivery breathes life into the “boar.”
Besides the voice acting, Kimetsu no Yaiba remains rather average for the rest of its music ensemble. The opening track, “Gurenge”, is example enough. It mixes together pounding drums, chugging guitar, and soft piano keys to give an energized song that sets the stage for the upcoming intensity. The structure of the track has some catchiness, and its vocal callback to the beginning when it hits the middle is a cool touch, but it doesn’t really go anywhere technically brilliant or musically intriguing.
“from the edge” is the ending track for the show, and it’s even more forgettable. The song also brings in those familiar drums and guitar strings, but it goes down a slightly different path with prominent violins, a grander atmosphere, and a more nuanced feeling. Not a bad listen in similar fashion to its OP counterpart, for the vocal performance does a lot of the heavy lifting. Still, and again, it suffers from being a bit too straightforward.
Otherwise, the original soundtrack is more or less decent to hear. Choirs and sweeping vocals fill many of the tracks, charging them up with swelling emotions and clear majesty. But Kimetsu no Yaiba can also dial it back when it wishes, such as with slower, more county-esque tunes for the normal moments. A helping of the songs also know their heritage, staying rooted in the setting and the timeline. If nothing else, the episode start screen has a neat audio cue to reorient the viewer into the anime once more.
I have several choice words for this anime, yet a single word overbears all the others: annoying.
Most parts of the show cling to that word and hardly let go. Specifically the characters. I pretty much despise each of them. Tanjirou is too much of a goody two-shoes. Inosuke is way too over-the-top to take seriously. Shinobu isn’t intimidating in the slightest.
By far the most annoying character in the anime, however, and now one of my least favorite characters ever, is Zenitsu. He almost never stops whining. He almost never stops screaming. He almost never stops getting on my nerves. He’s awful to have around, and I’m looking forward to not hearing him again anytime soon in my life.
Much of the writing annoyed me, too. The first couple of episodes. The fight with the drum demon and the spinning room. The whole Tanjirou-didn’t-actually-kill-that-top-tier-demon conclusion. The Hashira basically being caricatures. And did I mention Zenitsu already? Because whether I did or didn’t, I need to reiterate the fact that he’s literally annoyance incarnate, more so than these other examples.
Now, I am a fan of physical combat as opposed to guns and distance combat because I find it vastly more interesting (e.g., the choreography, the possibilities, etc.). And sure, Nezuko is cute (which effectively sums her up). But a sword here and a cute character there does not a good anime make. Rather the show cooks up the opposite: a bunch of nots.
Not fun. Not entertaining. Not worthwhile. Just a sparkly pile of nothing.
Kimetsu no Yaiba lags out. While the artistry can impress, and the audio has its pockets, the rest of the project is a mess. An awkward narrative. Odd character handlings. The annoying factors in-between. It simply rests in pieces.
Story: Bad, the spectacle of its cool action sequences cannot mask its avoided subtlety, its lack of staying power, and its unreliable themes
Art & Animation: Good, the fluid movement, the diverse character designs, and the strong lighting effects are a boon, but the repetitive settings and the deterring comedic style get in the way
Characters: Bad, an overreliance on ignoring many of the cast members bludgeons the writing, Tanjirou is a positive force without a solid arc, Nezuko is a necessary catalyst who is too much of a convenient tool, Zenitsu has little going for him, and Inosuke at least shifts in the right direction
Music & Sound: Fine, while the VA performances are great, the OP and the ED are just passable offerings, with the OST containing enough majesty to improve the production values once again
Enjoyment: Terrible, annoying
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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