I’ve been watching a lot of “Black Clover” and “Attack on Titan”, and I’m pretty much caught up to where the English dubs currently are (not that anything is wrong with subs, I just find dubs more accessible). So, I thought I’d give “Demon Slayer” a try.
“Demon Slayer” takes place in Taishō-era (1912-1926) Japan, in which man-eating demons roam the landscape, with humanity’s only protection being the Demon Slayer Corps, an organization made up of gifted humans capable of killing demons by decapitating them with special swords, though they are not officially recognized by the Japanese government. Many members of the Demon Slayers either come from respected families that have hunted demons for generations, or have lost loved ones to them.
Demons themselves are ordinary humans who have been infected with the blood of the first demon, Muzan Kibutsuji (Greg Chun). In order to survive and become more powerful, they must devour human flesh, and some are able to use special abilities called Blood Demon Arts. We learn early into the show that Muzan has great control over the demons he makes, as he is the only person other than a Demon Slayer that is able to kill them, and it is largely implied that he intentionally engineered their behavior to keep them loyal to him (we do meet demons in the show that have managed to free themselves of Muzan’s influence, but it is incredibly rare). Demons are virtually indestructible at night and can regenerate limbs quickly, but disintegrate in the daylight.
The show focuses on Tanjiro Kamado (Zach Aguilar), an ordinary boy who comes home one day to find his entire family murdered by demons, except for his sister, Nezuko (Abby Trott). Nezuko tries to eat him at first, but when the Hashira (one of the highest ranks of Demon Slayers) Giyū Tomioka (Johnny Yong Bosch) tries to kill her, Tanjiro risks his life to save her and she returns the favor. Giyū notices that she is different from the other demons he’s faced, and he sends Tanjiro to his master, Sakonji Urokodaki (Brook Chalmers) to get trained as a Demon Slayer for two years, and he agrees to take in Nezuko as well, who sleeps for most of that time. It seems that during her slumber, Nezuko changed so that she no longer needed to eat humans to stay alive — she just needs to sleep — but nevertheless, Tanjiro is determined to find a way to change her back into a human.
Tanjiro eventually makes it to final selection — a grueling “entrance exam” in which Demon Slayer candidates have to survive seven nights without outside help on a mountain infested with demons. All who fail die, which seems like a but much, and really make me question the ethics of of the organization. This is only compounded by the fact that there is a demon in final selection — the Hand Demon — that shouldn’t be in an “exam” for beginners, but Urokodaki and presumably everyone above him in the organization knows about. In fact, there are several times the organization has surprisingly little regard for the lives of their members, and I would not be surprised if it turns out they have a hidden agenda or aren’t who they seem they are, in the same vein as something like S.H.I.E.L.D. in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Tanjiro of course succeeds, and ends up befriending Zenitsu Agatsuma (Aleks Le), an annoying, cowardly rookie Demon Slayer who has lightning abilities that are only effective when he falls asleep; and Inosuke Hashibira (Bryce Papenbrook), an annoying, loud-mouthed rookie Demon Slayer who was raised by wild boars (he’s like Asta from “Black Clover”, but without any of his charm). And for most of the show, this trio battles the demon of the week, culminating in their participation in an operation to take out Rui (Billy Kametz) one of the twelve Kizuki (Muzan’s inner circle). Being a spider demon, his arc is very disturbing, and has some of the strongest horror elements of the show.
Overall, “Demon Slayer” Season 1 is just an average first season of a Shonen anime. It has a lot of characters, especially once we get introduced to the Hashira at the end of the season that we’ll presumably see more of in the future, as well as a complicated world that needed to be established. I think it laid out a sturdy, if unremarkable base.
It does fall into a lot of the same pitfalls other Shonen anime fall into, with generic themes about breaking past your limits, being there for family and friends, and refusing to give up, with our heroes learning random powers out of nowhere, and every villain getting some sort of sympathetic backstory. All good stuff, but they’re all stuff that have been done better elsewhere, though I can hardly blame them for wanting to establish a baseline before possibly subverting our expectations in future seasons.
But as it stands, I think Season 1 was good, but nothing special. The same can be said of the quality of the dub, as it does its job, with our three leads in Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke being particularly pronounced, but it is also filled with the same handful of voice actors you’ve probably seen in a million other projects.
“Demon Slayer” Season 1 English Dub gets a 7/10