Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃) is a shōnen, historical, dark fantasy, adventure anime adaptation of the original manga series written by Koyoharu Gotōge that is being produced by the studio ufotable and directed by Haruo Sotozaki. The story follows a young boy named Tanjirō who goes into the city one snowy morning to sell charcoal so that he can support his family. When he returns home the next day, he discovers that his entire family has been brutally slaughtered by demons and the sole survivor, an elder sister named Nezuko, has been transformed into a demon herself.
I’ve heard some people compare this to Dororo, but I feel that does this series a great injustice. It’s true that they have some similarities as far as demons and demon-hunting goes, but aside from that, they are unique in their own ways. Demon Slayer had a phenomenal first episode and I want to relish in it without trying to force it to live up to the expectations of another supernatural-related series from the season. There is no reason that we can’t have two kick-arse shōnen shows.
Everything about this episode was fabulously exquisite to me. From the spectacular animation to the breath-taking musical score followed by the near-flawless pacing and action sequences, and lastly a premise that is intensely evocative—all of it utterly blew my fucking mind, thus making this the best first episode that I have seen yet (I had originally thought this about Fruits Basket, which is a very close second now).
The animation was a huge wow factor for me. There are so many shows utilising computer-generated graphical assistance this season with their virtual cinematography, but none of them have been able to blend 3D with 2D, including scenes where there’s a transition from one into the next, nearly as well as Demon Slayer. The CG is used as an enhancement for the scenery and settings, along with all of the action portions without being overpowering or exaggerated to the point of feeling clunky and awkward. The intricate use of details in building texture and depth was brilliant. There are times when it’s so well-done, it feels photorealistic.
Not only does it create gorgeous ambiance to the brutality of the plot, but it also draws you into the scenes in a manner that felt quite escapist to me. The character designs and hand-drawn elements use a rather masculine demeanour with sharp edges and thick lines and vivid expressiveness (especially via the eyes) that further complements this animation bravura, and I think that is one of the reasons that it works so well. Both things were crafted to work together rather than as separate entities that just so happen to get thrown on top of one another.
The musical score was the second thing that had me stunned into silence. As someone who is obsessed with musical scores for cinema (TV, films, anime) and video games, I wasn’t expecting it to be so vividly theatrical. It is epic and sweeping, formulating an influx of gripping emotions and tension that allow you to realise something terrible will happen, but you don’t know what, when, or how. This is the way to structure a magnificently suspenseful and engaging hook to a new series, especially when it further plays into the storyline.
The sheer ferocity of which the slaughter occurs is jaw-dropping and discomforting. When Tanjirō finds his family’s remains, the grief and astonishment of that moment is so raw and enthralling that I couldn’t help but empathise with his plight and hope with all that I had that not everyone had been attacked. My mind and attention had become so invested on the main character and this foundation for his inevitable aspiration—and i such a short amount of time—that I didn’t even realise it until the episode ended, leaving me desperate for more.
The majority of the credit for my subconscious intoxication can be given to the pacing. It is written to be impeccably balanced between introducing the main characters, laying the groundwork for Tanjirō’s hero’s journey, briefly highlighting what the action will entail, and also providing small morsels of what that specific journey shall involve as Tanjirō learns to adapt to his new, peculiar circumstances. I never felt like I was being rushed through a plethora of irrelevant information (I’m looking at you Shōmetsu Toshi), or that things were developing so slowly that I was going to die of boredom.
Honestly, I could probably keep on prattling about Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, but I feel that fans of shōnen, dark fantasy narratives should go and watch the pilot for themselves. For someone who has never had any experience or interaction with this series before, consider me shook and hooked.
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