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“Demon Slayer”: Anime of the year, or typical shonen?

Every so often, a show comes along that shakes the internet to its very core and all across Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Reddit, users comment with their over-the-top reactions. This past year, that show seemed to be “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.”

“Demon Slayer” began as a shonen manga by mangaka Koyoharu Gotōge and has been serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” since Feb. 15, 2016, so it isn’t a particularly new source material. And for those of you who aren’t in the know, shonen manga are those meant for teenage boys — “Dragon Ball,” “Naruto” and “One Piece” are famous examples.

“Demon Slayer” has a fairly straightforward premise: 13-year-old Tanjiro Kamado returns home from selling firewood one day to find his family dead — all except his little sister, Nezuko Kamado, who has been turned into a demon. Tanjiro makes a promise to cure his sister’s new affliction and joins the Demon Slaying Corps, an organization of skilled warriors trained to kill demons. Along the way, Tanjiro and Nezuko meet various allies, including the noteworthy Zenitsu and Inosuke, Tanjiro’s fellow newbie Demon Slayers, and enemies. 

None of these things alone explains the massive amounts of hype surrounding “Demon Slayer.” As a manga, it had a small yet loyal following of fans. The transition from manga to anime made all the difference, as “Demon Slayer” made its presence known to anime fans and non-fans alike in a big way.

Characters that were already surprisingly compelling become even more so when given a voice. The soundtrack doubles down on emotion that was present in Gotōge’s manga. However, there’s one thing in particular that people will remember “Demon Slayer” for, one thing that couldn’t ever have happened were it still just a weekly manga.

Ufotable, a Japanese animation studio known for other shows such as “Kara no Kyōkai” and “Fate/Zero,” was in charge of bringing Gotōge’s manga to the small screen, and they did a fantastic job with it. The art style is reminiscent of old Japanese paintings, and additional 3D imagery is used to enhance what is already present to great effect. The fights are mesmerizing, every movement has a purpose and the choreography is so easy to follow because the animators took their time to make everything as clear as possible. 

Even the most cynical of anime skeptics have to acknowledge that Demon Slayer’s animation is absolutely stunning, and is perhaps one of the best things to come out of shonen this year. But is it anime of the year material as many people seem to claim?

Unfortunately, this is where people must acknowledge the clichés that lie within the anime. Beneath the gorgeous animation, “Demon Slayer” is a typical shonen. It follows the tropes commonly seen in the genre without doing too much to differentiate itself, especially in the beginning.

Additionally, there are more than a few pacing problems. While the anime seems to find its footing midway through the season, early episodes move a bit too quickly through events.

The comedy is also quite a hit or miss, particularly for those who may be unfamiliar with the type of humor typically seen in shonen. Decidedly grating is Zenitsu, the main source of comic relief among the main quartet whose screaming and cowardly nature make him occasionally unlikeable.

Despite this, it’s an entertaining watch and people seem to have no regret when it comes to investing their time. The first season of the anime consists of 26-30 minute episodes, and a movie has already been announced and is in the works. Demon Slayer’s popularity seems to be at no risk of flagging anytime soon, and now is as good a time as any to check it out.

“Demon Slayer” can be streamed on Hulu, Crunchyroll and Funimation, and it can be read through the Shonen Jump app.