It was a winter morning on the mountains. Tanjiro Kamado, the oldest child of the family who was coming back from selling coal smelled the scent of blood coming from his house. Five slaughtered and eaten and one injured and unconscious, Tanjiro’s family have been attacked by a flesh eating demon, with only his little sister Nezuko being the lone survivor and now a demon. In order to find a way to revert his sister back to being a human, Tanjiro becomes a demon slayer.
That is a basic summary for the shōnen anime Kimetsu no Yaiba, or Demon Slayer in English, and it’s a pretty straightforward one.
Shōnen, a genre aimed towards young teens that mainly consists of action series, is one of the most successful manga and anime genres. The manga often become anime series and some even become feature films. Boku no Hero Academia, for example, one of the biggest anime right now, got its first movie two years after airing. The latest story in this manga-to-film pipeline is Demon Slayer, with a film coming out in 2020. But if you were only familiar with its original comic book form, you might be puzzled by its success.
Sure, Demon Slayer is overall a solid manga and anime. The four main protagonists and the Hashiras are well designed and likeable and the main villain is menacing and ruthless. But this shouldn’t be the show that is grabbing everyone’s attention, its plots take a plodding monster-of-the-week form and its characters are underdeveloped.
What put Demon Slayer on the radar is the work anime studio Ufotable has put into it, especially how they integrated in CGI.
The use of CGI in anime has never been the greatest. You have series like SSSS.Gridman that use CGI in the fight scenes to make it look like guys in rubber suits. Then you have shows like Berserk 2016, which looks like a PS1 and PS2 game had a poorly rendered love child, but we shouldn’t talk about that.
Ufotable has now become the gold standard of CGI in anime. They are able to use a lot a dynamic camera movements in their action scenes. Demon Slayer just shows how much Ufotable has gotten even better at doing this, it’s not just one-off effect anymore. Ufotable are now consistently able to flex the camera in all of the fights. Take the Tanjiro and Nezuko versus Susamaru and Yahaba fight for example, with the use of CGI, we are allowed to just follow and have a nice wide shot of Tanjiro trying to dodge and escape the attacks. Something that would look either really bad or just impossible to do with 2D animation.
Ufotable has also made the anime look better than the manga. Of course, other anime studios have done this, but Ufotable has just made the manga look like it’s not doing the anime justice. There is a specific scene that shows this, and that is the rotating room fight.
In this fight, the main demon in this arc has the ability to rotate the room via hitting the drums on his body. With the use of CGI, they are able to have the camera follow the protagonist trying to adapt to the change in gravity, jumping on walls, floor, and ceiling. The popular anime YouTuber Gigguk would describe the fight as “mind bending, Inception-esque.”
The dynamic camera is great and all, but the overall aesthetic and artstyle of the whole show is amazing. The characters in the show use a breathing technique that allows them to be able to exude the same energy as a certain element or style. These range from water and thunder to sound and insects.
The elemental attacks are symbolized by showing the elements appear to come out the users’ swords. Ufotable takes this opportunity to create art. They take the climax of a fight scene and make it into a beautiful painting. The way the sword and water effects flow together or the thunder and lighting effects just exploding like fireworks. Not only are the effects just beautiful to look at, but the final slash at the end of the fight is so refined and polished, they are also amazingly satisfying. The sound of the blade cutting a demon’s head off sounds really clean and the sound effects for the elements also fit perfectly with each attack.
Any fan of the Demon Slayer anime will tell you that the high point of the series is the end of episode 19, the Natagumo Mountain arc. Everything that Ufotable was good at is perfected in this climax. This is basically what put Demon Slayer on everyone’s radar. After this episode came out, Demon Slayer was trending on Twitter and even famous game streamer Ninja tweeted about it. It wasn’t just one thing that made the scene great, but everything about it. The nicely choreographed dance that started the scene, the crisp and beautiful animation and CGI, the sound effects just giving every single attack so much weight, the fire effects lighting up the entire scene, and the music track, “Kamado Tanjiro No Uta,” is so moving and works perfectly with the entire scene. Still after watching it over and over, it gives me goosebumps and a tingle down my spine.
Ufotable has put in an undeniable amount of effort into Demon Slayer and it really paid off. Throughout the entire anime, they have been giving the viewer a visually pleasing and satisfying experience. Anyone who is a fan of anime should give series this a shot and at least watch up to episode 19. All the hype Demon Slayer has gained is well deserved, and deserves the movie coming out sometime in 2020.
Image Credit: Koyoharu Gotoge/Aniplex of America