By Dustin Cabeal
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a standard monster hunter story. There is one and only one element of the story that stayed with me, and it’s likely that it wasn’t supposed to resonate with me the way it did. Demon Slayer is also a weird title considering it’s a vampire story. They just call them demons, but they’re sucking blood and stay away from the sun so… vampires.
We meet our happy go lucky main character that’s just trying to make ends meet for the family after the loss of their father. Of course, dear old dad had to load them up with mouths to feed making for a large family. On his way back up the mountain where he lives, an old man foreshadows the death of his family by warning him about vampires… sorry, demons. He makes the kid stay with him for the night and then the next morning our protagonist with the nose of Wolverine, finds his family slaughtered and eaten. The one sister he was out picking up extra hours for, is still alive, but we all know how that goes. Soon enough she awakens and attacks him, but not before a Demon Hunter shows up and tries to kill them both. A long-convoluted fight ensues in which our best boy proves he has some skills and vampire weekend… I mean sister, shows that she’s not so rapid that she won’t listen to her brother and protect him.
The demon guy tells him what’s become of his sister and sends him on a mission to find an old man for training, to become a Demon Slayer, but with the promise of curing his sister. The sister can apparently change size. When she was hungry and anger she grew, but then without food and because her brother conveniently told her too, she shrank in order to fit into a basket that he could wear on his back. It’s okay though because he used to lug coal up and down the mountain, so a tiny vampire that he’s related to is no big deal. The run into a vampire, they fight, they almost loose and the old guy they’re meeting shows up to save them. He starts training the boy while the sister takes a nap… for over a year. She conveniently sleeps the entire time he’s training. The story gets decent when he’s left to train on his own, I don’t want to spoil that part at all, but its what finally caught my attention with the story. After he completes his training, he must still go for a Demon Slaying test because we are nothing without our bureaucracy. There is a particularly interesting part that happens here that I will spoil because it should be discussed and that’s part of what a review is.
Spoiler ahead. The test is to survive a week in the woods. Not just any woods, but a woods surrounded by a plant that keeps demons at bay, which means that any demon in the woods would be trapped there. Demon Hunters drop off vampires into the woods for newbies to kill and that’s how you pass the test. There is, of course, one demon/vampire that breaks the norm of the other demons. The catch is that they only bring demons that are on the low end of the kill scale so that they won’t be too powerful, but there’s one demon that the boys master imprisoned there that’s been alive for 50 years… and kills only the kids that he sends there to test. The demon is up to 13 or some shit. This resonated with me because there’s a bit of training that’s obviously geared towards killing this one particular demon which means the old man knows what’s going on there… and still sent 13 kids to their deaths. Worse, the demon was able to figure it out due to the mask he carves for them. He practically signed their death warrant. He did retire from training of course which is why he didn’t want to take on the best boy originally, but whatever. Still, this part resonated with me because I’m sure that there will be some happy ending to when the spirits of the children are freed, but it’s actually extremely dark and demented. Out of everything, this little nugget that was meant to motivate and also get our main character emotional was disturbing.
Usually, I don’t like to talk about the endings of a volume, but this one fucked with me. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine raising children, becoming attached to them and sending them out for a final test only to have a demon I imprisoned kill them. Like, after one I’m going in there and kicking that demon’s ass back to hell. I’m sure as shit not going to send a second one and see if we can’t do better. It’s not a huge focus of the story. No that will be this guy playing at Lone Wolf and Cub with his sister, fighting demons, befriending other Hunters and eventually finding out that the demon that killed their family is a part of something bigger! That’s how this always goes, and there’s nothing here to make me believe it’ll be any different. It’s entertaining enough, the art is consistent and pleasant to look at, but a far cry from being a once in a generation or even able to invoke true emotions from the audience. It’s all a bit convenient, even the fucked up part, but then sometimes it’s nice to have a mindless monster of a volume type story to read. If that’s what you need right now in life, check out Vampire… Demon Hunter: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
Demon Hunter: Kimetsu no Yaiba vol. 1