Ufotable and Shonen Jump: Together at Last
- Episodes : 13
- Genre : Shounen, Action, Fantasy
- Airing Date : April 2019 – June 2019
- Producers : Ufotable
Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba) Introduction and Story
Aside from a dutiful work ethic and a keen sense of smell, nothing about Tanjirou Kamado stands out very much. He loves his family, helps out around the house and lives a simple domestic life without aspiring to anything more. But that peaceful lifestyle is brought to an end when notorious demon Muzan Kibutsuji slaughters his family, sparing only his sister Nezuko, who gets away at the cost of being turned into a demon. Unwilling to give up on the last remnant of his family, Tanjirou sets out to train to join the underground Demon Slayer Corps. In order to attain the power to restore Nezuko and ensure nobody else will have to suffer the same atrocities as him.
1. Ufotable is at it Again
The digital age has given animators more new tools than we could ever hope to concisely list here and no entire studio has ever mastered as many as Ufotable, whose expertise is on full display in Kimetsu no Yaiba. The coloring, lighting, and shading are beautifully smooth and captivate the eye with a polished depth that would not be possible without modern tools, and that’s on top of the already striking angular linework.
The staff is also capable of taking the visuals in completely different (though equally stunning) directions, like the flat but bold way in which the water from Tanjirou’s aquamantic attacks is rendered, evoking the style of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e paintings. And as if that weren’t enough, the show boasts at times seamless digital compositing with its detailed backgrounds even during intensive cuts, which allows Kimetsu no Yaiba to frequently feature moving backgrounds more complex than anything else on television.
2. Tightly Paced
We’ve already highlighted this quality in an in-depth article, but needless to say Kimetsu no Yaiba is unafraid to reject the industry standard way of adapting ongoing shounen battle manga by advancing as little as possible with every episode. Tanjirou’s journeys throughout the story—both external and internal—are nearly always progressing at a satisfying speed thanks to the show’s strong pacing which moves briskly while remembering to slow down during choice moments to give its more sobering scenes the impact they deserve.
3. Brains Over Brawn
Of course, Kimetsu no Yaiba is still a fighting anime at the end of the day, so its strengths can only go so far without being in service of some badass fight scenes and the show thankfully nails this aspect as well. The fact that the previously established strong pacing and presentation are among the major factors behind that probably goes without saying, but like most of the shonen greats, good choreography is what the series emphasizes the most.
As a relatively grounded example of the genre, people and demons alike can’t afford to tank hits throughout prolonged encounters à la Dragon Ball and instead tend to settle matters in only a few direct strikes. This leads to a distinctly conservative direction for the battles, which play out much more defensively than some viewers may be used to, as the show emphasizes the tactics used by its combatants to create openings in their opponents’ defenses rather than having them charge at one another with reckless abandon. Of course, that doesn’t mean Kimetsu no Yaiba isn’t afraid to explore more direct choreography, and when it comes time to clash swords and get up close and personal, the action remains just as satisfying.
1. Not the Most Consistent
We’ve praised the pacing of the show and stand by what we’ve said, but it does start to drag near the end of its first cours. The worst offender is the final arc, which commits many of the sins of lesser shonen manga adaptations, like long panning still shots, motion tweens and even playing the same scene twice in the same episode. Granted, it never gets World Trigger levels of bad, but seeing one of the series’ best qualities become undone near the end is disheartening.
2. Terrible CG
We may have overstated Ufotable's talent with digital media because they’ve given us yet another example of terrible CG in anime. No, we’re not talking about the CG backgrounds and objects in the show, because those are incorporated extremely well. What we're talking about are the awful character models.
Getting invested in a scene only to be jerked out by a shot where Tanjirou turns into an ugly low-poly CG puppet that looks ugly as sin and moves more stiffly than cardboard. It’s thankfully not used too frequently, but it’s still distractingly bad, especially when it’s used to animate actions that aren’t even complicated like jumping down from a log.
3. What Supporting Cast?
Kimetsu no Yaiba is squarely focused on Tanjirou and Nezuko’s journey, and it’s an interesting journey to watch, but it comes at the cost of the supporting characters getting the shaft. It’s no exaggeration to say that all but 3 secondary characters only show up for a single arc and that includes the main villain of the entire series. Most of these characters manage to make an impact in the moment, but they're not given enough time to form especially strong bonds with our deuteragonists which makes the world feel sparse and limits the action. We're really glad that Tanjirou's water powers look as slick as they do because only 1 fight doesn't have it as a main focal point. It certainly doesn't help that a few of these supporting characters can be incredibly annoying at times. Looking at you, Zenitsu.
There’s a lot to love about Kimetsu no Yaiba so far, but its many qualities have not been consistent enough to elevate it to must-watch status. It created many memorable moments through its unique approach to action scenes and impressive technical production, but these came at the cost of some we’d rather forget.
It’s not likely to convince those who aren’t already interested in its genre to change their minds, but fans of shounen battle anime are sure to appreciate Kimetsu no Yaiba’s many strengths.