Kimetsu no Yaiba—released in April 2019—and Jujutsu Kaisen—released in October 2020 and still currently airing—tread similar ground when it comes to their narrative, both have almost identical scores on MyAnimeList, and both have won fans over for breathing fresh life into the Shounen action genre. Now, it would be easy to slap the sales of Mugen Train on this article, crown Kimetsu no Yaiba the best, and call it a day. However, we believe there is more to uncover about these two shows, and, perhaps deciding a victor will be more difficult than one would think.
The Story - Curses vs. Demons
Both of these anime center around a similar premise. A malevolent evil that has been somewhat tamed to work for the side of good. Tanjiro is forced into a situation where he must work alongside his demon sister Nezuko, whereas Yuuji must co-operate with demon lord Sukuna. While Kimetsu no Yaiba’s story features a heavy helping of death, violence, and bloodshed, there is a reason why children as young as elementary school age, connect so much with this show. Kimetsu no Yaiba’s story is much more inclusive for a younger audience, featuring more comic relief, more fights, and easy-to-digest subplots. Jujutsu Kaisen is no stranger to comedy, by any means. Yet, these scenes juxtapose heavily with Jujutsu’s much heavier-handed use of death. Death in Kimetsu no Yaiba is virtually non-existent when it comes to our heroes.
While we know Tanjiro will never die, side-characters also struggle to create suspense. Understandably, this is only the first season, but we can safely assume that tertiary mainstays such as Shinobu or Giyu won’t be dying anytime soon. When death does occur; it is often very dramatic, furthering the idea that Kimetsu wants each death to be impactful. Jujutsu has no such sensibilities. The character of Junpei is built up around the midway point of the season, given a family and a backstory, and heavily hinted to join Itadori on his adventures in the future. His death is incredibly surprising as he is unceremoniously transformed by Mahito into a monster. An abundance or a lack of death is in no way an enhancement or a detriment to any show. However, by appealing to such a wide age range, Kimetsu was forced to alter its story in such a way as to appease all who watch it. Jujutsu Kaisen is more niche and, while it will turn some people away, those who stay will form a cult following.
The Animation - Water Never Looked Better
Both Jujutsu Kaisen and Kimetsu no Yaiba have incredibly stunning animation. Also, both have dips in quality during certain segments of the series. Jujutsu Kaisen suffers from a lack of smoothness during certain, less important scenes and Kimetsu also chooses to use clunky CGI animation during some fights with enlarged enemies. Regardless the absolute majesty of some of the fight scenes in both anime is astounding to see play out. In particular, Tanjiro vs. Rui will go down in history as one of the most fluid fight scenes to ever grace our screens. While arguably not up to the same standard as Kimetsu, Jujutsu Kaisen's fights (in particular, the fight where Toudou and Itadori go up against Hanami) were positively breathtaking.
Both anime are solid contenders when it comes to animation; yet, while each has its highs and lows, Kimetsu no Yaiba’s highs just outshine Jujutsu Kaisen. The level of care given to not only the fights in Kimetsu no Yaiba but also the subtle interactions between each character is simply beautiful. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the water yet! Ultimately, what cements Kimetsu no Yaiba’s animation a tier above the rest, is the animation of Tanjiro’s water-breathing techniques. The more traditional Japanese artwork style is used to envelop Tanjiro’s sword swings in a maelstrom of water, evoking a similar aesthetic to The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai.
The Characters - “That’s My Demon Slayer Way! BELIEVE IT!”
Itadori and Tanjiro are almost identical—bright-eyed boy scouts out to do as much good as possible. Again, when looking at side-characters, the trophy has to go to Kimetsu. Both series had only twenty or so episodes to introduce their casts and give the mainstays development. Looking at Jujutsu Kaisen, characters like Megumi and Mai are intriguing but others such as Kugisaki are one-note and given little to no exposition. On the other hand, Kimetsu does a magnificent job of weaving these intricate backstories throughout its narrative for lesser-used characters.
One such example is Kanao, the coin-flipping mute. By taking the time to delve into her background, Kimetsu sets itself up for a payoff much later down the road. This is also done with several of the demons in Kimetsu no Yaiba, most notably Rui. We learn of his life before becoming a demon and this makes his death all the more powerful. Jujutsu’s villains are very Flanderized so far,, wanting nothing more than to ‘PlUnGe ThE WoRlD iNtO DaRkNesS’ or something to that effect. However, while Kimetsu’s characters work very well when dissected individually, by not bogging down the story with heavy exposition, Jujutsu Kaisen’s plot moves at breakneck speeds. By delaying its use of character development, Jujutsu Kaisen’s first season moves at a much faster pace than Kimetsu. Depending on whether you enjoy fights spliced with exposition, or would rather see a brawl play out in its entirety, will result in your preferred anime.
Both Kimetsu no Yaiba and Jujutsu Kaisen hit similar beats in their execution. Unfortunately, the question of ‘which is better?’, is entirely subjective with no definitive answer. If you enjoy more character development and favor fluid animation above all else, Kimetsu no Yaiba is probably your pick. Alternatively, if you enjoy heavier adult themes, fewer exposition dumps, and a plot that skips smelling the flowers in order to progress, check out Jujutsu Kaisen. Or you could just do the saner thing and watch both of them!!
Which do you prefer, Jujutsu Kaisen or Kimetsu no Yaiba? Tell us why in the comments below!