Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, wrote extensively about the duality of man. Briefly summarizing; he concluded that human nature is divided into two parts - with every person having equal amounts of good and evil within them. Stevenson’s point was that anyone, no matter who they are, has the potential to commit evil deeds.
Where this duality is explored incredibly well in Kimetsu no Yaiba, is with eighteen-year-old Hashira; Shinobu Kocho.
Who is Shinobu Kocho?
Kimetsu no Yaiba’s premise divides characters into two categories. The good being demon slayers and humans, and the bad being the demons. However, this line is blurred extensively throughout the series as several demons, including Nezuko herself, are seen to repress the supposed evil inside them and strive to be good. Shinobu Kocho, otherwise known as the Insect Hashira, is seemingly easygoing, friendly, and pleasant to be around. She playfully teases her peers, none more so than Tomioka Giyu, and is rarely seen without a wide smile plastered across her face.
However, after a brief conversation with Tanjiro, she reveals that her tranquil demeanor is nothing but farcical. Inside, she is consumed by an unrelenting rage, seeking nothing more than to avenge her sister who had been slain by demons. Heeding Kanae’s wish that Shinobu should smile more, she adopts her sister’s mannerisms and uses them to pose under the guise of a calm and collected demon slayer.
We are first introduced to Shinobu during the Natagumo Mountain arc, where we see her effortlessly end the life of a powerful spider demon. We witness her unique fighting style in action, which she developed to compensate for her lack of physical strength in decapitating a demon’s head. Shinobu speaks with this demon and proclaims that she will save her on the condition that she atone for her sins by undergoing hellish torture at Shinobu’s hand. After the battle concludes, Shinobu crosses blades with Tomioka, as she attempts to end the life of the Nezuko.
Shinobu Kocho’s Degree For Empathy
We have already seen Shinobu’s willingness to accept reformed demons into society. All she asks is that they make amends for those they killed by being punished by Shinobu several times over. Likewise, when Tanjiro is hounded by the other Hashira for his hiding of Nezuko, Shinobu is the first to console him and beckon him to explain himself. Atop the roof of the rehabilitation center, she affirms the hatred inside of her that cannot be quelled. This is entirely unlike her sister who, like Tanjiro, felt sympathy for demons until her dying breath. Shinobu claims that, despite her true feelings, if she can find a way to save demons without killing them; she would like to do so in honor of her sister.
During a flashback, we see the pairing of Shinobu and her sister before she had been slaughtered by a demon. Shinobu is much more abrasive and outspoken at this time, rarely smiling at all (much to the dismay of her sister, who claims her smile is beautiful). It’s clear that this is the Shinobu we have yet to see in the present - the Shinobu who speaks her mind and is quick to anger.
It’s evident that Shinobu possesses the degree to explode into a maelstrom of emotion at any time. She describes herself as teetering over the edge at any given moment, with one forceful push acting as the catalyst for a potential eruption of anger. With all of this being said, let’s talk about Freud for a moment. NO WAIT, DON’T LEAVE IT WILL BE INTERESTING I PROMISE!!
Shinobu Kocho and Spiritual Harmony.
Freud also goes into great detail about the duality of man. He describes the instinctual animalistic nature of the brain, only seeking out carnal desires, versus the moral conscience guiding us to do what’s right. We as humans must balance these emotions on a daily basis to both ensure our own happiness, as well as empathize with those around us. We all have the ability to concede to our hedonism, slap on a balaclava, rob a bank, and live out the rest of our days sipping mojitos in Hawaii. However, it is the compass in our hearts that sways too strongly to the right that stops us from acting on these urges.
This is in complete contrast to demons who only seek self-sustainment, holding no feelings of remorse for any misguided actions they take. Shinobu’s inner demons arguably possess the same drives as these demons, expressing themselves in her selfish pursuit of revenge. However, by coming to understand both her sister and Tanjiro’s desires to protect demons, she learns to empathize and repress her murderous instincts. She encourages Tanjiro to stay by Nezuko’s side and turn her back into a human, offering support wherever she can in this endeavor.
Some may point to Nezuko as the true representative of repressive psychology in Kimetsu no Yaiba. After all, she suppresses the demonic thoughts swirling about her brain to such a degree that it plunges her into a coma for the better part of the series. However, the demons (including Nezuko) find themselves in this situation due to their loss of humanity by infection. To a certain degree, they cannot help but give in to a power far greater than their own. There is no choice to be made when Kibutsuji Muzan, the most powerful demon in the world, imbues you with his omnipotent power and holds your life in the balance. Shinobu, on the other hand, undergoes an internal battle with her desire and morality. Shinobu succeeds in this battle every day she wakes up and smears her sister’s smile across her face. She will never let the depression take away her humanity and that is a lesson we can all stand to live by.
Shinobu Kocho lived amongst a world rife with demons and struggles to sympathize with their morally misguided ways. However, inside, she also harbors her own demons; which arguably evoke similar hate-filled emotions. Kimetsu no Yaiba is a story about turning a demon back into a human. Perhaps, one day, Shinobu’s demons can be expelled and she can also return to the person she once was.
Let us know what you think about both Shinobu Kocho and Kimetsu no Yaiba down below!