I’ve written about my love of psychological horror before, but for Geekade’s 31 Days of Halloween this year, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Demon Slayer has some scary and gory moments, but it is certainly not a psychological horror anime. However, one particular story arc was specifically terrifying to me because it featured my worst fear. Beware of spoilers and ugh… spiders this month, anime-niacs.
The premise of Demon Slayer is relatively simple—Tanjiro, a teenage boy, leaves behind his mother and four siblings one day to make money in town. When he returns home, he discovers his family has been murdered, except for his sister, Nezuko, who has been transformed into a demon. She initially attacks Tanjiro, but a mysterious young swordsman arrives and attempts to kill the girl. Of course, Tanjiro springs to his sister’s defense, but he is no match for the swordsman. When Nezuko defends her brother, however, the young swordsman is confused, because demons exist only to murder and eat humans. The swordsman, Giyu, sends Tanjiro and Nezuko to an old man at the base of a mountain, and this is where Tanjiro trains to become a Demon Slayer.
Demons begin as humans until they are infected with a demon’s blood. When this happens, they gain extraordinary powers but lose their humanity. The Demon Slayer Corps has sworn to kill demons and their leader, Muzan. Once Tanjiro becomes a member of the Corps, he is sent on missions to rid a town or area of whatever demons are currently terrorizing the local population. Still accompanied and occasionally assisted by Nezuko, Tanjiro is joined by two other amateur Demon Slayers, Zenitsu and Inosuke. The party arrives at a mountain covered with forest to help fellow Corps members, and this is where the true terror started for me.
As soon as I saw spider webs, I knew there was going to be trouble. A Corps member, with webs attached, gets pulled from a dirt road into the forest. Extremely tiny spiders are attaching webs to soldiers and controlling them, forcing them to kill each other. Until this point in the show, there was certainly plenty of action and some disturbing demon designs, but nothing quite as horrible as spiders acting as puppeteers causing people to kill each other. However, the spiders are being controlled by a demon, who is the “mother” of a family of demons in the forest.
Sure, it was horrifying to watch the bodies of soldiers twist and hear their bones break, but it was even worse to just look at other members of the spider-demon family. One demon, a “brother,” is a human head atop an enormous spider body, and the “father” is a muscular human body with a spider’s head. Zenitsu was attacked by the brother, who sent smaller spiders with human heads into battle—this was difficult to watch. It’s not simply that the art makes these demons look disgusting, but their movements and actions are more disgusting due to the excellent animation. The brother bounces and sways on his web as he taunts Zenitsu, then the dozens of smaller spiders jump and pile on the hero in unison. Everything in this show is so well drawn and animated,it just happens to make the gross moments even grosser.
Their legs are gross, their bodies are gross, and their movements are gross. I’ve feared spiders for as long as I can remember and unfortunately have had a few terrifying personal encounters. I was 14, and in the middle of the night, I took a sip from the water bottle next to my bed and felt something inside of my mouth. I turned on the light after taking the straw out—it was a spider. Two years ago I was watching a panel at college and felt something in my nostril—a tiny spider. Both of those instances have scarred me. Still, Demon Slayer is just an anime, right? But even fictional spiders are disgusting and I was uncomfortable throughout all of these episodes. Thankfully, the arc with the spider demons, although a bit long, did end. Although I am terrified of spiders, I did enjoy this arc, for the most part, because I still love disturbing stories. I have generally enjoyed the show, but I do have a few complaints.
Like other anime marketed toward young boys, Demon Slayer is overdramatic and characters verbalize every thought or action. Rather than simply show the viewer something, the characters must tell the viewer, in occasional excruciating detail, what is happening or about to happen. Also, a slew of high-ranking members of the Demon Slayer Corps were introduced near the end of the season and have absolutely no substance or depth. These characters all have one-note personalities and are almost universally annoying. Although the writers intend Zenitsu to provide levity, there has been nearly nothing remotely likable about him, but that has slightly changed as the season has concluded. Regardless of my complaints, the art and animation in Demon Slayer are strikingly good.
Admittedly, there are many famous shows I have yet to watch, but I can safely say that, throughout the dozens of anime I have seen, no art or animation strikes me as better, or even very different, from another show. Demon Slayer, however, adds an amazing layer of animation when the characters are in battle, and especially when Tanjiro uses his special technique, “breath of water.” Other characters seem to have a similar “breath of…” abilities, and it’s not just the intense and meticulous movements that are beautifully animated, but the colors and movements of the art as it happens. I cannot aptly describe the visuals with words, but it’s incredible to watch.
Demon Slayer is certainly not groundbreaking, but the consensus seems to be that it is an amazing show. Although I disagree to an extent, most of the main characters are wonderful, the story is interesting, and the art is superb. The arc with the spider demons showed the protagonists fighting a very powerful threat and the resolution was not easily earned—that helps make a good story. Of course, it was extremely uncomfortable to sit through for me because spiders are awful. I’d still recommend Demon Slayer to fans of adventure anime despite my complaints, but if you’re arachnophobic like I am, watch out for those webs.