Beginner's Guide to Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba!

Beginner's Guide to Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba!

With epic battles, striking animation and a gripping plot, Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer has truly taken the world by storm. Often abbreviated as Kimetsu or KnY, the wildly popular franchise began in 2016 with a manga by Koyoharu Gotoge. Combining the genres of adventure, dark fantasy, and martial arts to tell the story of a boy named Tanjiro who becomes a powerful Demon Slayer, it went on to receive internationally acclaimed anime adaptations that firmly cemented its place in popular culture.

“But wait, I’ve never heard of this Demon Slayer thing, and what's a Tanjiro?” you might say. Or maybe you’ve just kind of heard of it and you want to find out more about must-know characters and keywords. Look no further than our beginner’s guide to the world of Kimetsu no Yaiba!

Contents
1. Story
2. Historical background
3. Characters
- 3.1. Main characters
- 3.2. Demon Slayer Corps
- 3.3. Demons
4. Keywords
5. Main media
- 5.1. Manga
- 5.2. Anime
- 5.3. Anime movie

Story

In a dark world where rumors of bloodthirsty demons linger, a young boy named Tanjiro Kamado supports his beloved family after the death of his father by selling coal. Despite their hardships, the family is happy together – until the day they are slaughtered in a sudden demon attack.

The only survivors are Tanjiro and his little sister Nezuko, but he is shocked to realize that she has turned into a demon herself. However, unlike most demons, her human emotions and connection to Tanjiro still remain. Vowing to return Nezuko to her human form, he joins a secret society of Demon Slayers and the two set off on a perilous journey to seek out the demon responsible for the cursed transformation.

Historical background

Kimetsu no Yaiba is said to take place approximately 100 years ago, in Japan's Taisho era (1912–1926). About 50 years after the samurai lost the privileged roles and status they had enjoyed since the Edo era (1603–1863), it coincides with the beginning of World War I.

In the previous decades, Japan had been greatly influenced by Western science and technology like electricity, trains, and industrial silk manufacturing, which encouraged rapid modernization. Western culture was also spread from big city elites to ordinary citizens, creating a unique mix with the distinctive culture that Japan had developed under closed borders.

Characters

– Main characters

Tanjiro Kamado (竈門炭治郎, Kamado Tanjirō)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

A kind-hearted boy with a strong sense of justice. He followed in his father’s footsteps by working as a coal seller to provide for his mother and five siblings. After the murder of his family, he trained to become a Demon Slayer, learning the Water Breathing Style under the tutelage of Sakonji Urokodaki, a former Water Hashira. His extraordinary sense of smell allows him to not only distinguish between humans and demons, but also read others’ emotions. He is always seen wearing a distinctive pair of hanafuda earrings, his only memento of his father. He is voiced by Natsuki Hanae (Japanese) and Zach Aguilar (English).

Nezuko Kamado (竈門禰豆子, Kamado Nezuko)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

Tanjiro’s younger sister. She was transformed into a demon by Kibutsuji Muzan, who slaughtered the rest of the family. Despite losing her humanity, she still has memories and emotions strong enough to keep herself from killing Tanjiro. Despite her small size, she has several impressive abilities due to her demon side. She has also been conditioned to protect humans and attack other demons. However, she must restrain herself with a bamboo gag and is vulnerable to sunlight, like other demons. She is voiced by Akari Kito (Japanese) and Abby Trott (English).

Zenitsu Agatsuma (我妻善逸, Agatsuma Zenitsu)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

A young boy who was forced into joining the Demon Slayer Corps due to debt. A coward by nature, he demonstrates his best fighting abilities when unconscious or in mortal danger. He also has low self-esteem and is always quick to express his urge to run away from danger. Nevertheless, he is gifted with sharp hearing and has learned one of the Thunder Breathing techniques. He accompanies Tanjiro and Nezuko on their journey to find Muzan. He is voiced by Hiro Shimono (Japanese) and Aleks Le (English).

Inosuke Hashibira (嘴平伊之助, Hashibira Inosuke)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

A young Demon Slayer who was raised by wild animals and always wears his signature boar’s head. Short-tempered and often ignorant about normal human interaction, he is quick to jump into fights and challenge those he comes across, believing himself to be the strongest person around. He fights with a self-taught Beast Breathing style and signature serrated swords. While he butts heads with Tanjiro at first, he goes on to become a valuable companion. He is voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Japanese) and Bryce Papenbrook (English).

Kanao Tsuyuri (栗花落カナヲ, Tsuyuri Kanao)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

A talented young girl who becomes a Demon Slayer with Tanjiro and Zenitsu. She trains under the Insect Hashira, who is also her adopted sister. It is difficult to read her emotions due to her mysterious, quiet manner. She is voiced by Reina Ueda (Japanese) and Brianna Knickerbocker (English).

– Demon Slayer Corps

Giyu Tomioka (冨岡義勇, Tomioka Giyū)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Water Hashira. He first meets Tanjiro and Nezuko shortly after their family is slaughtered. After witnessing Nezuko's remaining humanity, he decides not to kill her and instead sends Tanjiro to be trained as a Demon Slayer by Urokodaki. Despite his mastery of Water Breathing and superior fighting abilities overall, he does not believe himself worthy of his title. He is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai (Japanese) and Johnny Yong Bosch (English).

Shinobu Kocho (胡蝶しのぶ, Kochō Shinobu)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Insect Hashira. While she lacks the physical strength of her fellow Hashira and other Demon Slayers, she compensates with exceptional speed and a deadly knowledge of poisons and medicines, which she channels into her Insect Breathing technique. She is voiced by Saori Hayami (Japanese) and Erika Harlacher (English).

Kyojuro Rengoku (煉獄杏寿郎, Rengoku Kyōjurō)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Flame Hashira. Like Tanjiro, he has a strong sense of justice and is enthusiastic about his role as a Demon Slayer. He also believes that with his strength and knowledge, it is his duty to protect the weak and nurture fellow Demon Slayers. He is voiced by Satoshi Hino (Japanese) and Mark Whitten (English).

Tengen Uzui (宇髄天元, Uzui Tengen)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Sound Hashira. Having experienced a harsh upbringing as a ninja, he can resist pain to an extraordinary level. Befitting his title, he possesses a unique Sound Breathing style and his non-standard weapons reflect his boisterous, flamboyant personality. He is voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi (Japanese) and Ray Chase (English).

Mitsuri Kanroji (甘露寺蜜璃, Kanroji Mitsuri)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Love Hashira. She created her signature style, Love Breathing, which allows her to utilize the unique strength and flexibility of her deceptively muscular body. In spite of her sheer power, she is generally kind and caring. She is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Japanese) and Kira Buckland (English).

Muichiro Tokito (時透無一郎, Tokitō Muichirō)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Mist Hashira. A young genius who acts according to what is most logical to him, he only took two months of training to become a Hashira. He has mastered the existing Mist Breathing style. He is voiced by Kawanishi Kengo (Japanese) and Griffin Burns (English).

Gyomei Himejima (悲鳴嶼行冥, Himejima Gyōmei)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Stone Hashira. Despite being blind, he is able to sense the world around him and makes use of his sheer size and strength with a unique spiked flail. Always wary of the integrity of others due to his tragic past, he is nevertheless a kind soul and will place complete trust in anyone he truly accepts. He is voiced by Tomokazu Sugita (Japanese) and Crispin Freeman (English).

Obanai Iguro (伊黒小芭内, Iguro Obanai)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Serpent Hashira. Haunted by a traumatic childhood at the hands of his family's terrible actions, he is especially devoted to wiping out demons. He is always accompanied by a white snake named Kaburamaru. The wavy shape of his unique weapon complements his Serpent Breathing style. He is voiced by Kenichi Suzumura (Japanese) and Eric Scott Kimerer (English).

Sanemi Shinazugawa (不死川 実弥, Shinazugawa Sanemi)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

The Wind Hashira. His hot-blooded, stubborn exterior hides the deep anguish he suffered as a child at the hands of demons. As a result, he is utterly opposed to coexistence between humans and demons and is unable to trust Nezuko. His younger brother Genya is also a Demon Slayer. He is voiced by Tomokazu Seki (Japanese) and Kaiji Tang (English).

– Demons

Muzan Kibutsuji (鬼舞辻無惨, Kibutsuji Muzan)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

An intelligent demon who serves as the main antagonist. One thousand years ago, he was the first human to be transformed into a demon and has since pursued his goal of becoming a perfect being by becoming immune to sunlight. In one of his attempts to develop demons with natural immunity, he slaughtered most of Tanjiro’s family, with Nezuko remaining alive as a demon. Extremely narcissistic and cold-hearted, he believes that the Demon Slayer Corps is simply resisting the natural order of his supremacy as a demon. He is voiced by Toshihiko Seki (Japanese) and Greg Chun (English).

Tamayo (珠世, Tamayo)

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

A kind and intelligent demon who is one of the only exceptions to the species' vicious instinct to prey on humans. An ally to Demon Slayers, she uses her vast knowledge of medicine to help humans, also changing her body's own need for human blood in order to reduce any harm she might cause. She is voiced by Maaya Sakamoto (Japanese) and Laura Post (English).

Keywords

– Demon Slayer Corps (鬼殺隊, kisatsu-tai)

The Demon Slayer Corps is a secret organization that protects humans from demons. In order to become an official Demon Slayer, one must pass a gruelling seven-day exam testing their ability to survive in a demon-infested environment. The current nine most powerful swordsmen hold the elite title of “Hashira” (meaning “pillar”).

– Nichirin Swords (日輪刀, Nichirin-tō)

Blades used by the Demon Slayer Corps to decapitate and kill demons. It is the primary way to defeat demons besides exposure to sunlight and the poison of wisteria flowers. They are fatal against demons where other weapons fail due to being made from a special ore that has absorbed a great amount of sunlight. When held for the first time, the swords will change color depending on its owner’s type of power, earning them the nickname of “color-changing swords”. However, this will only happen for Demon Slayers who have the potential to use Breathing Styles.

– Breathing Styles (全集中の呼吸, Zenshūchū no Kokyū)

Swordmanship styles practiced by Demon Slayer Corps, generally using Nichirin Swords. By training their lungs and engaging in concentrated breathing patterns, most Demon Slayers can take in more oxygen than usually possible, achieving Total Concentration Breathing and gaining the strength to fight beyond normal human limits. A diverse range of styles exist, with some taking inspiration from others. However, the origin of all styles is Sun Breathing. Each Hashira is the master of their respective style.

– Kasugai Crows (鎹鴉, Kasugai-garasu)

Crows assigned to Demon Slayers for the purpose of communication. They are intelligent creatures that can understand human speech and speak in full sentences, although within a limited range. Many have unique names and each has a different personality.

– Demons (鬼, oni)

Supernatural beings corrupted by the urge to kill and eat humans. Hunted by the Demon Slayer Corps, the vast majority serve Muzan, the very first demon. They possess immortality if they do not fall victim to Demon Slayers, sunlight, or poison from wisteria flowers, and their fighting skills, speed, and vitality is also beyond that of ordinary humans. In addition, they have the ability to use various Blood Demon Arts spells and their power generally grows with each human they prey on. They can also transform humans into demons by exposing them to the blood of a powerful demon. Some look similar to humans, while others have more obviously demonic appearances.

– The Twelve Kizuki (十二鬼月, Jūni-kizuki)

A special demon group controlled directly by Muzan. The six strongest demons hold the title of Upper Moon, and the six weakest Lower Moon.

– Blood Demon Art (血鬼術, Kekki-jutsu)

Supernatural abilities used by demons. They typically develop in demons who have increased their power greatly by preying on humans. These abilities vary greatly depending on the demon and are not limited to offensive and defensive techniques.

– Wisteria flowers (藤の花, fuji no hana)

A type of flower that is one of the only known ways to repel demons. However, its potency depends on the power of individual demons.

– Blue Spider Lily (青い彼岸花, Aoi higanbana)

A mythical flower that is said to be a key ingredient in a medicine that healed Muzan's fatal disease and transformed him into a demon. Muzan seeks the Blue Spider Lily in order to produce more medicine and become even more powerful.

Main media

– Manga

Source: Kimetsu no Yaiba official website

It all began with Koyoharu Gotoge’s original manga, which was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from February 2016. Ending in May 2020, it also received a number of spinoffs by Ryoji Hirano, featuring the untold stories of Giyu Tomioka and Kyojuro Rengoku, as well as a four-panel chibi comic. With over 100 million copies in circulation, the original series is one of the best-selling manga titles of all time.

– TV anime series

The 26-episode TV anime adaptation premiered in April 2019 in Japan to huge acclaim. Covering the first seven volumes of the original manga, it was animated and scripted by ufotable and directed by Haruo Sotozaki with music by Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina, as well as character design by Akira Matsushima.

The opening theme, “Gurenge,” was performed by anisong star LiSa. The ending theme, “from the edge,” was performed by FictionJunction feat. LiSA. The opening theme was particularly popular, earning LiSA the title of the first female artist with over one million full-track digital music downloads for a single. Check it out below!

– Anime movie

The direct sequel to the TV anime is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (無限列車編, Mugen ressha hen), released in October 2020. Continuing with the original manga's story from volumes 8 to 15, Tanjiro goes to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances inside a train with the Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku. However, waiting for them is a sinister trap laid by a twisted enemy.

Also animated by ufotable, the movie was created with the original cast and crew. LiSA returned to perform the theme song, “Homura," which once again sent her to the top of the chart to break previous records.

Now that you’ve got everything you need to know at the beginning of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, relax, take a deep breath (see what we did there?), and go on, enjoy! If you find yourself pining for more action after you polish it off, check out our recommendations for epic Japanese-style battle anime! In the meantime, we’ll be waiting as impatiently as you are for our next fix of KnY!

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

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