A Doujin’s Thoughts on Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
In May 2020, one of Japan’s most popular manga came to an end: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
Though it didn’t have a particularly long serialization, over its four years the name “Demon Slayer” became known and loved by people all across Japan, regardless of age or gender.
Today I’d like to discuss the history and transformation of this iconic manga.
What is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba?
Many of our readers might already know about this manga, but for those who don’t, here’s a quick review.
The story is set in the Taisho Period (1912-1926). The main character, Tanjiro Kamado, works as a charcoal seller and lives in the mountains with his mother and young siblings. One day, his modest but happy life is suddenly destroyed: while away for just one night, a demon slaughters almost his entire family. Only his oldest sister Nezuko survives.
In an attempt to save his sister’s life, Tanjiro flees with her down the mountain, only to find that she has become the very same demon that killed their family.
With no way to turn her back into a human, Tanjiro accepts the help of a member of a special demon-hunting force, Giyu Tomioka. Under Tomioka’s guidance, Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayer Corps and undergoes intense training in order to learn how to kill demons.
Tanjiro, who fights to kill demons to save his sister, in spite of the fact that she’s a demon, and Nezuko, who fights together with him despite being a demon herself. As members of the Demon Slayer Corps, they were thrust into a cruel war where they made many friends and enemies.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba might have a serious, dark premise, but it’s a work that also features solid character growth, a sense of familial love, and steady bonds of friendship.
In fact, the biggest reason that the story isn’t darker than it is is because of Tanjiro’s bright personality. He’s cheerful and honest, but has the strength to stand up and face adversity. He’s the perfect Shonen Jump protagonist.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is the perfect balance of good and evil.
The Creation of Demon Slayer
Alright, now that everyone’s up to date about the story, let’s look back on the manga’s history.
Regardless of how you feel about the manga, are you impressed with its rise to the top?
A Hard Start to Serialization
As you might have noticed from the synopsis, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has a pretty dark story.
Even among the other manga with similar themes published in the manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, Demon Slayer has a slightly different feel to it. The art style, though unique, is widely appreciated, so it’s not because of that.
Not many people know that at the beginning of Demon Slayer’s serialization in 2016, it was on the brink of being discontinued because it wasn’t very popular. Koyoharu Gotōge, the manga’s author, bought Weekly Shonen Jump magazines every week to support his manga, and regularly checked message boards and social media for reader comments. He would often find multiple scathing comments, like “Shouldn’t Demon Slayer be cancelled already?” and “Demon Slayer doesn’t really fit into Jump.” At the time, Demon Slayer was ranked consistently low by Jump readers.
Of course, Jump’s reader rankings are not publicized, but it’s well-known that you can tell which manga are most popular based on the order they’re published in and the amount of space they receive on a page. Demon Slayer, for example, fell to the 13th spot after just three weeks of serialization. In fact, out of the 40 chapters of the manga that were published in the first year, more than 60 percent ranked in 10th place or lower. Many would consider that more than enough reason to be cancelled, so Gotōge was prepared for the worst.
Foundation in the First Year, Elevation in the Second
However, Demon Slayer reached a turning point in its second year of serialization.
It was during this time that Tanjiro gathered his courage, and his main comrade also appeared. And, it’s when the core part of the story began.
Tons of characters from both sides were introduced. On the good guy side, we had the “Hashira”, unbelievably strong Demon Slayers who, from Tanjiro’s perspective, were powerful not just in rank but in personality and brilliance.
The enemies. meanwhile, included the Twelve Demon Moons, which were clearly divided into easy-to-understand threat levels, both for Tanjiro and us readers. With the introduction of these new characters, Demon Slayer suddenly became a much deeper story.
Demon Slayer was Gotōge’s first manga serialized in Shonen Weekly Jump. Since it was on the verge of cancellation for its entire first year, we can’t even imagine what kind of pressure that put on him.
But Gotōge held faith, and didn’t give up on building the foundation of Demon Slayer. He continued on his path no matter what. Thanks to that, he was able to beautifully elevate his story in its second year.
The Third Year: Explosive Popularity, and Becoming an Anime
In its third year of serialization, Demon Slayer entered the climax of its story, and the anime version was released.
Completed by anime studio ufotable, which has produced many other popular anime, the animation of Demon Slayer was extremely high quality, and many popular voice actors starred in it. Naturally, it became a huge hit.
The anime also had numerous popular theme songs, including “Gurenge” by LiSA, which was so popular among fans that she was invited to appear at the highly prestigious New Year’s concert, Kohaku Uta Gassen, for the first time.
Because of these things, Demon Slayer ascended to the level of an explosively popular anime.
Volumes of the Demon Slayer manga continued to rake in high daily sales at various online shops, and by the end of the anime, it had sold over 12 million copies in total.
Considering that before the anime aired, it had only sold 4.5 million copies, in today’s publishing industry, that’s no small number. Thanks to the anime’s influence, the manga sold three times as many volumes in six months as it did during its slower first two years.
Now, as of June 2020, its sales have grown even more, to as much as 60 million copies in total, making it a rival for other hugely popular manga series like The Prince of Tennis. In other words, Demon Slayer managed to catch up to the success of a 20-year-old franchise in just four years.
The Fourth Year: Evolving into a Multi-faceted Story and Drawing to a Close
Immediately after the anime ended, a sequel movie was announced. Perhaps because fans were excited for the film, their passion for the franchise was able to stay very much alive.
But just when everyone thought the world’s enthusiasm for the story would go on forever, the serialization of the Demon Slayer manga ended.
Cue cries of agony from fans everywhere.
Even though the story was obviously coming to an end, few people likely thought that it would stop entirely. But perhaps it’s okay for an author to have one work that has a clean ending, when so many other popular manga are drawn out for a long time.
And the Story Continues Elsewhere
As we said, the manga was not only turned into an anime but there are also plans for a movie in 2020. But the legacy of this manga has gone beyond that to also being turned into spinoffs, stage products, video games, and novels.
In Japan, Demon Slayer goods have also been sold not only in anime stores like Animate but in multi-purpose stores like Don Quixote and Tsutaya. You’ll probably be able to find Demon Slayer goods just by walking around any town in Tokyo.
Collaboration items sold at convenience stores are especially popular. The goods sold at Lawson recently made headlines when they were sold out on the day they were released!
Perhaps now that the serialization of the manga has ended, fervor for the series will die down a little bit. But, with a movie on the way, that doesn’t seem likely just yet.
Demon Slayer from the Doujin Perspective
Now I want to talk about Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba from the doujin perspective.
Evidence of the Series’ Popularity in Cosplay
In the 2019 Winter Comiket, or C97, there were tons of Demon Slayer cosplayers, and everywhere you looked you would see them posing for photos together. Many famous cosplayers also participated, which lent evidence to how popular the series really is.
Even the Kano Sisters, celebrities who liven up the cosplay world with their fabulous costumes, uploaded photos of their Demon Slayer costumes for Air Comiket, held in place of C98 Summer 2020 Comiket. The quality of their costumes became a hot topic on the Internet.
But the Kano Sisters weren’t the only famous people to try out Demon Slayer cosplay, so it’s clear that love of the series even spread among celebrities.
Transitions in the Booth Numbers at Doujinshi Selling Fairs
The proportion of clubs at Comiket that fall into the Demon Slayer category are overwhelmingly female-oriented.
Aka Boo Boo, a company that plans doujin events for women, hosts regular Demon Slayer-focused events, and 2020’s event is expected to be on as large a scale as the popular multi-genre event Super Comic City.
According to Aka Boo Boo, the first Demon Slayer event was in January 2018, and had space for 51 doujin clubs. At that time, it wasn’t a standard single-series event, but more like a mini-size one, since the Demon Slayer manga was only just then gaining popularity.
But by the second event in June that same year, it had evolved to a regular-sized anime event, and had 122 clubs participating. Since then, the number of club booths has been steadily increasing. The Demon Slayer event held after the start of the anime was in September 2019, and had 400 registered club booths, despite being only the fourth Demon Slayer event ever held.
Clearly, the anime helped light a fire of passion for Demon Slayer within the doujin community. Even after that, booth registrations soared as high as the manga’s comic sales.
Of course, thanks to the influence of the coronavirus, many Demon Slayer events in 2020 were cancelled or postponed. However, the events that occurred before the start of the pandemic gathered more than 1,000 both registrations, filling up their quotas at an explosive rate and showing us the extent of their growth.
Not only that, but the doujinshi commerce site Tora no Ana, sells more than 4,000 Demon Slayer doujinshi written for female audiences of all ages. This makes Demon Slayer projects major competition for other popular doujin productions marketed for women, like Touken Ranbu and Hypnosis Mic.
What’s more, if you look at a breakdown of the data, you’ll see that the proportion of Demon Slayer doujinshi that is marketed for all ages is rather high compared to other genres.
Perhaps this is because, within the Demon Slayer genre of doujinshi, a lot of clubs don’t write stories about one particular “ship” of characters, preferring instead to feature shippings of all of the characters. It seems like rather than having a specific couple lead the story, Demon Slayer doujinshi have a more heartwarming style of portraying all of the characters, which seems to be the foundation of the Demon Slayer genre.
I’m not saying one is better than the other. What I mean is that, rather than making their oshi, or fandom, a pair of characters, Demon Slayer’s doujin creators might be expressing their love for the series as a whole.
Currently, Comiket’s designation for Demon Slayer doujin clubs is “FC (Jump and others)”, with FC standing for “Fan Club”, which includes male and female clubs. But at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before Demon Slayer gets its own genre at the popular doujinshi fair. We’ll be paying close attention to the genre categories of C98 Winter 2020 Comiket, to see how Demon Slayer stands!
Since the manga ended, we don’t know what kind of effects that will have on the doujin activity centered around Demon Slayer. But with a movie on the way, and with the potential for a follow-up anime or additional movie, I’m certain that people’s love for the series won’t die off quite so easily.
Demon Slayer, with its plot centered on the behavior of different creatures, is undeniably a monster anime, but its most terrifying moment for fans was probably when the manga ended during the peak of its popularity.
However, with the continuation of the story in anime, movies, and spin-off productions, the makers of the series are working hard to continue to provide us with new ways to explore the world of Demon Slayer.
That’s why it’s still too early to mourn the loss of the finished manga.
Using Zoom Backgrounds Respectfully
Lately it’s become a trend for lots of different franchises to offer backgrounds to use for teleworking on Zoom, and ufotable, the makers behind the Demon Slayer anime, have also offered Demon Slayer backgrounds for free.
Though it’s illegal to change and edit the backgrounds, since they’re copyrighted property, many Demon Slayer fans began to upload edited versions on social media immediately after their release. Because of this, some people have been looking down on Demon Slayer fans, saying they have low moral standards.
Since the series is loved by people of all ages, this could be an infraction by younger fans who haven’t fully developed their moral compass. However, we can’t help but feel that some fans are ruining a franchise that is loved by so many people.
That’s why it’s important that we adults guide the immature fans among us. Just like how Demon Slayer started out as an undeveloped story and has now spread its wings and continues to grow even greater, so, too, must its younger fans grow as we admonish their poor behavior and guide them on the right path.
Well, in any case, let’s all be respectful to the content and remember the 10 Agreements Among Doujin. And while we do that, we can look forward to what kinds of things Demon Slayer will show us next!