I just want to start this review by saying that everything that I say is subjective. You are not forced to agree with me, it is just my thoughts. I have seen comments stating that I sound high mighty which has stuck with me. I never want to seem like someone who thinks their better than someone. I will try to sound less annoyed and objective in my reviews from here on out, and if I ever contradict this then please tell me. The last thing I want to do is make someone feel bad about their opinion on an anime, I just want to contribute to the discussion and I am aware that the line may have gotten a bit blurred.
So yeah, I recently finished Demon Slayer and I thought it was fine.
I’ve had a problem with how anime gets shared recently. A problem with how anime gets popular. A problem with what is prioritized. How the technical side of a show is being prioritized over the writing. Now I don’t want to accuse all popular anime to be bad, my favorite movie of all time is one of the most successful anime of all time. Why would the popularity of a show or movie dictate how well-made it will be. There are tons of great movies that are popular, and there are tons of terrible movies that are popular.
But I’ve had this feeling for a long time, that if an anime gets trendy then it’ll always be because of a cute girl doing something cute, a detailed fight scene or maybe a scene where someone cries. Whether that is correct or not, that is what I’ve felt for the last half a year or so. I’m scared that watching for example Attack on Titan season 3 expecting a modern classic, which is what I’ve been told, will just make me disappointed. And that feeling was only exacerbated by Demon Slayer.
The show is undeniably very well visualized. The character designs all feel original and unique (Especially the demons, some of which look fantastic), the directing is better than most anime and the animation is fuckin great. It has some of the best fight scenes that I have seen in anime in years, my favorites being in episode 9 and 19. And while the CGI can at times be distracting, especially when used for certain water effects, it is used extremely well for the most part. I would even say that the show has influenced my artstyle, and that’s from an artist who doesn’t really draw in an “anime style”.
The score is also surprisingly great! many of the soundtracks feel very bombastic yet separates itself from classical music with a lot of Asian instruments and vocals. It has a sound that you don’t usually hear in anime in my opinion. It feels very unique.
I can’t write a review for Demon Slayer without saying that the technical aspects of the show are at times incredible, it would be dishonest. Looking at it by itself it definitely deserves the recognition it has gotten, but I feel like looking at the bigger picture shows a pattern. A pattern of similar prioritization.
Cause while it was technically well-made, the rest of the show didn’t have nearly as much quality. In my opinion, all aspects of filmmaking are worth as much as the other. The visuals are as important as the writing and the direction and the acting. Nothing should prioritize over something else, but it doesn’t feel like the creators of Demon Slayer agree. While the visuals and the score were certainly good, the rest didn’t even compare. It has a lot of issues that I find hard to ignore. Ones I feel like I have to bring up over and over again.
I found the exposition to be really bad, not showing an ounce of subtlety. There’s a point where 13-year old Tanjirou asks what the demons are, a question that is obviously not meant to inform the character but the audience. Another example would be when Shinobu says “I may be the only swordswoman among the Hashiras unable to decapitate demons, but as I’ve created a poison lethal to demons, I’m also rather awesome” which is the most unsubtle way of conveying that piece of information.
I bring this up a lot in my reviews, A LOT. And the reason why I do that is that I love dialogue. I think you can do a lot with dialogue, and when it works you can tell. And it’s the same when it doesn’t. There’s a sense that the characters aren’t real people cause no one talks like this. It feels weird, you are brought out of the show if only for just a second and that can drag down a scene or a whole show very easily.
And whenever the dialogue isn’t used for exposition, it’s always really cheesy lines like “What is this feeling?” or “The bond between Nezuko and me can’t be severed by anyone” that I feel like I’ve heard a thousand times.
And the characters saying these lines are as unnatural. They all feel very one-sided, not really having any downsides or character development. We may learn a little more about them kind of and they definitely get stronger but they don’t become better or worse people cause they are mostly perfect all the way through.
At one point, the demons they fight are more interesting than the main characters and even then they weren’t that compelling.
I found the character writing to be at it’s worst in the main antagonist, Kibutsuji. He really doesn’t have anything going on, he’s just another evil badie who wants to kill the main guy for some reason. And while he doesn’t really get a lot of screen time, I don’t really think that matters. A great writer can make you interested in an antagonist in minutes or even seconds, with examples such as Inglourious Basterd and The Dark Knight. And if you want an anime, I’d say that L’s introduction is pretty great even though he isn’t the normal antagonist per se.
So seeing another “I want to kill everyone so the main guy has someone to fight” feels disappointing. We get maybe half an hour of screen time of him but all it does is push home the fact that all he wants to do is kill everyone.
In the end, the show doesn’t really have a purpose. It doesn’t really have a lot to say that hasn’t been said before, didn’t give me any characters that I found remotely interesting, nor any themes that resonated with me. Yet there was something admirable about it. In many ways it has inspired me to, mainly use more pen pressure sensitivity for my art, but also to find more samurai-Esque shows cause I find the setting very interesting even though I can’t say I loved the way the show used it. Ultimately, I think the show is good. While it has a lot of problems with its writing, the visual direction the show had was very interesting and beautiful at times. I’ll say this. It isn’t mediocre.