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Seasiders explain “Demon Slayer” is so popular because it doesn’t follow the norms of anime

Black-backgrounded graphic of a woman with purple spiky hair, a woman with black hair with a cloth around her mouth, a pig-looking character and a blond-haired man, with the words "demon slayer, BYU–Hawaii students react" at the bottom.

The Japan Times reported on Dec. 28, “An animated movie based on the blockbuster 'Demon Slayer' manga series has become the highest-grossing film in Japanese box-office history.” Members of the BYUH community shared the "Demon Slayer" movie, manga and anime are trending because it stands out from other animations and teaches life lessons.

According to the Japan Times, “The tale of the ‘Demon Slayer,’ set in Japan around 100 years ago, features an adolescent boy fighting human-eating demons after his family is slaughtered and his younger sister Nezuko is turned into a demon.”

IMDB shared on their website, “Tanjiro, [the lead character], sets out to become a demon slayer to avenge his family and cure his sister.”

“Demon Slayer: Mugen Train”

The Japan Times reported, “It overtook 'Titanic,' the smash-hit 1997 American film about a romance aboard the ill-fated cruise liner of the same name, as the second-highest grossing movie ever in Japan on Nov. 30.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic limiting cinema audiences, the movie had raked in ¥32.12 billion as of Saturday, [Dec. 26], surpassing Oscar-winning director Miyazaki’s film, which chalked up ¥31.68 billion in box-office sales.”

Sony posted on its website, “Aniplex of America announced that ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train’ will be heading to United States and Canadian theaters in early 2021 to be distributed by Funimation Films.”

Kyle Chipman, a sophomore from Virginia studying TESOL education, who has seen the anime, shared he is looking forward to watching the “Demon Slayer” movie in theaters. He said when the movie comes out next year, and he is on campus, he will watch it with his friends.

Joseph Pushnam, a BYUH alumnus from Malaysia who likes watching “Demon Slayer,” said he wants to see the movie with his brother and sister at the cinema because it is an anime they do not want to miss, especially on the big screen.

Anna Gomez, a junior from the Philippines majoring in clinical psychology who has read the manga and seen the anime, shared she is planning to watch the movie with her husband and two friends.

She said, “Even though [my husband] doesn’t watch anime, he is still willing to watch it with me, especially if it’s an anime I really like. I also want to bring Abish and Ephraim [her friends] ... because not only do I always relate to them when it comes to anime, but I also get to analyze and talk about it with them.”

Why is it so popular?

Pushnam shared, “Lots of anime nowadays you will see a little love story between a guy and a girl, and usually it gets kind of boring after a while. … But here you see a story about siblings.

“I did not expect to see something that is more family-oriented. You have this brother, [Tanjiro], who is trying to save his sister’s life, … the only thing he has left.”

Gomez said she saw “Demon Slayer” trending on social media. Still, she did not watch it immediately because she thought people were overhyping it until her sister made her watch one episode.

She continued, “I saw how different it was [from other animes.] … All the characters are lovable, even the bad guys. The animation is good, so smooth, and the studio did a good job, especially the fight scenes.”

Chipman commented, “The writing is very tight, ... very good pacing. [The writer] knows how to keep and hold [people’s] interest. [It] keeps you excited for what’s going to happen next, and it moves you through the story at a really good pace.”

He said the main character, Tanjiro, has a lot of good qualities. “One thing I was very impressed with, [which] you do not see on a lot of Shonen protagonists, is he is not impatient. So often in these [anime] shows you have a protagonist who may be a little bit vulnerable … [and] reacting in ways that are not mature.”

He continued, “[Tanjiro] generally has very mature reactions. He thinks about things before he does them. When he does do things, he usually has good moral backing or reasoning for why he is going to do that thing.”

For Pushnam, three things made this anime stand out among the others: “The emotion, the art and how relatable it is for the viewers. For me personally, I think the ‘relatable part’ is probably the prime reason for why it is one of the bestselling anime at this moment.”

He continued, “To me, it’s like this emotional kind of comfort where I see myself in the story. I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of people too. They mirror themselves as a character. Though they are not completely the character, they see how their lives relate to the story.

“We are all fighting our own demons. … Though [Tanjiro] kills the demons, he still accepts them for who they are. After every story, [Tanjiro] always prays, he makes sure the corpse receives a prayer. … It builds the character. He cares about the people he has brought down.”

Chipman commented, “It is a story people could get out a lot of different things by experiencing it. I think it is worth giving it a try.”

Life lessons

Pushnam shared, “A lot of anime shows how the characters get stronger as each fight goes by, but in this anime, I like how they show the training.” He said, for him, the show teaches the viewers to have discipline in life.

Gomez said, “Tanjiro is really nice and so lovable. I like how he sees the good in everyone, even the demons he encounters. It is not just sympathy; he feels sorry for [the bad guys], but he has empathy.”

She continued, “As a psychology major, I think it is a big thing to have empathy towards everyone. Also, in the Church [we are taught to have] charity and to see everyone in Jesus Christ’s perspective.”