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Of the new manga and anime to come out in the last few years, none have surpassed the absolute bonkers success of Demon Slayer or Kimetsu no Yaiba as it is known in Japanese. Even though it is still fairly new, a Demon Slayer history and overview are very much needed.
Demon Slayer has swept the world in a short period of time, both in the form of manga and its anime adaptation. So much so that it continues to break records around the world as one of the most popular media franchises of all time and is on its way to becoming one of the greatest manga and anime series to come out of Japan.
For this reason, our Demon Slayer history and overview is going to go over everything that you need to know about this series to get started with it and spoiler-free to boot. You can find out general information about the main characters, setting, plot, and why this series is so insanely great and popular. Let’s get started.
What Is Demon Slayer/Kimetsu no Yaiba?
Demon Slayer is one of the most popular manga and anime series of all time, achieving great success in a short time. Demon Slayer is the English name that is officially attached to the series, but it has a Japanese name that is actually slightly different in connotation.
The Japanese name is Kimetsu no Yaiba, which does not mean Demon Slayer at all. Instead, Kimetsu no Yaiba essentially means the Blade of Demon Destruction. In this way, if you consider the Demon Slayers to be blades in a way, then you can see that the name may be referencing them.
Or it could be referencing the katana weapons that they use in the series to take out the demons that they face. Regardless, the general crux of this series is following the story of Tanjiro, a young man who finds himself thrust into the world of demons that is normally pretty secretive.
Demons lurk everywhere in the world, but most people never have to deal with them except for cases in which they feast on normal citizens. However, there are demon slayers out there who protect the regular people from the demons by hunting them down and taking them out.
Tanjiro is one such demon slayer who is training to be one of the next great members of the Demon Slayer Corps. This series is a heavily inspired period piece that takes cues from the Taisho era of Japan. During this short period of time, the nation of Japan was changing, and the show reflects that in many ways.
Demon Slayer is a shounen, which means that it is geared towards teenage boys, but this is one of the goriest in the genre. Fights against the demons are gruesome at times and the visuals match that with dismemberments, blood, and more onscreen often.
Demon Slayer has both a manga and anime adaptation, with both becoming some of the most popular media to come out of Japan in a very long time. With no signs of stopping anytime soon, here is what you need to know about the Demon Slayer overview and history.
Demon Slayer History: Manga
It all began with the Kimetsu no Yaiba manga series that kicked off on February 15, 2016. The manga is created by the mangaka, or manga creator, Koyoharu Gotouge. Like many great manga writers out there, this was the first true hit for him.
However, what differs about Gotouge is that his first hit just so happens to be one of the most popular manga series to ever release in the 21st century. Prior to creating Demon Slayer, Gotouge was an up-and-coming mangaka who had been around for a few years.
His career truly kicked off in 2013 with the launch of his first one-shot or a simple trial manga that could turn into a full series, known as Kagarigari. He would follow up a year later with another one-shot called Monju Shirou Kyoudai in 2014 that was published in the Jump Next magazine.
That same year, he had his chance to shine in the extremely popular Weekly Shonen Jump magazine with Rokkotsu-san. A year later in 2015, he would publish another one-shot, this time known as Haeniwa no Zigzag, that would also be featured in Weekly Shonen Jump.
That was a lot of one-shots that were all preparing him for the next year in 2016, when he would have his chance to publish his first-ever series of manga chapters. This would be known as Kimetsu no Yaiba and was featured in Weekly Shonen Jump, alongside the classics of Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball.
It did not take long for this manga series to become a classic, either, as the appeal of the series quickly took off. Fans immediately grasped onto the dark nature of this historical fiction piece, gripped by the twists and turns that start from the very first chapter and never let go.
The action is on a whole new level, pushing the boundaries of what can be done on the pages of a magazine or book. With the near-instant success in Japan, it did not take long for the series to become localized in the rest of the world as well.
Like other manga, the chapters from the magazine were brought together into groups of about seven or eight to form volumes. There are 23 volumes of the manga in total, and the first one published in English came out about two years after its release in Japan.
What is also great about Demon Slayer is that the series does not overstay its welcome at all, which is a far cry from other series of the same ilk. It concluded just over four years after its run on May 18, 2020, with the final volume of the manga landing later that same year in Japan.
All 23 volumes of the manga are officially available in English, so the complete set is now available for readers. In total, the Kimetsu no Yaiba manga was able to sell more than 150 million copies around the world to make the eighth highest-selling manga of all time. The craziest part is that it is the only series in the top 10 to begin in the 21st century.
Demon Slayer History: Anime
While the manga has been done for a couple of years now, the anime adaptation of Demon Slayer is still going just as strong and breaking its own records in the process. This is seen in the anime version created by Ufotable of Fate/Stay Night fame.
Without a doubt, I think that the anime version of Demon Slayer is the single best animation that has ever been done on the history of the planet up until now. The work that Ufotable did with Fate and its other shows only elevated here to have the best visuals I’ve ever seen in animation.
It helps, too, that this unmatched level of production is connecting with the excellent story and characters of the manga. It is no wonder that this series has become the hit that it has since its initial run, beginning with the first episode on April 6, 2019, more than three years after the start of the manga.
The first season would run for 26 episodes until September 28, 2019. That legendary run of the series would boost it to become one of the most beloved anime of all time in a single season alone. This was followed by the Mugen Train film that covered that arc of the manga.
This film sequel to the first season went on to become one of the most successful animated films of all time. It is currently number one in Japan for all films ever to debut there while also becoming the highest-grossing anime movie of all time in the world.
That unbelievably successful movie came out in 2020 and would be followed by an episodic repurposing of it in fall 2021. This was buying time until the premiere of the true second season of the show with the adaptation of the next arc known as the Entertainment District arc at the tail-end of 2021.
With only two seasons under its belt at this time, there is still a good bit of content for the anime to cover. Only time will tell how much more popular the series will become in the time until its completion. And since the manga is already finished, there is nothing really holding the series back now.
Given that both the English and Japanese titles for the manga series contain the word demon in it, it is clear from the onset that demons are going to be a major part of the series. Without a doubt, this is the case as the demons are the primary antagonist of the series and the source of torment for the people in the world of Demon Slayer.
The demons are monsters who generally resemble humans but have body compositions that are very similar to vampires in a way. They are vulnerable to the sun and will hunt at night for their prey, devouring the flesh and blood of humans to live.
They are essentially immortal and able to live forever so long as they are not killed by an enemy or the sun. In fact, even if they are attacked, they have such powerful regeneration capabilities that they are able to quickly grow back limbs and even keep their head from coming off.
They are terribly difficult to defeat for good and this is all before bringing in the fact that each and every single one of them has their own unique powers that they are able to use. Most of their powers have to do with the Blood Demon Arts, which uses their blood to do various abilities.
The other problem with the demons is that, while they can be killed by a human using weapons, it has to be a specific type of blade. Normal blades will not be able to completely defeat a demon, which makes the possibility of taking out one of these monsters even harder to accomplish.
Another key point about demons is that they can resemble humans because many of them are former humans themselves. Normal people can be turned into a demon (even against their will), though many of them lose their memories of their original lives in the process.
Breathing Styles Explained
A major part of why the demon slayers are able to take down the demons is because of the breathing styles that they utilize. These are, for lack of a better word, the powers that the heroes use in the series. However, they are not the standard powers that you might find in a typical shounen.
The breathing styles are the different techniques that a slayer can use to perform different attacks on enemies. The general weapon that is used for breathing styles is the katana. However, some slayers will use other, more personalized weapons for their specific techniques.
The breathing styles originate from the very first one, which was Sun Breathing, and have expanded over the centuries to include others. Many of the breathing styles revolve around specific elements in nature like fire, water, and so on, but there are some more specific ones, too.
Some users of breathing styles have even created their own unique techniques that are specific to them and their past. Others still have even inherited the proficiency for certain breathing styles due to the lineage of their family line.
As teased earlier, the general setting for Demon Slayer is Japan in the Taisho period of history. This time period was in the early 20th century and only lasted for roughly 15 years or so. A short era in the history of Japan, it is one that is not that often portrayed in anime and manga.
That said, Demon Slayer takes this unique and tumultuous time in the history of the island nation and translates it into a way that makes sense for this specific show. During the time of the Taisho period, Japan had just come out of the long Edo period in which it was closed off.
It knew that the rest of the world existed but chose to keep its doors shut to outsiders. That changed with the Taisho time period in which Japan started to become more of a global country. Through the opening of its borders, other cultures and styles began to flood the country.
This led to a mix of the old and new as some citizens still walked around in the traditional Japanese garments while others embraced the more Western-designed clothing. This also led to technological changes, with cities like Tokyo growing bigger and brighter and trains becoming more of a commonplace form of transportation across the country.
In Demon Slayer, the setting is a crucial part of the series as the various locations that the characters visit become the crux of several different arcs in the series, such as the Entertainment District arc. In that one, for instance, this red-light district is detailed and deep to make the location itself a character.
Main Characters: Demon Slayers
In terms of the main heroes of the manga, the core cast is comprised of the demon slayers themselves. The most important among them is the protagonist, Tanjiro. Tanjiro is a charming young boy who is sensitive and loyal to the ones that he loves.
He deeply cares about his friends and family, and they inspire his purpose in life to hunt down the demons. With the events that happen at the beginning of the story, he changes and finds a goal in becoming a demon slayer to protect the ones that he loves and even those he doesn’t even know. At the start of the story, Tanjiro is a demon slayer who uses water breathing for his main attacks.
He is joined on his journey by one of his sisters, Nezuko. Without giving too much away about her character, she is affected by the events that happen at the start of the manga when the demons attack and Tanjiro set out to look for help for her to make her better.
That said, Nezuko is no defenseless girl. While she is quiet and does not have a lot of development in the early parts of the manga, her sole purpose is to protect her family and she bends the very rules of the world to make it happen. In the process, she is a powerful unknown quantity in a way.
A friend that joins Tanjiro and Nezuko in their training is Zenitsu, a goofy boy with a colorful image and personality. His obsession with Nezuko is obvious, and he runs at the sight of danger. That said, he is a strong fighter and one that can do a lot once he finally gets into the battle.
And then there is Inosuke, who rounds out the group as another demon slayer. Though he wears a boar’s head on his head to cover his face, he is, indeed, a human who just so happened to live in the forest. He is a bit odd and wants to fight everyone, but his one-of-a-kind beast-like breathing style is a valuable asset in combat.
The very best fighters around within the Demon Slayer Corps are the Hashira. This group is the most powerful demon slayers around, and each of them represents a different breathing style of their own. They are on a whole different level from the other slayers, capable of taking on the strongest demons in the world.
The Hashira are a special group and one that is not easy to join. Few do, but these characters are ones that eventually cross paths with Tanjiro and the gang, playing key roles in their lives across the various arcs of the manga.
Main Villains: Demons
As for the demon villains themselves, there is more organization to them than meets the eye. While there are many demons who simply hole up in a certain location and feast on the humans there, there is a group of demons who are the most terrifying and powerful in all of Japan.
They are led by the primary antagonist of the series, Muzan, a vile demon who hides among the humans pretending to be an innocent person while leading hordes of demons. He is relentless, old, and seemingly unbeatable. He is also responsible for the attack on Tanjiro’s family and the main demon that the young protagonist is hunting down.
Where to Read and Watch Demon Slayer
If you cannot resist the urge to read or watch Demon Slayer now, we have you covered. As one of the newest and most popular series around, it is quite easy to find it no matter what form you prefer. If you like digital manga, we recommend checking it out on the Viz Media website.
You are able to read the first few chapters for free and the final ones as well, but everything else will require payment. That said, it is a great way to check out the manga or just read the last few ones. On the other hand, physical copies of the manga are also available.
The entire manga has already been printed in English, so you can read it from start to finish right now. As always, online retailers will be a solid place to look, in addition to bookstores and local libraries where they might have some copies in stock.
On the anime side, this part is still ongoing, but you can watch it on either Funimation or Crunchyroll. Both are streaming services that show the most recent episode of the show as soon as it airs, so you can choose either one to go with. That said, some episodes are available for free on Crunchyroll with ads so that might be a good place to start.
What Chapter to Start With for Anime Viewers
For those of you who are anime fans who have been watching the show and do not know where to start reading the manga now, we have you covered. The anime is going up to the Entertainment District arc at this point in time. If you want to kick off with reading the manga to see where the story goes next, you’ll want to start with around Chapter 96 or so.
Once you have completed all of the Entertainment District episodes that there are to watch, we recommend starting with around Chapter 96 so that you can see the conclusion of that arc and how it was done in the manga, and then you can start with the next section.
That next section of the manga and eventually the anime is the Swordsmith Village arc, where you will find out more about some of the characters and stories of the world. From there, you essentially only have half the manga left to read, and you will be done with it.
Question: What is the story behind Demon Slayer?
Answer: We already mentioned a brief overview of the story, but here is another glimpse of it. The story in Demon Slayer (spoilers for the first chapter and episode) is that the young boy, Tanjiro Kamado, is living a peaceful life in the mountains with his family until demons attack.
When the demons attack his family’s home, it changes his life forever and sends him out on a mission to hunt down all demons in existence while also trying to one of his sisters. Thus begins his journey to learn about being a demon slayer, his family’s past, and the leader of all demons.
Question: Was Demon Slayer based on a true story?
Answer: Demon Slayer itself is not based on a true story that we know of unless you happen to know a time where demons attacked Japanese people in the streets. That said, the time period of Demon Slayer is a real-time in the history of the island country.
To this end, Demon Slayer is quite faithful in recreating that era of Japanese history from what the cities looked like to the outfits the characters wear and more. Much of the culture and style in this show is quite unique, referencing the recently opened borders in Japan to the rest of the world and the rapidly advancing technology of the period.
Question: Who is the first Demon Slayer?
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer as the series does not quite make it clear who the very first demon slayer in the history of Japan was. That said, the first to bear the demon slayer mark was Yoriichi Tsugikuni, a character shown later on in the manga.
While we will avoid most spoilers for this character, Yoriichi was a demon slayer that was at the of the Sengoku Era in Japan, which was hundreds of years prior to the events of the Demon Slayer manga. He is known to be the greatest slayer to ever live and had power unlike anyone else. In that way, he could be considered the father of all demon slayers.
Question: What is the timeline in Demon Slayer?
Answer: As for the time period and timeline for the Demon Slayer series, the manga creator chose a fascinating period of time to explore in the history of Japan. Rather than go for the more popular and overused eras of Japan’s history, Demon Slayer takes place in the Taisho period.
What is interesting about the Taisho period is that it was a rather short era in Japan, only taking place from 1912-1926. During this time, Japan was opening up its borders for the first time to the world, learning about other cultures, being influenced, and advancing in technology like trains.
Question: What is the message of Demon Slayer?
Answer: The great part about manga and anime is that any reader or viewer can enjoy it and take something different from what another person does. As such, the message that I took from Demon Slayer could vary greatly from someone else’s.
That said, when it comes to the message that I took from this series, it comes down to two parts.
The first is never giving up, which is a common theme that pervades throughout most shounen series. Perseverance is a tribute that shounen series are all about, with the main characters always getting back up again to keep fighting.
This is something that the main character, Tanjiro, truly embodies. He never gives up no matter what demon or enemy he is facing in front of him and will do whatever it takes for the people that he loves, no matter what cost it might ultimately bring against him.
The other message that I took goes hand-in-hand with that particular theme and that is the idea of family. Tanjiro cares about his family in a way that is not seen on this level in almost any other manga or anime that I’ve read or seen. He will do anything for them, and that is something that empowers him to keep fighting.
Demon Slayer History and Overview: Conclusion
Without a doubt, it will be difficult to find a series these days that is much more popular than Demon Slayer. That said, one manga and anime series that is itself a massive hit and also relatively new is My Hero Academia. Rather than taking place in the past, My Hero is a present-day superhero story.
But, like Demon Slayer, it focuses on characters with almost supernatural-like powers that allow them to fight the bad guys that are tormenting society. If you want to find out more about this series, be sure to check out our full breakdown of the history and general overview of My Hero Academia.