Demon Slayer is full of so many fascinating, fleshed-out characters that sometimes faces that deserve to be remembered are pushed to the wayside.
In my opinion, the most criminally underrated character in this beloved show is none other than Shinazugawa Genya. As I write this, we’re looking toward the release of season 3. And in the excitement of exploring the stories of the Love and Mist Hashiras, Genya’s been left out of the promotion almost entirely.
Genya’s been in Demon Slayer almost since the beginning, surviving Final Selection alongside Tanjiro and his better-remembered friends. Thanks to Genya’s extended absences early on, he’s been left out of much of the discussion. But no longer. We’re buckling in for his time in the spotlight, so let’s look at why he deserves it.
First up, a SPOILER WARNING! I will dive into the late-series events of Demon Slayer, including the final arc and chapter. So proceed with caution.
The Demon Eater, Shinazugawa Genya
- Kanji: 不死川 玄弥
- Age: 16
- Height: 180 cm (5ft 11)
- Weight: 76 kg (167 lbs)
- Birthday: 7th January
- Manga Introduction: Chapter 6
- Anime Introduction: Episode 4
- Voice Actors: Nobuhiko Okamoto (Japanese), Zeno Robinson (English)
As we see him for most of the series (post the Hashira Meeting arc), he’s tall and broad, and his body is littered with scars. His face has a prominent scar under his right eye and a threatening, constantly angry expression. The scar across Genya’s face was obtained when his mother was turned into a demon and slaughtered most of her children.
His head is mostly shaven, with a single patch of hair at the front, grown long and pushed back to resemble a mohawk. In the manga, his hair has yellow tips.
This hasn’t been carried over to the anime. He wears a black and purple vest over his uniform, and in addition to his katana, Genya carries a shotgun. Genya’s nichirin katana is regular grey steel, as it never changed color.
When we first meet Genya at Final Selection, he isn’t as tall, with less muscle mass and shorter hair. But he still wears the same vest. Between this and the Swordsmith Village arc, Genya went through puberty and underwent intense physical training with the Stone Hashira.
Genya is a brusque, angry young man when we first meet him. Rough around the edges, he has a major attitude problem and pushes the people around him away, often by yelling at them. However, he undergoes a lot of development throughout the story, slowly opening up as he gains friends. He’s kind and honest to a fault, unafraid to tell people what he thinks.
He’s also loyal to his brother, the Wind Hashira, undeterred by his verbal abuse in his steadfast love and dedication towards him. He is quickly incensed if anyone dares to insult him.
Charmingly, along with growing bigger through puberty, Genya also grows hopelessly nervous around women. While at Final Selection, he is willing to use physical force against a young girl; he later can’t even talk to women because he’s so flustered around them.
Genya was the second son in his family. He grew up with an abusive father, but despite being small, his mother would protect him. Sadly, she was turned into a demon and slaughtered most of her children. Sanemi, his older brother, was forced to subdue and kill her.
Shocked by what had happened, Genya accused Sanemi of being a murderer. After this, he and Sanemi split ways. Genya would continue to think it was because his brother resented him for saying such awful things for a long time.
It’s unclear what happened to Genya after that, but he later discovered the existence of the demon-slaying corps and partook in the same Final Selection as Tanjiro. Due to his lack of talent as a swordsman, driven to desperation, Genya discovered his ability to gain strength by eating demons.
It led to him going on a rampage, from which he was saved by Himejima Gyomei, the Stone Pillar, who would later become his teacher.
The Demon Slayer Without a Breathing Technique
Genya’s combat style is entirely unique. He lacks the natural skill to perform breathing techniques but refuses to quit the corps despite that. He is generally weaker than the other characters we meet thanks to this. However, he makes up for it with his ‘special constitution.’
Genya was born with a strong jaw and the rare ability to temporarily gain the strength of a demon by eating its flesh (including the physical manifestations of their Blood Arts.) He is the only member of the Demon Slaying Corps with this ability, and Kokushibo, a demon over 400 years old, claims to have only met one other swordsman like him.
Genya’s benefits from this aren’t limited to physical strength and endurance. Like a demon, Genya can shake off most mortal wounds, even surviving being cut entirely in half. He also develops two Blood Demon Arts, one from Upper Rank 4 and another from Upper Rank 1. The more powerful the demon, the more of an effect this ability has on Genya, to the extent where at one point, he gains access to the mental connection Kokushibo has to Kibutsuji.
The biggest downside is that it makes him more demon-like, changing his physical appearance and sometimes sending him out of control. It does eventually wear off, however.
On top of his special ability, Genya carries an additional unique weapon: a shotgun. There’s no greater joy than the moment you finish chapter 106 and see that Genya has pulled a gun on Upper Rank 4. His double-barrel shotgun sprays shots made with the same material as nichirin swords.
The gun allows him greater versatility in approaching a fight, and he’s confirmed to be a gifted marksman. In addition to his much higher damage tolerance, this takes a big step toward making up for his inability to use breathing techniques.
Genya’s Role in the Story
While Genya’s introduction doesn’t suggest much about his importance in the story, he eventually becomes a member of Tanjiro’s inner circle of friends. He goes through a lot of drastic development for a supporting cast member and leaves a notable impact.
Genya is introduced in one of the earliest events of the series: Final Selection. He participates in the same Final Selection as Tanjiro and is one of the five survivors. He throws a tantrum during the post-exam congratulations, desperate to get his hands on a nichirin katana.
In his anger, he upsets his kasugai crow and physically assaults one of the Ubuyashiki children. He isn’t deterred from this until Tanjiro steps in and breaks his arm.
This scene has much more depth once you know that Genya can’t use any breathing techniques. A nichirin sword changes color to reflect the breathing style best suited to its user. As someone who can’t use any style, Genya likely sees his sword as a way to figure out what’s wrong with him.
He probably hopes his sword will answer all his questions, hence his aggressive and desperate impatience. As an informed audience, we know that it won’t, remaining grey.
Swordsmith Village Arc
Tanjiro meets Genya again at the swordsmith village in the hot spring. This is the first time the reader is clued into Genya’s regeneration, as he loses a tooth and later regrows it. He is angered by Tanjiro’s insistence on befriending him, trying to deny him, but, after the battle, is ultimately unable to in the face of such sincerity.
Over this arc, we learn about Genya’s backstory, his ‘special constitution,’ and his determination to become a Hashira in the hopes of reuniting with and apologizing to his older brother. We also see that his gruff exterior is a front, hiding his desperation to succeed and make the people he cares about proud.
When Tanjiro shows him sincere support, not caring how the demon is defeated as long as it is, Genya realizes that he’s being selfish. Genya shows that when the cards are down, he will step up and do what is right, even if he doesn’t like it.
This arc ends with Genya playing an instrumental part in the defeat of Upper Rank 4 and him putting aside his pride to celebrate with and be happy for his new friends.
Hashira Training Arc
This is when we finally see Genya and Sanemi interact for the first time, establishing their current relationship.
Genya tracks down his brother and tries to apologize, but it falls on deaf ears. When Genya admits that he ate a demon in his bid for strength, Sanemi grows enraged and tries to maim him. Genya narrowly escapes as Tanjiro comes to his rescue but ends up punching Zenitsu for insulting his brother and starting a brawl, landing him in trouble with Gyomei.
This scene is critical setup for their reconciliation in the next arc, framing the true tragedy of their relationship when you discover Sanemi’s true intentions.
He later helps Tanjiro complete training with the Stone Hashira, imparting what Gyomei has taught him. Tanjiro also tells Genya here that while Sanemi is angry that he won’t quit the corps, he doesn’t detect any hatred from him. He assures Genya that no matter what, his brother still loves him. This conversation happens in this arc, but the contents aren’t revealed until later.
Fight Against Upper Rank 1
Genya is one of four participants in the fight against Kokushibo, Upper Rank 1. Alongside him are Tokito Muichiro, Himejima Gyomei, and Sanemi. This is where the brothers finally settle their differences, airing their true feelings and reconciling.
The fight starts with Kokushibo slicing Genya in half and almost kills him before Sanemi jumps to his rescue. He never wanted Genya to join the corps; he wanted him to live a long, peaceful life. Sanemi only ever wanted to protect Genya, and now Genya believes it’s his turn to protect Sanemi.
As the weakest fighter, Genya initially feels useless. Watching his brother and teacher take blow after blow to keep him safe. He then remembers Tanjiro telling him that when an enemy sees you as weak, it’s something to use to your advantage. Genya eats some of Kokushibo’s hair and sword to turn the tide of the battle.
He manifests a Demon Blood Art that allows him to use his gun as Kokushibo uses his katana and to grow trees from the bullets it fires. Together with Muichiro, Genya helps drain Kokushibo’s strength and holds him long enough for the three Hashira to defeat him.
Unfortunately, Genya is fatally hurt during the battle, unable to regenerate from such a grievous injury. Having consumed too much demon flesh, Genya starts to crumble to dust as Sanemi screams at him to hang on, saying his older brother will fix this.
He can’t help, but Genya at least tells Sanemi that he wants him to live and to be happy before dying in his brother’s arms.
The final chapter of Demon Slayer shows the characters all having reincarnated in the modern world. Genya’s appearance is brief, but we learn that his reincarnation grew up as a police officer who is the partner of Sanemi’s reincarnation and descendant. They are not related in this life but are as close as true brothers and are by each other’s side no matter what.
In Gotouge’s alternate high school story, Genya is a first-year student and the pride and joy of the marksmanship club. This accomplishment is why he’s allowed to keep his hair against code, as shaving led to his performance dropping.
He’s won awards for his achievements, but Sanemi, the math teacher, publicly destroyed his award for not being about math. While this was a horrible act, it made Genya, who is big and scary looking, more sympathetic to his classmates and led to him making many friends in a direct parallel to their relationship in the series.
While Genya interacts with many characters throughout the series, only a handful are all that meaningful. However, that handful is significant and dictates how his character develops.
Genya’s older brother. They were very close in childhood, both taking on the role of protector after their abusive father passed. However, the boys parted ways after their mother became a demon and attacked their family. Genya spent most of his life believing that Sanemi abandoned him because, in his grief and confusion, he called him a murderer.
From this point on, it became Genya’s mission to follow in his brother’s footsteps so he could finally apologize. However, Sanemi avoids him entirely, and on the rare occasions they meet, he is verbally abusive and dismissive. Of course, Genya believes that Sanemi hates him and blames himself for this crack in their relationship, but it’s not true.
Sanemi never stopped loving his little brother and only wanted what was best for him. He only pushed him away to try and protect him.
Gotouge has described their story as an embodiment of the old Japanese folk tale ‘The Red Ogre that Cried”. It is about a blue ogre allowing himself to be hated to give his best friend, the red ogre, a happy life surrounded by loved ones.
Of course, the only result is that both ogres have lost their closest friend. It’s not hard to see the Shinazugawa brothers’ relationship reflected in this story.
I found their relationship deeply tragic and affecting, where both brothers pursue the other’s happiness but only succeed in bringing each other pain. It’s a lesson in communication and making your love known. In a series chock-a-block with touching stories of family and love, I’ve always considered the Shinazugawa brothers as a true stand-out.
In fact, the scene in which Genya dies, Sanemi screaming to whoever might be listening not to take away his little brother, affected me more than any other in the series. I cried a couple of times while reading Demon Slayer, as I’m sure most of you did, but this is the part that had me wailing.
The Stone Hashira and Genya’s teacher, although not his sword-fighting master. The two met after Genya ate demon flesh and lost control of himself, at which point Gyomei had to rescue him. Gyomei blamed Genya for what had happened and demanded that he quit the corps, but Genya threw a tantrum at the idea and ignored him.
Genya wanted to be as strong as a Hashira, and knowing that Gyomei was the strongest, he began demanding that Gyomei make him his tsuguko. Genya showed no promise as a swordsman, and Gyomei declined; however, Genya was persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Despite his bad attitude and tendency to throw tantrums when things didn’t go his way, Gyomei came to respect Genya’s perseverance and refusal to give up on anything despite the odds.
Eventually, he agreed to take him on as an apprentice but not as his tsuguko. After spending time with the calm Stone Hashira, Genya calmed down and learned discipline, following his master’s teachings and growing stronger. This was likely the basis for his growth during the Swordsmith Village arc. He learns to put aside his pride for the sake of what matters, an improvement on the impertinent child he used to be.
Genya, sincere and unconcerned with what other people think of him, was a perfect match for the distrustful Stone Hashira. While we don’t see them interact in the series, the fan books suggest they are very friendly and that Gyomei appreciates Genya’s frank nature.
He is very concerned with Genya’s health. He is insistent that Kocho Shinobu, the Insect Hashira and corps doctor, keep tabs on how his consumption of demon flesh affects him. In his brother’s absence, Gyomei fulfilled the parental role in Genya’s life.
Tanjiro is Genya’s first friend and one of the few people who doesn’t judge him for his inability to use breathing techniques. While Genya initially wants nothing to do with him, mainly because Tanjiro broke his arm at Final Selection, Tanjiro is persistent in trying to befriend him.
He follows Genya around the swordsmith village, immediately calls Genya by his first name, and is upset when Genya claims they aren’t friends.
Over the fight against Upper Rank 4, however, Genya’s walls break down. Tanjiro supports his goal to kill Hantengu himself and eventually helps Genya put aside his pride and work as a team. Throughout the Hashira Training arc, we can see that Genya has a particular fondness for Tanjiro.
He’s softer-spoken and kinder to him than anyone else and holds him in high regard. Tanjiro even throws himself into a fight between Genya and Sanemi, standing up for him and physically protecting him from his brother’s rage.
Genya’s friendship with Muichiro is vague at best but definitely present. They fight alongside one another during the attack on the swordsmith village and work together to defeat Kokushibo, sacrificing their lives to that end.
Genya leaps to help Muichiro when he finds Kokushibo torturing him, and Muichiro frantically tries to help in turn. Genya also has enough trust in Muichiro to agree to attack him fatally to enact their plan to hold Kokushibo in place. Ultimately, they are instrumental in his defeat thanks to their teamwork.
Kanata is the youngest daughter of Ubuyashiki Kagaya, the leader of the demon slayers and the young girl Genya attacks during Final Selection. Their interactions are brief, but she’s key in showing part of Genya’s personality shift. Where once he’s unconcerned with roughing up a girl to get what he wants, he’s flustered around her the next time they meet.
Gotouge confirmed through her interchapter illustrations that Genya eventually apologized for his behavior, and Kanata forgave him.
Genya’s Voice Actors
We’ve seen almost nothing of what Genya has to offer in the anime, at least as I write this. His only speaking role appears in episode 5, during the scuffle at the end of Final Selection. But he does have two actors, and I think it’s worth acknowledging their performances.
Nobuhiko Okamoto, in the original Japanese, plays Genya the way I expected him to be played. His voice is gruff like Genya should be, and he does a great job conveying Genya’s impatient anger.
Interestingly though, I have more to say about Zeno Robinson’s performance. I’ve always considered the Demon Slayer dub pretty hit-and-miss, with some stellar performances and others that rub me the wrong way. Robinson’s interpretation of Genya, however, is genuinely excellent.
I might be biased, but in the brief time we saw him, I felt that Robinson nailed that desperate immaturity by which I’ve come to define Genya. Maybe it’s because I’m a native English speaker, but I felt a little more emotional range in Robinson’s Genya, although both were very good.
I’d like to see how the two actors approach Genya in the upcoming season 3, considering he’s undergone a lot of change by the time Tanjiro reunites with him. I’m excited to see what they’ll bring to Genya as he grows and develops.
Genya’s Best Quotes
“My name is Genya Shinazugawa! Remember it! It’s the name of the man who’s going to kill you!”
“I’m sorry, Sanemi. I’m going to die without ever apologizing. You smiling at me… is too good of a thing to flash before my eyes.”
“I have to do it. Think only about winning. I will not let my brother, or the master, or my comrades die!”
“You have suffered much, so… I want you to be… happy. I don’t want you to die. Because my big brother is… the nicest person… in this world.”
In kanji, Shinazugawa Genya is spelt 不死川 玄弥. His family name means immortal river, and his given name is spelled with the kanji for ‘mysterious’ or ‘profound’ and ‘ever-increasing.’
Genya’s kasugai crow is called Hashibami, and after being dismissed at Final Selection, he holds a grudge against Genya. They don’t get along. However, Hashibami acts quite like his master, regardless, picking fights with the other crows.
Genya enjoys tending to bonsai, and his favorite food is watermelon.
On the cover of volume 13, Gotouge drew Genya with yellow tips in his hair. However, in other colored illustrations of him, she has left this out.
When he first met Kanroji Mitsuri, the Love Hashira, he was so overwhelmed by her cuteness that he couldn’t say a word. Unfortunately, she thought that he didn’t like her.
Reaching for a Retreating Shadow
As I close this out, I feel I need to be upfront and admit that Genya is my favorite character in the whole series. His struggle to reach out to his brother, the tragedy of their relationship, and his desperation to prove himself despite his handicaps all resonated with me. I hope they resonated with you too.
Genya is a steadfast and loyal young man who would do anything for his loved ones and won’t stop until he’s succeeded. While he may not have had the happy ending he deserved, the journey to get there was equal parts touching and heartbreaking.
It’s been a joy to share everything I love about my favorite character with you, and I hope you’re as excited as I am for his spotlight in season 3.
Question: Is Genya a demon?
Answer: No, Genya is human. Thanks to his unique constitution, he can temporarily gain demonic abilities, including regeneration and Blood Demon Arts. While he takes on a demonic appearance and sometimes loses control of himself, he eventually returns to normal.
Question: Why can’t Genya use breathing styles?
Answer: It’s unclear exactly why Genya cannot master any breathing style. However, it’s suggested in the text that it comes down to natural talent and affinity. He’s not the only character in Demon Slayer we see like this, as Rengoku Senjuro seems to be the same. We can intuit much about Genya’s situation from his.
Question: Why did Genya eat demons?
Answer: Genya turned to eating demons out of desperation, thanks to his lack of talent as a swordsman. We only find this out from the fan books. While we don’t know why he chose to eat a demon in his time of desperation, it was probably due to biting his way out of a situation being his only escape. This is, of course, mere speculation.
Question: How did Genya get the scar on his face?
Answer: Genya got the scar on his face when his mother was turned into a demon. When she burst into their home, the fragments of the door she shattered flew across the room, and a piece caught Genya’s face, slicing the skin under his right eye across his nose.