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Of the human characters in Demon Slayer, the most immediately dislikable has to be the Wind Hashira, Shinazugawa Sanemi. However, like every character Gotouge crafted for her series, he is complex beyond his quick temper and foul mouth.
Sanemi is strong even among the Hashira, a particularly vicious fighter; his unending hatred for demons drives him to engage in extreme and destructive behavior. He’s best remembered for his display at the Hashira Meeting, but his story hardly ends there. We learn so much more about him and that he might not be so bad after all.
Let me quickly drop a SPOILER WARNING. This article will discuss the manga of Demon Slayer in its entirety. With that out of the way, let’s look at what makes our favorite hothead tick.
The Wind Hashira, Shinazugawa Sanemi
- Kanji: 不死川 実弥
- Age: 21
- Height: 179cm (5ft 10)
- Weight: 75kg (165 lbs)
- Birthday: 29th November
- Manga Introduction: Chapter 4
- Anime Introduction: Episode 22
- Voice Actors: Tomokazu Seki (Japanese), Kaiji Tang (English)
Sanemi has scruffy white hair and a scarred, frightening face. Children tend to burst into tears at the sight of him. He wears his demon slayer uniform with the shirt open and a white haori, on the back of which is the kanji 殺, meaning ‘kill.’ His katana blade is green, and the handguard looks like green cards fanned out into the shape of a flower.
Aside from his intense glare, Sanemi’s most defining physical characteristic is his scars, most of which are self-inflicted. The most notable exception is the scars on his face, which he received from the incident in which he was forced to subdue and kill his mother after she turned into a demon.
Sanemi is loud, abrasive, and prone to fits of violence. He also has a burning hatred for all demons and isn’t shy about it. However, he is surprisingly respectful, speaking politely to the elderly, women, and children. Within the corps, he shows respect to people he deems worthy but is highly dismissive and sometimes antagonistic towards anyone he doesn’t. This is reflected starkly in the language he uses.
Despite his rough exterior, Sanemi has proven that, at heart, he’s a good person who struggles to convey his true feelings.
He is fiercely loyal and prepared to go to any extreme, including death and ostracization, to protect the people he loves. Gotouge has described him as the embodiment of the story ‘The Red Ogre Who 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.
Sanemi has a self-acknowledged disregard for his own safety, taking advantage of his marechi blood to gain the advantage in combat, and purposefully hurts himself to that end.
Sanemi grew up with an abusive father. His father died when he was still young, and he had to take up the mantle of family protector early in life. Most of his family died when his mother became a demon and killed all but one of his siblings, Genya. After this incident, it would appear that he split from Genya and traveled alone.
He killed demons in primitive ways by taking advantage of his marechi blood until he was found by Masachika, a member of the demon slayer corps. Masachika then introduced him to his wind-breathing master.
Years later, he and Masachika killed a Lower Rank 1, although only Sanemi survived the fight and became a Hashira. While the seniority among the Hashira isn’t concrete, we know Sanemi became a Hashira sometime before Kanae Kocho died.
Wind Breathing — Combat Ability
As his Hashira title would suggest, Sanemi is a master of Wind Breathing (Kaze no Kokyu). It is one of the five basic breathing styles. He is the only user of wind breathing we encounter in the series. As a style of combat, Wind Breathing lends itself to high mobility and area of effect.
According to the official fan book, it’s a very violent and painful style for the demons defeated with it, considered by some of Sanemi’s victims to be a little overkill. It has nine forms:
- First: Dust Whirlwind Cutter
- Second: Claws, Purifying Wind
- Third: Clear Storm Wind Tree
- Fourth: Rising Dust Storm
- Fifth: Cold Mountain Wind
- Sixth Form: Black Wind Mountain Mist
- Seventh: Gale, Sudden Gusts
- Eighth: Primary Gale Slash
- Ninth: Idaten Typhoon
Sanemi has exceptionally potent marechi blood — rare blood, considered a delicacy amongst demons. Sanemi’s blood is rare even among marechi, so much so that it has an inebriating effect on demons, even able to affect Upper Rank 1.
In combat, he is quick to use this to his advantage, slicing his own skin to distract his opponent. This is why his body is littered with scars.
In combat, Sanemi is tenacious and has excellent control of his body. He can flex his muscles to prevent his internal organs from falling out while grievously injured. His use of breathing to heal himself is also advanced, likely thanks to his penchant for harming himself in fights.
Sanemi’s Role in the Story
Sanemi is a primary supporting cast member and has a large part to play toward the end of the series. Let’s look at his most involving moments across the manga.
Hashira Meeting — Tanjiro and Nezuko’s Trial
As of writing, the only real time we’ve spent with Sanemi in the anime is his introduction during the Hashira meeting at the end of season one. Suffice it to say, he makes one hell of an impression.
Sanemi is the most outspoken against sparing Nezuko’s life and demands that Tanjiro and Giyu be appropriately punished for harboring a demon. He tries to taunt Nezuko into violence and tempts her with his blood. He is stunned when she turns away from it but does concede defeat.
This scene is one of many throughout the series that is enhanced on a second reading. Knowing about Sanemi’s potent marechi blood makes Nezuko’s refusal of it much more impressive.
I believe Sanemi’s reaction is written to be so intensely negative to prime the reader for the difficulties Tanjiro will face as a member of the Demon Slaying Corps. Most of the Hashira are outspoken in their refusal to accept Nezuko, and Sanemi embodies their resentment.
While he shows up in occasional one-off panels, and throughout Genya’s flashbacks during the Swordsmith Village arc, we don’t see Sanemi in any significant way until the Hashira Training arc. Infinite Strikes training with the Wind Hashira is the 5th level of Hashira training.
It is widely considered the most painful, even if it isn’t the hardest. His students are terrified of him, playing dead to avoid drawing his attention.
This arc is noteworthy for Sanemi’s development as it confronts his relationship with Genya. This is the first time the two have spoken since their separation as children. Unfortunately, their meeting quickly leads to a fight. This takes place on Tanjiro’s first day of training under him, and when he intervenes in this fight, Sanemi blows up, leading to an all-out brawl.
However, this is also one of our first glimpses of the real Sanemi beyond the aggressive outer layer. When Tanjiro stumbles upon his one-on-one training with Giyu, we discover Sanemi is fond of Ohagi, a Japanese treat. This is a comedic but also humanizing moment for Sanemi, giving him a bit of dimension before we really explore his character.
Fight Against Upper Rank 1
This is the point we finally get a deep dive into Sanemi’s character. He is one of four participants in the fight against Kokushibo, Upper Rank 1, alongside Tokito Muichiro, Himejima Gyomei, and Genya. Unsurprisingly, much of it revolves around the brothers’ relationship, with Sanemi finally conveying his true feelings to his brother.
Before Gyomei joins the fight, Sanemi faces Kokushibo one-on-one and is so strong that he manages to impress the 400-year-old demon. Throughout this fight, we get an idea of Sanemi’s battle prowess — his extreme mobility on the battlefield, his use of his blood against his opponents, and his extreme control over his muscles and breathing technique.
This is also where we learn his backstory and how he joined the corps. Most importantly, we understand why he behaves how he does: his self-sacrificial nature and unwavering justice mix badly with his hotheadedness.
Once Gyomei shows up, the two work together to greater effect. Sanemi develops his ‘mark’ in this fight, allowing him to undergo rapid and exponential growth, increasing his speed, reflex ability, and overall power. Sanemi’s mark looks like a pinwheel with a dot on either side, located on his right cheek.
At the time of writing, we don’t know what color it is, but my guess would be green to correspond to his wind breathing. Sanemi loses two of the fingers on his right hand in this fight and sustains so many injuries that he loses consciousness but continues fighting on instinct.
Once the fight ends and he regains consciousness, Sanemi is forced to face the consequences of his inability to communicate with the people he cares for. He could not keep his brother safe, and as they finally reach an understanding, Genya crumbles to dust in his arms.
Final Showdown with Muzan Kibutsuji
After his fight with Kokushibo, Sanemi joins the final battle against Kibutsuji. He is involved from beginning to end, helping to chip away at Kibutsuji’s health until dawn breaks. Sanemi is rendered unconscious as Kibutsuji is finally defeated and almost dies, but manages to hang on, making him one of only two Hashira that survive.
He reconcilies with Nezuko, seeing his brother in her, and finds a fragile peace. He appears to go off on his own after the corps disbands, searching for the life Genya wanted him to have.
The final chapter of the manga jumps ahead to the modern future. It shows all of the main characters having reincarnated into a more peaceful time, playing into Gotouge’s Buddhist theming. Sanemi has reincarnated as a police officer named Sanehiro, one of his descendants, whose partner is Genya. They aren’t brothers in this future, but they are inseparable.
In Gotouge’s alternate school universe, Sanemi is the mathematics teacher at Kimetsu Academy. He’s renowned for being strict and loud. He once physically threw a student from his class for claiming that math was useless in what was later dubbed ‘the smash bro.s incident’.
He once publicly embarrassed his younger brother at an awards ceremony. However, it’s suspected that he did it to help Genya make friends.
As a supporting character, Sanemi doesn’t have many fleshed-out relationships. However, those he does have are incredibly meaningful and shape his entire characterization.
Unsurprisingly, Sanemi’s most complex relationship is with his younger brother, Genya. As the first and second oldest among seven siblings, it was up to the two of them to look after their family once their father passed away. Genya obviously holds nothing but the highest regard for Sanemi. However, for much of the series, Sanemi’s feelings towards Genya appear antagonistic.
Of course, this isn’t the case. While Genya believes that Sanemi hates him, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sanemi treats Genya with outward disdain, claiming he isn’t good enough to be a demon slayer and no longer considers Genya his younger brother. And he is outraged when he learns that Genya has consumed demon flesh to be a better slayer.
However, this is all because he wants his younger brother to live a long life of peace and happiness. He tries to convince Genya to despise him so that he’ll have nothing attaching him to the demon slayers and quit. Much to Sanemi’s distress, this only achieves the opposite, as Genya becomes more determined to apologize, blaming himself for his brother’s hatred.
The Shinazugawa brothers have a devastatingly tragic relationship. Their steadfast dedication and love for their family only drive them farther apart. Ultimately, they can only understand each other in the middle of the death match against Upper Rank 1, which Genya doesn’t survive.
Worse yet, Genya, having consumed too much demon flesh, crumbles to dust upon his death, and Sanemi doesn’t even have a body to bury. Full disclosure, I cried several times while reading Demon Slayer, but this relationship was what had me bawling like a baby.
In the fight’s aftermath, Sanemi is deeply affected by Genya’s passing but lets it drive him to be a better person rather than wallowing in grief. His memory of Genya brings him happiness instead of regret. Since we know he has a descendant, we can assume that he settled down and found peace, just as his brother wanted him to.
From their first appearance in the series, we know that Sanemi holds the deepest respect for Kagaya Ubuyashiki, the leader of the demon slayers. When talking to him, he changes his entire countenance and register, a difference much starker in the original Japanese. However, it didn’t start out like this.
When Sanemi first met Ubuyashiki, he was disgusted by someone who could smile while others died under his orders. However, Ubuyashiki was deeply apologetic that he couldn’t stand on the battlefield and believed himself no more important than any other corps member.
Sanemi was so overcome by his parental affection and modesty that he changed his mind about Ubuyashiki in that same meeting. Besides Gyomei, Sanemi is suggested to be the most devoted to Ubuyashiki and is furious at himself for being unable to protect him to the end. However, he is unwilling to blindly follow Ubuyashiki’s orders like Gyomei.
Masachika was the person who introduced Sanemi to the demon-slaying corps and his faithful ally for many years. It was the fight in which the two defeated a Lower Rank 1 that led to Sanemi becoming a Hashira. However, Masachika didn’t survive the battle, and it left deep emotional scars on Sanemi.
The two of them were like brothers. Masachika mentioned Sanemi in his will, wishing he could go on to live a happy life and die in peace, even if he couldn’t be by Sanemi’s side. Masachika’s feelings towards Sanemi parallel Sanemi’s feelings towards Genya and likely influenced how he would later treat him.
While it’s subtle, the manga, its bonus pages, and the fan books suggest that Sanemi had a close relationship with Kanae, the Flower Hashria. This is likely because she was the only person patient enough to see through his brash behavior.
We get this even more in the Kimetsu Academy side stories, where Kanae’s fans become so jealous of his close relationship with her that they plot to take him out.
This was quickly scrapped due to how frightening he is. His relationship with Shinobu Kocho, Kanae’s younger sister, also lends credence to this. In the fan book, he checks in with Shinobu every now and then because she is Kanae’s younger sister.
Unsurprisingly, thanks to this evident closeness, they are commonly shipped within the fan community.
Sanemi hates Giyu and isn’t shy about it. In the fan book, he explicitly states this, claiming it’s because of his ‘better than everyone else’ attitude. Giyu doesn’t think he’s better than everyone else, quite the opposite. Both are simply inept at conveying their true feelings to anyone, especially each other.
Giyu actually wants them to get along. When he discovers that Sanemi enjoys eating ohagi, a Japanese mochi and red bean paste sweet, he decides to keep some on his person so he can give it to him.
During the final battle against Kibutsuji, the two fight side by side, working together to ‘turn their swords red’ and raise each other’s power. In the end, these two are the only Hashira that survive the fight and seem to have settled their differences.
Due to their misunderstanding of each other, their often antagonistic relationship, and Giyu’s desire to get along, these two have become a popular ship among the fandom.
Sanemi only meets Nezuko twice throughout the manga, but both are meaningful scenes. The first is during the Hashira meeting.
He’s so against Nezuko’s induction into the corps that he even stands firm against Ubuyashiki’s request to support her when he is usually willing to follow him without question. He goes so far as to physically torture Nezuko, stabbing her repeatedly and taunting her with his marechi blood.
We don’t see them interact again until the second to last chapter of the manga. In this scene, Sanemi runs into Nezuko and apologizes for being unable to help in the final crisis of the series, as he was unconscious. She waves him off, and her pure smile and claimed love for sleep remind him of Genya.
At this moment, as he musses her hair, we see his only genuine smile outside of flashbacks and chapter cover art. This moment is brief but incredibly striking, a beautiful and emotionally charged moment where a young man finds peace after losing his only family.
Sanemi openly despises Tanjiro for bringing a demon into the corps and dislikes his peppy and meddlesome attitude. While Tanjiro is very close with Sanemi’s brother, he and Sanemi don’t interact much. However, they have strong feelings towards each other, such that on the one occasion they had to be in the same vicinity, they started a brawl.
This fight started because Tanjiro attempted to mediate an argument between Sanemi and Genya. Interestingly, reading this scene with a deeper understanding of Sanemi’s character makes Tanjiro’s accusations seem insensitive and offensive, although definitely reasonable.
Despite all that, Tanjiro seems to understand Sanemi’s deep affection for his brother, assuring Genya that Sanemi doesn’t hate him.
Sanemi’s Voice Actors
In the past, voice acting has been a touchy subject for anime fans. However, I like to think that nowadays, we understand the value of both the Japanese and English versions of a show. Sanemi’s voice actors, Tomokazu Seki in Japanese and Kaiji Tang in English, both have something good to bring to his role.
The dub of demon slayer is a little hit-and-miss, but I think Tang was cast well as Sanemi. He nails the gruff, simmering anger in his tone and the maliciousness that characterizes him in the early parts of the story.
I also like how Tang addresses the difference in speech between Sanemi addressing Ubuyashiki and everyone else, even if, for me, something is lost in translation. Sanemi sounds like he’s thinking about what he’s saying to his master, and you feel the respect he holds for him.
However, as we often find, I think Tomokazu is the better Sanemi. There are plenty of factors behind this, including the inherent problems faced in the dubbing process, but Tomokazu brilliantly conveys the subtle threat behind everything Sanemi says.
And his evil cackle is just delightful. Contrasting that, how his voice falls with solemnity when he addresses Ubuyashiki hits just that bit better. Although, to be fair, Tang conveys the feeling that Sanemi is holding back a screech of rage at any given point a little better.
We’ve yet to see how they’ll deliver on Sanemi’s later more emotional scenes. I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring to his character.
His Best Quotes!
“You say she can protect people and fight for the corps? That’s incredible! Amazing! Why, that’s completely impossible, you fool!”
“You should have had house somewhere… and raised a family and grown old. To make up what I couldn’t do for mother and our little brothers and little sister… you should have had a wife and children and made them happy.”
“How dare you cut up my little brother, you multi-eyed freak! I’ll never forgive you! Never!”
“If I think about it now, it was like trying to commit suicide. But I didn’t die, only because I was lucky that my blood could intoxicate demons.”
“Very well, then I will go with you. Besides, If I went there too soon, Genya would be sad. I will carry you to hell on my back.”
In Japanese, Shinazugawa Sanemi is spelled 不死川 実弥. His family name translates to ‘immortal river,’ and his given name is loosely translated as ‘increasing truth.’ Of the other Hashira, Sanemi gets along with Iguro Obanai, the Serpent Hashira, the best. And, despite appearances, he likes the rest of them well enough, the exception being Giyu.
In the official fan books, it’s revealed that he wears his shirt open because he’s proud of how muscular he is. However, in Kimestu Academy, he does it because buttoning up his shirt makes him feel constricted and stresses him out.
His hobby is raising rhinoceros beetles, and his favorite food is ohagi.
Aggressive, but Misunderstood
You can probably tell from this article how much I like Sanemi as a character. Personally, I gravitate to characters in media who are, for lack of a better word, jackasses, and Sanemi is no exception. His character is fascinating on so many levels, and his relationship with Genya is particularly affecting.
His difficulty expressing himself is relatable and humanizing, and his extreme self-sacrifice to protect his loved ones is admirable. I adore characters you start off disliking, and the more you learn about them, you realize that they may not be pleasant but are genuinely good people.
I understand that Sanemi is an easy character to dislike. However, I implore you to take another look at him if you do. There’s something painfully human about being unable to share your feelings with the ones you care about until it’s too late. This tragedy of Sanemi’s character isn’t something you’ll be quick to forget.
Sanemi Demon Slayer: FAQs
Question: How did Shinazugawa Sanemi get his scars?
Answer: Sanemi received most of his scars through combat as a demon slayer, many of them self-inflicted. He uses his marechi blood as a weapon and willingly hurts himself in battles to gain the upper hand. The scars on his face are an exception; those are from when he had to subdue and kill his mother after she turned into a demon.
Question: Who does Shinazugawa Sanemi marry?
Answer: While we know that Sanemi has a descendant, we never meet the woman he had children with during the manga. At the end of the series, we see him setting off on a journey to find himself, but we don’t know where that led him beyond the confirmation that he has a lineage. It is suggested that he held affection for the late Flower Hashira, Kanae Kocho.
Question: What happens to Shinazugawa Sanemi after Kibutsuji is defeated?
Answer: It is unclear what happened to Sanemi after Kibutsuji was defeated. We can see that he has found peace in the wake of his brother’s death and likely went out into the world to fulfill his brother’s dying wish that he finds happiness.
Question: Does Shinazugawa Sanemi die?
Answer: No, Sanemi lives to the end of the manga! He is one of only two Hashira that survive the series, the other being Tomioka Giyu.