Of Minimal Story Telling and Demon Slayer

I’ve recently asked the question on twitter about what people think of when it comes to minimal or less involved storytelling on Twitter.

And yeah, the answers that people sent are about what I expected them to be. Either Slice of Life anime, a little more puzzle box anime like Texhnolyze, or a mix of both with Girl’s Last Tour are all valid answers that I can’t refute because they all make a lot of sense to me. Slice of Life can be complicated, but most of them are very relaxed and just want to share a character’s life to the viewer. On the other end, things like Texhnolyze absorb themselves in atmosphere and want the viewer to figure out what the anime the viewer is watching is on their own. Not seeing shonen battle mentioned makes complete sense because they are usually overly expository.

Let’s talk about shonen battle anime for a second here. I love a lot of them, but the thing most of them lack is subtlety. When a character uses an attack, the character in question is going to yell it’s name, someone is going to tell you what the attack is and how powerful it is, then we see the gauranteed affects. Villains who have evil plots most of them time will tell the audience what their plan is and why their plan is going to happen. An example of this in Dragon Ball Super was when Goku gained Ultra Instinct for the first time. In two minutes, you knew everything of note about what Ultra Instinct was and how big of a deal it is. It’s very important in shonen to know where everyone stands compared to other people so you know when a character is over clocking themselves or have no chance against an opponent. That requires a lot of exposition and a lot of words flying around before getting the point though.

So what happens when you have a shonen anime that isn’t exposition heavy and relies on atmosphere and the audience paying attention to details more? Then you get Ufotable’s adaption of Demon Slayer. I’ve been enjoying Demon Slayer quite a bit for what it’s very subtle and introspective story telling and how a battle shonen with this sort of plot progression is going to continue working moving forward. Those two things are an equal level of enjoyment for me. It’s like I’m a mad scientist and the anime is a colony of something under microscope that grows out on it’s own. I keep making notes of how it’s growing as time goes on. With that said though, I wonder what the manga is like? Is this anime accurate to it or is this adaption taking some fun liberties? Maybe I will have to find out for myself at some point.

Demon Slayer’s world building and construction is interesting. From the beginning onward, It’s very classical shonen in that it starts small and expands in such a large degree as time goes on. Tanjiro, our protagonist, comes from such a small town with a large family. He literally knows nothing about the outside world until an incident happens where his family is killed from something in the outside space. A demon. With only his sister in demon form left, he must expand his world more to just survive. It seems like the call of the Demon Slayer job and world beckoning him to it in order to see the rest of it. In my mind, some of the best shonen series start like this. It means a lot of good things for this series to come from this little Demon Slayer anime series.

So how does the lack of exposition and world exploration help with this journey? It means that we are seeing this world in just as fresh eyes as Tanjiro is. A fantastic way to move us into the protagonist’s world with only a small amount of effort. We know just as much of the world of this anime as he does, so we fully understand how he feels when he goes to Tokyo for the first time. It was only six episodes into this cour for Tanjiro to show up there, but we know that he’s only been to isolated places and small towns until then. Seeing his reaction to Tokyo makes complete sense. Tanjiro never had to say anything like how he’s never been there for us to get it at that point, because the scene says it all. There are so many great moments like this in this anime and I love it. The best part is that I can keep going. I can tell you how he thinks, how kind he is, how hardly Tanjiro is, and so many other things just by the visual stuff. It’s amazing.

Then this goes to other attributes and characters too. I know that Nezuko is extremely shy, not as present as she could be, and loves her brother dearly. She can’t talk, so it all comes from her body language. A little seemingly pointless seen from Nezuko moving back and forth in her covers before going into Nezuko’s box on Tanjiro’s back. It’s solid characterization. Then we can could about powers and abilities. On a character and background front, the show looks gorgeous, but the colors are very subdued and lean towards a darker color pallete. Then the complete opposite happens when abilities pop out. Each one had their own color attached to them, but they are very cartoony and easy to see detached from everything else. A great way to say “these powers are not of this Earth”. Some of the colors are little too loud and hurt my eyes sometimes, but I still like it.

Relying on visuals and minimal story telling is where this show’s strengths lie. Visuals and character acting, A-plus. Typical shonen stuff, average perhaps? Maybe it’s just the fact that this show is always set in two moods. Good character acted and visual story telling then standard shonen mood where every attack is over explained but we get some awesome choreographed action scenes. I think Demon Slayer is a fine shonen series when it hits those points because of Ufotable being Ufotable with it’s visuals and the unique abilities that I haven’t seen in a lot of places, but it’s such a let down. Then again, I’m not sure how else the anime would approach that aspect of this series otherwise. I do have to admit that amount of exposition is still largely reduced from most shonen things, but it’s still a large, drastic change from everything else the anime has presented so far.

I wonder what it’s like to be in the writing and visual team of this anime. Or maybe just in the production and planning team in general? There is something special about this production that I like because it makes me so much curious about how it presents itself. Ufotable knows how to do awesome visuals with CG effects and they are letting that time very expressive with that stuff. Demon Slayer is a shonen series, not a slice of life or a puzzle box series. Very proud and intrigued to see them do something special with something that is far from the most unique material. I know it’s not up to everyone’s tastes, but I like what this show is doing.

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  1. That was a very good analysis of some interesting aspects of Demon Slayer. I’m finally all caught up with the show, and way over my initial dislike of the series. I you’re mostly right, it does a better job than the majority of shounen with being subtle. On the other hand, it’s hard *not* to be more subtle than classic shounen shows, or so it seems to me. I LOVE HunterxHunter, but I can only watch a few episodes at a time before getting annoyed with how they narrate every tiny little thing about a “battle,” until it’s become something that isn’t a battle but more like a sport analysis. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad you are finding some enjoyment with it :).

      Oh yeah, the narration can be so horrible. Super has gotten worse recently because it’s been much more dialogue and explanation then battles recently because every person in the side won’t shut up and just speaks incredibly fast. Gah.

      Demon Slayer is such a piece of relaxation for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “A little seemingly pointless seen from Nezuko moving back and forth in her covers before going into Nezuko’s box on Tanjiro’s back.”

    Isn’t it amazing how little details like that can make the difference between “‘Yeah, this is fun to watch” and complete immersion? I remember watching that scene and worrying terribly about Nezuko. Why was she moving like that? Is she okay? Scared?

    For just an instant, I forgot where I was. The story had completely captured my imagination.

    I hope it doesn’t sound hyperbolic to say moments like that are why I love fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

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