Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 21 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the twenty-first volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The battle with Kokushibo, the number one upper rank demon, is over, but what was the cost? As Tanjiro and his friends finally reach Muzan, they’ve already lost so many of their number. How will th final battle go?
Character: This is less about characters developing than it is about character sympathy (which is important). These victories are tallying casualties at an alarming rate, and then Muzan steps onto the stage. This is the devastation that that hides the sun behind the clouds, and some of the losses are heartbreaking, even if those losses relate to side characters.
Exposition: There’s not much in the way of Exposition here. This volume is honestly more like a series of punches to the gut that make you wonder if you’re ever going to breathe again. Sure, there’s probably an explanatory box here or there, but most of what’s going in is related to the oncoming climax.
Worldbuilding: A common theme in anime is that one must establish power levels. We do that by letting characters fight. This guy beats one guy, but then loses to another, creating an unofficial tier system. We’ve seen the upper ranks and how hard they are to beat. Muzan’s entrance to the battle shows just how far he was above the upper twelve. This aspect of the worldbuilding provides a brutal blow to the heroes’ hopes of victory.
Dialogue: Where most of the dialogue for the series is cartoonish in a charming way, this dialogue is both more heart-wrenching and heart-warming. Gotouge is a master guitarist, plucking the strings of your heart, and where dialogue is usually his weakest area, here it is the hammer he uses to crush your spirits.
Description: Just as the winners and losers of fights in a manga establish a power hierarchy, the artistic rendering of those battles (or massacres) is devastatingly beautiful. These images are par for the course of Gotouge’s work, which is to say they’re miles above the rest of the mangas out there today. True, there’s a certain amount of expected gore, but this isn’t the only tool Gotouge relies on. Instead, his style is just as visual for the details of a face or look as it is for the gruesome reality of war.
Overall: So I’ve been saying for a while that one should just read volumes eighteen to the end all the way through, and I hope you heeded that advice. However, if you haven’t yet done so, I caution you not to read Volume 21 without volumes 22 and 23 handy. From a literary perspective, one could say 21 and 22 are cliffhangers that would drive anyone nuts waiting a month to have. This isn’t the volume that one finishes and finds closure in. This is the volume that takes your hopes for the series and stomps on them for forty pages. Read with caution, or have the other volumes ready so you don’t have suddenly buy them when you finish reading this one.
Thanks for reading,