Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 22 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the twenty-second and penultimate volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Everyone who has an ounce of energy is doing their all against Muzan Kibutsuji, but many have already died, and most of the rest are inches from death. Tanjiro is somehow still standing, and a connection to his ancestor may provide the key to finding some way to win.
Character: The pace of the last three manga make this a hard thing to evaluate. I don’t know that the characters evolve so much as fill their potential. It’s satisfying to see everyone come into their own, but here at the climax, the focus is on winning the fight. There is development, but it’s more relevant in a different section.
Exposition: This volume follows the same pattern as the issue before (and the one that follows). Everything has come to a head. We might get a pice of information here or there to set a bit of context, but that’s it. When evaluating exposition, the best way to do it is to ask yourself if the story is moving or if you’re getting an information dump. Another way to evaluate it (especially as a reader) is to see if you’re turning the pages quickly or slowly. Slow page turning usually means focused reading. These pages flew by.
Worldbuilding: This is where the pieces of Tanjiro’s ancestry come together. The complete picture isn’t as satisfying as say, the plot reveal in a great mystery, but it still establishes how things have been building and what they’ve been building to. So while it’s not the most satisfying revelation, it’s still a cool connection of the plot elements we’ve seen for the last eight or so issues.
Dialogue: This falls back to the more normal style Gotouge uses. There’s a lot of, “Why aren’t you dead! I’ll kill you all!” If one were to say it was the weakest area of the story, I wouldn’t argue, but I also wouldn’t really care.
Description: The best storytellers create the illusion of failure. Most stories have the happy ending. Most stories have everything work out. Readers (and viewers) expect this, so it’s extremely hard to get the reader to think, “Wait, are they going to lose?” This volume leaves one more with a feeling of “Holy crap! They’re going to lose!” Maybe they do; you’ll have to read to find out. The point isn’t whether they win or lose; it’s making the reader wonder. Creating doubt in the reader is essential, and it’s that much more critical in anime. These comments are appropriate in this section because we see how the fight is going. The art shows just how bad things are. Everyone is holding on by a threat. Tanjiro himself already looks like a dead man walking. These fight sequences and the brief glimpses we have of the currently surviving cast members all create a heart-wrenching tension, and that’s what makes this particular manga stand out.
Overall: If I were teaching a class on plot progression, conflict, and making readers worry for the main characters, this volume would be a critical case study. Everything in this volume is critically balanced on a precipice between victory and defeat. It’s truly compelling. I’m honestly sad that the review for the last volume is next week. This is the volume that I had to wait for, and I had to wait a whole month for the next volume. It was torture! Don’t do it to yourself. Just grab the last ten volumes, sit down, and enjoy!
Thanks for reading,