Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge
This cover image was taken from the manga’s buy page on Amazon for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the twenty-third and final volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Even as the battle reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion Muzan Kibutsuji deals a blow that may mean the end for everyone. The demon hunters must set their feelings aside to take on one of their own. Can such a horrible turn of events ever lead to a happy ending?

Character: Tanjiro shines here in his determination and love, which this manga had established from the first volume. This conclusion brings everything perfectly together, and it’s Tanjiro’s heart, not his swordsmanship, that drives this story.

Exposition: I was a bit surprised here that the volume slowed down for me. The exposition here wasn’t anywhere near bad, but there were some parts that bogged the pace down. I think I noticed it more because I wanted to see how things progressed, and I felt like there were these periodic pauses that tripped me up here and there. It’s not anything crippling, but it’s there.

Worldbuilding: I don’t know how often worldbuilding plays a role in foreshadowing, but this series pulled off a wonderful plot reveal that was satisfying. From the beginning, we see something special, and that element turns out to be so very important as the story comes to a conclusion. Another element, the one that most manga of this style (Naruto/Bleach), would normally be the difference maker. We see Tanjiro’s skill develop, and like those other stories, we naturally assume that development would make the difference. That assumption is wrong.

Dialogue: From Volume 2 to Volume 23, the dialogue is more or less the same. There were several conversation and expositional (or thought) boxes that harken to older genre’s, but they’re not so many that they drag the story down. I found them mostly charming through the series, but the trend got a bit annoying in this specific volume.

Description: The panels aren’t as cinematic as the others, and some would think that means this volume is less impactful. However, I feel the opposite is true. This volume focuses so much more on character. While that means we don’t see as many epically awesome fight moves, we get much more satisfying emotional validation and closure.

Overall: As I thought about this final thought, I decided this: Demon Slayer is officially my favorite manga series ever. It’s predecessors (Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Bleach) were all wonderful, but Demon Slayer gets right what those other series got wrong. Those other series focused on length, but they inevitably ran into repetition issues that where meme worthy. Sure, it’s nice to have another volume to read. Yes, I still thought those series were fun to watch, but they dragged on and on. Demon Slayer is a concise, character-driven story that grabs readers by the neck and drags them along for 23 volumes until we see what might also be the most satisfying resolution I’ve ever read in a manga. That’s my opinion. I’m not saying the other sagas weren’t good, I’m just saying this saga (possibly learning from those others) is even better because I get my big fight and I get my conclusion without having to read 60 volumes (or watch 100 filler episodes) that are basically the same thing. If you haven’t started it, you should. It’s truly wonderful.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 22 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 22 by Koyoharu Gotouge

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,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the tenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The battle with Daki, one of the upper rank six, is in full swing, and Tanjiro must find a way to defeat her, but if a Hashira like Uzui struggles to fight her, what can Tanjiro do. They must all work together, but things only get worse when the team discovers this deomn’s unique ability.

Character: Things really develop well here as most of of the cast finds a new level. This isn’t just in regard to their combat ability. Tanjiro is starting to formulate his own philosophy, and that philosophy is going to be critical going forward. This character growth is particularly interesting considering this volume is mostly a fight sequence. We see Tanjiro’s growth and Uzui’s softer side all while the battle plays out.

The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Exposition: Since this is an action volume, there isn’t too much need for exposition, but there are a few text boxes that offer some explanation. The exposition is ever bit as sparse as it is unnecessary (in a good way).

Worldbuilding: Again, this volume (which is currently my second favorite (see my review for 15 later on)) takes a wonderful stride here in the worldbuilding because we see a deeper history of everything. We finally catch a glimpse of what the big bad fears so much about Tanjiro’s technique. It’s honestly only a glimpse, but it has such an impact on the series as a whole.

Dialogue: This is sort of par for the Demon Slayer course. It has moments of adorable interaction and comedic fun. There’s also some 1980’s cartoon villain speak, but I honestly like it. I think it’s fair to say some will think it’s a bit hokey, but I think it fits.

Description: This fight scene continues in this chapter (but it doesn’t end here, buy 9-11 and read it all) and the art and storyboard sequences are amazing. It makes me so hungry to see this animated because it will be epic. The art is enough to tide me over until I can see it all play out. You’ll need a careful eye here because there are some details one needs to note as this story continues.

Overall: This volume was my favorite overall until I read Volume 15, but for my money I still think the fight in this volume was the best (and that’s a very tough call to make). It has the right blend of comedy, action, emotion, and plot progression. It doesn’t stand alone though as the whole arc actually ends in Volume 11, so that’s kind of a demerit. The simple truth is I couldn’t put this down, and since I’ve read Volume 10, I don’t really want to stop reading at all. That’s how awesome this volume is.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 9 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 9 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 9 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the ninth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Tanjiro and his friends agree to join Hashira Tengen Uzui (if only to protect his young friends back at what I call the base camp). Unfortunately, none of the boys asked why Uzui wanted women for this mission. They have to infiltrate a Geisha house, and Tanjiro and his friends volunteered. When they learn one of the Upper Six is hunting in the area, they’ll have to decide if they’re ready for such a challenge.

Character: Tanjiro is adorable as always, and this chapter is strictly comic relief. Sure it builds to a large plot, but it’s really just putting the characters in shameful positions for the sake of laughs, which, I guess, some people like, but I think Tanjiro’s innocence is funny enough sometimes. There is a “beauty” angle (a little on the nose even from my perspective), but we don’t see him grow in this volume, and that’s frustrating.

The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Exposition: This volume was necessarily heavier on this than others because we actually do get to know Uzui as a character along with his background. I’m not particularly fond of Uzui, so I’m not particularly thrilled with this exposition, but that’s only because of my opinion of the character. Creatively, I respect that exposition was necessary to help establish the next arc.

Worldbuilding: Here’s where the volume gains momentum. You see, while there were several chapters of kooky action, we do get to see more of Tanjiro and his ability. The end of this volume is worth the beginning and middle. I may be confusing Volume 9 and 10 here (let me know in the comments), but I feel like this is the Volume that establishes the deeper history of Tanjiro’s technique and how much of an impact it had on the big bad (whose name escapes me at the moment). The fight is awesome. The flashback is cool. The context it reveals is super satisfying.

Dialogue: Most of the dialogue I mentioned above is thinly hidden in the dialogue. It’s mostly a get to know Uzui volume, and that greeting is shown in dialogue. The voice is unique, and the character reactions to some of Uzui’s habits are hilarious. But this sort of stuff is par for the course in this series.

Description: So the fight scene in this is particularly stunning. There’s so much going on here and so much detail. the Upper Six they fight has an ability that requires so much detail. It’s really a visual fight that only a manga or anime could do any justice too. This fight might be my second favorite so far (the spider arc is my favorite to date).

Overall: This volume is probably my least favorite so far, but that’s not saying a whole lot. I think zany humor is kind of hit of miss for me. Let me read this later on in a different mood, and I probably love it. But this sort of humor is a kind of humor that relies on mood. However, the last chapter or two really sings with great action, plot development, and world building.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eighth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The battle on the train concludes, and our heroes are forced to live with the aftermath. But from sadness, hope arises, and Tanjiro finally has the chance to learn what Hinokami Kagura is. Just as answers seem near, a new mission begins.

The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use docrine.

Character: Tanjiro is still the star of the show, but like all truly amazing anime/manga, even the side characters with just a sliver of screen time have deep arcs that touch the heart. This entire volume is more about the heart of those side characters. Learning about others through the compassionate and loving eyes of Tanjiro is all the more special.

Exposition: This manga probably needed a bit more exposition than most given that this particular volume is more setup and worldbuilding, but it’s not an offensive amount.

Worldbuilding: This volume delivers on the promise made by the previous one. We do indeed finally gain some relevant, meaningful information about Hinokami Kagura. On one hand, the information is awesome in it’s scope, but it isn’t very functionally revealing. Think of it like a history lesson without the current applicational use. Still, it expands the worldbuilding and teases real cool things to come, also hinting at why Tanjiro’s family was targeted.

Dialogue: The dialogue is where a lot comes to light. It’s not as thinly veiled as it could have been, but it’s pretty on the nose. Still, the characters each have a unique voice, and that makes watching the story unfold fun. The conversations are charming, touching, and sad at all the appropriate times.

Description: The art is still great, but there’s not much that will change here in regard to description. If you’re reading the manga by this point, you probably already like the art and, therefore, the description.

Overall: This volume does what all great setup volumes do. They yank you along from volume to volume with great cliffhangers that make you want to rush out and buy the next however-many volumes are available. Where Volume 7 gives the reader action and cool fight scenes, this volume gives you context and worldbuilding while setting up the next big showdown.

Thanks for reading,

Matt