Demon Slayer – What made it so popular?

Just recently the Demon Slayer/Kimetsu No Yaiba film was released in Japanese theatres and to say that it performed well would be a massive understatement. The film made roughly $44 million on its opening weekend. To compare, Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With you made roughly $16 million on its opening weekend.

It’s important to note that the Demon Slayer film made this insane amount in its opening weekend while we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I want to have a look at why Demon Slayer boomed as hard as it did, and what it is exactly about the series that drew so many people towards it.

Why is Demon Slayer so popular?

The History and The Boom

The series by Koyoharu Gotouge was booming in popularity during the original anime series’ airing and I think it’s fair to say that the buzz it generated wasn’t just a short-lived fad. Over here in the West the popularity of the series hit levels of mainstream I have genuinely never seen before. Episode 19 was trending on Twitter with numerous famous people from celebrities to streamers talking about the series.

Meanwhile in Japan, the popularity was so much that the manga sales of the series were going through the roof! During the year 2000 there were only 2 series that managed to, very briefly, overtake One Piece in its domination of overall manga sales. Those being Nana and Death Note. Come 2011 and One Piece has completely annihilated any thought of competition with it’s sales deep into the 30 millions with Naruto coming in second with 7 million units sold. Attack on Titan would come very close to taking Oda’s work off the 1st place podium but just falls short. 

Suddenly the Demon Slayer anime begins to air and the sales of the manga skyrocket, overtaking series after series and come November of 2019, the sales of Demon Slayer are 2 million units higher than that of One Piece. To hammer the popularity even harder, the estimated sales from November 2019 to May of 2020 of Demon Slayer was 45 million units in comparison to One Piece’s estimated 4.5 million. Even now Demon Slayer volumes are occupying 19 of top 20 places in the sales of individual volumes this year. It’s madness. 

The Hooks of the Story

Now let’s have a look at some of the things that I feel made this story so popular and got so many people, anime fans and first timers, gain an interest in Demon Slayer. 

  • Man Eating Demons – I always saw this one as something very similar to the Titans in Attack on Titan. Regardless of what a single person’s personal fears and phobias are, the idea of being something prey is universally terrifying. Similarly to AoT again, we find out just how terrifying these demons are and this is the initial hook that pulls you into the series. 
  • Character Motivations – Everyone can enjoy a good revenge story and at its core, that’s what Demon Slayer is. However, thanks to interesting characters and personalities the story manages to retain all the fun of a revenge story whilst mixing in new elements. Nezuko being a demon retaining her memories and not hurting people. Tanjiro’s ability to view life from numerous perspectives. These are just a couple of key elements that add to and make the backbone of the story so much fun. 
  • Tanjiro Kamado – I mentioned previously that Tanjiro can view life from the perspective of others and it’s such a brilliant part of the story and I’ll tell you why. The demons do such insane heinous acts throughout the story and we’re constantly influenced by this to dehumanise them, even the big players in the Demon Slayer corps do not view them as anything other than killing machines. Tanjiro however is different. He understands that all Demons were once humans and that becoming demons affects the memories from their lives as humans. When creating Demons, Muzan finds people at their weakest or angriest and tempts them in with the promise of power and a new life. Tanjiro is the inverse of Muzan. When he takes the life of a Demon, it’s rarely from a place of anger but from a place of sorrow. 
  • Character Relationships – I am not a big fan of the overly intimate brother/sister relationships that are frankly quite overdone in anime. So seeing the wonderful relationship between Tanjiro and Nezuko was unbelievably refreshing and an absolute standout for me. Nezuko does the impossible in retaining her human memories as a Demon and overcoming the urge to kill people. This is probably what helps to remind Tanjiro that not all demons should be met with disdain, because his own sister stands defiantly against what the Demon Slayer Corps believe Demons are. The relationship between these 2 constantly encourages them to push further and reminds them of their goal.


Lastly, Ufotable. There is no way that we could possibly deny their influence in making Demon Slayer the massive hit that it’s become. When it comes to anime adaptations of Weekly manga series, they did a genuinely unbelievable job with Demon Slayer. Pacing feels good with no one ‘Monster of the week’ segment or mini training arc feeling too long. There is literally no drop in animation quality throughout the entire series, in fact Ufotable only manage to up their game from start to finish.

It’s no surprise that the studio behind works like Fate Unlimited Blade Works and God Eater made Demon Slayer transform into one of the most beautiful series that year. Their use of dynamic camera movements during fights that made chases feel incredibly real. The battle with the Drum Demon mixed 2D and 3D animation that truly displayed how scary having to fight in an alive room would be. The masterful choice of music that turned already fantastic scenes into ones you’ll remember and want to rewatch time after time. 

These are just some of the big contributing reasons that I think Demon Slayer became such an insanely popular series. I can’t wait to finally get to watch the movie and see more from the inevitable future season of the anime. Thanks for reading!

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Conor Evans
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