Demon Slayer V7: Trading Blows At Close Quarters RETRO: We're going off the rails, on a crazy train!
Demon Slayer Volume 7: Trading Blows At Close Quarters.
Collecting Chapters #53-61.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time, Tanjiro and friends got some much needed R&R, and put that time to great use! They also got put on trial for their lives, met the Hashira and the leader of the Corps, but that ended up pretty well, so it's all good. Also, after training hard with the Insect Hashira and her army of suspiciously similar looking students, Tanjiro learned the art of Total Concentration: Constant, allowing him to maintain his Breathing 24/7, even while he's sleeping... I wonder if that will be important in this new arc?
Chapter 53: You Are. Tanjiro is finally healed! But now, it's time to answer his latest mystery: just what IS Fire Breathing? To get this answer, he asks the Flame Hashira... and boards a very unusual train!
Chapter 54: Good Evening, Rengoku. Inosuke attempts to murder their train, because... Inosuke. Eventually, they get on board and meet Rengoku, who is a little odd. Shocker.
Chapter 55: Train Of Infinite Dreams. The gang are trapped in dreams, at the mercy of a familiar looking demon. But, when trapped in their perfect dream states, will the Slayers be able to break free?
Chapter 56: WAKE UP! (I don't know why, but it feels like this one should be in all caps... right?) We learn a little about the mechanics of dreaming, and Tanjiro struggles to wake himself.
Chapter 57: Draw Your Blade. Still trapped within the dream world, Tanjiro struggles to break free. But with a little help from his family, he realises what he has to do.
Chapter 58: Good Morning. Finally awake, Tanjiro and Nezuko begin to wake the others, before being stopped by an unexpected foe. For them. For us, it's very much expected.
Chapter 59: Insult. Tanjiro confronts the mastermind behind this chaos, but is everything here as simple as it looks? Is it ever?
Chapter 60: Defending 200 People. Rengoku, Nezuko, Zenitsu try to keep the passengers safe, while Tanjiro and Inosuke attempt to track down the demon's weak spot, and end this once and for all!
Chapter 61: Trading Blows At Close Quarters. Tanjiro and Inosuke attempt to decapitate a train. Turns out, that's actually a bit tricky, especially when the train is also a demon that can put you to sleep with a look. Can our heroes truly beat such a ridiculous foe?
I guess we'll have to wait for next week to find out, because Gotouge is THE DEVIL and ended the volume on a cliffhanger. I mean, it's not really a cliffhanger, because this is Volume 7 of like 25 or something, so they obviously win. But still, NOT cool, Gotouge. You can't just end it there...
Okay, this volume has a fair amount to unpack! Some solid action, some interesting lore, and very subtle character development. Can't ask for more than that, can you?
First off, we got to spend a little time with Rengoku, the Flame Hashira. He was super-friendly, and immediately bonded with the gang. You COULD say, they got on like a house on fire... I'll see myself out.
But, between the eating and the many offers to become everyone's mentor, he mentioned something important. Namely, Sword Lore! My favourite kind of Lore!
So, it transpired that all type of breathing are derived from the core elemental breaths. And not only that, but it seems like the colour your blade turns when you first get it, is a reflection of your sword style...
He then casually throws out the bombshell that a Swordsman with a black blade, like our boy Tanjiro, has never made it into the Hashira, and remarks that he's heard you get a black blade because "You don't know which line to master".
Which brings us back to something I said last time, (Wait, did I? I mean, I MEANT to say it): It's vaguely ironic that Tanjiro comes from a family so closely linked to a fire god, but has ended up mastering Water Breathing. However, he ALSO seems to be able to use his family's Fire Breathing techniques, when pressed...
The way I see it, this ends three ways:
He eventually embraces his family history, and starts to use mostly Fire Breathing techniques. Yawn.
He realises that he's more than just his heritage, and stands by the choices he's made in life. Namely, he devotes himself to mastering Water Breathing. YAWN.
Or, he follows in the path of all the greatest fighters ever, like my boy Miyamoto Musashi, and decides to take the parts he requires from all the schools he's encountered, and use that to create a style all of his own. A combination of his family's Fire Breathing and his master's Water Breathing, creating his very own... Steam Breathing? No... Cup of Tea Breathing? That's just silly. Okay, we can think of a name down the line.
But the point is: We've found out some very interesting new Sword Lore this volume, and it's got my "Crazy Fan-theory" engine fully revved up. You could say, I'm going full steam ahead...
Get it. Like a train!
Small panels of sword lore aside, the main arc of this volume centers on Tanjiro's battle with a freaky demon who is able to put people to sleep, and do stuff to them in their dreams. Honestly, the whole arc feels like something of a framing device, to allow us to sneak a peek under the hood, as it were, and see a little of our cast's personality, at its most basic.
So, Zenitsu is basically just Zenitsu. His dream involves him spending lots of time with Nezuko, because he's a horndog, and she's a cutie. However... when we push beyond that and get into his subconscious, it's PITCH black in there, almost oppressively dark, with a palpable sense of danger. Even the demon sent in to mess with his head seemed freaked out by the atmosphere in there. This lines up pretty well with everything we know of Zen so far, really. He's an annoying, horny, geek boy that wants to play the hero when he's awake, and he's a STONE COLD KILLER when he's asleep. We won't discuss how that murder-mode should have kicked in the moment Dream Demon (Dreamon?) knocked him out. He started fighting when the drama required him to, and that's all we need.
Then, we have Inosuke. Inosuke was the biggest surprise for me. I was expecting his dreams to be a Mad Max-like hellscape of fire and heavy metal music and fighting. That was NOT what he got, though... His dream was oddly sweet, casting him as the Alpha of his pack. The noble protector, defending his friends (who all took on the forms of smaller, weaker animals), as they explored. It makes me think that he might not be quite the blood-crazed berserker that he likes to pretend he is, and his desire for combat comes from a deep-seated desire to protect his 'pack', not simply to murder anyone who looks tough. I have a feeling we might get an Inosuke-focused arc (possibly a flashback) at some point, that will reveal our Boar-boy has a lot more depth to him than his attitude thus far would lead us to believe.
We got a brief glimpse of Rengoku's sort-of sad past, but given how we know so little about him, this felt more like it was laying the groundwork for future development, rather than really fleshing out the character. I guess it shows why he's always so SUPER into things, when you see how disinterested his family was? I'm hoping we get more on that later.
Of course the main dream, that we spent by far the most time in, was Tanjiro's. And it will come as a surprise to no one, that his dream life was back with his family, and his no-longer-a-demon sister, living the simple life making coal. It was all very sweet, right up until the moment he slashed his own throat to get out of it. Which was... pretty freakin savage, I can't lie. I guess Demon Slayer doesn't work on Nightmare on Elm Street rules, or killing himself like that would have finished him off, in the real world!
Interestingly, when trapped in the dream world it was the intervention of his father that gave him the information required to get out of his dream state... a father, wearing what was CLEARLY a Demon Slayer Corps outfit, wearing his Hanafuda earrings, and generally looking much healthier than we've previously seen him. This, for me, is a huge step towards confirmation for my other theory from last time, namely, that Tanjiro's father is a former Corps member.
Which has just sent me off on another theory tangent. Don't worry, I'll keep this one short. If his father was a Swordsman, and probably a Flame Breathing master, then it's very possibly that he trained alongside Rengoku, the current Flame Hashira. If Rengoku knows this, that might explain why he's being so friendly towards Tanjiro now. Maybe he's just trying to stick up for an old friend's kid? Hmmm... the plot thickens.
Overall, Volume 7 was decent. Light on the action, but what was there was very strong, and with some really interesting character growth and lore stuff that I'll be picking over for the rest of the week. The only thing which stopped this volume being GREAT is that it very much feels like an incomplete story. I'm guessing we'll be getting two or three more chapters, to conclude this story in the next volume, before a couple of chapters of interesting filler to fill out the volume. Then, Volume 9 will be the start of the next big arc, and whatever insane nonsense that entails!
So, if you want to see how this evil train ride ends, come back next time for Demon Slayer Volume 8: The Strength Of The Hashira! Collecting chapters 62-70. After dealing with several demonic enemies aboard the Infinity Train, Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke must face the demon spirit of the train itself! Even if they can stop the demon train, the minions of Muzan Kibutsuji are still out there, and Tanjiro must continue to improve his strength and skills. Learning the secret of the Hikonami Kagura and Flame Breathing will give him a powerful new advantage. (Called it)
And if you want to read along, you can find this volume at your Local Comic Shop, or on the Weekly Shonen Jump App, Enjoy!
Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.