Demon Slayer Volume 12: The Upper Ranks Gather.
Collecting Chapters #98-106.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time around, the climactic battle in the Entertainment District reached its "epic" conclusion. That's pretty much it, honestly. The whole volume was one huge fight sequence; it was pretty crazy. But eventually, Tanjiro and friends succeeded and achieved something that no one has been able to achieve in the last century: They defeated a member of the Upper 6! Needless to say, Muzan is not going to take that very well. Let's see how badly he reacts.
Chapter 98: The Upper Ranks Gather. Sensing that one of their number has fallen, the Upper Kizuki gather together to be really mean to each other, because evidently, no one taught them the importance of teamwork.
Chapter 99: Someone's Dream. The Kizuki continue to snipe amongst themselves. Meanwhile, Tanjiro has a rather strange dream... but could it be more than just a dream?
Chapter 100: Go To The Village! Tanjiro is finally awake again, after his long recovery. But he's not totally ready to rejoin the fight, just yet... first, he must take a trip to the mysterious, and totally hidden, Swordsmith Village!
Chapter 101: A Secret. Tanjiro arrives in the hidden village, where he meets the Love Hashira, and the Mist Hashira! They're both rather strange people... but at least the Love Hashira is also helpful. So that's something.
Chapter 102: Hello, Tokito. Tanjiro stumbles across Tokito, the Mist Hashira, casually assaulting a child. In an effort to de-escalate the situation, Tanjiro intercedes and then somehow, there's a robot.
Chapter 103: Yoriichi Type Zero. The Mist Hashira is kind of a dick. But it's cool, Tanjiro is there to pick up the pieces. Also, with the aid of his new best friend Kotetsu, Tanjiro starts training to become a better swordsman. By fighting a freakin robot... with an oddly familiar face.
Chapter 104: Kotetsu. Tanjiro's training continues! But Kotetsu is a harsh taskmaster, and pushes Tanjiro to his limits, and maybe beyond! Will he actually learn anything from all this pain?
Chapter 105: Something Came Out. Yoriichi's final secret is revealed! Plus, our old friend Haganezuka the swordsmith returns, and he's going to make Tanjiro something real special.
Chapter 106: Enemy Attack. Despite all the precautions taken, somehow, the demons have found the Hidden Village. It's almost as if someone led them there. Thankfully, there are two Hashira in the village, so things should end well... right?
Okay... Am I losing it, here? Because either this cold and flu medicine is stronger than I thought, or that volume was just WEIRD. Like, SO freakin' weird. The Hashira were being dicks, which is nothing new, then we went to a hidden village where we met two Hashira, Kanroji the Love Hashira, who sings more than you'd expect, and The Mist Hashira... TikTok? Who was a total bellend, and then suddenly, there was a robot, and then a sword came out of it, and then a guy pulled out one of his own teeth, but it grew back. Then, some demons attacked, from out of a vase, and when it got its head cut off, it just turned into two demons again, and then Tooth Guy from before pulled out a freakin sawed off shotgun. No idea what I just read. Was pretty entertaining, though.
Okay, so that all happened, in a fairly short amount of time... which I'm actually okay with, because as I've said before, pacing can really be an issue with this series. This felt pretty balanced, though. The story moved along at a fair pace, but it never felt like it was rushing. Everything was given enough time to play out, and you never felt like you were missing pieces, for the picture to make sense. Not that the picture really made THAT much sense, but that's because this very much felt like a ground-work volume. After the incredibly uneven Entertainment District arc, this felt like the series is back on track, with a solid mix of action, humour, and plot development.
So, we finally have faces for all of the Upper Kizuki! This volume begins with all of them gathered together, to mourn the loss of that guy from last volume, who it seems no one really liked. And, I've got to say, I do really dig the designs. I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for a cool character design, and while I've had my fair share of criticism for this series so far... one place where it's absolutely rock solid, is character designs. This trend continues with the Kizuki, who are as varied as they are off-putting. Sadly, while the designs are strong, writer/artist Gotouge falls into the usual manga pitfall of having the big enemy team all act likes dicks to each other, and constantly bicker and fight.
I can't exactly single Demon Slayer out for this, because it's an incredibly common trope, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it. It always bothers me, in these kinds of series, when they have the good guy team vs bad guy team and make a point of showing that the good team are all about teamwork, and helping each other out, while the bad team are constantly bickering and spend as much time fighting each other as they do fighting the heroes.
I mean, I get it. You're trying to show us that the power of friendship and co-operation is the secret to victory or whatever... but it just gets a bit old. It was a played out idea in the '90s, so I don't understand why series being written in the 2020s are still using it.
Those character designs, though!
And speaking of the Upper 1, the top Kizuki, the six-eyed nightmare fuel pictured above...
It's crazy theory time!
So, Tanjiro got his ass kicked, again, and spent a few months asleep, to recover. While he was down, he had some interesting dreams. These dreams featured a young father, who looked a lot like Tanjiro, holding his newborn child and talking to a mysterious swordsman, who looked rather familiar, and was wearing some very recognisable earrings.
We then jump ahead to the Swordsman's village, where Tanjiro gets to spend some time with their secret training robot. Who Tanjiro finds oddly familiar, and who is supposedly based on a famous swordsman from the Sengoku era.
During their training session, Kotetsu talks about "Inherited Memories" which are exactly what they sound like, and that got me thinking...
We have The Upper 1 Kizuki, who is clearly a swordsman, and has what appears to be Sun Breathing marks across his face.
We have Secret Training Bot, who is based on a swordsman from the Sungoku era.
And we have a dream, that could well be an inherited memory, where we see what seems to be Tanjiro's ancestor, talking with a Demon Slayer, who was clearly also a Sun Breather.
I'm calling it now: The swordsman we saw talking to Tanjiro's ancestor was eventually turned by Muzan, and became The Upper 1 Kizuki, he ALSO taught Tanjiro's ancestor a little Sun Breathing, which over the years became his family's Hinokami Kagura.
Which is probably the sanest theory I've ever come up with... meaning it's definitely going to be wrong.
Although it IS interesting to note that we now have a connection between Tanjiro and the Upper 1 Kizuki, in addition to last volume's reveal that Muzan and Kagaya are related. Plus, a potential connection between Muzan and Tanjiro's father. This is quite the intricate tale, isn't it? Wheels within wheels...
Overall, Volume 12 was a bizarre but enjoyable volume, and a huge step up from the last few. Strong pacing, excellent character designs, and some solid action, all tied together with some solid plot threads being laid, to hopefully expand on over the rest of the arc. All that was missing was some of the classic Gotouge body-horror art, which I'm guessing will be delivered in spades next volume, when they have to fight this odd splitting demon. Although, given how there are two Hashira in the village, I can't see this fight lasting that long.
If you want to see how incorrect I am, come back next time for Demon Slayer Volume 13: Transitions. Collecting chapters 107-115. The strange shape-shifting demons Hatengu and Gyokko attack Tanjiro and his friends in the hidden village of swordsmiths. The Mist Hashira, Muichiro Tokito, engages the demons, but he’ll need some help from Tanjiro and another Demon Slayer, Genya. It’s bad enough that they have to fight two upper-rank demons, but can they handle a foe who can split itself into four separate bodies and regenerate almost instantly?
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.