Demon Slayer Vol 22: Wheel of Fate MANGA RETROSPECTIVE: It's all going down but Muzan is staying up!
Demon Slayer Volume 22: Wheel of Fate.
Collecting Chapters #188-196.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time around, the Final Battle began! The Upper 1 Kizuki was defeated and all that stood between the Demon Slayers and world peace was... King of the Demons, Muzan Kibutsuji. So, no big deal, right? He's just another demon, it can't be THAT hard to finish him off, right? Well, actually it turns out it IS pretty tricky. As three of the strongest Hashira, plus the Love Hashira, all throw themselves at Muzan and spectacularly fail. Now, read on, and see how they hold up this volume!
Chapter 188: Sorrowful Love. What a thrilling and original idea for a chapter! It's a tragic backstory. We've not had any of these before. This time around, we learn why we should feel bad for Iguro.
Chapter 189: Reassuring Comrades. Iguro, Himejima, and Sanemi try and fail to make any headway in their fight against Muzan. Then, they manage to narrowly avoid cat-astrophe, with the help of an unexpected ally.
Chapter 190: One After Another. Iguro gives it his all, and it kind of pays off, a bit. Just when things start to look really grim, help arrives! Then, a newly revitalised Slayer Corps start to power up.
Chapter 191: Which One Of Us Is The Demon. The battle is slowly turning in the Slayers' favour, especially when an old friend joins the battle.
Chapter 192: The Wheel Of Fate. Tanjiro thinks back over his ancestral memories, and by examining them, and Muzan's current form, he has a breakthrough!
Chapter 193: A Difficult Door Begins To Open. Tanjiro is giving it his all, but will it be enough? Can he connect the 12 Sun Breathing forms, and unlock the 13th before Muzan overpowers him? And more important. . . why is Muzan slowing down?
Chapter 194: Burn Scars. Even with a slowed Muzan, Tanjiro is beginning to flag. Battered and bruised, he just doesn't have the strength left to take the fight to Muzan. Not alone, anyway...
Chapter 195: Bewilderment. Muzan thinks back on his almost death at the hands of Yoriichi, as Tanjiro considers how that fight is still helping them today. Pressed into a corner, Muzan attempts one final tactic.
Chapter 196: I Am. Nezuko's journey is nearly over, as she rapidly approaches the city. Meanwhile, Muzan's attempts to escape have an unintended consequence.
Damn, that was quite a fight. And it seems like it's not ever yet! There wasn't really a whole lot of story this volume, but it feels like that time is over now anyway. Now, it's time for Tanjiro and friends to settle some old scores, at the tip of a sword. And settle them they did, but the fight seems far from over! I mean, not THAT far, there's only one volume left. But I have a feeling it's going to be a wild one...
This wasn't what you'd call a lore-heavy volume, so there isn't exactly a vast amount to discuss. However, as always, I do have a few points I want to waffle about, so here we go.
First off, it's good to see Nezuko return, I'm rather sad that writer/artist Gotouge seems to have all but forgotten her. I had very much hoped that Tanjiro was going to remain a mostly human presence in the series, and would defeat villains via technique and assistance from his demonic and crazy powerful sister. Sadly, that's not really the route that was taken, Nezuko has been something of a null element in the series, only really having any impact in a couple of arcs, and even then it was mostly just buffing up Tanjiro so he could claim victory, or distracting an enemy, to give Tanjiro time to catch his breath.
Honestly, to me this feels like a real wasted opportunity. It would have given Gotouge a chance to bring in some crazier powers, while keeping the tone of the series relatively grounded. As it is now, we have magical colour-changing swords, breathing techniques which apparently deprive you of oxygen, and a guy that eats demons in order to gain the power that one of the characters has innately.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Gotouge has a plan for Nezuko. She'd been running for a few chapters now, AND seems to have turned back into a human being (should probably have done that AFTER the fight with the demon king, but whatever), so she's clearly going to arrive at a crucial point in the final volume, and do something super important. . . but that still feels like too little, too late for me. When you've got a character that essentially gives you free reign to get super weird and creative, it seems a shame to just leave them on the sidelines, like that.
Speaking of characters that seemed sidelined, but came back in a big way! Tamayo's revenge is in full force this volume. It seems that these demons really didn't learn their lesson, and Muzan is now facing a very similar situation to Doma a few volumes back! And, funnily enough, it's because of the same people, too! It seems Shinobu and Tamayo were working together to concoct a number of powerful toxins that would help them both take down their targets.
As cool as it was to see Muzan slowly falling apart, thanks to Tamayo's poisons, it does get a LITTLE ridiculous when each chapter seems to add a new effect though. It's fine when the poison you think was going to turn him human also rapidly ages him. . . but then when it also is revealed to stop his ability to split, and ALSO is revealed to destroy his cells, it starts to feel a little silly.
I mean, maybe three of these combined would work. Turning him human, rapidly aging, and destroying cells? Sure. Those three seem fairly similar in effect, and all three are essentially cancelling out his demonic regeneration, so that tracks.
Turning him human, aging, and stopping his splitting? I guess. Since the immortality and splitting are both derived from his demonic powers, it makes sense they'd be weakened at the same time, so that is explainable.
But somehow, having all four at once is just a bit much. . . it all brings to mind kids playing, when one kid is being a dick and just keeps adding powers, so that they can win. Every time a new ability is added, to a single event, it makes the whole feel weaker, by diluting the importance of each individual effect. At least for me, anyway.
Now, if we're talking about a power-up that works well, look no further than Tanjiro's continued exploration into Sun Breathing, and his quest for the 13th Form.
After his little trip down memory lane last volume, Tanjiro has been trying to work out what the mythical 13th Sun Breathing form is, because he's only been shown the first 12.
But then, he realises that given how the Hinokami Kagura so closely resembles a dance, maybe flowing from one form to the other will unlock the final form.
I can't lie that I'm totally behind this idea. I've commented before, many times, that it annoys me when Tanjiro just sort of. . . makes up a new power, so that he can win. But this, right here? This is how it SHOULD be done, this feels earned. He's not just deciding that he knows the final form, he's not just remembering it, thanks to some conversation he heard in his dream or something.
He's literally CREATING it, from what he currently knows.
It reminds me a lot of one of my all time favourite Kung Fu movies: Jackie Chan's Drunken Master. Many people say Drunken Master 2 is the better film, but they're wrong.
In Drunken Master, perpetual screw-up Wong Fei-Hung, who after pissing off one too many people, is sent to train with crazy old drunk Beggar So, master of Drunken Kung Fu!
During his training, young master Wong is tasked with learning the styles of the Eight Drunken Gods, including Mrs Ho. Being a teenage boy, he laughs off her style and plays around instead of learning it.
But then, in the big final fight, he realises that without mastery of ALL eight gods, he can't win. So, he combined what he remembers, with some strikes from the other styles, to create his own take on the final Drunken God!
And now, as Tanjiro finds himself fighting with his own final boss, he must ALSO combine the techniques that he knows, to create his ultimate style, and achieve victory. Fingers crossed, Tanjiro will take after his pal Zenitsu, and we'll get an epic double page splash panel when he finally unlocks the 13th Form. And it'll feel all the sweeter, because we've seen about three chapters of Tanjiro edging slowly closer to unlocking the technique, rather than just getting it because plot armour.
Overall, Volume 22 was exactly what you'd expect it to be. No real twists, hardly any lore, but some really intense fight scenes, plenty of gore, and some decent character moments. We also had some really great art and a true return to the messed up body-horror I've been craving for the last ten of so volumes. I'm glad it made a return, when we needed it most.
In the same way that last volume was mostly set up for the big final showdown, this volume was more about building on what was put in place before, and moving everyone to where they need to be, for the final blow to be struck.
Of course, that means that now we have three volumes, and let's be real here, a whole series, resting on one last volume...
If you want to see if Gotouge can stick the landing, come back next time for Demon Slayer Volume 23: Life Shining Across The Years. Collecting chapters 197-205. In an epic confrontation, Tanjiro and his fellow Demon Slayers have fought on through the night, suffering terrible losses against the King of Demons, Muzan Kibutsuji. Dawn is breaking soon, and if they can keep Muzan at bay just a little longer, it will be the end of the centuries-long struggle. But Muzan, who will stop at nothing to destroy the Demon Slayers, unleashes his most terrible powers. If he can’t defeat the Demon Slayers, he may be able to cause them to destroy themselves from within. All fates and destinies will be decided as the sun begins to rise…
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.