Demon Slayer Vol 23: Life shining across the years MANGA RETRO: The King is dead long live the king!
Demon Slayer Volume 23: Life Shining Across The Years.
Collecting Chapters #197-205.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time around, the battle against Muzan Kibutsuji reached its peak! All of the remaining Hashira threw themselves at Muzan, in a desperate attempt to keep him locked down, and hold him in place until the sun rose. Meanwhile, Tanjiro looked deep inside himself, to try and find the 13th Sun Breathing technique, that would allow him to defeat Muzan. But will any of this matter? Read on, and find out how this crazy saga comes to its epic conclusion!
Chapter 197: Tenacity. Just when it looks like the Demon Slayers might have this, Muzan unleashes a brutal attack, taking out everyone in range... or, ALMOST everyone. One Slayer is just too dumb to realise he needs to stay down! Bless him.
Chapter 198: The Next Thing We Knew... Inosuke and Zenitsu throw everything they have at Muzan, and due to his rapidly decreasing state, manage to hold their own. Legends.
Chapter 199: Millennial Dawn. Dawn breaks, and Muzan is terrified. As he desperately tries to find some shade, the few remaining members of the Corps do everything they can to make him embrace the light.
Chapter 200: The Price Of Victory. Muzan Kibutsuji is dead. But Victory is never purchased cheaply; before they can celebrate, the Demon Slayer Corps must take stock of all they've paid, to make this happen.
Chapter 201: The King Of Demons. Tanjiro Kamado is dead as well, paying the ultimate price: his life to take down the King of Demons. But, no one that's dead is ever truly gone. And I don't just mean Tanjiro...
Chapter 202: Let's Go Home. Tanjiro has returned... but, infused with the few remaining cells from Muzan Kibutsuji, he's come back as the King Of Demons, immune to sunlight and generally pretty overpowered. Can the Corps take down this ultimate threat?
Chapter 203: Voices Of Encouragement. The Corps makes one desperate last try to save Tanjiro, and he is faced with a huge decision. Will it all end in tears? Did we get this far just to fall at the last hurdle? What do you think!
Chapter 204: World Without Demons. It's been three months since the defeat of Muzan Kibutsuji. The world is now free of Demons, and those that survived the final battle can now look forward to a future without the need for constant battle.
Chapter 205. Life Shining Across The Years. We see what a future without demons looks like! The story jumps to modern day Tokyo, and we get to meet the descendants of those lucky few that survived the carnage.
And there you have it, folks! The Saga of Tanjiro Kamado reaches its end. After twenty three volumes of epic fights, tragic backstories, and me being right more often than I was wrong, the king of all demons is finally defeated. . . twice. I've got to say, I saw a lot of stuff before it happened, in this series. I was NOT expecting that. Well played, Gotouge...
That was something, wasn't it? I wasn't really sure how Gotouge could end this fight. I knew that they'd wait for daybreak, because OH GODS, THE SYMBOLISM, but I wasn't really sure HOW you could make "The sun rose, we won!" into a suitable end for the final battle of a shonen battle manga...
But, yeah, they pulled it off pretty well. I also really liked that it wasn't really some grand battle, in the end. They had the big clash, swords were drawn, turned red, and broken. Fighters dug deep, to find their true strength and used it to go beyond their limits. Secret techniques, thought long forgotten were embraced to give them the end...
But, at the end of the day, that's not how it went down. When it came down to the decisive blow, it wasn't some beautifully choreographed swordfight. This wasn't a battle of wills, between two fighters of superhuman strength and godlike skill. . .
It was a giant gross monster, that bore a horrific resemblance to a baby (because is there anything more terrifying than a baby?) thrashing about, struggling and screaming, while a bunch of people, many of whose names we'll never know, dragged on chains and crashed cars and did everything they could, to try and survive. I mean, yeah, the Hashira were instrumental in this victory; credit where it's due. Without them this would have ended very differently. But the fact remains, if it wasn't for the faceless, nameless peons that did a LOT of the work, this victory would never have happened. I liked that a lot. The idea that being no matter how much work the big heroes do, they can't get all the way, without the assistance of normal people, doing the best they can alongside them. It's a far stronger message to send than Shonen's usual message of 'anyone can be a hero... as long as they have super powers and routinely do things that are impossible for a regular human'.
But, while I'm generally pretty happy with the way things turned out, there is ONE issue for me:
What happened to the 13th Sun Breathing technique? Gotouge spent like three volumes hyping it up, teased last volume that Tanjiro could learn it by tying together the previous 12 and then. . . tumbleweeds.
I mean, did I miss it? Did he use it when I blinked or something? Or was the 13th technique literally just "using the other 12 together". Because if so... that's like Luffy getting to Raftel and finding out The One Piece was the friends he made along the way. It just feels a little anticlimactic. Especially as a huge deal was made out of Sun Breathing being the first technique and how it's the best weapon they have against Muzan... and then it proved to be no stronger or better suited to the final fight than any other technique.
I mean, given was a rough state he was in, by the time the battle ended, a case could be made that it was LESS effective than some of the other techniques.
Honestly, I think that sums up my main complaint with Demon Slayer as a whole.
I liked the series, I did, but it feels like a collection of great ideas, that were put in place quite badly. Or half executed and then sort of forgotten...
I mean, what actually WAS Muzan's plan? He's the big final villain, the primary antagonist of the whole series... but what was he actually DOING? What was his end goal? Because, for the first half of the series, he's looking for this flower, that will let him walk in the sun again. Then, he drops that like a hot potato when he finds out that Nezuko can walk in the sun, without the flower. . . so he tries to kill everyone and dies.
What was the point of ANY of that?
I've said it before, many times. The strength of ANY series, is the antagonist:
Would Breaking Bad really be regarded as one of the best series of all time without Gus Fring?
Would Aaron's God of Thunder be as iconic as it is, if it hadn't been for Gorr The God Butcher?
Would we still be enjoying Bleach, if that wasn't all part of Aizen's plan?
Without a GREAT antagonist, any series will lack drive. If we don't either utterly hate, or secretly agree with the villain, then ultimately it doesn't matter how good the protagonist is, the series will always feel a little one note.
And that's where we find Demon Slayer. Tanjiro is a decent enough lead, before she was forgotten Nezuko was a very intriguing second, but the whole series feels a little weak, because the Final Big Boss Of Final Fight Awesomeness is. . . just not really there. He has no real plan to speak of, no great ideology. We don't really hate him, because there's nothing there TO hate. We don't find ourselves begrudgingly agreeing with him, because he HAS no stance to agree with. He's just sort of there, doing stuff that kind of makes sense in the moment, but has no real plan behind it.
I mean, when your final arc is "We have to fight the big villain. . . because he just kinda showed up in our base, and started killing people." It really feels like there was no plan from the start, and the writer was just winging it.
And there's nothing wrong with winging it, I do it every week with these Retrospectives. . . but if you're writing a 22 volumes series, and expecting people to pay for it and read it, it really does help if you've at least got PART of a plan.
The whole special flower thing is a perfect example of this. Gotouge introduces it early on, it's hinted at multiple times. . . then it's just forgotten completely, until it's mentioned again, seemingly just as an easter egg, in the final "flash forward" chapter. If this were the only case, it could just be thrown away as a red herring, a misdirect intended to keep us focused on that so we miss the real surprise. . .
But that's not the only time it's happened, and most of the time when it DID happen, it wasn't because something more important came along, and it was clear we'd been tricked. . . it just sort of faded away, or some other plot reveal made it redundant.
It leaves the whole story feeling a little unsatisfying. It's hard to get invested in any particular plot thread, when you know there's a chance it'll end up being forgotten, and even if it DOES get some kind of resolution, there's a good chance it'll be distinctly underwhelming.
Overall, Demon Slayer Volume 23 is everything I liked and disliked about the series as a whole, which is fairly appropriate, I guess?
The art was fantastic. The creepy, gross, body horror was dialed up to 11 and beyond. Muzan as a giant, burning baby will haunt my nightmares for a while to come!
The action was excellent. The final battle of the series was practically a "best of", with fan favourite fighters coming back to show off all the techniques we've come to love, from all the previous volumes.
But, on the flipside of that. . . the story was a bit of a mess, and I can't help but feel a little unsatisfied with the way it all comes to a close. I feel like there were some really great chunks of Lore that could and should have been expanded on more. I can't help but feel like Gotouge was either rushed to bring this series to an end, or just had no real plan going in. . . either way, it feels like there is a lot of story here that we just never got a chance to see. Especially when you consider Nezuko Kamado, who started off as almost the duoteragonist. . . and was then all but fridged, only returning in the final to hug her brother and make everything better again. I mean, I get it: They knew Tanjiro was still in there, because he refused to attack Nezuko, in the same way she refused to attack him when SHE was a demon. . . but considering all the potential she HAD, it feels like they could have done a lot more with her, than that.
So, that brings to a close our journey through the world of Demon Slayer. I did enjoy it, but I can't help feeling a little frustrated. This is a 7/10 series, that had the potential to be an easy 9. Sad times.
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.