Demon Slayer Vol 3: Believe in yourself MANGA RETRO. Tanjiro has trouble reading the flow of battle.
Demon Slayer Volume 3: Believe In Yourself. Collecting Chapters #17-25.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time, Tanjiro passed him exam and became a full Demon Slayer! He was then immediately sent off on his first mission, because this series has NO CHILL. He saved a whole bunch of people from a bog witch, which was cool, and then we met the (probable) Big Bad for the series: Muzan Kibutsuchi! Who... yeah, he looks a LOT like Michael Jackson. He also has a wife and kids, like Michael Jackson. And can transform people into monsters with his blood... like Michael Jackson? No. Okay, the similarities only go so far. We also met a nice Demon, who offered some sage wisdom and a place to hide, which didn't go so well, because they were immediately attacked by two demons, claiming to be part of "The Twelve Kizuki" Apparently, this means something scary. Let's find out what!
Chapter 17: Arrow Demon. Tanjiro fights a demon, who can move things using arrows. Really, the title of this chapter tells you everything you need to know. Meanwhile, Nezuko tries to take on the ball fiend and takes a bit of a kickin'.
Chapter 18: The Curse. Tanjiro's battle against Arrow Guy comes to its brutal conclusion, but sometimes, even by winning, you lose. Meanwhile, Nezuko reaches new peaks of power, but it's still not enough to overcome a member of the Twelve. Is it all over for her, or does Lady Tamayo have an ace up her sleeve?
Chapter 19: Together Forever. Ball Fiend pays the ultimate price, for her indiscretion, and we find out just why Muzan is so feared, even by other demons! Tanjiro feels a bit sad, because he's WAY too soft for this line of work. Speaking of too soft, Tanjiro and Nezuko meet a new friend on the road.
Chapter 20: Zenitsu Agatsuma. Tanjiro and Nezuko are (re)introduced to Zenitsu, who is a THIRSTY dude. We last saw him at Tanjiro's graduation, where he was freaking out because he survived. It seems very little has changed, since then. Then, things get a little freaking, as the gang find a monster house.
Chapter 21: Tsuzumi Mansion. Tanjiro and Zenitsu must venture into a demon house, in order to rescue some trapped children. But things go from bad to worse, as they run into increasingly stranger and more powerful beings within those cursed walls!
Chapter 22: Rushing Boar. Who is this mysterious warrior? Why does he have TWO Nichirin swords? And why are they in such poor condition... and why is he wearing a boar's head? And no shirt. The whole situation is just deeply strange and off-putting. Also, he keeps attacking Tanjiro. Douche.
Chapter 23: The Boar Bares Its Fangs, Zenitsu Sleeps. Zenitsu has to defend himself and a small child from a demon intent on giving them both a good tonguing. How are they ever going to make it out of this alive...
Chapter 24: Former Member Of The Twelve Kizuki. We find out the tragic backstory of the Little Drummer Demon, and just why he's so obsessed with "Marechi". Tanjiro tries to fight, despite his injuries.
Chapter 25: Believe In Yourself. Tanjiro pushes forward, and despite the impossible odds and Drummer Demon's powerful techniques, he refuses to give in! But will it be enough, to defeat such a powerful foe?
Well, that was certainly an action-packed volume, wasn't it? It was, in fact, SO packed, that this leads me perfectly onto my first real complaint, for this series.
So, Volume One began, and it introduced us to the world. Demons! Slayers! Super awesome sense of smell! Magic Swords! AH!
Then Volume Two arrived. The Swords change colour! Tanjiro's sword is black... this is BAD! Something about a Kizuki? The bad guy is Michael Jackson! AAHH!
Now, we're at Volume Three... We're told about Marechi blood, and the lady from before that is a member of the Kizuki isn't, but this new person IS and...
At no point does anyone stop to actually explain ANY of this. We get about one panel where Deus Ex Raven shouts out that the blood is special because it's more powerful, so demons want it... But that's one question answered and about 10 left alone. I'm still waiting on information from back in the first volume, and each volume more questions are being asked.
I get that modern manga have a far faster pace than they used to. The days of 700+ chapter series are LONG gone, and these days if a series reaches 300, that's considered a really long run... but that doesn't mean you need to try and fit 700 chapters worth of story into 300 chapters.
It feels like every volume, Tanjiro is sent on three missions, introduced to five new concepts, and if we're lucky, one or two of them will be expanded on. Given how most of the fights in this series seem to last maybe two chapters, it feels like instead of putting five of them in each volume, maybe it would have been better to just have two, and then spend a chapter or two laying some groundwork, building up the lore and telling an actual story?
Don't get me wrong, the action scenes in this series are fantastic. I like that Tanjiro is still very much a newbie at this. He's not some super-gifted student who blitzes these early bosses, to establish his awesomeness. He's very much a stoic, winning fights by just REFUSING to give up, even when he's battered and bloody. So far, despite the fact that he's fighting demonic monstrosities with all manner of incredible powers, Tanjiro is still fighting with simple techniques and grit. I find fights like this far more interesting to read, because they feel like more satisfying wins, if the character really fights for them, rather than throwing out a couple of super powered abilities and then moving on to the next trash monster...
But can we get a bit of that detail in the rest of the story, please? It really feels like the moment one mission ends, Tanjiro is immediately sent on the next, within a page or two he's at his destination, and the new fight begins. As a reader, this pace can be a little exhausting, and I could really do with a little downtime, some exposition, and a little story work. Fights are always fun, but when we don't know or care who or why the protagonist is fighting, it doesn't matter HOW awesome the fight is, it will inevitably be forgettable.
Take a moment now. Think about your all time favourite fight, in any comic/manga.
Now. WHY is it your favourite?
Is it because the fight was really cool, OR, was it because the fight had MEANING. Did we finally see a technique that the hero has been teasing for years? Did we finally get revenge on an enemy that had wronged our lead?
If you look at all the most memorable fights, the vast majority are memorable not because of the content of the fight itself, but because of the groundwork that was laid in place. It doesn't matter if it's Goku's first Super Saiyan, Luffy Vs Lucci or Ichigo going Bankai, the reason those moments were so special, is because they felt like the culmination of something we'd really WAITED for.
Now, I know we're only three volumes in, so we can't really expect huge things from these early fights. But what we CAN expect, is for that groundwork to be laid in place, so that later fights will feel so cathartic.
This volume, we were introduced to two new(ish)characters! And based on the amount of Cosplay I see of both of them, I'm guessing they're here to stay...
We have Boar Guy, who doesn't have a name yet, but seems like kind of a tool. He's your standard "I love to fight, because Awwwww yeah, fighting!" character. Every Shonen Battle Manga has one, and they're always fan favourites. I'm guessing this guy will be no different. He has two swords that he takes very poor care of, and wears a Boar's head for a mask. The last we see of him, he's trying to destroy Nezuko's carrier box, and kicking the crap out of...
Zenitsu! This is the other new character we meet. He gets slightly more development, which is good. Sadly, his development is HOLY CRAP HE'S SO ANNOYING. I mean, wow, I've not disliked a character this much on first meeting since... Honestly, I don't know. He's a whiny little letch, who is either complaining, or hitting on any lady in his eyeline. He seems like a total joke of a character, and you're left honestly wondering how he managed to make it through final selection...
And then this happens! So, it turns out that Zenitsu has a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde thing going on. When he's awake, he's the most annoying character since Ruby Rhod. However, when he gets TOO scared, he overloads and falls asleep. When that happens, his hidden badass side kicks in, he unleashes his insanely fast "Thunder Breathing" style, and ruins anyone in sword range.
So, here's the thing. If I were to pick a particular trope or character type I'm usually drawn to, I would have to go with what I call 'The pacifist badass': Think Kyoraku Shunsui from Bleach, Jin from Samurai Champloo, or Sakata Gintoki, from Gintama.
The kind of character who does NOT start fights, and will often go out of their way to avoid one... but once a fight starts, you can be damn sure they'll end it. Fast. Bonus points if they're a bit of a clown, when they're not in combat mode.
So, you'd think, given that he more or less fits into that archetype, I'd love Zenitsu. But I just can't, sorry! I'm hoping that he'll tone it down a little as the series goes on, but his first showing was just too annoying for me to deal with. He has the potential to be a real favourite of mine, but right now his badass to clown ratio is a little too far over on the clown side. Thankfully, the final panel of this volume shows that when the mood takes him, even clown Zenitsu can be a little badass. So fingers crossed, he can relax a little, going forward...
Overall, Volume Three was pretty good. I know, this Retrospective has been a LITTLE bit ranty, but I'm just saying this because I'm really enjoying the series and can see SO much potential in it, that I'm worried that it might not hit the peaks that I think it could, and should, be able to. Gotouge's character designs and artwork continue to impress, balancing the really clean, simple human designs with horrifically over the top, almost body horror demons. The juxtaposition of Tanjiro's beautiful, flowing Water Breathing style, versus Ball Fiend's brutal demise just highlights the stark difference in their worlds:
Tanjiro really cares, almost shedding tears for his enemies and wondering if they could have lived better lives, meanwhile Kibutsuji programs his allies to violently tear themselves apart, should they ever deign to utter his name. It's a brilliantly subtle way to highlight the vast gulf between their characters, and show that just because Kibutsuji looks like a human, he is still by far the most monstrous character in the series... so far, anyway. So, if we could get a bit more of that kinda of subtle exposition, that would be awesome. Because when they do it, Gotouge does it really freakin well.
If you want to see if they do, join me next week for Demon Slayer Volume 4: Robust Blade collecting chapters 26-34. After a fierce battle with a demon inside a maddening house of ever-changing rooms, Tanjiro has a chance to find out about the fighter in the boar head mask. Who is this passionate swordsman and what does he want? Later, a new mission has Tanjiro and his compatriots heading for Mt. Natagumo and a confrontation with a mysterious and horrifying threat…
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.