Demon Slayer Volume 11: A Close Fight.
Collecting Chapters #89-97.
Story and art by Koyoharu Gotouge.
Last time around, Tanjiro and friends clashed with the fearsome brother/sister duo Daki and Gyutaro! Combined, they make the Upper 6 Hashira. But, it turns out, even the weakest of the strong demons are still pretty freakin strong! Thankfully, the Kamado family are never short of a power-up or two, when things look tricky. Now, the fight reaches its climax... but will everyone make it to the end?
Chapter 89: A Close Fight. Gyutaro gives Tengen and Tanjiro the fight of their lives, and Tanjiro feels bad because he can't really contribute anything, in his current state... Or can he?
Chapter 90: Grateful. Help arrives from an unexpected source, which gives Tanjiro and Tengen a chance to strike the decisive blow in this brutal fight. And, when things look their darkest, Tanjiro does what I've been telling him to do for about 5 volumes...
Chapter 91: A Change Of Strategy. Inosuke and Zenitsu are having some trouble, keeping Daki down. So Tanjiro leaves Tengen to handle the big guy, and the terrible trio try some teamwork!
Chapter 92: Worm, Simpleton, Stupid Coward. While Inosuke plays the most important game of Keep-Away in his life, Gyutaro decides he's had enough, and makes Tanjiro an offer.
Chapter 93: Never Give Up! Tanjiro tries to land a decisive blow, but Gyutaro is just too tough. While Daki is distracted, everyone who is still standing puts their all into one final attack.
Chapter 94: Do Something. Still attempting to bring this fight to an end, Tanjiro decides it's time to HULK OUT again. Could this fight finally be over? Or will Gyutaro have the last laugh...
Chapter 95: Final Moments. Everyone attempts to recover from their brutal showdown and Nezuko pops up to assist in their recovery. But, when the dust has settled, harsh words are exchanged.
Chapter 96: No Matter How Many Lives, Part 1. Angry at losing, Daki and Gyutaro's heads argue with each other, saying hurtful things, in their last moments. Then, we jump back in time, for a little history lesson.
Chapter 97: No Matter How Many Lives, Part 2. Two souls achieve peace and move on to. . . whatever comes next. Meanwhile Snake Hashira shows up, to be a dick to everyone.
Damn, that was a pretty long fight, wasn't it? Not seen an enemy drag on that long since Zaraki Vs Nnoitra. But, in the end, Tanjiro achieved victory! And we seem to have lost another Hashira. This is getting a little awkward, isn't it? Pretty soon you're going to have Hashira making excuses not to go on missions with him, because they'll either end up dead, or maimed to the point of retirement. Or maybe, his curse will end once there are enough spots in the Hashira open for him, Inosuke, and Zenitsu...
So, we've now seen two Hashira unleash their full power, against an upper-ranked Kizuki. Not going to lie, Tengen did NOT come out of the fight looking too good. I mean, yeah, he actually survived, which should give him the edge over the former Flame Hashira. But, let's be real here, Rengoku gave it his all to hold his own against the Upper 3 Kizuki, and won a moral victory, even if he lost his life to do so. Tengen went up against the Upper 6, and sort of won... but did VERY little during the fight. Honestly, it feels like if Tanjiro and Friends hadn't been there, Tengen would have gotten utterly roasted, and Gyutaro would have carried on as if nothing had happened. Which is a shame, because just looking at character designs, Tengen was one of the Hashira I was most excited to see fight.
I feel like his Sound Breathing really could have been expanded on. His fighting style seemed, to me, similar to something like Taskmaster from Marvel. He studies how his enemy "sounds" as they fight, and then uses that to find weak spots in their technique and hit them while they're weakest... In theory, that should be a really interesting technique to see, and COULD have made this fight a lot of fun to watch.
In execution... Tengen damn near got executed. It doesn't really feel like he actually saw him do anything. We basically got TOLD that he can do all this awesome stuff, then we see "but sadly, he's poisoned, so he can't really do any of that. Sorry!" and then Tanjiro saves him. Who knows, maybe this isn't the last we'll see of Tengen, and he'll come back at a later date with a cool prosthetic hand and we'll get to really see what he can do. I feel like I've been saying that a lot, this series. "Fingers crossed they do something with this cool idea, later on..."
Speaking of cool things I've been waiting to happen...
It seems my ranting last week was a little premature, thankfully. With his back to the wall, in a rather rough state during this fight, Tanjiro realised what I've been saying pretty much since the first time he said the words "Hinokami Kagura". Namely, that just because he's not quite as good at Water Breathing, doesn't necessarily mean he should drop it altogether.
I can't lie, this was probably my second favourite part of the whole arc (my favourite part will be discussed shortly). Tanjiro is finally learning to utilise his various breathing styles at differing times, as the fight requires them. Using Water Breathing to keep himself safe when he's fighting defensively, and unleash Sun Breathing when he sees a weakness and has a chance to attack.
I'm a big fan of this idea; that it's not about finding one style that you like and ignoring everything else, but about taking the parts that are useful from all the styles you come across, and putting them into a style that fits your way of fighting. This is how the real masters do it, so it's great to see Tanjiro following that path.
Although, I get the feeling that we're not going to see Tanjiro take on too many other styles. I get the feeling that moving forward will be more about mastering Water defence and Sun offence, and refining those techniques until he's at his peak. But, seeing as I've been wrong about almost everything so far, I can't wait to see what writer/artist Gotouge has to surprise me with next!
That does make me wonder, though: Will we see his friends mastering any other styles? I mean, Zenitsu can't even really use Thunder Breathing, so I can't see him taking on anything else. But Inosuke's berserker style could really benefit from some defensive techniques, if you ask me.
But now, things get real.
So, The Upper 6 has been dropped like a bad habit... And once they had their surprisingly sweet and almost emotional send-off chapter, we jump back to Slayer HQ and things are really rather active.
I can't lie, this scene had my goosebumps breaking out. For the first time in a century, one of the Upper Kizuki has been defeated, and the balance is finally shifting... and then Lord Kagaya drops a bit of a bombshell:
This dude is from the same freakin Clan as Muzan Kibutsuji! Now, they may not exactly be family, but that's still a pretty major connection for the leader of the demons and the leader of the Demon Slayers to have. Might explain why I still have a bad feeling about this guy. And it's not just because he has a face like an exploded Hot Pocket, either.
We're more of less halfway through the series, now. This is the point where you put in some big twist or reveal, that sets up the final great conflict...
And I'm pretty sure that was it. The fact that Tanjiro and friends have upset the balance of the world by taking down an Upper Kizuki, and the big reveal that Kagaya and Muzan are related... there is a LOT of cool stuff you could do with that. Gotouge has, so far, set up a lot of very interesting lore, and some of it has paid off pretty well. I really hope that they stick the landing here. It feels like as we move into the back half of the series, there's enough to work with here that we could get something really special. I just hope that it lives up to its potential.
Overall, Volume 11 was... alright. I've said it before and it REALLY shows here: my biggest problem with this series so far is the pacing. At this point, we've had three volumes of this arc, and a LOT of it felt like filler. While this fight was obviously meant to be a huge turning point in the series, we don't really need a whole chapter of just Tanjiro trying to cut through Gyutaro's neck. It really didn't feel like a volume's worth of fight went down here, and yet that's all we got. Gotouge pulled it back with a very intriguing conclusion, that had the volume end with me feeling excited. But that doesn't distract from the fact that around chapter 93 or 94, when I should have been cheering our heroes and anticipating their great victory, I found myself thinking "All right, is it over yet?". I mean, I don't know about you, but generally that's not how I want to feeling, during what should be the pinnacle of the arc. I can't help but think that if they'd stripped this arc back to two volumes, and taken out most of the "Tanjiro and friends make bad girls" parts and all the "No, I can be stronger! I just have to TRY HARDER!" from this final fight, they would have ended up with a much tighter, more compelling story. I can't exactly call the conclusion bad, but it doesn't feel like it was as good as it could have been. And definitely wasn't as good as the early training parts, or the train arc. But, as we're in the last leg now, I can't help but think things are going to pick up a lot from here, and we'll start seeing some more impactful arcs. Fingers crossed...
If you want to see where Tanjiro and friends are headed next, come back next time for Demon Slayer Volume 12: The Upper Ranks Gather (uh oh...) Collecting Chapters 98-102. For the first time in over 100 years, the upper ranks of Muzan Kibutsuji’s Twelve Kizuki are not full. Angered, Muzan dispatches the survivors on another mission. Elsewhere, Tanjiro journeys to a village of swordsmiths and has to explain how his sword was so badly damaged to Haganezuka, the smith who made it. While Tanjiro waits for his sword to be repaired, enemies close in…
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.