Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has finally come to an end. After many months of teases and the announcement back in April that the series would be heading into its ‘climax,’ it is safe to say that the fantasy series leaves behind an incredible legacy – and one that no one ever quite expected.
For a long time, Demon Slayer languished in obscurity in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump. Sure, it had its fair share of fans, but it never achieved the type of early buzz that other series such as The Promised Neverland and Dr. STONE did. Part of that no doubt came down to the relatively unknown nature of the series’ author, Koyoharu Gotouge. They had done some minor one-shots before, but nothing major – unlike Riichiro Inagaki of Eyeshield 21 fame, who teamed up with Sun Ken Rock’s Boichi to start Dr. STONE in 2017.
Nevertheless, once Studio ufotable’s anime adaptation aired in 2019, everything changed. The lead-up to the anime was actually relatively subdued, with the news leaking beforehand but not really making that much of a splash come Spring 2019. In fact, the adaptation had several highly anticipated sequels to contend with – Attack on Titan 3 Part 2, One Punch Man 2, and the Fruits Basket reboot. There was also Shinichiro Watanabe’s latest creation, Carole & Tuesday, which should not be discounted.
Once word began to spread about Kimetsu no Yaiba, however, nothing could stop it. It became the topic of discussion everywhere, not just on social media sites but also in real life – Don’t Bully Me, Nagatoro author Nanashi saying in January that “The word Kimetsu no Yaiba just came out of my mother’s mouth, who knows nothing about manga. That’s how I know that it’s become a massive hit.”
Part of the enormous success that Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has achieved up until this point, of its ending, can undoubtedly be chalked up to Studio Ufotable’s excellent adaptation. The recent Dr. STONE anime from TMS Entertainment acts as a benchmark as to what you can usually expect to see from a Weekly Shonen Jump adaptation: flat, direct, and only managing to capture a sliver of what makes the source material so great. The Kimetsu no Yaiba anime, on the other hand, is arguably even better than the manga: not only does it improve on the series’ scratchy art style immensely, but it also takes the raw potential of the series’ fights and amplifies them into jaw dropping sequences that not only stand as some of the best animation work of 2018, but the entire decade.
Yet, it wasn’t all thanks to Studio Ufotable. Clearly, there was something about the story and the characters that gripped people, so they went out and bought the manga. And they bought a lot of it. So high was the demand for Kimetsu no Yaiba volumes, in fact, that some of them sold out before they even went on sale. Many stores have since had to implement strict one-volume-per-customer limits, especially as diehard fans attempt to collect all different varieties of the various pack-in gifts. Moreover, Gotouge’s series finally cleared the landing and managed to beat One Piece’s previous record for annual sales this year, coming in at a whopping 38,191,494 units.
Accounting for the success of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is hard, as sales figures and rankings only show us how many people are buying the series, not why they are doing so. Even so, if I had to make an educated guess, then it’d be that ufotable’s anime managed to capture the attention of audiences outside of Weekly Shonen Jump’s usual periphery, thereby bringing in more people than usual. Of course, female fans play an important part in that – just look at some of the latest goods produced for the series for proof of that – but there were also many ‘normal’ people that dove into the series and became enraptured by it, as proved by Nanashi’s mother.
In any case, the ending of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is bittersweet for Shueisha and Weekly Shonen Jump. On the one hand, they have lost a bonafide golden goose – although the new spinoff centered on Tomioka should help to remedy this fact – which found them rare success in an era of declining distribution and depressed consumer spending. But, on the other, they have allowed Koyoharu Gotouge to end the series on their terms – creating, on the whole, a remarkably well-rounded story that will surely stand the test of time.
From relative obscurity to one of Oricon’s best-selling manga, Kimetsu no Yaiba has gone on quite a journey. Now that it is ending, it leaves behind an incredible legacy that no one ever truly expected. Life is crazy, sometimes.
You can read Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, including the ending, for free via VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump.