Protagonist Tanjiro lives with his mother and siblings up in the mountain, regularly making the long and somewhat dangerous journey to the closest town in order to sell charcoal to make a living. Everyone seems to like him quite a lot, so its an existence he seems contented with. One day he ends up staying later than usual in the town, and on the way home he is ordered by an old man at the foot of the mountain not to make the journey at night, and to instead stay the night at his place. The reason is that demons are active on the mountain at night – although Tanjiro doesn’t actually believe this, but respects the man’s wishes so as not to worry him. The following morning he heads back home…to find his family slaughtered, and only his sister Nezuko showing any sign of life.
Unfortunately, Nezuko is possessed by a demon and, when she regains consciousness, begins to act violently. A mysterious boy suddenly shows up trying to kill her, although Tanjiro manages to stop him. After noting that Nezuko does seem to sometimes exhibit signs of free will, he advises Tanjiro to take her to someone who may be able to help her.
It’s been a pretty interesting year for Shonen Jump manga so far – Promised Neverland had a noitaminA slot, and now Yaiba gets to be animated by the legendary ufotable. That’s not something I would have ever predicted, considering ufotable tend to stick with shorter series, and Jump series generally…aren’t. (Kimetsu no Yaiba itself is ongoing) Perhaps they’re planning to do multiple series for Yaiba if its successful enough? Anyway, regardless of what happens, from this first episode alone I can already see that it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous. The snowy scenery here looked amazing – it creates a striking and dramatic backdrop for the events, although the entire time I couldn’t help thinking how much I wished Golden Kamuy looked this good!
I didn’t know anything about Yaiba before starting it – I actually first heard about it when ufotable tweeted about it a year or so ago. From the character designs they showed – as well as the opening sequence we see at the end of this episode – this show is going to have an extremely interesting cast. The characters we meet in this episode aren’t too bad, although we don’t really get to know too much about them. Tanjiro is a Main Character – maybe a little more kind-hearted and dramatic than usual, but nothing that particularly makes him stand out yet. Nezuko has almost nothing of note about her whatsoever before she turns into a demon, and the other characters basically only moved the plot forward. I’m far, far more interested in the wimpy looking blond kid and the dude with a pig’s head, but I’m at least interested enough in this first episode to want to get to know Tanjiro and Nezuko better, and to find out what the nature of Nezuko’s possession is. The mysterious demon slayer notes that her behaviour is ‘different’ to the others he has encountered, who he killed without hesitation.
Despite being an episode that merely sets up what’s to come, it does feel like a lot of things happened. Although things move quickly, there’s still time given for quiet, gentle moments – and again, the beautiful snowy scenery and the snowflakes that are falling in almost all the scenes really does add to the atmosphere. It’s a well-balanced first episode, and since I went into it completely blind, completely unexpected in how it unfolded. I’ll definitely be following it.