Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Volume 8 (Review)

With Tanjirou and Inosuke’s battle against Enmu reaching its climax in volume seven, the Infinity Train arc is seemingly at a close – but one more challenge remains for the duo, along with Rengoku, Zenitsu, and Nezuko, and its even more dangerous than the lower demon moon they had been battling. Memories from the past and a key to the future appears as the most dangerous opponent the demon slayers have faced makes his way onto the scene.

Volume eight of Demon Slayer brings the short but eventful Infinity Train arc to a close. For anime watchers, these are the chapters, beginning in volume seven, that will be animated on-screen for the recently announced Kimetsu no Yaiba film, as well as a transition to the next arc (spoilers ahead). A movie makes great sense for this arc: It’s short enough to complete in 90 minutes, could perhaps be skipped by western audiences without losing too much if a second season aired in the U.S. before the movie premiered here, and is packed full of action and emotional moments.

It’s that emotion that’s on full display in these chapters, though. Rengoku, perhaps at first blush the least interesting of the pillars (hashira), reveals unexpected character and depth behind his “not quite all there” facade. In fact, this volume is particularly strong because it combines an immensely engaging opening couple of chapters, as Rengoku faces the upper moon demon Akaza, with transition chapters that features back story about Tanjirou’s breath style, revealing significant information that develops the mythology of the series.

Thematically, the entire volume is bound by the idea that the weakness of humans in what makes them valuable. As Rengoku fights Akaza, the latter presses the pillar on the physical disadvantage of humans and what he perceives as the lack of value of the weak. Rengoku counters that age and limitations don’t truly make humans weak, while recounting his charge to protect those less strong than him. And as Kibutsuji continues to search for strength for himself, Tanjirou heads the other direction, seeking to become strong to live like Rengoku and help others.

Volumes which contain pieces of two arcs often don’t feel like the strongest reads. In fact, in the hands of some mangaka, they can be relegated to substandard works, but volume eight of Demon Slayer achieves that rarity of being as strong or stronger than previous volumes as its sets the stage for more action and further unraveling of a mythology that is establishing itself as one of manga’s best.

Rating: A-


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