As the Demon Slayer manga nears its conclusion (spoilers ahead), it returns, in spirit, to the series opening—to Tanjirou’s thoughts of home. Muzan Kibutsuji, unable to survive the sun, has passed on his demon power and his own spirit to Tanjirou, who has started to succomb to the invasion. As Giyuu prepares to kill him, Nezuko, now fully transformed back to her human self, reaches out to her brother who, unable to control himself, has started to kill her; but in another cyclical thread, she continues to hold on to him, expressing her love for the brother who similarly held on to her when she was at her most demonic and unable to tell him apart from family. And internally, as Muzan tries his best to force him into fully transforming, Tanjirou remembers the beauty of home. Of course, Muzan tries to use this to his advantage, reminding Tanjirou that nothing remains there except buried bodies of his family.
Buried bodies…while Demon Slayer‘s corpses are in the ground as the result of a supernatural assault, and “bodies in the basement” often remind me of gangster films, I’m reminded that we all have figurative buried bodies in our homes, secrets and abuse that hide deep within the recesses of our minds, behind closed doors we’d rather not open, which might even physically look like the doors of homes within our thinking. We leave behind this burial ground to varying degrees of success.
My own childhood was happy, but the first home I purchased as an adult reminds me of Tanjirou’s. It wasn’t a demon that caused the bad feelings that I associated with it, though—it was myself.
I’ve mentioned before how rearing young children was a great challenge for me. My patience was tested, and even more so as I had held down two jobs, served at church, and ran this blog. But even if I wasn’t doing any of those additional activities, I know my own self-control issues and years of neglecting it would have led to the same results: outbursts of shouting that did and still shame me, and even a habit that I had arisen during childhood and returned at my worst moments—throwing objects. I once tossed chocolate milk against a wall in my home. Another time, I threw something at the carpet that left a hole I later tried to repair (not to great result).
Despite the many happy occasions in this house, all I had to do was look at my wall to recall that milk incident, or at the slightly-off carpeting in my bedroom to remember I caused it. My feelings about home were marred by my weakness, by my sin. That house isn’t home to me, not anymore (if it ever was).
How much more for those on the receiving end of abuse and neglect during their childhoods? If the death of Tanjirou’s family is a symbol of a broken family, then if I were him, I would never want to return there.
But Tanjirou is stronger than me. He’s almost too perfect, one who didn’t fail his family and whose family was full of love and compassion. The death of his loved ones didn’t define his home; in fact, they continued to shape him with their love even after their demise. There’s sadness there, certainly, but home is a place of goodness for Tanjirou.
Muzan, sensing this, uses other methods. He is one of the strongest Satan figures in all anime, and this perhaps comes through best in chapter 203; as the devil tempted Christ in the desert, Muzan does the same to Tanjirou, and in similar ways. The devil offered to meet Christ’s physical needs, and Muzan does the same by telling Tanjirou he can live forever, instead of a mere few years more. Satan attempts to pull out the same sense of pride that led to his own fall, and Muzan aims squarely at his victim’s pride, as well, by explaining to him that he will become something greater than any living being that has ever previously existed. And in his final temptation, the devil twists something good by misusing scripture; Muzan takes the love of Tanjirou’s friends, something likewise good, and tries to make him feel guilt over it.
Tanjirou is grounded enough to see through the lies. If anything interests me about him through this series, it’s the immense hatred he has toward Muzan: Tanjirou feels pity toward even the vilest of demons, but never toward their leader. He understands Muzan’s character and perhaps because of that, it’s never an internal struggle (even as he’s challenged physically) to give in. The truth shines bright and the darkness is clear. Tanjirou will reach toward the light, and no lies will drag him down.
These days, my anger issues are immeasurably better. I don’t perfectly exhibit the fruit of self-control, not by a long shot, but those days of exhibiting childlike action in the face of pressure are a memory. Life is generally better, but so am I, as God continues to quench my imperfection by the cool waters of love, mercy, and truth. His goodness is stronger than the devil’s lies, and I’m grabbing hold of that truth more and more as I age until one day, I’ll be fully satisfied and confident as Tanjirou is. I’ll be happy to know that I’m heading home, too.
And that is truth that darkness, by my own hand or the devil’s, cannot take away.
Recent chapters of Demon Slayer are available for free on Viz.