Today’s article is a guest post from Kenneth See, a missionary teacher in Taiwan. You can read more of his writing and connect to him through the Silk Road Mission website.
Where you fear to go is where you must go…
Back in 2019 when Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) premiered, it became an instant classic. It had all the qualities that make a shounen great. A wonderful cast of characters were thrown together with a unique setting. Not many franchises take place in Taisho Era Japan. The early 20th century aesthetic only comes out a few times when the characters are in urban settings. However, being that the point of the show is to slay demons it makes sense that the titular creatures would stay in the shadows and away from cities. I want to discuss the manga here so consider this your only warning for manga spoilers. Seriously, if you are still wanting to read it stop here. Got it?
Still here? Okay, let’s talk demons. The creatures of the KnY universe are an interesting chimera between human, animal, and some kind of spiritual evil. The manga establishes later on that demons were created by accident. The first demon and chief antagonist of the series, Muzan Kibutsuji, was turned into a demon during the Heian Period by a doctor that had given Muzan a poor prognosis. The doctor administered a medicine called the Blue Spider Lily serum. Muzan, out of frustration, kills the doctor before the final dose can be given. Only then does he find out that the medicine worked and has not only made him immortal but made him into something not human. The problem? He can’t go out into the sunlight without his skin burning. Now his driving passion is to find out how to make the serum and finish the treatment so he can walk in the sun again.
In the opening chapters and episode we see Nezuko Kamado get turned into a demon. Her brother Tanjiro, and the franchise protagonist, vows to turn her back into a human and (mirroring Muzan’s goal) be able to walk in the sun again. Here’s where the conflict kicks off and we are treated to some amazing action set pieces and character growth. As the manga progresses we see something interesting about the demons. They’re just as human as the slayers that hunt them. Even the Demon King himself, Muzan, has a wife and kid. As the reader/watcher we’re forced to compare the two sides. As I read, it became more and more obvious that I was not meant to hate the demons like the slayers do. I was meant to pity them and pity them I did. Each one’s revealed backstory made me feel sorrow over their human lives. They were demons. Make no mistake. Yet, they were also incredibly flawed and human. There is also the anomaly known as Nezuko. She is a demon but she has not killed any humans. She is a demon but she has not consumed a single drop of human blood. She has not given into her base desires no matter how much she wanted to do so.
We are similar to the demons of KnY. We all have tragedy in our lives. Even the most spoiled and privileged among us has had bad things happen to them. The temptation to weather those bad times by giving into our sinful nature is ubiquitous among the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Some do give in. Muzan was a demon long before the doctor physically turned him into one. His willingness to kill with impudence was evidence of that. We view those heinous acts with contempt as we should. However, we should also feel pity towards those who perpetrate them. As John Bradford would say, “There but by the grace of God go I.” We might find ourselves in their shoes maybe even through no fault of our own (like Nezuko). If that is the case, what is our hope?
Christians know the answer to this. The only hope we have for redemption from our sinful nature is Jesus Christ. We know that only the blood of Jesus washes us as white as snow. Yet, we also know that any contact with Jesus will burn away the sin of our lives and leave us bare before God. The thing we fear the most (the light of Christ) is where salvation is found. Likewise, we learn something interesting in the penultimate chapters of KnY. Nezuko is turned back into a human by being exposed to the sunlight. The fact that she has not given in to the hunger and thirst for human blood has kept her pure. This, in turn, is what is her final salvation in the sun. Her purity plus the burning of the light of day bring her back to the realm of humanity.
Isn’t that ironic? The very thing that the demons feared was the source of their salvation. In the end, purity and the sun is what saved the demon Nezuko. Our salvation too comes from purity and the Son (of God). Before you accuse me of teaching works based salvation understand this: it’s not OUR purity that saves but CHRIST’S purity. We can’t fight our sinful desires like Nezuko. We can’t resist the allure of sin like she can. Therefore, before the burning and purifying light of Jesus can shine on us we have to be cleansed by Him of all our sin.
If I had time, I would go into detail how I just described the doctrines of Justification, Imputation, and Substitutionary Atonement. (Maybe a future article?) For now, suffice it to say that most people have a slight fear or aversion to Jesus and His Message. I know I did before my conversion. Yet, it was in the light of the Son that I found salvation and transformation into a new creation. Very similar to how in the light of the sun the demons will find either destruction (if they’re impure) or salvation (if they’re pure). The place we fear the most offers what we seek the most. If you’re reading this and are on the fence about this whole “Jesus thing” then understand that we all were there once too. Just remember: there is light at the end of this. Let the Sonlight cleanse you. Trust in Him today. Allow Him to purify you and save you. Pray to Him now and ask for forgiveness. He will forgive and in the light you’ll be transformed. Maybe not from demon to human but from sinner to saint. Walk in the light, oh saints of God!
Kenneth is a missionary teacher in Taiwan. He loves anime and Japanese culture in general. His hope is to see more missionaries raised up and coming to Asia. His organization, Silk Road Mission, exists to that end. You can read more of his writing at www.silkroadmission.org. He can’t wait to connect with other likeminded believers around the world!
Featured illustration by 迷途羊 (reprinted w/permission).