Demon Slayer has one of the most morally pure protagonists Shounen anime has ever seen. Tanjiro, right down to his core (quite literally, as we learned in the Mugen Train arc) is kind, selfless, and heroic. The dude shows empathy to demons who gleefully monologued about how they devoured little girls or some shit. Of all the good boys, he may be the goodest boy of them all.
So, of course, his antagonist had to be the exact opposite.
Kibutsuji Muzan is among the most evil and terrifying villains in modern Shounen anime. He is Tanjiro’s opposite in literally every possible way. Whereas Tanjiro is honest and kind, Muzan is deceitful and cruel. He hides in plain site, marrying a human woman and adopting a human daughter for the sole purpose of having hostages to protect himself. He’ll kill people by the dozen for even the slightest offense. Later on in the manga, he compares himself to a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado, when confronted with his crimes.
Of all the demons we meet, none are so intimidating as Muzan. He seems nigh invincible, between his horrible self-defense plots (see the aforementioned human family) and incredible power. He is the father of all demons and he is capable of slaughtering all of them with a mere thought should they upset him. The only time we ever see him display joy is when Enmu declares his delight at being murdered by him.
Oh yeah, the dude also has an ego the size of a galaxy. See the aforementioned point of him comparing himself to a natural disaster.
This is the perfect way to build up a loathsome villain. He is monstrously cruel and seemingly unstoppable. Therefor, we eagerly await the day where Tanjiro and the other Demon Slayers will finally take him down. Surely, nothing else could be as satisfying!
But… well, there’s a bit of a problem with that. That problem being how Demon Slayer tried to humanize its antagonists.
One of the biggest issues with this series is how it handled the villain backstories. They were usually compelling and tragic. Like the heartbreaking tale of Akaza or Rui. Their origins did a fantastic job of humanizing them and making them memorable. Problem is: we don’t get those backstories until after they’re dead.
Muzan was no exception. The difference being his actual backstory. Which begins and ends with “He didn’t want to die, so he killed a guy and became a demon.” That’s… that’s all? Fucking Freeza had more depth to his backstory!
This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it helps to make Muzan even more unforgivable. His backstory has no tragedy to it, nor does it establish any redeeming qualities in him. It goes to show exactly how selfish and evil the bastard really was.
On the other, it feels like a total waste of time. We don’t need any more reasons to hate Muzan. We already understand him enough from how he has acted and all that he’s done throughout the series. At that point, we don’t need to see his backstory. There’s no point. It doesn’t add anything to the narrative that we don’t already know. If anything, it subtracts from the satisfaction of his defeat by wasting our time rather than showing us his glorious death.
Not that it’s all that glorious. The final battle of the series is pretty disappointing.
This dude is a bit disappointing. Despite how evil and unstoppable he seemed, his ultimate downfall wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it should have been. His total lack of depth made him a loathsome bastard, yes. But in the end, it ultimately did him more harm than good.
Granted, the anime has the potential to change things. Maybe anime Muzan will be able to stick the landing that manga Muzan couldn’t. Who knows?
We sure won’t find out any time soon. If I recall correctly, we won’t even see the bastard this season.