One aspect of a character that I haven’t often touched on is their design. You can glean a lot of a character from how they look, just like in real life. From their clothes to the scars on their chest, their appearance tells just as much of a story as the writing itself.
This is especially true for anime and manga. A good mangaka makes a character that is nice on the eyes. A great one uses their character’s design to give subtle clues as to their past or their personality. And a truly amazing one uses their creative designs to heighten their character’s expressions and emotions.
A fine example of this can be found in Demon Slayer through one of our primary three heroes: Inosuke Hashibira.
Every character in Demon Slayer has a whole slew of great character designs. Of them all, Inosuke is a particular stand-out. Not only because of his… unique choice in head gear. Everything on the outside gives him this sense of primal ferocity. But when you peek beneath the surface, quite literally in this case, you find a softness and kindness contrary to that animalistic exterior.
But yes, the boar head is the main draw. Not just because it’s unique. It’s also extremely expressive! Depending on how its drawn, it can either make Inosuke look incredibly silly and cute or darkly terrifying. This allows Inosuke to display his emotions in equal parts with the headpiece on, as compared to many masked protagonists who simply can’t display any at all.
Not only that, but it symbolizes his true nature. Because beneath that mask is a face graced with an oddly feminine beauty. The meaning should be clear. On the outside, Inosuke is a wild animal, disgusting and violent. But in reality, hidden beneath that veil, he has a beautiful soul, kind and caring.
To top it off, both his true face and his mask tie into his backstory. His mask was taken from the boar who had raised him upon her passing, allowing Inosuke to remain with his parent in some way. As for his true face… well, I’ll avoid manga spoilers for now. But that, too, links him to his heritage. A link that will eventually lead him into terrible conflict.
Now, let’s have a look at the rest of him. Aside from his boar mask, Inosuke doesn’t wear much. Aside from fur pants and sandals, the man goes around as bare as the day he was born.
This tells us a few things about him. Mainly that he’s a free spirit, one disconnected from societal norms. He goes where he wants and does what he wants when he wants to. Like the boars that raised him, he is wild and free.
It also ties directly into his abilities. Having a highly sensitive sense of touch, Inosuke can’t bear to wear a normal shirt even if he tried. Going without one allows him to use his unique powers of touch to the fullest. In remaining true to his nature and not changing to match the world around him, Inosuke is capable of drawing out the full extent of his powers.
Then there are his swords. Unlike most other demon slayers, Inosuke uses two Nichirin blades. Also unlike most, neither has a guard, and both have been struck by rocks (to the horror of the swordsmiths) to give them a serrated edge. This leans more on the sadistic side of Inosuke; if he’s gonna cut you, he wants to make sure it hurts.
But at the same time, it works with the more cooperative aspects of the character. Inosuke works at his best when fighting alongside someone else; take his tag-teaming with Tanjiro on the Mugen Train, for example. With one sword, he can’t stand, so he needs two. How do serrated swords help you help someone else? Well, that part is another manga spoiler. So… trust me, I guess.
Of all the character designs of the series, I feel that Inosuke’s is the closest to perfect. It works perfectly both in the manga and in the anime. I can’t imagine Inosuke looking any other way. Not without sacrificing a large part of what makes his character work so well.
Who would have thought a kid with a pig hide on his head would be the most well designed character in the series?