Subverting expectations is one of my favorite elements in fiction and serves to show us, the viewer, the intricacies of their respective characters. In One Punch Man, you have Saitama, the most plain and generic-looking person who’s actually the most overpowered character in his universe.
In Death Note, you have Light Yagami, who acts more along the lines of an antagonist and serves to highlight the true essence of the show’s morally grey nature. So, with this topic in mind, there’s no doubt that a certain someone fits this title, and judging by the thumbnail of this blog, you all know exactly who I’m talking about: Sanemi Shinhasagawa, the Wind Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps.
Sanemi was introduced to us as the most hostile and abrasive of the Pillars. The first actions we see him do throughout the story is to harm our dear Nezuko and antagonize Tanjirou for carrying around a demon with him, even goading Nezuko into eating him. This basically sets him up as an antagonist and frankly makes him appear insensitive to any and all emotions.
But despite this, I’m here today to analyze the character of Sanemi and explain exactly why he’s one of the kindest souls in the entire story. So, let’s dive headfirst into arguably the most contrasting person in the Demon Slayer story, the Wind Hashira, Sanemi Shinatsugawa.
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Sanemi was the eldest of seven children and lived with both of his parents. Having an incredibly abusive father, he would constantly lash out at the children and their mother until he was eventually stabbed by a man who held a grudge against him. Sanemi and his brother, Genya, would look after their mom in his place and adopt the role of being the father figures in the household.
On one fateful day, Sanemi’s mom failed to return home. To his surprise and torment, he had discovered that she had been turned into a demon. Aren’t all these Hashira backstories so incredibly sad and tragic? Leave a comment down below which Hashira backstory you think is the saddest and why. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Before Sanemi could stop his mother, she had already killed five of his siblings, and by my calculations, that leaves only Sanemi and his brother remaining. Before landing the killing blow on Genya, Sanemi tackles her out of a window and begins to stab her with a knife. And due to his special Merichi blood, he was able to disorient his newly demonized mother.
Upon finding Sanemi and his mother dead in the middle of the street, Genya accuses Sanemi of murder, as he was under the impression that a wolf had attacked the house and not a demon. Filled with rage and sadness, the surviving family members separate, leaving Sanemi to hunt demons with reckless abandonment.
During Sanemi’s time as a Demon Slayer, he would quite literally throw himself at demons with nothing more than traditional weapons and would fight demons until they were incapacitated. He would tie them up in the sun and let them burn via their natural weakness. Pretty badass if you ask me. If you’re wondering how Sanemi ever managed to survive, it could be chalked up to nothing more than his luck and the rare Merichi blood type that he possesses.
Along his journey, he meets up with a legitimate Demon Slayer by the name of Masachika Kumeno, who introduces him to Nichirin Blades and to a proper trainer. After Sanemi was trained in Wind Breathing, he and Kumeno teamed up against Lower Moon 1, where his teammate unfortunately lost his life. This resulted in Sanemi being promoted to the Wind Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps.
Saddened and angry by his death, he takes his frustration out on Kagaya Ubuyashiki. To his surprise, the leader of the Demon Slayer Corps takes this verbal lashing in stride, stating, and I quote, “I’m sorry. I tried swinging a sword, but it made my heart pound, and I couldn’t even do it 10 times. I would have been like you if I could have. I wanted to be a strong swordsman and protect others’ lives with my own body, but it was impossible for me.
I’m sorry to have to ask you to do such difficult tasks. If you are pawns, then I am a sacrificial piece too. And if a single piece, even one such as myself, who moves the Demon Slayer Corps were to die, nothing would change. This is your first time at a gathering of the Hashira, so I think you misunderstand. I do not place myself higher than you or anything like that. But everyone just treats me that way. If that bothers you, you don’t have to go along with it. Instead of worrying about that, defend the lives of others as a Hashira. That is my only request.”
This deeply humbles Sanemi and allows him to garner great respect for Kagaya. Sanemi’s backstory is integral to his outlook on life and ideologies, which is mainly that he masks his kindness through an insane amount of cruelty. Kinda counter-intuitive, but let’s get more into it. Sanemi’s reaction to his mother’s death and his brother’s anger is a great insight and look as to how this character deals with trauma or any hardship, for that matter.
In his mind of protecting his brother Genya from the cruel reality of the demon world, he had literally abandoned him. As opposed to stringing him along to mitigate any sort of possibility of danger, Sanemi will do whatever he can physically to sever the bond between someone he cares for if it means saving them from a greater danger down the road.
Even going beyond this, we see that Sanemi doesn’t just stop with words as he’s quite literally prepared to enact physical harm to his brother if it means leaving the Demon Slayers. In essence, he is removing a personal choice in the matter and forcibly asserting his will against someone in a twisted sense of protection.
While this is definitely extreme and detached from reality, Tanjirou reminds Sanemi that people have their own choices, motives, and desires as individuals. This is common sense to us, but think of how Sanemi spent a majority of his life. He fought demons alone, he made decisions alone, and he survived alone. In isolating himself, Sanemi forgets what Genya wants as an individual.
I believe that this broken sense of protection comes directly from his past and failure to protect his siblings from their mother when she rampaged as a demon. Even more so, it’s clear that Sanemi does not want to show his emotions due to being exposed by his younger brother while he was at his most vulnerable as a child.
He sees himself as a danger to those around him and wishes that it would be better if he just suffered alone, like how he compares his fighting style to that of suicide. This also translates into how he fights, as noted by the many scars on his body. It’s like he cherishes or feels no pain at all, in a way suppressing it, just like he suppresses the traumas of his childhood. It’s like he considers it a bad thing that he’s living while good people are constantly dying all around him.
The next point I’d like to talk about is how closely connected both Sanemi and Tanjirou are. They are just two people who took different paths in life. If you look at them closely, while Sanemi pushes his brother away to protect him, Tanjirou does the exact opposite and keeps Nezuko close by. And the beautiful thing about the dichotomy between these two characters is that they view the familial relationship in the exact opposite way. Tanjirou sees Nezuko as his strength, while our boy Sanemi sees Genya as his weakness.
The reason that Sanemi is such a beautiful character and one of the kindest people in the series is due to how deeply he feels about those close to him. He describes that all the colors in the world faded after his mother died, and he basically didn’t care about anything after that. He takes personal responsibility so deeply that he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent himself from feeling again. So his hateful and aloof personality isn’t just for show.
Emotions essentially just destroy him. Deep down, he truly just wanted a family and people to love and care for. People whose happiness he could put before his own. And even though he couldn’t save Genya in the end, he’s reaffirmed that he’s an individual of his own, that he could live with himself without being a huge burden. Living his entire life for the sake of others is something that I only believe the purest of people would be willing to do.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.