When consuming anime or any story, for that matter, I think it’s easy to get lost in the expectation that characters are supposed to be perfect. But more often than not, the characters who we find noteworthy are flawed in very significant ways. On the surface, Demon Slayer’s Shinobu Kocho appeared to be one of those characters – seemingly nice, caring, and soft-spoken even to the demons that she was opposing as a Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps.
But that notion was changed in the blink of an eye, and beneath that smiling facade and fake sense of kindness, there exists a demon possibly more scary and gruesome than any living demon we see throughout the story. I think the thing that needs to be stressed about Kimetsu no Yaiba is that its story and fights are not built off of previous lore or exposition in any way, coming purely from the genius of Gotouge herself.
The narrative is strictly based on the characters’ thoughts and feelings from a previous and relatively obscure life, tying into the dynamic between the villains and the heroes of the story. The antagonists are defined by how they threw away their humanity in their quest for power, desperation, or pure evil, meanwhile, the protagonists of the story are defined by their motivations and fighting on behalf of something greater than themselves.
Think of Zenitsu fighting for his sensei and the pride of Thunder Breathing, Tanjiro fighting for the sake of his sister and the Kamado family, and Inosuke fighting on behalf of his mother’s memory. By the end of the story, all characters in this story are linked to who they are and what they stand for, which, in my opinion, makes you want to know more about each character’s past. Gotouge’s writing style is the reason her fights and stories stand out as much as they do.
At the end of all the violence and bloodshed, there is always a notion of acceptance from either the demons or Demon Slayers, which gives us insight into their character right at their final moments. For example, let’s take a look at the big bad of the story, Muzan Kibutsuji. Gotouge intentionally made this character’s irredeemable evil the core essence of his character, right until the very end. He ultimately passed accepting literally nothing.
There was no sob story to tell because that was never the purpose of this character. So, given this explanation of Gotouge’s character structure, how does this relate to the main theme of today’s blog – Shinobu Kocho? Well, frankly, she’s no exception, but unlike some other characters we encounter throughout the story, there are sprinkles of information that lead the viewer towards her ultimate intentions as a character that, in my opinion, make her one of the most paradoxical and fascinating characters I have come across.
Let’s take a deeper look at this. So, buckle your seatbelts as we dive into the beautifully vengeful character that is Shinobu Kocho. What’s up anime fanbase, welcome back to Anime Analysis, a channel dedicated to discussing and analyzing all things anime has to offer. We’re jumping back into Demon Slayer with this analysis blog of the one and only insect Hashira, Shinobu Kocho.
As always, if you have any suggestions for other anime you’d like to see me cover or have a specific character in mind that you’d want me to look into, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Within this character, three central themes and concepts truly illuminate both her apparent internal struggle and conflicting sides of her character. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
With women in shonen, it’s normally been my experience that they are meant to have a flaw of some sort. While these don’t have to be bad per se, many are accused of being too nice, clumsy, perfect, etc. More often than not, I think the characters are obviously written this way to be likable and appeal to the wider audience. But this isn’t the case for Shinobu. In a beautiful sense of irony, one of the central themes of Shinobu’s character is the notion that she is literally defined by all of her flaws.
Her hidden anger, violent desire for revenge, and refusing to go back on any of her morals made this character not only startle me upon my first watch of the series, but also made her immediately stand out to me. These internal feelings are in direct opposition to her exterior, which is presented as a kind, caring, and nurturing healer who seeks to help all those in need. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of Retsu Unohana from the Bleach series.
Shinobu’s conflicting persona as a healer and a poisoner goes beyond her role in the story and also serves to foreshadow to us, the viewer, the paths her character could take throughout the story. What makes this character stand out is that she embraces the poisoner and destructive side of her through and through, holding on to all her bitterness right until the very end. To illustrate this further, let’s take a look at the dichotomy between Shinobu and our main protagonist, Tanjiro.
Although moral and kind, Tanjuro rejects the actions of demons as they directly harm others. He only really seems to kill demons out of necessity, given that it’s the status quo of the world they live in and by extension a necessary evil that he must come to terms with. Tanjiro is a merciful killer.
I think Shinobu was placed in the Natagumo Mountain Arc to show us how she is the polar opposite to this. Gliding in with butterflies surrounding her, putting up a fake facade of kindness, and ultimately poisoning a demon to death was one of the most beautiful and terrifying character introductions I have ever seen.
But more so, it serves to show us that Shinobu has no shred of empathy towards demons and, in fact, hates them from the bottom of her heart. She could care less about any of the humanity they may have carried over from their human lives. In this regard, Shinobu is a merciless killer.
And you may be asking, what experiences could a character go through that turns them into an apathetic killing machine? I’m glad you asked. The sad irony behind Shinobu’s dream is that it was never her dream to begin with, nor did she ever have a dream to call her own. For her sister Kanae, it was her vision that one day humans and demons would be able to live peacefully alongside each other and foster a healthy relationship.
Having the utmost respect for her sister, Shinobu put the burden of this dream on her shoulders despite her deeply rooted anger. While these good intentions are rightfully placed, they leave Shinobu in a state of internal struggle. She knows that someone like her can’t be a successor of Kanae as well. This is the reason why she’s calmed by the fact that people like Tanjido exist in the world who can carry on this vision.
This is the true essence of Shinobu’s goal: finding the right person to not fulfill her ambitions, but those of her departed sister. And while it would be thematic and fitting if Kanae were to fill this role as successor, I feel like Shinobu knew deep down that Kanae carried as much rage in her heart as she did, given she was part of the Kocho family from a very young age.
This overarching goal is the sole reason why Shinobu is the way she is. If not for this dream, Shinobu would be more than happy to let out all of her rage. But instead, she clings onto her sister’s dream, forcing herself to be the person that she knows her sister would want to see in the world. And it’s because of this, and this knowledge, that her outburst when fighting Upper Moon 2 Doma is so powerful.
While we don’t get a whole lot of information on Shinobu and Kanae’s relationship, there’s enough for us to conclude that it was a relationship grounded in inferiority. Deep down, Shinobu has always been an incredibly insecure person, whether it’s thoughts like not being strong enough or tall enough to behead a demon, being a cold or distant person, and most importantly, not being her sister Kanae. Within Shinobu, there is a desire to show others the love that Kanae showed to everyone around her.
Shinobu’s phony cheeriness is also a product of wanting to cater and show affection to those that are close to her. During the flashback with Kanae, we see that Shinobu used to be an incredibly abrasive, rude, and almost abusive individual. Her calm demeanor we see in the beginning of the series is also a reflection on her sense of self-worth, as she knows she’s a bad person, and emulating Kanae is her method of coping with this realization. But behind all of this, we know that there’s a deeply rooted sense of love that doesn’t come from Kanae; it really is Shinobu’s true feelings.
In her most desperate moment against Doma, a vision of Kanae appears, entrusting Shinobu with finishing the demon as opposed to running, putting the utmost faith in her, a sentiment that is ultimately later shared from Shinobu to Kanao. From a distance, Shinobu is a character who is fueled by rage, hatred, and revenge, but still shows a deep amount of love for those close to her.
She really does embrace the worst parts of her, deciding to leave the story angry and fighting as opposed to healing and accepting. Although she herself doesn’t feel worthy enough to live, she leaves the story selflessly protecting others by poisoning Doma and paving the way for Inosuke and Kanao to finish him off.
Overall, this conflicting but net positive ideology made this character truly amazing and one that I will never forget. What are your thoughts on Shinobu’s character? Do you agree with my interpretation? Let me know in the comment section below. If you’re new to the channel, I have a growing list of character analysis blogs from Demonstrator, which you can find right here. And I’m looking to publish a whole lot more Demonstrator moving forward. Thank you all so much for reading. As always, your support is absolutely outstanding. Take care everyone. Until next time, stay curious, anime fam.
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.