Why do you think it’s the case that so many people find the water Hashira, Giyu Tomioka, a confusing but also engaging character? Is it due to his silent nature, his outlook on power as a whole, or maybe you’re just into the strong silent types that every anime is well-known for? Being introduced to this character in the beginning of the story and seeing him as the pinnacle of strength in the Demon Slayer world, many of us assumed that Giyu was a character who had it all figured out and would serve as a pillar (no pun intended) for Tanjiro and our main cast of characters.
But in classic tragic anime backstory fashion, we find that he too is an incredibly damaged person with debatably the worst sense of self-worth in the series. Despite his monstrous levels of strength, to me, I believe that the irony of Giyu’s character is how he’s meant to be depicted as an emotionless voice, despite having feelings of inferiority, regret, and anger buried deep beneath the surface. With all these elements at play, Giyu is someone who I find completely fascinating and couldn’t resist analyzing why he is truly the way he is.
So, I’m here today to expose the truth behind this enigma of a character, and it’s all starting right now. What’s up, anime fanbase? Welcome back to Anime Analysis, a channel dedicated to discussing and analyzing the best character’s anime has to offer. Today, we’re looking at none other than the deadpan, multicolored, Hiori Hashira himself, Giyu Tomioka. If you enjoyed this blog and want to see more Demon Slayer content analysis or have recommendations for other anime you’d like to see me dive into, make sure you hit the thumbs up button and leave your suggestions in the comments down below.
As always, Giyu Tomioka grew up alongside his sister, Tsutako Tomioka. As her and his parents sacrificed themselves against a demon attack while trying to tell the others that his sister was killed by a demon, he was labeled as mentally ill and sent off to live with one of his relatives. While running away from this relative, Giyu was on the brink of death until he was saved by none other than the former Water Pillar himself, Sakonji Urokodaki. It was here that Giyu would meet his soon-to-be best friend, Sabito, another fellow orphan where they would train using the Water Breathing style of combat.
Over this time, they bonded over their shared trauma and entered the Final Selection exam together. Just like Tanjiro did, Giyu ended up being injured by the first demon that he faced on the mountain and passed out for the remainder of the exam. Upon waking up, he was told that Sabito had defeated nearly every single demon on the mountain and was also the only one to die in the exam, meaning that every other person had passed the exam except for Giyu’s dear friend. This would come to haunt Giyu for years and years to come.
This backstory lays the foundation for essentially why Giyu is the way he is and truly illuminates the words that he says throughout the story. The main problem with Giyu’s character lies in the fact that he takes personal responsibility and trauma as a way of coping with it and regaining some semblance of control in his mind. If only he had been stronger, he could have prevented all of this from happening in the first place. A perfect example of this projection is seen when Giyu lectures Tanjiro in the very first episode as he’s holding off a newly demonized Nezuko.
He blames Tanjiro for going to fetch firewood overnight, like he may have been able to foresee a demon attacking his family on that specific evening. By putting this fault on Tanjiro’s shoulders, he’s essentially protecting and communicating that everything in life can be boiled down to whether you are strong or weak and take extreme responsibility over everything in your life. It’s Giyu’s fault that his sister Anne Sabito died, while it’s Tanjiro’s fault for being away while his whole family was murdered.
In retrospect, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but nonetheless, Giyu feels tremendous amounts of responsibility and love towards both his sister and Sabito. Going on to live without them is essentially the same as living without a piece of yourself. Wishing that he had just died alongside them, given this, the one word that I could describe and associate the most with Giyu’s character is “weak.” It’s an incredibly black and white way of seeing the world, I’ll admit, but nonetheless, it’s one that Giyu has come to adopt based off of the significant trauma that he’s endured throughout his life.
So honestly, I don’t really blame him. The reason this is so ingrained within him is due to the fact that the weak lose everything and the strong protect everything, plain and simple. Because of this ideology, Giyu comes off as an incredibly arrogant person to those around him, to a point where it almost seems like he’s acting overly tough or trying to stand strong all on his own. This is why we see him standing away or distant from his fellow pillars at times. However, what Giyu actually feels is an incredible sense of inferiority and shame because of an inner weakness.
He believes that it’s not his place to stand with the Hashido because, in his mind, he was never one to begin with. It should be Sabito standing there, not him. In my humble opinion, I believe this is an incredibly childish way to handle loss because it’s all based on his personal feelings of grief and suffering. The survivor’s guilt that Giyu experiences leaves his emotions truly stunted, so it’s no wonder why he always dons that deadpan expression on his face. It’s only natural that he wouldn’t be able to process any sorts of emotions in any kind of way that’s remotely healthy.
But on a positive note, I think the silver lining is that Giyu embodies an idea that we can all stand by. That is the idea of acceptance. Sure, Giyu sees himself as a weak person who cannot do anything, but it’s only when he begins to accept those feelings at the end of the story instead of trying to live strong that he comes to a realization that his loved ones are still remaining within him. So, with that little short analysis out of the way, what are your thoughts on Giyu’s character? Do you feel like he communicated these same ideas to you or something different entirely?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below. If you enjoyed this and want to see more analysis content similar to this, I’ll leave a link to my Demon Slayer analysis playlist right up here. As always, thank you all so much for reading, and until next time, stay curious, anime fan. Peace.
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.