Why do anime fans love Nezuko? This is a question that I’ve been thinking about recently, and a question that I believe is best to tackle in an analysis-style format. The role of the female protagonist in Shonen can be a point of contention and part of many people’s disappointments when it comes to a respective series.
Taking a look at Sakura from Naruto, she is constantly plagued with the criticism that she’s weak, doesn’t do practically anything in the series, and even has the audacity to compare herself to Naruto and Sasuke during their battle against Kaguya. Something that I know irritated a ton of the fandom. Another one that I hear gets tossed around all the time is Mikasa from Attack on Titan, claiming that she’s Isayama’s biggest failure and a flat-out boring character.
And yes, while the Shonen anime is meant for young men, as the name implies, it’s really important to remind ourselves that it would be an absolute crime to say that this extends to the entirety of the genre as a whole.
In comes the year 2019 when we’re met with the introduction to the hit series Demon Slayer. And with this show, a character who blessed our hearts and restored faith in Shonen’s seemingly lost humanity. As I’m sure you’re all aware by the title of this blog, this character is none other than Tanjiro’s demonized little sister, Nezuko.
A running theme with many of the demons in the series is that they all have a tragic backstory of some kind. Rui has massive family issues, Gyutaro and Daki lived difficult and hellish lives. But this is the first of many differences between our antagonists and the dearly beloved character of Nezuko.
Throughout this blog, let’s take a look at some of Nezuko’s backstory, character traits, and actions throughout the story that make her someone that has touched all of our hearts at one point or another. And why I believe she truly sets herself apart from her contemporaries.
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I’ll start things off by saying that Demon Slayer has very unique elements that help it stand out from the typical Shonen anime that we all came to know and love. Related to this, the brother-sister dynamic is really nothing new to anime either. The brother and sister are rivals, don’t like each other very much, or don’t serve as an integral part of the other’s character. But I can tell you right now that this is not the case with Tanjiro and Nezuko.
This new and refreshing take sees Nezuko, the female protagonist, working synergistically with our main male protagonist, Tanjiro Kamado. In fact, it’s so pronounced that the story emphasizes the importance of the Kamado family from the very first episode and shows us how much they truly care for one another. Also, keep in mind the story starts off with Nezuko as a human, which further personifies her as someone who puts family above all else.
And this is when things are going well, but what happens when everything goes wrong? Throwing a curveball in the very first episode of the series, Tanjiro returns from the village after a cold delivery to find that his entire family had been brutally murdered. And based on the nature of the carnage, it can only be assumed that a demon was involved.
While mortified and looking in despair at the family he loves so deeply, he finds a single light within that darkness, that is, the realization that his sister Nezuko is still alive. Motivated by the sense of saving the only thing he has left in the world, this is a point in the story that further deepens the bond he and Nezuko share. And even upon being turned into a demon, she defies her demon urges and retains a large portion of her humanity, even going so far as to protect him from imminent danger.
This is when I had the inclination that Demon Slayer was not going to follow the path of many anime before it. And when I knew that I would love Nezuko as a character.
Never before have they illustrated family relationships in this way, and I think it’s something that any sibling or family member could relate to, which is what makes it so loved and cherished by the community. Inherently, there didn’t need to be any backstory, growth of a friendship, or time spent to get to know the characters and their bond with each other.
They were purely family, and with that came an endless amount of love and familiarity that made this initial scene hit harder than most. Regardless of whether she was a human or a demon, the audience knew from the get-go that Nezuko would be by Tanjiro’s side until the very end.
The next reason why Nezuko is so well-loved by the community is, let’s face it, her appearance. Nezuko was shown as the person who would never hurt a fly and never gives the impression that she means any harm to anyone unless they are outright hostile.
Even in moments of severe temptation, like when Sanemi tempted her with his own blood, she still had the mental willpower to fight it off. Additionally, she, for unknown reasons, gains the ability to shrink when she becomes a demon, which only makes her more loved and cared for by the audience. I mean, in all seriousness, who didn’t think it was adorable when Nezuko got into a bamboo box and Tanjiro was carrying her around everywhere he went?
As well as the times when she was running away from Kanao, shrinking in size to avoid her attacks. Those moments truly crack me up. While seemingly inconsequential and played up for laughs most of the time, these moments made us attach to the character as she becomes more and more likable as the series progresses.
The third and probably what I believe to be one of the bigger reasons that Nezuko is so liked is due to her ability to fight for herself and completely independently from her brother, Tanjiro. I absolutely love how Demon Slayer plays between the concepts of Tanjiro and Nezuko saving each other throughout the story.
For example, Nezuko saves Tanjiro when she kicks the head off the Temple Demon, while Tanjiro saves Nezuko in their fight against Lower Moon 5, Rui. Later in the same season, Tanjiro would go on to save Nezuko from Sanemi’s torture, while she would come in just in the nick of time with Tanjiro’s fight against Upper Moon 6, Daki, sporting her new demon transformation. This give and take with Tanjiro and Nezuko’s relationship is such a breath of fresh air when it comes to Shonen anime.
The pureness and care they express for one another, paired with their equal effectiveness in battle, make me appreciate the amazing character duo built in Tanjiro’s sister.
Lastly, the final and defining reason that Nezuko is so unanimously loved in the story of Demon Slayer, and something that I’ve made a point on in this entire blog, is her loving and caring nature in general. Gotoge does an amazing job of humanizing so many of the demons throughout the story to the point where we empathize with them as a result. But this has always been the case for our dear Nezuko.
From the beginning of the story, her love for her brother is something that is unquestionable and never wavers a single time throughout the story, showing vast differences between the typical Shonen character arc. Even while she’s harmless to humans, she still wears her trademark bamboo muzzle to show her docile nature and commitment to never eating a human.
All in all, it goes without saying that she embodies the brightness of the sun that her family is so closely associated with. What are your guys’ favorite traits about Nezuko Kamado? What Nezuko moment throughout the series has been your favorite so far? And would you guys like to see a more in-depth analysis blog about Nezuko in the future? Let me know in the comments down below.
Also, let me know whether you enjoy more of this informal style of blog versus some of the formal analysis blogs I’ve posted on the channel thus far. And if you’re new here and you want to check out some analysis content, I’ll leave a link to my Demon Slayer playlist above. It’s been your host, Dil, from Anime Analysis, and until next time, stay curious, anime fam. 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.