What makes a good relationship in anime? You see, by their very nature, relationships are subjective and could be based around very different reasons. Gon and Killua bond over the fact that they never had someone their own age that they could connect to and just be themselves.
Edward and Alphonse Elric are brothers who would go to the ends of the Earth for each other but would also take no crap from the other. It’s beautiful to see character dynamics that center around a common theme, a shared understanding, and is founded on a point that others around them just don’t seem to get.
In Demon Slayer, I’ll preface this by saying that Demon Slayer really doesn’t do anything new with their relationships, but that by no means takes away the significance and messages they carry. One of the core messages central to Kimatsuno Yaiba is that everything isn’t how it seems.
There are demons that are on the side of good, sleeping scaredy-cats who are actually badasses in combat, and redeeming qualities to even the worst villains. In direct correlation to this, there’s a cherished relationship that goes beyond appearances with one being a pink-haired outcast whose immense strength segregated her from living a normal life and a frail boy whose upbringing never had him knowing a normal life in the first place.
Together, these two build such a wholesome relationship that embodies these core messages and inspires us to understand that the odds could be defied no matter the cost.
It goes without saying that there will be spoilers going into many of the events in Demon Slayer that aren’t yet covered by the manga, so as a quick disclaimer, please proceed with caution. Let’s get into today’s blog.
The essence of Mitsuri and Obanai’s beliefs on people is clearly indicated by their experiences of their past. That’s why before I get into the specifics of their relationship, I think it’s important to discuss what molded each of them into the characters that we know them to be.
Mitsuri Kanroji, for all intents and purposes, is the archetypal character for someone you should not aspire to be, the quirky reject if you will. Taking Light Yagami from Death Note as a counter example, he’s a straight-A student, popular with the ladies, planning on going to the best university in all of Japan, and has a stable family life. He is, in a way, a cartoonishly overemphasized depiction of what everyone should aspire to be in their day-to-day lives.
On the other hand, being blessed with the strength of eight people, Mitsuri displays a strength that most men would be afraid of. On top of this, she needs to eat an enormous amount just to feel satiated. To round things off, instead of the traditional dark black hair that would typically be associated with beauty, it had changed through her diet of Sakura mochita pink and green colors, further polarizing her from the norms of the time she lives in.
Through Mitsuri’s very existence, it felt like her fate was to be an outcast that nobody wanted to look at, be with, or acknowledge in everyday life. Obviously, this was a huge blow to Mitsuri and her confidence. Nobody around her truly seemed to care, especially the person she was set up to marry, telling her that only a boar or a cow would take her as their wife. God, I hate this guy so much.
As a result of the pressure to be the person everyone wanted her to be, she’d bend to societal norms. She dyed her hair black, starved herself to the point of dizziness, pretending as weak as possible, and all in all neglected the beautiful god-given traits that made her well, her. Many of us, and even myself, can sincerely relate to Mitsuri. As people living amongst others, we want to please others as much as possible.
We will go to extreme lengths to change for people or show others exactly what they want to see because we genuinely enjoy when they are happy. But as much as we love to see the smile on others, the ultimate reality will come crashing down on us, and we realize that the facade that we put on for others isn’t sustainable because it’s not who we’re happy with being.
When this reality hits Mitsuri, she’s frankly devastated, feeling like she has no home that she belongs to until she is taken into the Demon Slayer Corps and finds a group of people, each with their own traumas and tribulations in life that she relates to. And even more so, finds a person who is deeply in love with her for nothing less than herself.
Obanai is a character plagued with impurity, disgusted with himself, disgusted with his family. He too is a product of a bloodline that cast him out, and even worse, never truly cared for him in the first place. He’s a character who’s filled with doubt and an immediate assumption of what women are like, having been the only people he had grown up with.
For all he knows, women are people who deceive, who lie, who hurt, and who sacrifice all for their own selfish gain. His will to live and endure was the only thing getting him through the hardships, torture, and trauma that his family had subjected him to. And as we soon find out during his fateful escape, that this will to live would come face to face with the ideals of his one remaining family member.
Oh but I knew that his actions were wrong. He knew that the demon only kept him alive due to his rare and unique eyes. He knew that most likely its rage would spell the end of his family. Hearing his last surviving family member tell him that he should have been the one to die instead, it left Obanai in a state of mixed emotions, swirling together to ultimately coalesce into a person who asks himself, “Am I someone fit to live in this world?”
This deep existential crisis and the need to feel wanted fueled Obanai into becoming a Demon Slayer and attempting to save as many lives as possible. Hopefully, this would give him a redeeming quality after his unforgivable sin of indirectly slaughtering his entire family. Hopefully, this would give his self-proclaimed impure life meaning, but sadly, it didn’t.
Although joining a noteworthy team of demon Slayers to fight alongside on a mission that he could follow and a noble purpose for his life, he still felt the same disgust with himself as he did in his past. But as fortune blessed him, there was someone who didn’t care about his past. She cared about the sweet man he truly was in the present moment.
In Shonen, relationships follow a very clear-cut and direct path. The guy, sometimes our main protagonist, is this irresistibly attractive person without flaws and completely ignores the girl that’s deeply in love with him.
You can basically find this in any mainstream Shonen anime. And typically, the two parties involved are a perfect fit for one another and represent what a perfect couple would look like. The beauty of Obanai and Mitsuri’s relationship is that they’re everything an idealistic relationship is not.
Mitsuri is taller, physically stronger, outwardly more attractive, and comes from a warm and welcoming family, despite her quirky nature. On the other hand, Obanai is short, naturally weak, was cut across the face by his family to replicate the snake demon they served, and has only known deceit and betrayal his entire life.
And something that I find so refreshing and amazing to see about Mitsuri is that she doesn’t care about any of that. Although shy and dismissive of her true nature, she lives up to her name as the Love Hashira when she shows Obanai something that he’s never experienced before in his entire life: unconditional love.
For the first time in his life, I believe that this made Obanai feel genuine happiness. Mitsuri changed the way he saw life, and for that, he would carry only the highest amount of love for her. Tragically but also beautifully, these are just two characters who fill in the cracks of the other, and that’s enough for them. Even as they lay dying, Mitsuri proposes to Obanai, and he responds humbly that if she’s okay with him, then of course he would say yes.
It’s tragic to see these two holding on to their traumas from their past of still not being enough even though they’re with the perfect person. Nonetheless, it’s heartwarming to know that they are genuinely with someone who loves them for the person they are.
If you enjoy this Demon Slayer analysis, I’d love for you to leave a comment below of your thoughts on this amazing relationship and what you think of it. I’ll see you in the next one. 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.