When we think of characters with a snake theme in anime, we often think of someone who’s deceitful, hiding something mysterious, and has evil intentions. Think of characters like Orochimaru from Naruto, Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez from Bleach, or Medusa from Soul Eater. While this doesn’t constitute their entire characters, I think we’ve been partially conditioned by anime to believe that they’re the type of people that embody this very theme, waiting for their perfect opportunity to strike.
But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s sometimes hard to look past that devious persona and outward appearance. And there’s one character in mind who couldn’t symbolize this concept more than the one we’re talking about today – Obanai Iguro.
On the surface, Obanai just looks like your everyday slithery snake man who’s gonna stab you in the back when you least expect it. Just kidding! Obanai is a great character despite everything he shows on his outward exterior; he embodies something much different on the interior. Like many of his fellow Hashira, Obinai suffered due to the actions of the demons in his past.
However, he’s sadly the most scarred by this, and it shows. The beautiful thing is that he’s a character who overcame absolutely everything, despite the hand he was dealt in the world.
So, join me as I take you on an adventure looking into someone who had absolutely nothing in life but gained nearly everything. Let’s get into today’s blog. As a quick disclaimer, there will be spoilers in this blog, going into some of the later manga chapters of Demon Slayer. So, at your own discretion, please proceed with caution.
From his very birth, Iguro was considered different from those he considered to be his family. You see, Iguro was the first boy born into his family in 370 years, with one eye being dark blue and the other being a beautiful yellow. All that he can remember is being locked in a wooden cage his entire life, being lavishly spoiled by his family, given so much food to the point where he got sick from the smell of it. All this was all he knew for the first 12 years of his life.
It wasn’t until the age of 12 when Obanai was able to leave his wooden cell and confront the harsh reality of his world. The truth was that his family was feeding him this rich food so that he could ultimately be eaten by a snake demon his family was worshiping, due to being the first male born into the family in a long time. In his beautiful eyes, the demon took an interest in the child at birth but wanted to wait until he was older to savor every last bite of him.
All Obanai knew from the moment he entered the world was betrayal. The people who were supposed to be closest to him were leaving him for dead, realizing his eventual fate. Every single day was absolute torture for Obanai, as he worried his family or the demon would figure out about his eventual escape. Using a small hairpin that he brought into his cell, he would slowly scratch the wooden cage every single night, trying to make a hole small enough to where he could slip through.
Amidst all of the terror, anxiety, and worry, there was one shining light in this gloomy situation that brightened Obanai’s spirits. This was a little white snake known as Kaburamaru. His family were a clan of thieves who lived off the riches of those who were killed by the demon that they worshiped.
This demon, ironically enough, was a snake demon with a woman’s body and a snake’s head. The family kept the demon happy by constantly providing the demon food in exchange for its protection. But on one fateful day, Obanai escaped his family’s home, fleeing for his life. The snake demon caught up with him and was about to kill him when Shinjuro Rengoku, Kyojuro Rengoku’s father, saved his life.
After being saved, Shinjuro took Obanai to his cousin, who berated him, telling him in a fit of rage that the snake demon killed all 50 members in the household. Although meaningless, the bitter words of Obanai’s cousin struck a harsh chord with him and caused him to feel a massive amount of guilt as a result.
Ultimately, my take on Obanai’s backstory is one of tragic irony, and to be honest with you, I think it’s one of the most tragic backstories of all the Hashira. Not only did Obanai never live with people who genuinely cared about him, he was even unfortunate enough to be betrayed and live in fear his entire life.
The women in his family putting on fake smiles and having a happy disposition despite their malicious intent to feed a young Obanai to the snake demon is similar to the key elements of snakes that we would usually associate with. However, in contrast, Obanai’s one and only friend, Kaburamaru, is the literal embodiment of an actual snake, something that instills hope, companionship, and most of all, worth.
You see, the heart of Obanai’s backstory and character arc revolve around one key concept: his perceived worth as a person. There is no better place that we see firsthand how this impacts his philosophy than through his incredibly sad backstory. Despite doing something to save his own life and escape a terrible situation, Obanai has deep feelings of regret for the people that lost their lives due to his perceived selfish action.
The core reason why he became a Demon Slayer was to take all of his anger, rage, and resentment out on demons while doing something valiant and protecting the weak from them. But despite this, he never loses the gut-wrenching feeling that his deceased family is cursing him, wishing it was him that was eaten on that fateful night and not them. Even after years and years of being a Demon Slayer and ascending to the rank of a Hashira, these memories still linger next to him, cultivating him into the man we see during the Hashira meeting.
Seeing Obanai in the present storyline allows us to extrapolate a lot from his character. We see Obanai enter the story as a cold, harsh, and cruel individual that sets on rules and prioritizes strength above everything else. Most notably, we see Obanai being one of two Hashira to physically oppose Tanjiro, not allowing him to breathe. My theory on why Obanai was so harsh on Tanjiro from the very beginning has a lot to do with how he was raised and his notion of family.
Obviously, due to the traumatic nature of his past, Obanai grew up realizing that you can’t trust anyone in this world, even your own. To see how much Tanjiro loved and cared for Nezuko, frankly, I believe made him feel disgusted. He most likely thought to himself, ‘How could someone care for another family member, even if they aren’t a demon, let alone an actual demon?’ This left Obanai feeling incredibly unsympathetic towards Tanjiro and his cause.
The second relationship, and one that I want to touch on in a little more depth, is Obanai’s relationship with the Love Hashira, Mitsuri Kanroji. The dynamic between the two could be their very own blog by itself – ‘Top Demon Slayer Ships’ in the comments if that’s something you’d like to see. At their very core, they both believe that there’s one unquestionable fact about their lives: nobody will ever love them. Obanai has a freakishly scarred mouth resembling the snake demon he’s traumatized by.
While Mitsuri has the strength of seven humans, being labeled as a freakish monster even whilst being at the apex of Demon Slayers. I firmly believe that the biggest battle that these two characters are fighting is the battle against acceptance. From birth, Obanai was literally raised to be a sacrifice, while Mitsuri felt she was the root of all rejections she received in her life due to her monstrous strength.
In the face of all this rejection, their instinct is to hide, blend in with the crowd, and just try to live their lives as normal people. And that’s the beauty of their relationship. For the first time in either of their lives, they found someone who’s the exact same as the other. They found someone who fights demons to make themselves feel like they’re worth it, who does good deeds to make themselves feel redeemed, someone who seeks external validation from the outside.
All this to say that it makes for an incredibly tragic but also beautiful relationship. If you note their conversations in the manga, it’s clear that they both are in love with each other, but they use words like ‘That’s impossible for me’ or ‘Under normal circumstances’ as a crutch they use to confirm that they aren’t worthy of love.
In either of their lifetimes, which, to be honest, really struck a depressing chord with me. Despite his past, his relationships, and even his outlook on life, I believe that Iguro is someone who can only be admired. Literally, with all the odds against him, Iguro is someone who broke free from his torment, became a Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps, fought toe-to-toe with the Demon King himself, and even summoned the courage to turn his nichirin blade.
This was someone who wasn’t overly talented, definitely wasn’t blessed with natural strength, nor fostered in an environment where he could thrive. The only thing he couldn’t overcome was himself, and that’s where the essence of the Snake Hashira’s character lies. If you enjoyed this blog, consider liking, subscribing, commenting your thoughts, or supporting the channel in any way you see fit. If this blog got you thinking more, I’d love for you to check out my latest blog analyzing the Love Hashira, Mitsuri Kanroji. 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.