Demon Slayer — The Silent Oppression of Nezuko
Female anime characters often face silencing, demonization, and objectification. Nezuko’s story is a stark illustration of this. Given Nezuko’s pivotal role in Demon Slayer, it is imperative to embark on an in-depth exploration of this matter, raising awareness about its significance. Nezuko’s story encourages us to continue fighting for justice by reviving important discussions on female inequality and societal tyranny.
When we delve into the world of Demon Slayer, tragedy and revenge collide in a dark and twisted tale in which we join Tanjiro Kamado on his journey, haunted by the horrors of his past. Driven by the brutal slaughter of his family and finding solace solely in his sister Nezuko, who herself has been transformed into a demon, Tanjiro is unwavering in his quest to restore her humanity. He becomes a fearless demon slayer, but he follows a path of compassion, choosing to vanquish demons with kindness.
Motivated by an unrelenting pursuit of justice, Tanjiro finds a glimmer of hope taking root within him. Guided by an unwavering resolve, he sets out to unravel the enigmatic mysteries shrouding demonkind. His journey is made alongside the enigmatic ranks of the Demon Slayer Corps, a united front against the looming malevolent forces.
The narrative’s allure transcends the confines of devoted fandom, extending a warm welcome to both steadfast enthusiasts and curious newcomers. Woven intricately, it threads through unforeseen complexities, poignant sentiments, and hard-fought victories, delving deep into themes of courage, selflessness, and redemption, offering a profound exploration of human attributes.
Together on this shared voyage, we’re compelled to reflect upon instances of reverence, amusement, and genuine emotion. The narrative beckons us to fully immerse ourselves in a world where transformation stands as a recurring motif, inviting us to contemplate the endless possibilities of change.
Nezuko — The Silenced Demon Girl
At just 12 years of age, Nezuko became a demon after her family was brutally slaughtered. She was then silenced by a male demon slayer, Gyiu Tomioka, and trapped in a box – shrinking to the size of a child — once again, allegedly for her protection. This confinement, a clear symbol of society’s oppression of women, reinforced the belief that women are incapable of making their own decisions, infantilizing them for their alleged own good. While I have read some articles stating that she could be compared to Buddhist monks, we have to point out and remember her silence was never her vow. It was never her choice, to begin with.
Nezuko’s silent battle conveys a profound message to the audience. While we have witnessed Tanjiro and the demon slayers’ efforts to liberate the world from demons’ tyranny in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, it’s essential to remember that these demons were once human. On top of all the demons, and some with amazingly intricately woven stories we learned of, Nezuko’s is one of sadness and hope.
When watched with a critical eye, Nezuko’s and other female depictions in Demon Slayer may be interpreted as a commentary on how women are often mistreated and silenced in society. By depicting these negative stereotypes, the show may be drawing attention to the issue and possibly urging viewers to recognize and challenge these harmful societal norms. With strong females, the show demonstrates that women can overcome these negative stereotypes and become powerful forces in their own right, thus calling viewers to women’s empowerment in real life.
Nezuko remains a force to be reckoned with, despite efforts to silence and own her, remaining strong to her decision not to cause harm to humans even when Sanemi Shinazugawa, the Wind Hashira, tried to make her drink his blood. She gives off the idea that she indeed decided to do good, despite the attempt to brainwash her, that is, using hypnotic suggestion to make her ‘do good’ and ‘see humans as her family’ — which becomes apparent at first when she sees good demons as a family as well.
The Big Showdown: Nezuko Takes Center Stage in the Entertainment District Arc
The Entertainment District arc in the anime series is intense and not suitable for children. Originally named the Red Light District arc in the manga, the name was changed to avoid any ties to the real-life adult entertainment industry. This arc shows things from a new perspective that challenges traditional views.
In the exploration of the prevailing conditions faced by women within this district, a compelling facet emerges when juxtaposed against the backdrop of a prominent female antagonist demon. This dynamic casts a sharper spotlight on the degrading experiences endured by women, accentuating their plight. I do not think it was by chance that Koyoharu Gotouge chose this point in the story to portray the further development of Nezuko, and her berserk transformation and evolution. But we shall get back to that soon.
Interlude: What Happened to Daki (Ume)
Daki, one of the Upper Six Demons, had her story told by her male brother only after her demise, which highlights the gender disparity prevalent in our society, where women are often subjugated and denied a voice. Daki’s fate is reminiscent of the historical persecution of powerful and independent women who were burned as witches, showcasing how women are still treated unfairly in reality. She was burned alive for standing up to a samurai who insulted her brother while she was working as a courtesan. Her tragic end reflects the harsh reality of how society punishes women who dare to assert themselves.
Daki’s character in Demon Slayer, as conveyed through her male brother’s narrative, serves as a poignant reflection of the pervasive gender disparity deeply rooted in our society. This gender inequity has been a historical issue across cultures, and in the context of Japan, it has its unique complexities and resonances.
Daki’s fate draws eerie parallels with historical events, particularly the persecution of powerful and independent women who were accused of witchcraft during various periods in history. In Japan, the narrative evokes memories of the onna-musha, or female warriors, who were marginalized and denied a rightful place in society. These women, like Daki, dared to challenge societal norms and assert their strength, yet they faced severe consequences for their audacity.
The story of Daki’s tragic demise is a stark reminder of how Japan, like many other cultures, has a history of punishing women who defy traditional gender roles. Her execution mirrors the harsh realities faced by women who dared to challenge the established order, a practice that persists even today, highlighting the imperative need for societal transformation, where women can assert themselves and be treated fairly, free from fear and repression. Demon Slayer masterfully weaves these cultural elements into its narrative, invoking thoughtful reflection on the gender disparities present in both Japan’s history and the present day.
Nezuko — Infantilization vs. Sexualization
While Nezuko may be portrayed as childlike, her transformation demonstrates an immense increase in power. With incredible abilities of regeneration and blood demon art, her character design purposely shifts to that of a sexualized adult replacing her innocent appearance. Displaying features such as large breasts, a horn, and vines on her body — illustrating her ability to adapt and flourish in difficult situations- Nezuko nearly loses control and attacks a human, ultimately requiring Tanjiro, her brother, and a man, to intervene and regulate her behavior once more.
As a woman, Nezuko’s character in Demon Slayer hits me close to home. I see how her struggles with demonization and sexualization mirror the real-life struggles that women face every day. It’s heartbreaking to see her boxed in and stripped of her agency for her own “protection,” as if women can’t make decisions for themselves. And when she goes berserk, she’s immediately sexualized, as if her worth as a character is defined solely by her appearance.
Nezuko’s character in Demon Slayer is indeed a complex and thought-provoking one, especially when we consider the layers of textual and meta-textual implications tied to her transformation into a berserk form. Textually, her demonization and subsequent monstrous appearance are central to the plot. Her struggles serve as a driving force for Tanjiro, the protagonist, as he seeks to cure his sister and understand her condition. This narrative element is integral to the story’s themes of family, sacrifice, and resilience.
However, when we look at it from a meta-textual perspective, the story takes on a different layer of meaning. Nezuko’s berserk form, which is indeed highly sexualized, raises important questions about the representation of female characters in anime, mainly shonen. It highlights a recurring issue where powerful or transformed female characters are often reduced to objects of fanservice, effectively sidelining their agency and character development in favor of their appearance.
This meta-textual aspect invites us to examine the genre’s relationship with gender dynamics. Shonen anime typically targets a young male demographic, and this audience’s expectations often drive the portrayal of female characters. Nezuko’s sexualized transformation can be seen as a reflection of these expectations, catering to a perceived male gaze within the genre.
The subtext here is a recurring tension in anime and manga between the need for strong, empowered female characters and the temptation to objectify them for commercial or aesthetic purposes. It prompts us to consider how this portrayal impacts the audience’s perception of gender roles and expectations. Does it reinforce stereotypes? Does it undermine the character’s autonomy and significance?
In exploring these facets of Nezuko’s character, we delve into the broader issues within anime and media in general, and how these portrayals can both perpetuate and challenge societal norms and expectations. It encourages us to critically analyze the choices made by creators and their implications on both storytelling and the culture surrounding the medium. Ultimately, Nezuko’s character becomes a lens through which we can examine the intricate relationship between gender representation, narrative conventions, and audience dynamics in anime and manga.
Nezuko — The Power of Actions Amidst a Silent Voice
Taking all these aspects into account, what truly underscores the power of Nezuko’s story is that it transcends mere reflections of cultural or religious attitudes toward women. The themes it touches upon are not bound by any specific culture; instead, they resonate on a universal level, significantly influencing the treatment of women in both fictional narratives and the real world. Nezuko’s character serves as a poignant symbol of the enduring oppression that women continue to encounter in contemporary society, effectively shedding light on the pervasive and deeply rooted nature of this issue across popular fiction and our day-to-day experiences.
As Tanjiro attempted to comfort her with a lullaby, it was the powerful presence of her mother that ultimately came to her aid, reflected in memories of the comforting sound of her voice and her unwavering strength. Then, with her anger suppressed, she kept on forging her path and wielding impressive power and skills.
Even silenced, Nezuko’s actions speak volumes and demonstrate her unwavering willpower. Her symbolic journey toward empowerment serves as a potent inspiration for women everywhere, underscoring the importance of supporting each other and striving to create a world where gender equality and dignity are the norms. In this scenario, Nezuko’s journey serves as a reminder that we must take action against the persistent injustice women have been subjected to, and strive for a society that treats us with equality and dignity. Her story gives us hope that we can stand a fighting chance against the discrimination and mistreatment we still face today.
What do you think? Leave a comment.