Tanjiro was originally not the protagonist of Demon Slayer. How does the manga differ from its earlier versions?

A recent article by Magmix goes over some examples of popular series that were conceived with concepts very different from what they ended up with. Especially interesting is the way the story of the hit manga Demon Slayer changed throughout its initial stages.

The Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba series has gained a large fanbase for its exciting plot and unique characters. However, it seems that the series that so many fans have come to love actually underwent significant changes during its early planning stages. Magmix provides some interesting insight on Demon Slayer’s journey from prototype to final work.

Demon Slayer is a fantasy, action-adventure manga series created by Koyoharu Gotouge and first published in 2016. The manga’s story revolves around the main character Tanjiro Kamado, who struggles to revert his demon-turned younger sister Nezuko back into a human after a demon attacks and kills the rest of their family.

Demon Slayer’s Tanjiro and Nezuko

According to the article, a short manga titled Kagarigari served as the prototype for what would later become Demon Slayer. This prototype was created by Gotouge and submitted to the Jump Treasure Newcomer Manga Award (now known as the Jump New World Manga Award) in 2013.

Kagarigari exhibits many similarities to the final version of Demon Slayer. For instance, it is set in what appears to be an earlier period of Japan and begins with a distressed village falling victim to attacks by a supernatural force. However, in the world of Kagarigari, the adversaries seem to be more akin to vampires rather than the demons seen in Demon Slayer. Furthermore, the manga features a different protagonist. Instead of Tanjiro, the main character in the prototype is Nagare, a blind one-armed vampire hunter armed with a sword.

Kagarigari protagonist, Nagare

Kagarigari begins in a village that has suffered consecutive attacks by a vampire, resulting in numerous casualties. In an effort to prevent further bloodshed, Tamayo, a vampire seemingly living peacefully among the villagers, her companion, Yushiro, and another vampire, Tokikawa, initiate a battle against the vampire responsible for the killings. Before long, the vampire hunter Nagare also joins the fight.

Kagarigari received positive recognition from judges for the Jump’s Newcomer Award, earning an honorary mention. Subsequently, Gotouge further refined the story of Kagarigari to create Kisatsu no Nagare (lit. Flow of Killing Demons) in 2015, which was planned to be serialized.

Kiasatsu no Nagare version of Nagare, now missing additional limbs

Kisatsu no Nagare features the same main character as Kagarigari but with a slightly different plot. In this second prototype, the story delves into Nagare’s background as an abandoned child who was raised by and subsequently joined an organization known as the Demon Slayer Corps. However, Kisatsu no Nagare was apparently rejected during a serialization meeting, and the editor in charge asked for a “more normal” protagonist. To this, Gotouge mentioned the existence of a “charcoal-selling boy” who was originally intended as a supporting character. As a result, the story was reconstructed with the boy as the main character, giving birth to the current Demon Slayer. It seems that in order to make the manga more marketable, a more relatable character was chosen to become the main protagonist.

Demon Slayer protagonist, Tanjiro

The world of Demon Slayer and its prototypes are somewhat intertwined as some characters make an appearance in the manga’s final version. Although the concept manga’s protagonist Nagare never appears in the Demon Slayer world, other prominent characters such as Yushiro and Tamayo have been featured, albeit with some changes to their backstories, as both Yushiro and Tamayo are demons in the Demon Slayer manga.

Kagarigari’s character Tokikawa seems to have somewhat inspired Demon Slayer’s Muzan, as the characters have very similar dress styles and share a similar, cold personality. Additionally, Nagare, although differing vastly in temperament, seems to possess what would become Tanjiro’s scent abilities.

Kagarigari character, Tokikawa

Many popular series have gone through significant story and character changes in an attempt to enhance their marketability. Although Demon Slayer shifted from its original concept to a somewhat different approach, it could have been interesting for some fans to see how the slightly darker tones of the prototypes’ stories might have unfolded had they been developed further.

Remi Morisawa
Remi Morisawa
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