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Decoding the ‘Demon Slayer’ Symbol

Tanjiro in 'Demon Slayer'

Wait … you’re saying Demon Slayer has symbolism and deeper meaning?

I thought Demon Slayer was just a slice-and-dice demon-killing action fest? With some hyper-sexualized teenagers thrown in for good measure? Now you’re telling me that I have to be on the lookout for symbolism? Are there greater themes? Is there a SparkNotes page? Is this gonna be on the test? Do I even have time to study? I am gonna fail anime school? How am I ever gonna go to anime college? I was planning getting a double major in Opening Cinematics and Hentai, but I guess now I have to entirely rethink my life path, don’t I!? Am I gonna be stuck waiting tables for a bunch of anime professionals? With doctorate degrees in anime?! MY LIFE IS OVER.

Guess I better start cramming for the test now …

The world’s greatest study guide (a.k.a. the internet) tells me that the symbol on the back of the Demon Slayer Corps uniforms has deeper symbolic meaning. The issue is that this meaning is extremely difficult to translate into English because the symbol is a kanji that was made up solely for the show itself. The symbol is pronounced “metsu” and it looks like this:

Metsu symbol from Demon Slayer

A helpful internet denizen named Junko from Japan has the answer to what the symbol means. According to Junko, the three dots on the left of the symbol represent “flowing water,” while the right side of the symbol stands for “burning fire.” Taken as a whole, the symbol could depict water attempting to extinguish fire, and therefore the meaning of the entire symbol might be “to drive something into extinction.” The water-and-fire motif is explored in Demon Slayer, as Tanjiro performs the Water Breathing Dance of the Fire God in order to slay demons.

And speaking of slaying, the title of the show uses the “metsu” kanji in combination with the kanji for “ki,” which means “oni,” a type of demon from Japanese folklore. The Japanese title of the show “Kimetsu no Yaiba” can be taken to mean “demon killing blade” as “ki” represents “demon,” “metsu” represents “kill” or “annihilate,” and “Yaiba” means “blade” or “sword.” The word “no” is similar to the English word “of,” so the title could also be read as “blade of demon killing.” Way cooler than the English title.

As for the circular shape in the Demon Slayer logo, its meaning is up for interpretation. The ragged shape of the half circle reminds one of the slash of a sword, and the red outline is a pretty obvious stand-in for blood. The symbol could also be interpreted to depict a moon, which holds significance in the story. After all, demons are only able to come out at night, and the 12 most powerful demons that exist in the world at the same time are known as “Moons,” with “Upper” and “Lower” added to the front of their title to signify whether they are in the top six or bottom six of the ranking system.

You know what, I think I’m gonna ace this test now.

(featured image: Ufotable)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.