Home Samurai culture Black swords in Demon Slayer and other animes have deep meaning

Black swords in Demon Slayer and other animes have deep meaning

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When Tanjiro first put on his Nichirin sword Demon slayer, and it changed color to match its user’s personality like all Nichirin weapons, many fans were surprised that Tanjiro’s katana turned black. Here is a gentle and selfless orphan who only picked up the sword to save people from demons. An obsidian blade wasn’t exactly a personality fit.

But these facts are precisely why we should have expected the young Demon Slayer’s weapon to turn black (besides the fact that the “tan” in his name is written with a character for “charcoal”). In fact, the complex symbolism of color in Japanese culture fits perfectly with the values ​​exhibited by Tanjiro and other dark sword users throughout the anime.

Black Sword users are usually loners and orphans

Black Clover’s Asta and his Black Sword
Image: Pierrot

When you look at it closely, the clearer it becomes that the darker an anime character’s sword gets, the fewer parents they have and the more lonely they tend to be. At first glance, this may seem obvious due to the association of black with mourning and formality, which is present in Japan where black was and still is the color of funeral kimonos (although it depends on the color of the belt and other accessories). But the symbolism of black is more complicated than that. For centuries, one of the most famous wedding dresses in Japan was the black dress Kuro-bikifurisodebecause it symbolized the bride’s intention to “not to be dyed by someone else. “It really wasn’t that big of a jump from that to the anime, where black sword users are often strong-willed individualists or people who have lost loved ones.

Tanjiro is a prime example as he only became a Demon Slayer and only got his Dark Nichirin after a Human Slaying Demon had formed most of his family. Then you have Asta de Black clover, an orphan with the ability to summon dark-colored Anti-Magic swords. We also can’t forget about Bell Cranel from Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon?, an anime named after a question asked of exasperated D&D dungeon masters around the world. Like Asta, Bell also wouldn’t be able to ask his parents for help if he lost his Hestia black knife in the dark, as they died a bit unceremoniously off-screen. And even he is out of the black sword and orphaned by Guts de Berserk who wears the black Dragon Slayer sword the size of a surfboard and who has lost both his parents before being born (for more details / nightmare fuel, check out the anime or manga).

Tanjiro in Demon Slayer holding a black sword

Image: Ufotable

But having more black metal than a Norwegian record store doesn’t always mean saving money every year on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day gifts. Sometimes this just indicates that the character is working alone, which actually applies to Bell Cranel, initially the alone member of the Hestia Familia centered around the goddess Hestia. Another example is Dracule Mihawk of A piece, the owner of the giant black sword Yoru (literally translated: “Night”) who, for most of the story, lives alone in a giant castle and travels in a single-seater coffin-shaped ship.

Interestingly, the loneliness of the black sword bearers in the anime often has an element of social ostracism as with Crona, the reclusive owner of the Black Longsword Ragnarok from Soul eater and the unstable, psychologically damaged child of one of the show’s main villains, who believed needing other people made someone weaker. We can also cite Sasuke Sarutobi, an outcast feared by society because he grew up in a forest mastering his fighting skills, and bearer of the black blade Shibien of Samurai Deeper Kyo. Perhaps this too has a basis in historical facts as black is the color of Nara ink that has been used in the past to tattoo and, therefore, ostracize Japanese criminals.

Black swords are the weapons of the protectors

A Bell photo from Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Bell, in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon ?, holding a black blade
Image: JCStaff

Tanjiro first joins the Demon Slayer Corps only to protect his sister. But throughout the series, he risks his life not only for her but also for complete strangers. The fact that it protects them from evil demonic forces almost seems a bit too much on the nose, given the symbolism of the colors of Japanese talismans: Japanese lucky charms like Daruma dolls or maneki Neko cat figures come in different styles. colors, with black varieties said to protect their owners against evil. It works the same with anime black swords, which often belong to protectors.

In Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon?, the goddess Hestia begs the goddess Hephaestus to create a dark weapon for Bell specifically to protect him and for him to protect others. Then you have the black Ichigo Kurosaki wielding the sword of Bleach, who is such a protector, he literally has the character of “protection” in his name.

According to his father, the name was meant to help Ichigo on his way to helping others, and he really took it to heart by deciding from a young age to protect his mother. Then, upon the birth of his sisters, he began to practice martial arts to live up to the ideals of his name, and then used this desire to risk his life to drive out evil spirits. Even when the manifestation of his power wanted to unlock more of Ichigo’s potential, he did so by trying to get him to think about what he really wanted to protect. Basically the more you talk about Ichigo, the more the word “protect” starts to sound.

“Protection” is also a great theme with Berserker’s Fate zero, a “Servant” spirit and owner of the demonic and black sword Arondight. The sword was once called The Unfading Light of the Lake, and it only went from silver and gold to black after being filled with Berserker’s madness and resentment for not being able to protect King Arthur and Guinevere, since Berserker was once the Mr. Lancelot. Berserker is a particularly interesting character because on the outside he looks like your “badass demonic knight” cliché; in reality, his black color scheme hints at his tragic history as a fallen protector, making him much more complex than it appears.

Black swords often tell stories of redemption

A Guts Still Slicing Open Berserk Monsters

Guts in Berserk, using his black sword
Image: Liden Films

Throughout the history of Japan, many good things tended to be dark in color, such as samurai clothing, amulets to ward off evil, or black cats, which Japanese sailors did considered lucky due to their supposed ability to predict the weather. (In contrast, the long-tailed orange cats were considered malicious, meaning that Japan essentially predicted Garfield.)

Yet today “black” is more often used in a negative way as in “kuroboshi” (“black star”), meaning “black mark / defeat” or “burakku kigyo” (or “black company”) describing a business. that exploits its employees. . But in the anime, the historical association of black with luck and other positive aspects was not entirely lost thanks to the characters who embody the dual nature of color through redemption stories where bad things become. good.

Take another look at Guts, who has spent most of his life murdering demons and maiming humans to avenge his dead friends. But over time, his life purpose changed to protect the new living friends he made on his journey. Granted, he mostly protected them by snatching his namesake away from demons and humans, but, you know, small steps.

Redemption is such a common theme with anime black swords that they can sometimes tell you which “evil” characters will end up relaxing. This is what happened when Crona broke free from the control of their wicked witch mother Medusa and nearly died trying to save a friend on Soul eater. In the anime Yaiba, you have Takeshi Onimaru, who becomes a horned demon through the cursed sword Fujin. If he had stayed with that nonblack weapon, chances are he would have remained a villain until the end. But no ; By seeking out and obtaining the Devil King’s Black Sword, he ended the animated series as… maybe not the nicest guy, but at least more of a complete monster.

Sometimes, however, it is not the person who is redeemed but the sword itself, as is the case with Sasuke’s Shibien in Samurai Deeper Kyo, which has been used in the past to slaughter innocent people. Corn after he turned black from the blood of his victims, he found his new, less bloodthirsty owner who used the newly blackened blades for less psychotic purposes.

Black swords symbolize overcoming unjust limitations

One Piece's Kozuki Oden holding his black katana in front of the camera

One Piece’s Kozuki Oden and his black katana
Image: Toei Animation

In Soul eater, The weapons of the main characters are actually transformed demons, with the strange black sword being the form taken by the evil Masamune Nakatsukasa, the big brother of the demonic weapon Tsubaki Nakatsukasa. However, a katana was the alone form that Masamune could ever take while Tsubaki was able to transform into a variety of weaponry. The resulting jealousy ultimately drove Masamune mad, causing him to consume souls to gain more power, which made his weapon darker and darker until it became a black symbol. of him trying to overcome his limitations.

You see similar themes in anime all the time.

As previously mentioned, Nichirin Swords of Demon slayer like Tanjiro’s black katana are one of the few ways humans can deal with overpowered demons. The same goes for Guts’ giant Dragon Slayer, whose first murder was an unnamed demonic “apostle” and who is slowly becoming the only human weapon capable of harming the dark “gods” the Black Swordsman hunts down. We see something similar with Asta, whose Black Anti Magic weapons are a way for him to overcome his lack of magical abilities in a world built on magic. And on A piece, Kozuki Oden’s black katana known as Enma was the only weapon capable of injuring the nearly invincible Kaido who derives his powers from a magical devil fruit.

Simply put, anime black swords are often the great equalizer, leveling the playing field for an unfairly disadvantaged character or group. In a way, this trope almost sounds like a culmination of all of the rules mentioned above. Whether wielded by people without a community support system or raised to be protected or trying to right past sins, these Dark Blades are excellent for combating otherworldly threats that ordinary people couldn’t handle. Star wars taught us that the color of a sword can say a lot about a person, and black swords in cartoons are no different. Perhaps more than anything else, they teach us not to judge a book by its cover. They may seem sinister, but often tell stories of people who have been through hell while still retaining a spark of kindness in them.