TOPTokyo LifeNews & OpinionTokyo Daddy Issues: Shall We Slay Demons or Sith Lords?

Tokyo Daddy Issues: Shall We Slay Demons or Sith Lords?

And even more importantly - is Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) appropriate for children?

By Andreas Neuenkirchen

Tsuyoku… nareru… riyuu wo shitta… Rarely a day goes by that these magic words (and the many more that follow them) don’t fill the rooms and hallways of our apartment. They are, of course, the opening line of the opening theme of the hit anime series Kimetsu no Yaiba, internationally known as Demon Slayer. In our house, however, the lyrics are not belted out by anime theme queen LiSA but by our six-year-old-daughter Hana.

In case you have somehow missed out on the second-biggest news story of 2020 in Japan: Kimetsu no Yaiba was the franchise that single-handedly saved the Japanese economy in an otherwise economically challenging year. The original manga about a young wandering demon slayer in early 20th century Japan did not just inspire the insanely popular anime show and its cinematic spin-off, Japan’s highest-grossing movie ever, but also an endless onslaught of Kimetsu products from instant curry and canned coffee to school and office supplies as well as cosmetics and fashion accessories, not to mention the usual action figures and collectibles.

It is impossible to completely resist the Age of Kimetsu. There is hardly any stationary or writing device to be found in our home that doesn’t depict a character or situation from the show, and of course, we never leave the house without Demon Slayer hand sanitizer. Hana has drawn every character big and small in immaculate detail several times, and she doesn’t need much prompting to tell you everything about each one of them. She knows every word to every song associated with the anime series, and she will insist on performing extensive, passionate Kimetsu acapella concerts before bedtime.

She is a Demon Slayer superfan with one tiny caveat: she has never seen a single episode of the show. Because I won’t let her.

The German Way: Make Love, not War

The other day, we had Hana’s best friend from preschool and her parents over for games and dinner. Lovely people who actually work on the margins of the Demon Slayer industry. Obviously, their daughter has seen every episode multiple times. I wanted to grab the opportunity to have a casual conversation about why the heck they thought that was appropriate entertainment for preschoolers. However, while I was still working on a friendly spin on “How could you?!” in my head, the mother said: “No offense, but… why won’t you let Hana watch Kimetsu?”

The conversation taking a turn before it even began threw me off a bit, but it didn’t change my argument: “Well, because there are too many heads and limbs getting chopped off in graphic detail, too many gouged eyeballs flying through the air, too many bodies split open by sharp blades, too many broken bones sticking out of bloodied flesh… and those are only the atrocities I can describe in words.”

The mother laughed joyfully and clapped her hands. “That’s true!” she exclaimed as if it only now occurred to her. “But our daughter likes that.”

Well, then. Maybe I’m too German. An American friend once observed: “In Germany, American films are edited for violence. In America, German films are edited for nudity.” That’s not entirely off the mark. Believe it or not, the German way is to make love, not war.

Japanese animation, one might add, is edited for pretty much everything in Germany. And if the characters engaging in those objectionable activities happen to be minors, they will have their ages bumped up in translation. At least that’s how it used to be. As a teenage horror enthusiast, I had to forego parents and other censors in creative ways to watch what I longed to watch. I expect Hana will do the same. But not at age 6.

I told our visitors, Kimetsu no Yaiba would be rated for 16 years or older in Germany, maybe even 18. When I checked to prove my point, I was quite shocked to see that it was rated 12. “It’s rated 12 in Japan, too,” the mother of Hana’s friend remarked as if that made it okay for a 6-year-old.

I didn’t argue. Hana’s friend is a fine young girl; apparently, all the blood, gore, and despair didn’t do her any harm. I’m still not willing to take a chance with my own child. Also, Hana has already agreed to wait until she is 12. One more lifetime, in Hana years.

Jedi Knights vs. Demon Slayers

It seems Demon Slayer is to young Hana what Star Wars was to young me. The first film was rated 12 when it came out in Germany in 1977, which meant I had been a fan for several years before I actually got to see it. That never bothered me, the saga played just fine in my head. Over the decades, the original film’s rating was first lowered to 6, then dropped completely. While Star Wars looks like Care Bears next to Kimetsu no Yaiba, I think no age restriction at all is a bit much (or rather not enough). There are scary creatures, violent deaths, and at least one severed limb in what is now considered Episode IV. Still, I always wanted to initiate Hana, maybe even to stir her away from all that bloody demon slaying. Alas, she is utterly uninterested in Leia and friends. She knows all the characters and their complicated family histories because I told her, but it has become clear she only feigned interest to humor her old man. (Which is touching in its own way.)

 

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I thought Lego Star Wars might be a good entry point for her, even though I myself don’t get that franchise. If it was stop-motion animation actually made of Lego, I would at least appreciate the effort. But since it’s just a run-of-the-mill CGI kids cartoon, I don’t see the point of it being Lego. When I asked Hana if she wanted to watch the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special with me on Disney Plus, she said: “Sure.” Then she thought again and clarified: “After I have watched all the Lego episodes of Frozen … then maybe.” By now, she has watched the entire Lego Frozen season several times, and I ended up watching the Holiday Special on my own. (I turned it off quicker than the classic Star Wars Holiday Special. Still don’t get it.)

So, Hana and I will have our bonding watch party in six years when she is officially old enough for Kimetsu no Yaiba. Unless, in the meantime, the creative powers behind it find it in their hearts to come out with a Lego Kimetsu where the only kind of violence will be Lego violence. Then I’d be willing to renegotiate.


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*Feature image by Rose Vittayaset