Sincere Belief, Blind Hatred, or Something Else? Hashira Sanemi Shinazugawa

The latest episode of Demon Slayer, Episode 22, we get to meet the Hashiras of the Demon Slayer Corps. The main concern for Tanjiro, and by extension the viewers, is what is going to happen to Nezuko. Shinobu Kocho was  correct to bring in Tanjiro and Nezuko for breaking Corps rules. Giyu Tomioka was complicit in breaking the rules on Tanjiro’s behalf and is thereby guilty as well. Demon Slayers must dispatch of any demon they encounter, for good reason, as conventional wisdom suggests that all demons will bring suffering and death to the world around them. The only exception being that we know of is Nezuko. It feels cruel to kill Nezuko after all this time, especially knowing that she hasn’t killed anyone or devoured anyone. It should come as no surprise that all the Hashiras feel like Nezuko must be disposed of with exception of Tomioka. The Master says that he will allow an injunction of the situation, permitting Nezuko and Tanjiro to continue their work in the Demon Slayer Corps. There is one person who actively cannot accept the words from their Master, Sanemi Shinazugawa the wind Hashira. Sanemi is hellbent on proving Nezuko is just another demon and should be slain on the spot. What drives Sanemi? Is Sanemi just a blind hater of demons or is it sincere belief that no demon can actually resist the impulse to kill and devour, or is it something else entirely?

When we are first introduced to Sanemi Shinazugawa we get the feeling he is an unintelligent brute incapable of feeling or thinking about the situation at hand. He has Nezuko in hand as Tanjiro struggles bound. Sanemi can’t believe anything that Tanjiro tells him since he is family to Nezuko, he can’t take the word of anyone who may be willing to lie or cover for family. He cruelly sticks his blade into the box where Nezuko is stored and taunts Tanjiro the whole time. Of course Tanjiro is irate and does anything and everything he can for his sister. He manages to headbutt Sanemi despite being tied. This of course elicits a reaction from the other Hashiras who are impressed of what Tanjiro is capable of despite having no real options to defend his sister Nezuko. Sanemi is embarrassed by it as a Hashira is a capable and skilled swordsman high in the Demon Slayer Corps ranks.  The first impression we get of Sanemi is that he is a terrible person, unintelligent, and an arrogant Hashira.

The other Hashiras ultimately force Sanemi to stay his blade from delivering a killing blow on Nezuko until the Master arrives. When the Master arrives Sanemi forces Tanjiro’s head down to show respect for the master, even  Sanemi takes a knee and bows his head in deference. There is no more taunting, no more of Sanemi forcing his will onto Nezuko for a moment. Even the speech Sanemi uses becomes formal. We see that Sanemi has more intelligence than we initially give him credit for. The Master presents evidence that Nezuko has not devoured anyone from an unbiased source of information Sakonji Urokodaki, Tanjiro’s former teacher. Also Sankonji, Giyu and Tanjiro all stake their lives on the fact that Nezuko won’t devour anyone. While this earns some nods from the Hashiras they are largely unconvinced this is enough, Sanemi included.

To further persuade the Hashiras the Master also says that because of the existence of Nezuko that Kibutsuji, the creator of the demons, has been making unusual moves and has created an opening. This opening has never happened before and the Master wants to make the most use of this while it exists. The Master is capable of seeing the big picture at play with Nezuko in it, and most except the most hardened of Hashiras are able to accept this. Sanemi is forced to acknowledge facts from those he deeply respects. Despite this Sanemi still is unable to accept that Nezuko will not devour and kill humans, and the risk of keeping Nezuko alive isn’t worth Kibutsuji. He cites that lives are at stake when even a single demon is alive and goes out of his way to prove it. Sanemi cuts his arm and tries to get Nezuko to try and devour him. The Master allows this display, and we are left wondering what Nezuko will do next as Tanjiro’s life is also on the line. Sanemi is unconvinced despite all evidence  pointing towards an injunction on Nezuko and her situation.

After learning something of Sanemi and his character I cannot tell if it blind hatred or a sincere belief that drives him. Sanemi has all the hallmarks of a fanatic. Given the world he has delved through and knowing the cruelty of demons its understandable that his hatred of demons would be strong. That being said he can also have seen too much to allow a single demon to live, even for the sake of perhaps getting a chance to strike at Kibutsuji who is the ultimate evil of this demon slayer world. Sanemi reminds me one who is struck with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is acting in an irrational fashion in the face of facts and unable to comprehend there is another solution besides killing Nezuko. Even the fact that there is a living demon before him that he cannot slay must be hard on his psyche. While I may not be able to overlook Sanemi’s actions in regard to Nezuko, I can understand his reasoning and his ability to not accept an injunction on Nezuko’s life. Sanemi isn’t stupid, he has his reasons, and there is more at play in his mind than we are able to see on the surface.