When Fullmetal Alchemist released in 2001, it was a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of manga all trying to replicate Dragon Ball success, and a decade and a half later, Demon slayer followed in his footsteps. While there are more than a few superficial commonalities, the similarities run much deeper than initial appearances suggest.
Created by Hiromu Arakawa, Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric. After an attempt to use alchemy to bring their mother back goes awry, Edward loses his arm and leg while Alphonse loses his entire body. Although Ed is able to bind his brother’s soul to armor, the guilt he carries drives him to seek out the mythical Philosopher’s Stone in order to bring his brother back to normal. On the other hand, that of Koyoharu Gotouge Demon slayer started publishing in 2016 and follows siblings Tanjiro and Nezuko Kamado. After their entire family is slaughtered by a demon, Nezuko is transformed into a demon herself. Tanjiro then joins the Demon Slayer Corps in an attempt to find a cure for his sister.
Immediately the points of comparison are obvious. Both manga focus on an older brother’s attempt to fix something that went horribly wrong with their younger brother. Unlike the protagonists of typical shonen manga such as Naruto Where A piece who often have lofty goals tied to pursuing their dreams, Edward and Tanjiro have real motivations for helping someone they care about. More than a simple motivation, their respective objectives reverberate to shape their plots. Almost every plot point in Fullmetal Alchemist and Demon slayer is a direct result of the protagonists taking steps to heal their brother. Because of this singular focus, both series do away with much of the glut and load that famously plague Naruto and Bleach. that’s to say that Fullmetal Alchemist only lasted 27 volumes and Demon slayer 24 while Naruto ran for 72, Bleach 74, while A piece is still in progress with 101 astounding volumes published at the time of writing.
Much more than protagonists and a rhythm of the same motivation, the two manga are also not afraid to blur the lines between hero and villain. Many of the “heroes” encountered by Ed and Al on their journey have done absolutely monstrous things, and many of the villains they face prey on oppressive systems. During this time, Demon slayer complicates its own premises by introducing ruthless demon slayers more bloodthirsty than the demons they want to kill. Additionally, readers are encouraged to feel great sympathy for most of the demons Tanjiro slain. A little like Fullmetal Alchemist villains such as Scar, these antagonists often fall victim to circumstances that forced villainy upon them. As if to make the comparison even more solid, the two series also take place in a very similar time frame, with modernization versus tradition playing an important thematic role.
Despite the dominant cultural knowledge in the West, manga is a diverse medium and shonen a diverse genre. Although long-lasting action streaks like Naruto, Dragon Ball, and A piece Perhaps made the genre world famous, the shonen manga can be a vehicle for a wide variety of series. Hiromu Arakawa completely redefined what was possible in a shonen manga with Fullmetal Alchemist by focusing on complex characters with concrete motivations, and by all appearances, Koyoharu Gotouge has kept that spirit alive with the modern masterpiece that is Demon slayer.
Galactus just condemned the Silver Surfer to a terrifying fate