Character A thematic analysis and interpretation of Kibutsuji Muzan


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A thematic analysis and interpretation of Kibutsuji Muzan

I'm going to talk about Muzan's background, philosophy and nature and how they are handled throughout his role in the series.


Kibutsuji Muzan was a man who from even before birth had the "shadows of death" constantly clinging to him. Growing up he was still a very sickly individual and was told he would die before he turned 20. This resulted in him becoming a demon having sought out aid in an attempt to extend his life. He was successful and gained a strong body and was no longer ill, but as a result he had been shunned by the sun, condemned to darkness for as long as he lived. He then spent his life looking for the blue spider lily, the missing ingredient that he believed to grant him special immunity from the sun's rays. Muzan created demons not so that he could rule the world, nor for the "sake of being evil". He created demons out of frustration and desperation so they could aid in finding the blue spider lily. An escape from his banishment from sunlight.

True identity
Muzan is not, and never was intended to be a badass character. He's not a Mardara or an Aizen. He's not someone dripping with charisma like Dio, or Doflamingo. He is something that had been spelt out in the series as early as Muzan's character had been introduced. A coward through and through. That is always what he has been. His primary wish is to ensure his continued existence. Everything else that follows all fundamentally stems from this point.

So that's Muzan at the surface level, but let's unpack this. Look at how this wish originates, how it is expressed and how it influences his philosophy in life and his self-identification.

During the Upper Moon meeting, we're explicitly told what Muzan detests:
Now we can put this into context of his own life. Why would he hate change so much? Well as he said, "in most cases, every change is degradation. It is decline." Now we can go back to the very beginning of Muzan's life, keeping this statement in mind.
Muzan's always been walking hand in hand with death. Her shadows have always surrounded Muzan. And since what Muzan really understands by change is "degradation", with death being so close, the smallest change would literally spell the end of Muzan's life. Therefore, to him, change is something he simply cannot accept. And that's the source of all of his conflict and frustration. The cycle of change isn't just just a weapon he can destroy, or a person he can kill. It is an intrinsic part of natural law that governs the entire world and everything in it.

Natural concepts aren't solitary, but exist in tandem and work in a state of flux. A yin and yang. This dichotomy is very apparent in KnY. Warmth/Cold, Light/Darkness, Life/Death.
As wikipedia puts it: "describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world." The world is in a constant cycle of change between these two states. Warmth can only be understood because there is cold, nature constantly changes from day-night-day and so on, and humans (in KnY) are in an a cycle of reincarnation with life and death. The truth of change is stated in the first chapter of the manga:
So having established exactly what change is, how therefore could Muzan feasibly hope to fight back against a force of nature? He tried to escape the cycle, preventing change/degradation by obtaining an eternal body, but to counteract that, nature fought back and banished him from both warmth and sunlight. I believe that deep down Muzan understood this. He understood the fundamentals of the cycle of change, he understood the meaning of what he'd done, and he understood his punishment. Hence how he "somehow" knew what would happen if he stepped into the light.
And that's where his quest for an answer, as well as his delusions begin. If forces of nature dictate the rules of the world, then the only way for him to oppose those natural forces is to become one of his own. Which is exactly what he attempted to do:
Muzan is all about appearances. Very often what he says about himself is in direct contrast to what he actually believes. In this case, Muzan understood that he was once just a sick person, on his death bed. But in order to fight that reality, he had to convince himself into believing that he was something more. That he was a "special demon", the "king of demons", and ultimately, equivalent to a "great calamity".
That is also why during his intro, Muzan "generously" gives the drunk guy that bumps into him 2 chances to leave with his life, and even tries to deescalate the situation, but as soon as the guy touched too close to reality, Muzan instantly lost it and slaughtered him and both his companions.

And before killing the girl, he makes it explicitly clear to her, exactly what his condition is, as if to reassure himself.
He then created more demons, convincing them of the same exact things that he'd told himself. That they're exceptions to the rules. That they can do what no others can.

But of course, he doesn't actually mean any of this. In the same way that he questions these claims even when directed at himself.

What Muzan likes to believe:

However, the truth of the situation had already been permanently etched into him, and he knew it all along:
Every demon Muzan made was an act of defiance against nature. Dragging more and more people to his side, to counter the cycle of change. And that is represented in Oyakata's speech to Muzan.

In the context of yin-yang, the yang dragon and the yin tiger "visualises the interplay between light and dark energy."

This clearly means that Muzan has disrupted the balance of yin countless times through his various acts (becoming + creating demons) and therefore, he has brought on retribution from the the yang dragon, the demon slayer corps.
The demon slayer corps became an organisation engaged in continuous battle with Muzan to counterbalance the demons he created. At some point along the line however, it's as if nature itself attempted to restart the disrupted cycle and hence the Gods essentially sent a prophet to restore the natural flow. That of course being none other than:
A being so ridiculously powerful from birth that he must've been sent by the Gods themselves.

We can even see Muzan's conflict within his fighting style. Underwhelming and repetitive, but that's precisely the point. We just came from a battle against UM1 who used countless different techniques demonstrating all the years he had to perfect his form. And then we've got Muzan, the progenitor who gave all of the demons their own different abilities. And yet, Muzan himself refuses to change his attack style. He continuously relies on his body and whips his arms around non-stop. As if he is aware that his very own philosophy is being tested in that moment. Later in the fight Muzan finally gives in and changes to use a paralysis based blood demon art, but what's interesting is that this happens immediately after this moment:

A scene that bears all too much resemblance for Muzan.

And to perfectly capture the irony in Muzan's philosophy, (the shapeshifting demon that "hates change"), even if he didn't give in and change his fighting style to the paralysis blood demon art, deep down, he knew he was wrong about change. Because that's precisely how he was attacking from the very start regardless:
It is also symbolic that in his last ditch attempt to stay alive after having being cornered, the flesh armour he encases himself in strongly resembles the shape of a infant as everything comes full circle. Centuries later, with the cycle of change having been restored by Tanjiro and the demon slayer corps, he is once again a wailing baby, only in this case, instead of attempting to defeat change by making his body eternal, he gives in and accepts Oyakata's philosophy and desperately tries to make his will eternal instead through Tanjiro.

In his final moments he breaks down and tries every trick in the book. He tries to convince Tanjiro that he's special, unique and chosen by god.

He subconsciously talks about himself and unknowingly confesses to his delusions

And then he just straight up begs for Tanjiro to take him too.
We understand why it makes sense that Tanjiro was accepted by the sun. He rejected the cold darkness being a demon brought, and fully embraced his positive karma that he had always had. It's possible Muzan may have realised this too at the very end, and that's why his final act is simply begging for salvation. A privilege he never spared a single one of his victims.

It should of course also come as no surprise that the blue spider lily did in fact exist, but that it only bloomed during the day. Hammering the fact that Muzan's wish and what he was fighting all these years for, was never actually possible. A demon had no means of getting their hands on the spider lily. They simply existed in different planes and was just as much out of Muzan's reach as warmth and light were.

Finally, we have Muzan's very fitting colour scheme. He chooses to wear black and white together, representing yin and yang, despite his loathing of that natural concept and the change it represents. As if he knew the inevitable truth all along, no matter how hard he tried to fight against it.
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Waifu Slayer
神のごとし / Kami no Gotoshi / Godlike
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Interesting analysis, there is a lot i agree with. One bit i take issue with is the bit with muzan as a baby though. As in, that bit showing his cowardice. Muzan was but a sick baby, it's not fair to make the point that then he was a coward that was content with merely existing...muzan was a freaking baby, free of sin and merely doing what little he could to not die. And he spent the entirety of his human life doing nothing but trying to stay alive, because there was little else he could do. The issue though, is that these experiences twisted him... along with him perhaps being just a tad innately twisted.

And then comes the way he was presented later... A coward without a speck of humanity with no regard whatsoever for others.

Also, to me it doesn't check out that tanjiro and nezuko could withstand the sun because they wanted to be human. If that was the case then there are a few demons around that would be resistant to the sun. Like tamayo, yushiro and however many other demons that were freed from muzans influence and just kinda continue living. Tanjiro and nezuko withstanding the sun makes more sense as something unique to them than them merely just wanting to be humans.

Also worth noting, initially tanjiro was sort of gone when he was demonized. He was just a demon trying to eat people in a frenzy. And what saved him was not his well to live, that bit played a part later, but rather tamayo's medicine. which gave him a chance to be human again, same as with nezuko. Without tamayo's medicine tanjiro would have been an unkillable demon for all eternity...

I'd also make the point that tanjiro's sun breath didn't quite bring an end to darkness. In the end tanjiro was never even remotely close to yorichi's level, his red blade was inferior and tanjiro's contributions to the fight were about as much as that of the other hashira and even that was only plausible because tamayo used poisonga 99 on muzan. Tanjiro had his protagonist moment against muzan but what ultimately won the day was tamayo and the grains of sand each of her sidekicks (the hashira) brought to the table.

And TBH, to me it remains questionable whether yorichi was actually right about his capacity to kill muzan. The manga did reveal his red blade was superior to that of tanjiro or the other hashira but to me that doesn't instantly mean that yorichi could have killed muzan through any other means other than sunlight.