WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Vol. 22, by Koyoharu Gotouge, John Werry and John Hurt, available in English from Viz Media now.
Demon Slayer Vol. 22 is one of the most defining entries in the series as Tanjiro Kamado helps to push Muzan Kibutsuji to his limits. However, as the battle between the King of Demons and Hashira rages on, revelations about Tamayo’s poison turn the tide. While the painful side effects knock Muzan down, there is a much more hopeful outcome from Tamayo’s concoction for Nezuko.
This penultimate volume brings Tanjiro the closest to victory he and the rest of the Demon Slayer Corps have ever been. Still, Muzan’s frightening abilities take their toll on the determined humans, and the fight for sunrise is an incredibly tense one.
Obanai Iguro's Past & Feelings For Mitsuri Kanroji
After an unknown attack from Muzan strikes Mitsuri Kanroji/The Love Hashira, Obanai Iguro/The Serpent Hashira helps get her to safety to retrieve treatment -- though she argues against it in favor of fighting. As Iguro rushes back to help his fellow Hashira, he internally expresses his love for Kanroji -- wishing they could have met under different circumstances.
Iguro's past is something Demon Slayer hasn't delved into, but as he makes his heartfelt confession, he thinks back on his upbringing. Iguro's family had a nefarious relationship with a snake Demon -- one where they would reap the belongings of wealthy victims of the Demon, and they would sacrifice their children as payment. Iguro was kept in a cell his entire childhood because male children were uncommon in his family, so the Demon wanted him to mature before consuming him.
One night, Iguro escaped and was saved by the Flame Hashira, who killed the Demon. Left with nothing since the Demon rampaged and killed most of his family before the Hashira arrived, Iguro chose to become a Demon Slayer to right his past sins and take his anger out on Demons. Iguro admits that he hopes to die fighting Muzan, wishing to be reborn in a world without Demons so that he can tell Kanroji his feelings for her.
The Hashira Continue Battling Against Muzan
Iguro manages to turn his blade red -- an impressive feat that makes the swords more effective --, but the force needed to do so nearly causes him to faint. Thankfully, Inosuke, Zenitsu and Kanao join the fray to lend the Hashira a hand. Then, with the help of more Demon Slayers, Iguro and Sanemi Shinazugawa/The Wind Hashira, Giyu Tomioka/The Water Hashira and Gyomei Himejima/The Stone Hashira turn their Nichirin swords red in a variety of ways.
Himejima enters the Transparent World to examine Muzan's body, discovering that the King of Demons has multiple brains and hearts -- revealing why he's so difficult to kill. To make matters more complicated, he moves them constantly to protect them. As Himejima urges his fellow Hashira to tap into the Transparent World, Muzan frustratedly unleashes a devasting attack that sends the Hashira crashing into the surrounding buildings.
Meanwhile, Tanjiro is still unconscious with the massive growth covering his one eye. After his pulse suddenly returns, he springs back up -- ready to join the fight. Unfortunately, the Hashira all seem out of commission after Muzan's strike. Not only do they all lose consciousness, but Himejima has lost a leg and Giyu an arm. Muzan sets his sights on Kanao -- who stands her ground --, but Tanjiro marks his return with a Hinokami Kagura: Beneficient Radiance.
Tanjiro's Improved Hinokami Kagura
While Tanjiro was unconscious, he experienced Inherited Memories from his ancestor, Sumiyoshi, who knew the legendary Yoriichi -- the swordsman who created Sun Breathing and Breathing Styles. These memories allowed Tanjiro to closely study Yoriichi, gaining an improved understanding of the 12 Forms of Sun Breathing/Hinokami Kagura. Not only could Tanjiro see the flaws in how he was executing them before, he now understood that there was a 13th form created by performing all 12 continuously like a dance.
The touching memories close with a tender moment between Sumiyoshi and Yoriichi, who gifts Tanjiro's ancestor with the iconic hanafuda earrings. In the present, even with his new knowledge, Tanjiro struggles as he connects the various forms. Muzan's confidence grows because he knows that Tanjiro isn't as powerful or proficient with the technique as Yoriichi. However, that assuredness quickly fades when Muzan notices his own movements slowing along with his regenerations.
Tamayo's Poison Changes the Game Against Muzan
At the beginning of the fight, Tamayo managed to injection a concoction into Muzan before being consumed. To find the source of his new struggle, Muzan communicates with Tamayo's remaining cells inside of him -- but the conversation doesn't go how he'd hope. Instead, Tamayo explains that her poison is meant to turn Demons into humans but refuses to reveal anything else, forcing Muzan to read the memory of her cells to discover that she and Shinobu mixed in another element that ages him.
Muzan hadn't noticed that the poison was diverting energy to fight against aging, slowing him down and aged him over 9,000 years since it activated. The Demon Slayers are unified in their mission, and Iguro -- despite losing his sight from the last attack -- springs into action and saves Tanjiro from an infuriated Muzan. The two combine for some successful strikes, especially after Tanjiro throws one of Yoshiro's visual seals to Iguro, granting him temporary sight again.
Demon Slayer's End Game & Nezuko's Transformation
Thanks to Tamayo's poison, the scars Yoriichi inflicted on Muzan appear and essentially highlight his weak spots. Tanjiro comments, "Even now, Yoriichi is showing us the way!" The Demon Slayer's crow then calls out that only 40 minutes remain until dawn. Muzan tries to flee, but Tanjiro and Iguro stop him as the other Hashira seem to be waking up too with the help of Yoshiro. Muzan attempts to split his body up, and as he fails, Tamayo's cells reveal that her poison contained four substances, and one was destroying him.
The most significant moment of Volume 22 comes in Chapter 196 as we see Nezuko rushing towards the fight. Finally, everything Demon Slayer has been working up to is coming to a head, and Tanjiro's dream is the closest it's ever been because Nezuko is becoming human. The serum Tamayo created slowly turns Nezuko human, and tears stream down her face as the memories of her family's deaths flood back. While the moment is heartbreaking since Nezuko, as a human, hasn't had time to process the loss, the serum's success is such a significant victory.
With the time before dawn winding down, Tanjiro will need to capitalize on the weakened Muzan. Still, the King of Demons is no slouch, and Tanjiro will hope that more of the Hashira can return to the battle. Demon Slayer Vol. 22 sets up the end game which will play out in the series next and final volume as Tanjiro aims to defeat Muzan and be reunited with the now human Nezuko.