Demon Slayer, like Chainsaw Man and Fire Force, is an exciting action/adventure shonen anime that plays on the "monster hunter" theme. To save the day, the heroes in monster hunter-style anime usually have special equipment and even supernatural powers, such as devil contracts or ignition abilities. However, the demon slayers are limited to Nichirin swords and sheer grit.

Tanjiro Kamado and the other slayers would look a little boring if they just swung around katanas in battle, so the anime uses its eye-popping animation to depict these characters creating their elements in battle, such as Kyojuro Rengoku's flame strikes and Tanjiro's flowing water attacks. However, this is merely a visual cue, not a literal example of superpowers, and it ties into major themes explored in Demon Slayer.


The Lack of Superpowers in Demon Slayer Makes its Characters Vulnerable

Why Demon Slayer's Breathing Styles Aren't Actually Superpowers_0

New Demon Slayer fans might be led to believe that the slayers can actually create their elements in battle since shonen action series often do such things. If Fire Force characters can create fire from their bare hands and Aki Hayakawa can summon a fox devil from thin air, then surely Kyojuro Rengoku is creating real fire when he fights. However, these elemental attacks are just visual flair, because no demon slayer, not even the elite Hashira, can create such things with their Nichirin swords. They can use enhanced breathing techniques and wisteria poison, but making supernatural fire is impossible.

This serves as a reminder to Demon Slayer fans that all slayers, including the top-tier Hashira, are perpetual underdogs facing steep odds when battling Muzan Kibutsuji and his demonic hordes. Demon slayers are frail, fallible, and mortal humans who desperately rely on oxygen-boosting breathing techniques and Nichirin swords forged from sun-soaked ore to level the playing field. Slayers lack the genuine supernatural abilities that demons have, such as Rui's spiderwebs and Enmu's dream-based abilities, which makes the protagonists vulnerable and increases the tension.

Thus, the elemental effects such as Zenitsu's lightning and Tanjiro's water are just visual expressions of each slayer's inner fire -- their fierce desire to defeat demons and prove that humanity is not weak. Those visual effects also help remind fans which elements each demon slayer uses, and the more visual flair there is, the more powerful and deadly the technique. It's a convenient visual cue to show the difference in power between Kyojuro's first form, Unknowing Fire, and his devastating ninth form, Rengoku. That helped Mugen Train viewers follow the flow of Kyojuro's fateful duel with Akaza and appreciate how much Kyojuro was upping his game as the duel progressed.


The Combat System of Demon Slayer Limits Power Creep

Why Demon Slayer's Breathing Styles Aren't Actually Superpowers_1

Power creep occurs in both positive and negative ways in most shonen action anime series. In some series, shoddy writing leads to unearned and aggressive power creep, and newer, overpowered villains necessitate contrived power-ups for the heroes. Most of the time, supernatural elements like chakra or jutsu in Naruto or magic in Fairy Tail will open the door to unlimited power creep, because anything can happen in fantasy if the narrative calls for it. At first glance, Demon Slayer appears to be similar to Tanjiro learning Hinokami Kagura or Zenitsu taking his thunder breathing to the next level.

However, Demon Slayer's heroes aren't actually using their elements, so they have only their own bodies and Nichirin swords to rely on. This greatly restricts the potential for power creep, as katanas and the human body can only do so much. In turn, that means Demon Slayer's heroes must train hard, use the right techniques and push themselves to the limit to fight and win. This is why Tanjiro's victories over foes like Enmu and Gyutaro felt so earned -- he didn't need a convenient new jutsu or the literal power of friendship to win the day. He and even the Hashira must earn victory with their swords and their own two hands or die trying. Still, it doesn't hurt to have some aesthetically supernatural magical effects along the way to make the fights look that much cooler.