Fans eagerly awaited outside in the hot sun for the Main Hall to open for the highly anticipated Demon Slayer panel with Natsuki Hanae and producer Yuma Takahashi. After a brief introduction, the two guests took their seats and commenced the start of many panel festivities.
The two panelists opened with a reflection of key scenes form the anime, as well as their time in the US. Given how it was Hanae’s first time in the US, they were both excited to be able to meet their fans at
Anime Expo. When asked further into the production of Demon Slayer and the viral Hinokami Kagura scene in episode 19, Takahashi was simply “so impressed by UFO table’s production level.” Hanae, on the other hand, pushed his voice to the limit but that’s exactly what he was going for. He further Tanjiro’s close bond with Nezuko, mixed in with his conflicted emotions explained to avenge his family, was Nezuko’s development of her demon blood powers was so emotional.
Next up were a split combination of special video messages from Hiro Shimono (Zenitsu), Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Inosuke), and Akari Kitō (Nezuko) and behind the scenes footage from Ufotable.
Highlights from Shimono’s video included the marriage proposal scene—he thought about how much he could make people laugh as much as possible in that scene. In his eyes, Zenitsu has always trusted Tanjiro from the beginning, and as such, Shimono wanted to capture what he was feeling when performing that scene. Zenitsu was fiercely protecting the box with his life and wanted to give it his all during the recording session. Furthermore, Nezuko was in the box and she’s the love of his life. Arguably the sudden cut-off of Shimono screaming “NEZUKO-CHA—” was the funniest portion of his message.
Shimono provided insight into his performance of Thunder Breathing: First Form. Those who have read the manga or watched the anime know that Zenitsu is asleep. However, in the manga, it’s not clear if it’s a monologue or if Zenitsu is thinking. He consulted the ADR director and recorded a few takes to determine which fit scenes best. In the end, they settled on the monologue version that sounded almost under his breath. Thus became a softly delivered performance. For manga readers, Thunderclap and Flash have different techniques, such as Sixfold and Godspeed, so he made sure differentiate them all.
Hanae shared how Shimono appears exactly how is in the video. “He’s unique. Normally voice actors don’t or shouldn’t work out, but sometimes during our free time, he would do pushups.” With Inosuke’s
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Hanae mentioned that he’s “a very passionate man” but worries about his voice because he’s able to change it for every character. As for Akari Kitō, Hanae cheekily interjected that her video seemed like the shortest of the three and would like to give her more time if possible. “Kito is good friends with my wife, and she also takes care of my children from time to time too.”
The panel then turned to explore the Mugen Train Arc, specifically the moment where Tanjiro stabs Akaza with his blade after he mortally wounds Rengoku. “Honestly, I didn’t practice/prepare myself for this scene…I pushed my emotions forward and went with how I felt during the recording session. I didn’t have much direction.” Hanae revealed he got an OK on the first take, which led to a round of roaring applause from the audience.
He also shared how he couldn’t stop crying during the recording session where Rengoku passes away. “The voice actor of Rengoku, Satoshi Hino, is my senpai. It felt like Rengoku during this scene is Hino encouraging me directly and it felt real in person as well.”
In general, Hanaeed disclosed he doesn’t really prepare for emotional scenes because he wants it to be raw and real. “I put my raw emotions out for scenes like this. Nobody speaks clearly when they’re emotional. Whenever I speak or act out these scenes, and I want to put reality out there first.”
Changing up the pace, Producer Takahashi provided a making-of video for the Kimetsu Festival in April 2022. The scene in particular was from episode 5 of the Mugen Train arc. The genga and sakuga shown on screen was one showing CG work first: using the camera work and action made by CG stick figures, but hand drawn heads above the figure. With the general movement provided by CG, hand drawn movement is then traced on top from sketch to the final product.
As a small surprise, Aniplex shared a clip of the upcoming Swordsmith Village Arc towards the end of the panel. However, this was previously shown in April, but the fans didn’t mind either way. They were happy to see Mitsuri Kanroji and Muichiro Tokito after an intense season.
Closing off the panel, Hanae and Takahashi shared they were able to meet over 200 Tanjiro and Nezuko
cosplayers and hoped to come back next year. “This was my first American job at AX and hopefully I’ll be back soon. As Tanjiro, I’m going to continue working my hardest so we can defeat Muzan one day!” Before leaving, Hanae belted out, “I love you!” to everyone to the crowd.