As Tanjiro and Nezuko continue their adventures in the world of Demon Slayer, let's celebrate some other great anime siblings!
Hello everybody, and welcome back to Why It Works. As the spring season moves into its second half, one of the shows I find myself most enjoying every single week is the action-packed Demon Slayer. I’ve discussed before how Demon Slayer’s unique approach to framing combat gives it a strong aesthetic appeal, but one of my favorite things about the show has nothing to do with its action; it’s the charming relationship between Tanjiro and his demonic sister Nezuko. Many of my favorite moments in the show simply depict the two of them being adorable together, their mutual concern clear in spite of Nezuko’s current condition. And that in turn got me thinking about other anime that feature strong sibling relationships, which leads me here. Today on Why It Works, let’s highlight some shows that celebrate the warmth and power of sibling bonds!
First off, I couldn’t run down a list of great anime siblings without mentioning Fullmetal Alchemist. I mean, the show’s second adaptation even has "Brotherhood" right there in the subtitle, and the show certainly lives up to that heading. Though Fullmetal Alchemist is also mostly known for its sprawling narrative and thrilling action, none of that would feel meaningful without the central bond between the proud, hotheaded Edward and the timid, thoughtful Alphonse. The two could not be more different in many ways, yet stand united in their moral code and passion for alchemy, and all of their trials feel that much more tense for knowing just how much they care about each other. Fullmetal Alchemist stands as a clear predecessor to Demon Slayer, demonstrating how much the shonen action template is elevated through a central sibling bond.
For a more recent action highlight buoyed by a strong sibling bond, you could do a whole lot worse than Mob Psycho 100. Unlike in Fullmetal Alchemist, Mob and his brother Ritsu don’t really have equivalent powers; Ritsu is a successful student and easily makes friends, but he has nothing approaching the psychic abilities of his sibling. With each of these brothers desperately seeking something that comes easily to the other, Mob Psycho 100 builds vivid and sympathetic tension through its illustration of the conflicts between them, while still casting each of them as incredibly sympathetic and genuinely loving brothers.
While acclaimed director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s ongoing Sarazanmai has plenty to say about siblings, his fullest ode to sibling bonds remains the incredible Penguindrum. The Takakura siblings Shoma, Kanba, and Himari serve as the emotional heart of Penguindrum, and the two brothers’ quest to save their sister is actually the show’s central conflict. Through a combination of tender, intimately observed family dinners and stark, imaginative flashbacks, Penguindrum builds the Takakuras into one of the most unique and fully realized families in anime, while also reflecting consistently on the very nature of family itself.
Along with Penguindrum, my own pick for the show that best articulates the messy realities of sibling relationships would be The Eccentric Family. Centered on a family of shape-shifting tanukis in modern Kyoto, The Eccentric Family follows four wholly unique brothers as they each try to come to terms with the death of their beloved father. Each of these brothers deals with the long shadow of their father in their own way, but their collective struggles are consistently sprinkled with petty arguments, heart-to-hearts, and silent moments of solidarity that all demonstrate their clear mutual love. Demonstrating both how siblings can make us strong and also our frustrations with them, The Eccentric Family covers it all.
You know, I say “covers it all,” but I think this list so far has been altogether too kind to the idea of siblings in general. In light of that, my last recommendation is Himouto! Umaru-chan, a show about a long-suffering older brother whose little sister is just the absolute worst. Umaru is a terrible gremlin who destroys everything she touches, her brother deserves far better than to serve under a despot such as she, and Himouto! itself should feel like a heavy clap of solidarity to anyone who’s suffered from just how horrible siblings can be. If you ever wanted to pick up your sibling and just chuck them in the garbage, Himouto! is the show for you.
That’s all from me, though there are certainly plenty of other great sibling-centric shows out there! Girlish Number does a terrific job of articulating two young adult siblings working to integrate into adult jobs, March comes in like a lion depicts both the love and hate that can form between adopted siblings… I could go on and on, but I gotta sign off at some point. I hope you’ve found a show or two to check out among my picks, and please let me know all your own favorite anime siblings in the comments!
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