Is Demon Slayer the Modern Day Dragon Ball?

Is Demon Slayer the Modern Day Dragon Ball

Despite being released decades apart, Dragon Ball and Demon Slayer share a number of striking similarities in terms of meteoric popularity, simplistic appeal, narrative flaws, and cultural impact that have led some to call Demon Slayer a modern successor to the classic Dragon Ball formula. Is Demon Slayer the Modern Day Dragon Ball?  Let’s find out.

Is Demon Slayer the Modern Day Dragon Ball?

Demon Slayer Season 3
Tanjiro in Demon Slayer. (Image courtesy of Ufotable Studios)

Both Dragon Ball and Demon Slayer exploded into massive pop culture phenomena during their initial manga and anime runs.

  • Dragon Ball’s manga sold over 240 million copies worldwide between 1984-1995 and was a ratings smash hit on TV.
  • Meanwhile, Demon Slayer shipped over 150 million manga volumes between 2016-2020, making it one of the fastest series to ever reach that lofty sales milestone.
  • Their anime adaptations saw similar unprecedented success, with Dragon Ball becoming one of the most viewed shows of the late ’80s and ’90s across Japan and beyond.
  • Demon Slayer then broke records in 2020 with its Mugen Train film becoming the highest-grossing anime film ever, surpassing even classics like Spirited Away.

The Shounen Target

A major reason for their meteoric popularity is that both series tell simple, action-packed stories easy for viewers of practically any age across many cultures to enjoy. They focus on young boys Goku and Tanjiro embarking on fantastical coming-of-age quests full of colorful characters, inventive locales, and intense martial arts battles infused with supernatural elements.

While nuanced, layered plotting takes a backseat in favor of adrenaline-fueled fight scenes, fans around the world have been drawn to the bombastic fun and emotional highs both series deliver. However, critics argue that emphasis on spectacle over substance reveals narrative flaws as well.

Cliches and Mediocrity

Dragon Ball Super Top 5 Fighters in the Tournament of Power
Image Courtesy of Toei Animation

Many accuse both shows alike of lacking depth, relying on the repetitive tournament and demon slayer story arcs that recycle conflicts. Their protagonists Goku and Tanjiro are sometimes deemed too flat, solving problems largely through fighting ability rather than strategic thinking or emotional growth.

  • Supporting characters outside the core group of fighters get little meaningful development in either franchise.
  • Still, the DNA similarities between the series are clear. Both crafted unique, energetically-imagined fantasy worlds that captured viewers’ imaginations across demographic lines through highly relatable heroes embarking on aspirational coming-of-age journeys.
  • While certainly not narratively complex, Goku and Tanjiro’s determination and compassion inspire viewers to cheer them on.
  • And for many fans, the sheer visceral entertainment value of their non-stop mystical martial arts adventures outweighs any writing deficiencies.
  • By delivering on thrills and emotional catharsis, both shows have rightfully earned their places in anime history, even if they likely won’t win literary awards. 


While opinions vary on each series’ quality and depth, few would deny Demon Slayer follows a similar formula established by classic action hits like Dragon Ball that clearly continues to resonate deeply with global audiences.

For managing to capture hearts and minds today largely through delivering simple but exciting stories as Dragon Ball did in the past, most agree Demon Slayer has emerged as the most worthy modern successor we’ve seen yet to the bright, kinetically animated spirit of the original Dragon Ball phenomenon.

Scroll to Top