The Demon Slayer series is a cauldron of unexplained theories that provide food for thoughts to many interested fans of the series, and among them is the speculation regarding Inosuke’s humanity. Upon seeing Inosuke Hashibira for the first time, the initial thought that one may have is that – he’s an idiot. But the views keep changing over time as viewers come to see how courageous, kind, sensible at seldom times, and strong he is.
Sometimes dismissed as a gag character by anime-only fans, Inosuke is more than that. Although a human in every aspect, one of the greatest oddities about his appearance is the wild boar mask that he dons almost all the time. However, the main question is – why? Sure, it is connected to his tragic past, but is it reason enough for him to assert that he is a boar as well? And by doing so, is he aware of his connection to his humanity?
Note: This article will contain spoilers from the Demon Slayer manga.
Demon Slayer Inosuke Hashibira is aware that he is human, even though he may not act like it
How did Inosuke end up with the boars?
Inosuke was born to Kotoha Hashibira and unnamed father, but the latter and his mother mistreated his wife so much that she was compelled to run away from her abusive home with her son. Having no specific direction to where she might seek refuge, she ended up at Paradise Faith, the cult run by Upper Moon Two demon, Doma. After spending a brief time under the cult’s protection, she soon realized that Doma was eating the worshippers. Kotoha felt betrayed and she accused the demon of the same allegations, running away from the place. However, she was cornered by Doma, who ate her, leaving behind no trace of her.
But before that, to save Inosuke, Kotoha had tossed her baby on the nearby river in the hopes of saving him. This was a fraction of Inosuke’s history that was revealed much later in the manga. Earlier in Demon Slayer chapter 71.5, the omake showed that the infant Inosuke was found by a female wild boar who “may have just lost one of her children.” As such, Inosuke was raised by a herd of boars, imparting him with the experiences and habits of the beasts. The first stage of a human child’s development dictates that an infant learns to trust their caregivers based on how the latter feed or protect them. This begins the need for dependency of the child on the caregiver, so in this way, Inosuke may have learned to trust and love his boar mother and her herd.
The omake that raised more questions than answers
However, it was revealed that despite being a human, Inosuke didn’t learn to speak until much later. Speaking is essentially a human action. The specific panel in the Demon Slayer manga stated:
“Humans who don’t learn how to talk by a certain age usually have problems acquiring language afterwards, but young Inosuke was skilled with swords. Why is that?”
The panel raised an interesting point of enquiry as it makes one wonder how he would have even learned swordsmanship skills when he was surrounded by animals of the forest who didn’t use any weapons. Now, children are social creatures who learn through imitation and experience. If speaking, walking, and developing certain habits like drinking water from a bottle or switching on the TV using its remote is done through observing their immediate adults, Inosuke must have been exposed to such a situation where he came across weapon usage.
As for speaking, which Inosuke learned later on, chapter 71.5 shows Takaharu and his grandfather teaching him the skill. It started with Takaharu’s grandfather feeding a kid Inosuke, whose actions were very much like a four-legged beast, and even Takaharu shooed Inosuke thinking it’s a “weird animal.” Takaharu was then revealed to have had a terrible intellectual upbringing, which is why “his mouth was foul.” Inosuke, despite seeing how Takaharu is untrustworthy, adopts his short-tempered and abrasive nature.
The second stage of toodlerhood includes the dilemma between independence and dependence. Inosuke was forced to be orphaned, once by having his mother killed by Doma and later seeing the death of his boar mother. This made him independent to the point he scoured neighboring areas on his own, which is how he must have stumbled across Takaharu’s grandfather, whose act of kindness made him excessively dependent on him. As a result, he frequented the grandfather regularly and was later chased by his grandson. But the visits didn’t stop, and Inosuke learned how to develop speaking and reading skills through the grandfather. However, both were underdeveloped, whose effect can be seen in his adult years as he cannot remember his comrades’ names properly or read and write.
Strangely enough, Inosuke’s first time speaking and using his fists was seen in an attempt to make Takaharu “shut up.” This is when sees the third stage of childhood developing in him. Inosuke liked the grandfather, so he visited him. He showed his understanding of human speech when he pointed out the paper (that had his name written on it in kanji) to the grandfather. Later, he asserted his dominance and spoke up his need to make Takaharu shut up because he didn’t like him. This is a positive reaction considering the initiative proved that others can now rely on his speech to meet his demands, as seen when he wishes to eat “baked mochi things.”
Inosuke’s years of coping with his identity
Insouke has poor social skills, which is seen in how he is unable to befriend new people, for example – during the Entertainment District arc. Having lived with animals for so long with barely any interaction, the major skill he developed on his own is protection from others (possibly human, demons, and other carnivores). The events may have lead him to use a “killing weapon,” hand-to-hand combat, enhanced touch, incredible speed and reflexes that are imitative of animal’s fighting stances. In fact, Tanjiro acknowledges how his unnatural combat style is reminiscent of beasts, as in how he would attack from a low angle while using dangerous movements and delivering fatal blows, making him unpredictable.
But coming back to the main point, as a result of human interaction in his formative years, he grows mistrustful of humans and becomes prideful since he may have defeated them earlier on. This is also seen why his pride makes him challenge other humans who are superior in strength, such as Tanjiro or Water Hashira, Giyu Tomioka. This may have affected his self-esteem, but since he has had good peers surrounding him, he learns to show camaraderie towards them.
do u guys ever think about how inosuke’s afraid of shinobu while he challenged the strongest hashira to fight him pic.twitter.com/Ipfd7G2T0N
— hourly shinobu (@hourlykocho) December 12, 2021
Given Inosuke’s current get-up, one may find that it is odd for him to wear a boar’s head. However, through the manga, readers come to understand that it is because his foster mother died, he puts the mask (made from the wild boar’s head) as a sign of remembrance or familiarity. Moreover, since the boar died when he was a kid, Inosuke may have used the boar head to ward off humans (as Takaharu asserts that he is an animal) or other wild animals.
This is the point he may have embraced himself as a boar until he met Takaharu’s grandfather, where he may have faced an “identity crisis” because he learned to speak, walk and fight on two legs unlike other wild animals of the forest. But he may have dismissed that. Then came the point when he met a demon slayer as a n adolescent and challenged him to a duel to get their sword. The result was his win, and that’s when he came to know about Final Selection, after which he became a member of the Demon Slayer Corps.
An individual’s adolescent years are the time when they develop a sense of their self, i.e., their identity, goals, self-awareness, etc. This has been the most primary stage of Inosuke’s growth, as when he made contact with Tanjiro and other people from Demon Slayer Corps, he must have had suffered crisis when he became aware of his potential as a human in presence of other humans (a species that he can physically relate with). Even though he always chose to wear his late mother’s boar mask, he became detached from the animal world to be with the humans and pursue similar interests.
While it is wrong to presume, he may not have had social interactions with other wild animals of the forest, his boisterous nature and physical strangeness (head resembling a boar with the body of a human child) may have made him alien from them. But in the human world, his nature soon began to change. He learned to accept kindness from his friends (with whom he would have lifelong bonds), had guidance from the Hashiras, and interacted with others of his kind to further enhance his needs and develop emotional intelligence. Moreover, in his fights with higher ranked demons, it becomes stark that he is aware of his mortality as a result of human limitations. As such, it is safe to assume that Inosuke knows about his human existence and acknowledges, but the embracing of his beast-like nature is an ode to his past that would always be an extension of himself.