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Shinobu's Powers From Demon Slayer Explained

In the popular anime "Demon Slayer," battles are not won with strategy and grit alone. When it comes to facing down demonic hordes, the show's Demon Slayer Corps relies on one key rule: breathe. To pose a threat to a demon, Demon Slayers need to be something more than the average person. They need to be faster, stronger, and tougher than any normal human could ever be, and the only way to do that is to use the Corps' patented "Total Concentration Breathing."

With this specialized breathing technique, Demon Slayers can enhance their physiology to its utmost limits. From there, each Demon Slayer adopts or invents their own Breathing Style to suit their combat needs. The strongest fighters in each major style are known as Hashira, and there are few Hashira as powerful or important to the series as Shinobu Kocho. While not the strongest Demon Slayer around, her speed, intelligence, and poisons all contribute to making her Insect Breathing style as powerful as her comrades.

What does Insect Breathing style do?

Like all other Demon Slayers, Shinobu's mastery of Total Concentration Breathing heightens her physicality to its peak by increasing the overall oxygen flow through the body. Training for this technique can take months of rigorous exercise that absolutely tests the limits of what the trainee is capable of. To track their progress, trainees breath into special gourds of varying sizes with the intention of bursting them from the inside. Once a trainee can burst a gourd roughly the size of a chair, their training is complete. As a Hashira, Shinobu has long since mastered this ability, and uses it to great effect in her specialized Insect Breathing Style. 

As the inventor of Insect Breathing, Shinobu is one of the most capable Demon Slayers in existence. Despite this, she is very physically weak. According to the Kimetsu no Yaiba Wiki, Shinobu developed Insect Breathing after discovering she does not have the physical strength to slice off a demon's head with her katana. To compensate, she re-worked her family's Flower Breathing Style to focus more on small, superficial attacks that wear down opponents. Mastering this style requires more speed than strength, making Shinobu one of the fastest (if not the fastest) Hashira in the series. On top of that, Shinobu also combines it with her deep medical knowledge to even greater effect. After all, when brute force won't do the trick, poison will.

Shinobu's Poisons are her deadliest weapon

Without a doubt, Shinobu's specialized poison is even deadlier than her swordsmanship. In fact, without her poison, Insect Breathing Style might not be enough to cut it. With the poison, however, even just a few superficial cuts are enough to topple a demon. Such was the case for the unnamed Spider Demon, who assumed Shinobu's lightweight attacks were harmless until the poison kicked in. Afterwards, this potent concoction derived from the Wisteria plant initiated a quick, yet brutal death for the demon.

As one of the world's most brilliant doctors, Shinobu is one of the few people with the knowledge to make her wisteria poison. However, she does reveal that it is created and kept in the scabbard of her sword, which she has modified to inject her poisons upon contact with her opponents. As a result, Insect Breathing generally involves more thrust attacks to ensure proper poison delivery. Despite this, Insect Breathing style has relatively few techniques.

Insect Breathing techniques require the utmost precision

Compared to other Breathing Styles like Water, Flame, or Wind, Insect Breathing is lacking in terms of sheer techniques. All the of the aforementioned have at least nine different forms which a Demon Slayer can perform to deal damage. In contrast, Insect Breathing only has four. But (much in the same way that Zenitsu can only use the first form of his style) what Shinobu lacks in quantity, she makes up for in quality. 

Rather than the traditional forms used in other Breathing Styles, Insect Breathing techniques are divided into "dances." Each dance shares the same objective in ensuring the target is pierced enough times for Shinobu's poison to work its magic. The first dance, Butterfly Dance: Caprice, is a direct attack wherein Shinobu inflicts several, surface-level thrusts to deadly effect. This is contrasted by Dance of the Bee Sting: True Flutter, which focuses on a single powerful thrust attack instead of several weaker ones. Butterfly's more potent relative, Dance of the Dragonfly: Compound Eye Hexagon, works much in the same way as the first technique. The only difference is that it employs six precise strikes at different weak points. Finally, Shinobu uses Dance of the Centipede: Hundred Legged Zigzag in order to bypass her opponents defenses and land one fatal strike to their neck. 

For the most part, these techniques have proven extremely effective in combating demons. If they do fail, however, she has a backup plan. 

Shinobu doesn't just use poison, she is poison

Again, if swordsmanship can't get the job done, poison will. But if you're thinking that Shinobu has a slew of other poison delivery methods, you'd be wrong. There are no poison darts or carefully laid traps here. There is, however, one final failsafe manufactured by Shinobu to ensure that any demon she faces will eventually meet their maker. Over the course of a year, Shinobu manages to imbibe enough of her poison to not only build a complete resistance, but saturate her entire body with its effects. Everything down to her fingernails is toxic to demon-kind.

This becomes her ultimate trump card (spoilers for the manga) in her fight against Doma. Though she technically loses to the Upper Rank demon, and is subsequently absorbed, her body proves poisonous enough that it is able to greatly weaken Doma shortly thereafter. This is despite the fact that Doma has already used his demonic physiology to build a powerful resistance against the substance. The poison is so potent that Doma is crippled, allowing Inosuke and Kanae to strike a finishing blow on the demon, cutting off his head. Had it been a lesser demon, they likely would have died a gruesome death from the poison alone.

However, none of this compares with her intellect

As impressive as Shinobu's skills are on the battlefield, her greatest weapon will always be her mind, because it allows her to overcome challenges she would not be able to otherwise surpass. When she learned that she lacked the brute strength necessary to decapitate a demon, she developed a style that compensated for her weakness. On top of that, it also played into her strengths as a speedster and doctor. Her style requires great speed just to be effective, and would not be able to seriously harm a demon if it did not use poison to finish them off. Furthermore, Shinobu would have no access to this poison if she weren't a capable doctor with the knowledge to make it herself.

The fact that Shinobu is a Hashira at all is a testament to the power of one's intellect. Just as Concentration Breathing enables humans to go toe-to-toe with demons, Shinobu's mind enables her to compete with people who are more physically capable.