One person’s damier pattern is another person’s Ichimatsu, with all that entails in a post Mugen Train world.

Louis Vuitton is very popular in Japan. I see the brand’s iconic checkerboard, or “damier,” to use its French name, far more frequently in Tokyo than I do in Los Angeles, and Osaka and Tokyo are the locations of the world’s first Louis Vuitton cafes.

All of this is to say that Japanese fashion fans would ordinarily be pretty enthusiastic about the launch of a new line by Vuitton, as the company’s name is conversationally condensed to in Japan. But while most of the world will see the brightly hued Damier Pop Canvas collection as the “colorful reinterpretation” of the traditional motif that Louis Vuitton bills it as, to a lot of people in Japan the first connection that springs to mind isn’t to the French bag maker, but to a shonen anime/manga series.

To anyone who’s kept up with anime and manga over the last couple of years, that bag immediately screams “Demon Slayer!”, as it’s an almost-exact match for the cloak worn by the series protagonist, Tanjiro Kamado.

Actually, even people in Japan who haven’t been following otaku trends will probably make that connection. The Demon Slayer: Mugen Train theatrical anime, which came out in 2020, went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time in Japan, so it’s obtained a level of mainstream pop culture stature and recognition that goes far beyond the hardcore anime fan community.

Further cementing the mental connection is that in addition to the Damier Pop Canvas Christopher MM backpack pictured above, the lineup also includes a Chess Messenger model. The Chess Messenger comes in a variety of colors, and in Louis Vuitton’s promotional image the Tanjiro-green one is placed next to a canary yellow model, matching the image color of Tanjiro’s childhood friend and fellow Demon Slayer Corps member Zenitsu Agatsuma.

There’ also a Tanjiro-green Speedy Bandouliere 18 handbag.

It’s worth noting that there’s a slight difference between the green-and-black of Tanjiro’s costume and the green-and-dark brown of the Louis Vuitton bags. Still, there’s no mistaking the fact that a lot of Japanese people are going to mistake this for a Demon Slayer bag, judging from Japanese Twitter reactions that have included:

“Vuitton Slayer?”
“I can’t see this as anything but Demon Slayer.”
“Louis Vuitton has unknowingly released a Demon Slayer collab.”
“I totally thought this was a Louis Vuitton/Demon Slayer collaboration…but it turns out it’s not.”
“Are these meant to be oshi bags for Demon Slayer otaku to carry? Wait…are there designers at Louis Vuitton who are Demon Slayer Otaku?”
“If I dropped a chunk of cash on a Vuitton only for someone to say ‘Oh, hey, Demon Slayer bag, huh?’ I think I’d want to die.”
“I never thought I’d see the day when Louis Vuitton is putting out knockoff Demon Slayer bags.”
“Louis Vuitton going after that Demon Slayer fanbase, huh?”
“The Hashira Training Arc part of the Demon Slayer anime adaptation is coming up soon, so maybe they’re planning to piggyback on the buzz for it?”

Regarding that comment about a chunk of cash, while these bags may look like anime merch, they’re priced like the Louis Vuitton bags they actually are. The Christopher MM backpack will set Japanese shoppers back 532,000 yen (US$3,670), the Chess Messenger 408,100 yen, and the Speedy Bandouliere 18 390,500 yen.

In all fairness, Demon Slayer didn’t invent or introduce the checkerboard clothing motif to Japan, as it was already popularized here in the 18th century by kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu, earning it the name “Ichimatsu pattern.” Still, especially with that shade of green, it’s become intensely associated with Tanjiro and the series in which he stars in contemporary Japanese society, so the green, and yellow, Damier Pop Canvas pieces might be a tough sell in Japan, since even otaku don’t usually splurge up to the prices Louis Vuitton is asking.

Source: PR Times via WWD via Hachima Kiko, Twitter
Top image courtesy Marcus Lai (Twitter/@MarcusLai)
Insert images: PR Times, SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where if you happen to eat cake at both the Kirby Cafe and the Louis Vuitton Cafe on the same day, he recommends having a very light dinner.