What They Say:
Sabito and Makomo, Final Selection
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Well, that was pure Shonen Jump if I’ve ever seen it, and I mean that in the best possible way. The training arc, Tanjiro’s growing bond with Urokodaki, and his first real battle are all staples of the genre that perfectly captures its appeal. None of it is especially ground-breaking, mind you, but that hardly matters when the basic formula is so effective and the execution is top notch.
It’s not unusual for shonen to sometimes get bogged down in prolonged training arcs, so I’m glad that Kimetsu no Yaiba condensed the bulk of Tanjiro’s training into a single episode. Framing it through his journal for Nezuko is a clever way to give us snapshots of the major moments without losing momentum in the more mundane aspects of training. I also appreciated how the anime never lost sight of Tanjiro’s inexperience during the training. Rather than instantly getting into powerful techniques, it starts out with Urokodaki showing him the very basics of how to hold a sword and attack. It’s refreshing to see such a grounded approach to training since, aside from a special breathing technique to enhance his physical abilities, Tanjiro’s training is very realistic in how Urokodaki has him learn everything step by step.
It’s not just the basics, though, as we get a real taste of action from Tanjiro’s fights with Sabito during his final test. These duels maintain the same speed and force as the earlier battles, and Sabito makes for an impressive opponent with how easily he’s able to beat Tanjiro initially. The anime makes excellent use of Ufotable’s CGI backgrounds to let the camera dynamically move throughout the fight, which gives it an intense sense of momentum. For the closer shots and finishing blows, its thicker outlines and almost comic book-y appearance makes every frame pop out in a way that adds impact to everything. Even outside of the battles, Ufotable’s animation is downright gorgeous, particularly the vivid coloring for the wisteria trees around the selection grounds. Sabito’s “get up if you’re a man” speech to Tanjiro was pretty generic and contrary to what makes Tanjiro an interesting character, but that’s a relatively minor flaw in an otherwise strong sequence
We see the same strengths on display during Tanjiro’s fight against the hand demon during the final selection. The demon’s appearance as a blob of giant hands with a head at the center makes him creepy enough as is, and his personality only adds to that. His unhinged giggling and raving against Urokodaki are genuinely intimidating and establish him as a real threat. Even though he’s only around for half an episode, he’s instantly hateable, particularly with the cruel irony that he’s been hunting Urokodaki’s students by the very masks that Urokodaki makes to protect them. It’s oh so satisfying to see Tanjiro finally finish him off, and shows just how far he’s come in the span of just a few episodes.
The question of how Sabito and Mokomo were able to visit and interact with Tanjiro even though both were dead also has some interesting implications. Were they ghosts, or something else? Aside from the demons themselves, Kimetsu no Yaiba has kept its world relatively grounded, so seeing more supernatural phenomena implies that there’s more to its world than even some of the slayers know, as even Urokodaki seemed shocked by Tanjiro’s reference to the two.
It’s also gratifying to see Tanjiro and Urokodaki grow closer during the training. In spite of his gruff attitude, Urokodaki seems to care about Tanjiro, and the reveal that his past thirteen students have all been killed during the final selection explains why he was so reluctant to take on another student at first. In the end, though, you can see some genuine fatherly affection in how he hugs Tanjiro and makes him a good meal for his last night before the selection. I’m curious to see what the show does with their growing bond going forward, particularly in light of what Tanjiro learned from the hand demon. Urokodaki clearly has a lot of history behind him, so it’ll be interesting to see how the show develops him going forward.
The one downside to these episodes is the distinct lack of Nezuko. Having her comatose for the two years Tanjiro spends training makes sense as a way to not just have her standing around, but it’s still frustrating to see given how promising she was in the first two episodes. Her relationship with Tanjiro has been the show’s strongest selling point so far, so it’s a shame to see her shoved aside so quickly. My hope is that she wakes up and takes a more active role in the plot soon, which seems pretty likely considering how prominently she’s featured in the opening (hopefully they’ll also explain the reason for her coma).
If you were hesitant at first, these two episodes confirm it: Kimetsu no Yaiba is the action show to watch this season. Between its strong execution of well known shonen tropes and Ufotable’s top tier animation, these two episodes are entertaining all the way through. With Tanjiro only just starting the final selection, it feels like we’re only just now finishing the prologue of a much larger story. If things continue to build at this rate, Kimetsu no Yaiba is on track to carve out its place in the world of Shonen Jump.