What They Say:
My Own Steel & Swordsman Accompanying a Demon
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final selection complete (and sooner than I expected) Kimetsu no Yaiba’s prologue looks to finally be done. Though he still has a lot to learn, Tanjiro is now a full-fledged demon slayer, with a specially made sword to prove it. But before that, we get a surprisingly humanizing moment from the hand demon Tanjiro killed. It turns out he began as a human much the same as Nezuko, only he wasn’t able to control his new demonic nature and ended up devouring his brother. As monstrous as they are, it’s easy to forget that the demons used to be human too, which makes it all the more tragic that they have to die. Even Tanjiro seems to recognize this, holding the demon’s hand and saying a prayer as he dies. The demon’s death ultimately feels more sad than triumphant, a feeling I didn’t expect given how easy he was to hate before. If it can maintain this kind of empathy for its villains, Demon Slayer will have a lot of potential for drama going forward.
Once the selection is done, the bulk of episode five focuses around Tanjiro getting his sword and reuniting with Urokodaki and Nezuko. The fact the swords have special properties based on the color is interesting, although Tanjiro’s being an unusual color means its more setup for the future than anything else. Of far more interest is what happens when Tanjiro returns. His reunion with Nezuko is just as teary and heartwarming as you’d expect, and is a welcome reminder that Demon Slayer has a lot of heart behind the action. Even Urokodaki joins in, tears flowing behind his mask as he hugs both of them. It’s clear that he’s grown past his initial gruffness and almost views the two of them like his own children, as their every interaction has that familial vibe we started to see during Tanjiro’s training.
The explanation for Nezuko’s coma, that she has to sleep a lot to restore her energy since she doesn’t eat humans, while still a somewhat transparent plot device to keep her sidelined during Tanjiro’s training, is still a nice detail to expand the show’s lore. Either way, it’s good to have her back in the main story. Her relationship with Tanjiro is where much of the show’s heart comes from, and it’s noticeably better when she’s around. Unfortunately, the show’s handling of her continues to be very hit and miss. On the upside, it’s great seeing her kick out of her box to help Tanjiro fight the demon he encounters on his first mission, and it’s starting to look like she and Tanjiro are going to make a strong demon-slaying pair. Even so, the show kind of shoots itself in the foot right after, as Tanjiro flashes back to Urokodaki explaining how he used hypnotic suggestion on her in her sleep to compel her to protect humans and fight against demons, which is problematic for multiple reasons. On a basic level, it’s just lazy storytelling to say she no longer has trouble around humans because hypnosis. Nothing prior had ever established that hypnosis was something that could help, so it just feels like a way to hand-wave away what should have been a compelling arc. One of the first episode’s strongest hooks was Nezuko fighting her nature as a demon in order to protect Tanjiro. Her struggle, while not wholly original, should have made for a compelling arc as she has to fight her nature to protect the only family she has left, not been dismissed so quickly. Furthermore, it robs her of any kind of agency in her decision, which has me concerned that she’s going to be treated as more of a plot device than a character with a legitimate arc in the future. There’s still room to bounce back from this mistake. I just hope the anime realizes this and improves its handling of her.
On a much better note, the arc that episode six sets up is off to a more promising start. Seeing Tanjiro on his first mission as a full-fledged slayer is a nice reminder of how far he’s come. The way he instantly starts using his nose to track the demon through town and quickly analyzes the demon’s power to move through shadows demonstrates just how far he’s come from the scared kid who’s out of his depth. Said demon’s power also makes for an interesting fight, as it’s not just a contest of power like before. Tanjiro has to both fight the demon and stay aware of his surroundings to protect the civilians with him and avoid giving the demon any openings. The alley where the fight takes place is also a nice set-piece, as the demon takes advantage of the narrow street to pop out on the ground and the walls, keeping Tanjiro from landing a fatal blow. All in all, it’s a well put together fight, even if it doesn’t quite have the same emotion behind it like the hand demon fight.
Though it stumbles in its handling of Nezuko, Demon Slayer’s new arc is off to a solid start. Tanjiro’s latest fight is showing promise so far, as is his growth is apparent in how well he handles it compared to his earlier challenges. Even when the storytelling falters somewhat, Demon Slayer is still consistently entertaining and seems poised to stay that way. If it can smooth out its rougher aspects, this new arc has a lot of potential to grow Demon Slayer’s world and show its direction going forward.