Originally published on The Fandom Post
What They Say:
Tsuzumi Mansion and The Boar Bares Its Fangs, Zenitsu Sleeps
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
These two episodes mark the halfway point in Demon Slayer’s two-cour run, and have the dual purpose of introducing more of the characters featured so prominently in the opening and having Tanjiro face off against a demon who can manipulate the mansion he lives in by playing the tsuzumi (a type of Japanese drum) embedded in his body. While the latter provides one of the show’s more interesting battles, the former goal is far more hit or miss.
Much of these episodes focus on introducing Zenitsu, the blonde-haired boy we briefly saw at the final selection. Unlike Tanjiro, Zenitsu only became a slayer because he’s in debt, and fully expects to die soon. His cowardly shtick can sometimes be funny, but it gets irritating fast. Most of it is him screaming and cowering because he’s terrified of everything, with most of the funnier jokes coming from Tanjiro’s contemptuous reaction to him. I get that yelling and overreactions are staples of shonen humor, but they only work if the underlying joke is actually funny. In cases like this, it just becomes annoying.
Zenitsu spells out his backstory early on, which could be interesting if the show explores it further. As is, though, it’s treated as another joke and doesn’t get much depth, which leaves Zenitsu feeling like a one-note gag character. Characters like that are fine in small doses, but when Demon Slayer insists on spending time there in the middle of Tanjiro exploring the mansion, it feels more like the show’s wasting time to pad the episode count. The only time Zenitsu stands out as anything but annoying comic relief is when he suddenly falls asleep and dispatches a demon like a trained slayer. Whether that’s another personality or something else, it gives me hope that he’s going to grow into something more than a stale joke.
On a better note, the man in the boar mask (whose name we still don’t know) promises to be more entertaining than Zenitsu and his yelling. He fights like a demon slayer, but seems more interested in fighting strong opponents than killing demons or helping people. He’s obviously got quite a backstory, especially since he describes his fighting style as self-taught, which could mean there are other slayers out there who aren’t part of the Corps. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.
Introducing two new slayers also lets us see other fighting styles in action, as it seems that the Water Breathing technique Tanjiro learned from Urokodaki isn’t the only slayer style. Even with the little we’ve seen so far, both new styles are instantly distinct from Tanjiro’s precise forms and techniques. Zenitsu’s Thunder Breathing seems built around lightning fast attacks, similar to iaijutsu, while the masked man’s Beast Breathing uses aggressive attacks with two swords. Having characters with a variety of fighting styles helps keep fights fresh, so it’s nice being introduced to two more who it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of going forward.
New characters aside, the demon’s mansion is an interesting setting for this arc. The demon has the ability to change the orientation of the rooms and attack with air blades by playing his tsuzumi, which makes the mansion itself as much of an opponent as he is. The sound of the tsuzumi in the distance adds an eerie air to the already creepy mansion, made only creepier when the rooms seem to teleport around thanks to one of the demon’s would-be victims playing a stolen tsuzumi. Even while facing the demon, Tanjiro is forced to compensate whenever the room he’s in reorients, while the demon is somehow able to stay standing when the floor he’s on becomes the ceiling. Ufotable once again takes advantage of its CGI backgrounds to depict Tanjiro moving in three dimensions as he tries to keep his footing while simultaneously dodging the demon’s attacks.
Tanjiro also has to struggle with the injuries he sustained in his last battle, which still haven’t fully healed. The show presents this as his biggest struggle in the fight, but it rings somewhat hollow in execution. We don’t see Tanjiro visibly struggle so much as hear his internal monologue about how he’s struggling. It’s a classic case of “show, don’t tell” that leaves it seeming more like an excuse to make the fight seem tougher than it looks. Tanjiro doesn’t have any visible wounds, and his lingering injuries were only briefly mentioned before the fight, so it’s weird to suddenly have him monologuing about how much pain he’s in. Like the excessive focus on Zenitsu’s yelling, this just comes off as more time wasting to extend the arc to three episodes when it only has enough content for two.
Between Zenitsu’s annoying yelling and the forced drama around Tanjiro’s injury, this is looking to be one of Demon Slayer’s weaker arcs. Thankfully, both look to have been handled now so next week can focus on Tanjiro’s fight, which is off to a good start. Hopefully, these issues are just minor missteps that the show can correct going forward. Even if it doesn’t, this arc looks like it’s almost over, so Demon Slayer has plenty of opportunities to pick itself up and keep going.