What They Say:
Something More Important Than Life
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The mansion arc has been a pretty mixed bag so far, a trend that continues this week. The frustrating part is that there are a lot of good ideas here that deserve better execution. The conclusion to Tanjiro’s fight against Kyogai, Kyogai’s past, Zenitsu’s confrontation with the masked slayer, all of these had the potential to be much better than they were.
The biggest problem here is the erratic pacing. We learn about Kyogai’s past as a failed writer (which seems to have been after he became a demon) just a few minutes before Tanjiro ends up killing him, so there’s not enough time to process how it impacted who he ultimately became or why it’s relevant here. I like the basic premise, that his editor’s dismissive treatment of something he’s passionate about drove him to violence, but it doesn’t get explored enough before he dies. Demon Slayer has fallen into a bad habit of humanizing its villains right when they’re dying, and I hope that doesn’t stay the trend. Empathizing with one-off villains can be good, but I’d like to see it explore their characters a bit more and maybe have one of them learn from Tanjiro instead of just dying at the end.
That’s not to say the entire fight doesn’t work; I don’t think Ufotable can do a bad fight. Kyogai’s ability to rotate the mansion, and gravity with it, is a perfect opportunity for Ufotable to show off the CGI backgrounds and camerawork that makes its fight scenes so memorable. The overemphasis on Tanjiro’s injuries continues to drag things down a bit since we haven’t seen enough of him really struggling for this plot point to come off as anything more than an attempt to try and milk extra drama from the fight. If the previous episode had spent more time on him having difficulty moving or fighting and less on Zenitsu yelling, it might have worked a little better. As is, though, it’s a blemish on an otherwise solid fight.
The trend of misused time continues when Tanjiro encounters Zenitsu protecting Nezuko’s box from the masked slayer. The show spends an inordinate amount of time on Tanjiro standing there in shock and processing it while the other slayer continues to beat on Zenitsu. I get having a pause to let things sink in for him and the audience, but this goes on long enough that it almost seems like the staff wanted to end the episode on a cliffhanger, so they decided to drag things out to let them end at a specific point.
Questionable pacing aside, it’s still nice to see that there’s more to Zenitsu’s personality than a worn out joke. He sincerely wants to protect Nezuko’s box, even knowing there’s a demon in it, because it’s important to Tanjiro. His determination to protect it, even using his own body as a shield, is somewhat jarring in the context of all his whining over the past two episodes, but could be because this time he understands how important it is after hearing Tanjiro describe Nezuko as more important than his own life. Zenitsu seems like someone who understands how important life is (he wouldn’t be so scared all the time if he wasn’t), so something being even more important could leave a big impact on him. The coward who stands up for his friends in spite of himself is a fairly common trope in shonen, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. I wish we had gotten to see a little more of this side of Zenitsu’s personality before his big climactic moment, so I’m hoping Demon Slayer will remedy that going forward.
The other interesting tidbit we learn is that Zenitsu’s hearing, which he’d mentioned before, is just as supernaturally keen as Tanjiro’s sense of smell, to the point that he can hear individual heartbeats and recognize people by the sound of their body. It lets him recognize the man in the boar mask as one of the other young slayers who survived the final selection with him and Tanjiro, and even helps him judge someone’s personality by sound alone. Shaky biology aside, this adds another facet to Zenitsu’s character, that he’s someone who wants to believe the best of people even when he knows they’re lying. I was getting sick of his one-joke personality last week, so it’s a welcome relief to see him shaping up into a real character instead of a walking joke.
Negative as I’ve been in this review, I don’t think this was a bad episode. I tend to come down the hardest on missed opportunities, which this episode was full of. Zenitsu risking his life to defend Nezuko is good sign for the future, since it means there’s likely more to his character than his lackluster introduction, and Tanjiro’s fight against Kyogai lives up to Demon Slayer’s high standards. All in all, it’s a decent episode that had the potential to be much better than it ended up being.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu