Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 16 Review

Originally published on The Fandom Post

What They Say:
Letting Someone Else Go First

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

As the battle in the forest continues, Demon Slayer finally starts playing to its strengths once again. It’s been a while since we got a full-on action episode, which makes this episode even more satisfying since that’s exactly what we’re given here. The fact that Tanjiro and Inosuke are fighting against other Slayers, albeit ones being controlled by a demon, makes this one of the anime’s most harrowing battles yet. It only gets worse when we’re shown that these ones are still conscious and begging for death while they’re being manipulated. The sound design adds an incredible amount here, letting us hear each pull of the strings and each crack of bone as the Slayers are forced to fight beyond what their bodies are capable of.

Though Tanjiro takes the lead throughout the whole fight, consistently being the one to figure out weaknesses they can exploit, the real star here is Inosuke. The episode contrasts his habit of blindly attacking with Tanjiro’s head for strategy, something even Inosuke realizes gives the latter an advantage. Inosuke isn’t dumb, just thickheaded and ignorant due to his lack of experience with other people. Seeing someone play the long game and plan multiple steps ahead is genuinely shocking to someone who’s never considered his actions beyond spur-of-the-moment decisions. His bubbly reaction whenever Tanjiro is nice to him comes from the same place, as it seems like Inosuke is starting to learn that there’s more to life than just winning the next fight.

On the demonic side, we’re shown far more of the twisted family that lives in this forest. Having the mother be the victim of what amounts to an abusive relationship gives this group a unique dynamic, so it’s too bad the show kills her off so quickly. Demon Slayer’s fallen into a bad habit of starting to humanize its villains right before they die, which gets old fast. A show can only do that so many times before it starts to feel manipulative, like its only developing these characters to make their deaths more tragic rather than treating them as full-on characters. This is Koyoharu Gotōge’s first serialized manga, so I’m hopeful that this is just a bad habit that’ll improve with time and experience. At the very least, it looks like we’re not yet done with this forest. Rui’s comments imply that the children are more loyal to their “father” (it’s unclear if they’re actually related or not), so it looks like we’ll be seeing far more of them soon. Their father is also still out there, and is a member of the Twelve Kizuki at that. If a former member was able to give Tanjiro so much trouble before, a full member is likely to be a problem for him and Inosuke.

With that in mind, it’s a good thing Giyu and Shinobu are on the way. I’m excited to see what the upper echelons of the Corps are capable of and what kind of perspective that gives us on where Tanjiro’s at. Aside from Tanjiro’s brief fight with Giyu in the first episode, all of the Demon Slayers we’ve seen in action have been relative novices. Skilled novices, but still novices. Simple as it is, I’ve always been fond of seeing characters’ relative power levels in shonen, so next week’s episode is looking up even more.

Aside from the battle in the forest, the other standout scene here is Tanjiro’s finishing blow against the spider demon. His choice to give her a painless death once he sees how desperate she is to be free once again Tanjiro’s kindness and empathy. The beauty of his one strike and the light that shines afterwards give this scene an almost sacred mood, like his attack was as much a blessing as a sword strike. Frustrating as it is to see another potentially interesting character being killed off minutes after we learn her backstory, I can’t deny that it’s a powerful moment.

In Summary:

After several sub-par episodes in a row, it’s good to see Demon Slayer start returning to form. Solid action scenes, interesting villains, and more development for Inosuke make this episode a marked improvement over what we’ve been getting. It hasn’t quite reached the heights of Demon Slayer’s early episodes, as its habit of killing off villains too quickly and the noticeable lack of Nezuko are both ongoing issues, but it’s still much better than the past few episodes. Even the brief asides to show what Zenitsu’s up to aren’t enough to drag down this battle (he’s also more tolerable in small doses). If Demon Slayer can continue this upswing, then I’m hopeful it’ll be able to overcome its other issues in due time.

Grade: B+

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