What They Say:
You Must Master a Single Thing
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Not gonna lie, I was nervous when I heard that this would be a Zenitsu episode. I’ve made no secret that he’s been Demon Slayer’s biggest weakness since he was first introduced, so I won’t be rehashing that much. In short, his gags are repetitive and annoying, and make up far too much of his screen time. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how well this episode fleshed out his character and even managed to earn back some good will from me.
The first thing we learn is that Zenitsu knows he’s a coward and is just as frustrated by it as we are. He hates that part of himself, but continually falls back into the same behavior. People berating him for it only reinforces that belief, which then leads into a cycle of people not believing in him because of how he acts, which in turn leaves him trapped in that thought pattern. His one source of positivity is his determined, albeit somewhat violent, master, a retired Demon Slayer who refuses to give up on him, even when Zenitsu wants to give up.
This kind of interiority does wonders to flesh him out as a real character instead of just a walking joke. I wish we had gotten this earlier, preferably shortly after his introduction, since the emotion this evokes is slightly undermined by how frustrating Zenitsu’s been lately. Even here, there are a few too many comedic asides that just amount to him yelling and/or overreacting to everything. Zenitsu’s humor only works in very small doses, and certainly not in between scenes of serious self-reflection on his shortcomings. Still, he’s at least starting to develop beyond the caricature he’s been up till now.
It’s remembering his old master’s advice to focus on mastering what he’s already capable of doing that finally motivates him to fight, at least once he’s unconscious. I’ll admit, I’m still somewhat confused about how he manages to fight while unconscious, but still have flashbacks and think to himself. Hopefully we’ll get an answer to that soon. Regardless, the ensuing fight easily lives up to the high standard Demon Slayer has set for its fights.
The one technique Zenitsu has mastered is a quick strike while drawing his sword, similar to real-world iaijutsu. Even though it’s only one technique, the anime makes excellent use of it, building it up by having Zenitsu have to repeatedly dodge attacks from his opponent, a demon with the ability to poison people and transform them into spider-like creatures, while looking for his one chance to end the battle. His speed, while he prepares to strike, is awe-inspiring, especially with the lightning effects that follow him. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’s truly mastered that one technique, and could easily be a force to be reckoned with if he’s able to overcome his own fears.
His monologue to himself after the battle, when he’s left victorious but barely alive, is certainly a step in the right direction. This is the first time we’ve seen Zenitsu pull himself together and do something for himself without anyone else around as motivation, even if all he’s able to do is try and keep himself alive long enough for help to arrive.
This episode hasn’t remedied all of the problems with Zenitsu, but it’s definitely progress. Getting a chance to see his past and what goes through his head does a lot to flesh out Zenitsu beyond just being unfunny comic relief, to the point where I’m even starting to care about him. Even setting his flashbacks aside, his battle with another of the spider demons is easily on par with Tanjiro and Inosuke’s fight with the others last week. It looks like Zenitsu’s part in this arc is done for now, but things are far from over now that the demon the others have been referring to as “father” has finally shown himself. These past couple of episodes have been a solid recovery after the slump Demon Slayer’s been in lately, so here’s hoping it’s able to continue that trend.