What They Say:
Against Corps Rules
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s episodes like this one that frustrates me the most. Not because it’s bad–this is easily one of the arc’s best episodes–but because it deserved to be better. A bad show can be dismissed as just that: a bad show. What’s more frustrating is seeing something that should be better than it is, but ends up hamstrung by its own mistakes. Rui’s flashbacks are a quintessential example of this.
I’ve complained enough about Demon Slayer’s bad habit of humanizing its villains just to make their deaths more tragic, so I won’t go over that again here. What makes this different is that Rui’s past is the best backstory Demon Slayer’s done yet. It’s easy to understand his decision to become a demon when he had to live with a body too weak to even go outside, and the way his guilt over killing his parents twisted him into the person we see now makes him a far more sympathetic character, even if it doesn’t excuse his later actions. I’ll admit, I even got a little misty-eyed when he finally reunited with his parents and realized that they still loved him. It’s far and away one of the best subplots Demon Slayer has ever done. There’s just one problem: it happens at the wrong time.
All of this passes in the seconds before Rui finally dies, well after his role in the story is done. It’s frustrating to see such a moving storyline be relegated to essentially an afterthought, something to make a death more tragic rather than flesh out a character we’ll be spending more time around. Imagine if we’d seen this before or during his fight with Tanjiro. It would’ve given the fight even more meaning as a tragedy to end a hard life, and made every blow that much more impactful. Instead, it’s weighed down by the knowledge that this is just one more sad flashback to try and milk more pathos out of a character death. I won’t go so far as to say it loses all impact–anything that can make me tear up is doing something right–but the feeling of wasted potential keeps it from really shining the way it should.
Once that’s out of the way, the rest of the episode is an all-around solid transition to set up the next (and presumably final) arc. We’ve always known that a Demon Slayer traveling with a demon is unorthodox at best, and now we see the consequences of the higher-ups finding out. Giyu’s been willing to keep Nezuko’s situation secret, but Shinobu’s a different story. We already learned how ruthless she can be, only now that very same ruthlessness is directed at Tanjiro and Nezuko. The rest of the episode is mostly Tanjiro and Nezuko running from Shinobu and her apprentice, since neither of them would stand a chance even if they weren’t exhausted and injured. Instead, they have to rely on Giyu to stop her.
Though there’s not much to their fight, Giyu and Shinobu’s interactions are the highlight of the episode. Shinobu casually stating that nobody likes Giyu and Giyu getting stuck on that had me laughing out loud; it’s easily the best gag in the entire series. It turns out Giyu’s businesslike attitude isn’t him playing it cool so much as just being really bad at communicating. I like this more comedic side of him, and I hope we get to see more of it now that he and the other Hashiras are taking center stage. Just going by the designs we see at the end, they’re looking to be quite a colorful group.
This is the type of episode that’s difficult to fully evaluate and grade. It’s excellent taken on its own, but also emblematic of several of Demon Slayer’s ongoing problems with how it develops its villains. In the end, though, I was left with more positive feelings than negative. Rui’s past is easily the strongest backstory yet, and leaves me hopeful that Demon Slayer still has room to improve. With a strong setup for a deeper look at the Corps, Demon Slayer is looking to end on a solid arc, although I’m still holding out hope for another season to hopefully showcase more improvement and start capitalizing on the show’s strengths rather than highlighting its flaws.