What They Say:
Rehabilitation Training and Tsuguko, Kanao Tsuyuri
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now that Nezuko’s fate is settled and the Hashiras have had their meeting, it’s time for Tanjiro and co. to deal with the aftermath of their battles on the mountain. All three of them were seriously injured in their fights, and Demon Slayer makes no bones about how long it takes to recover from such severe wounds. Rather than simply having them stay in bed until they’ve recovered, Demon Slayer takes a more realistic look at the kind of rehabilitation it requires for someone to completely recover, both from their injuries and their hospital stay. This process, along with the training that accompanies it, makes up the bulk of these two episodes, and is a welcome improvement over the past few episodes.
The big advantage with breather episodes like these is that the relative lack of plot momentum that’s plagued Demon Slayer for the past several episodes becomes significantly less of an issue. It was a problem before because each plot point was dragged out to fill time, but that actually works in the show’s favor here. Transition episodes are more about letting the audience relax between arcs while looking at the consequences of the previous arc and dropping hints about what’s next, so smaller conversations and comedic asides don’t disrupt the flow of the episode anywhere near as much as before.
Even Zenitsu’s yelling, while not good, is significantly less irritating here than it’s been in the past. Demon Slayer’s humor is still hit or miss at best, with most jokes being some variation of “yelling a lot is funny” or “Zenitsu is creepy around women,” but there are a few gems here and there. Notably, Zenitsu getting mad at Tanjiro and Inosuke for being exhausted from training with a bunch of women is actually kind of funny because of how different it is from Zenitsu’s usual yelling in fear. Demon Slayer isn’t going to be winning any awards for its humor, but at the very least it isn’t particularly detrimental this time around.
Though humor is a prominent element here, the meat of the episodes comes from the three boys’ (mostly Tanjiro, though) rehabilitation and training. Like with Tanjiro’s earlier training, Demon Slayer takes a refreshingly grounded approach. Instead of major new techniques, their training is largely focused around regaining their strength through various games and exercises, along with strength training to help them improve on their basic abilities. The only new technique Tanjiro learns is how to maintain his Total Concentration Breathing even outside of battle, which feels like a natural extension of what he’s already capable of.
In between training segments, we also learn more about Shinobu and what lies behind her smile. As it turns out, her professed wish to befriend demons in spite of her apparent cruelty towards her enemies is a result of her trying to live out her dead sister’s dream rather than her own. Her smile and airy demeanor make a lot more sense in this context, since it’s all an act. Shinobu seems to genuinely want to achieve her sister’s dream, but can’t put aside her hatred of demons after they killed her sister. It’s a difficult dilemma that also goes a long way to explain why the other Hashira’s were so hostile toward Nezuko. After all the people they’ve seen die at the hands of demons, it’s easy to see why they’d be so hostile to any demon they encounter.
Shinobu’s desire to achieve her sister’s goal becomes even clearer when we see them together in Kanao’s flashbacks. Young Shinobu’s serious demeanor is a striking contrast compared to her whimsical demeanor now, especially with how similar it is to her sister. Between adopting her sister’s dream and mimicking her personality, Shinobu seems to be trying to live her sister’s life for her, which can’t end well. As Tanjiro observes, she can’t completely hide her true feelings, and they’re bound to come out eventually. Hopefully this side of her personality gets explored more later on (assuming Demon Slayer gets another season), since Shinobu’s very quickly becoming one of the show’s most interesting characters.
Kanao’s past also explains why she seems so disconnected from everything around her. She grew up in an abusive home as a child, which left her emotionally stunted and unable to bring herself to care about what goes on around her. Even making basic decisions like eating when she’s hungry seems beyond her unless she has some external way to do so. It’s an interesting backstory to be sure, but doesn’t make for a very dynamic character in the present. Aside from training with Tanjiro, she mostly just stands around and stares blankly at people. Based on the opening and her prominence here, it looks like she might have a larger role in the story going forward, so this is likely just setting the groundwork for Kanao’s arc later on. Either way, it’s a strong enough foundation that I’m curious to see what her role is going to be in future arcs.
After its sub-par performance with the Hashira meeting and Nezuko’s character, I was somewhat concerned about where Demon Slayer was going next. Thankfully, these episodes feel like a return to form. The comedy is still pretty inconsistent and there’s a notable dearth of Nezuko, but the strong character work and fun training segments more than make up for it. Shinobu and Kanao are both shaping up to be interesting characters that I’m eager to see more of, which is a welcome relief after how poorly the show treated Rui and his family. Demon Slayer only has one episode left, but with the way it’s going, it seems like there’s a strong chance of a second season. Nothing’s certain, of course, but it seems strange to end an episode on a hint about a new enemy when there’s only one episode left in the season. For all it’s flaws, I’ve mostly enjoyed my time with Demon Slayer, and it’d be a shame for it to end on a read-the-manga-ending.