The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc
How would you rate episode 1 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc ?
Community score: 4.2
What is this?
For the first time in over a century, a member of the Upper Moons has been slain. The endless stalemate between the Demon Slayer Corps and their eternal enemies is shifting, and Tanjiro will surely find himself in the center of the oncoming retaliation. To prepare, he travels to the mysterious Swordsmith Village to repair his damaged Nichirin blade, where mysterious new allies and enemies await him.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc is based on Koyoharu Gotouge's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Sundays.
How was the first episode?
It was a good choice for this season of Demon Slayer to start off with a double-length episode. This basically allows us to get a sizable epilogue to last season and spend time setting up this season's new adventure all in one unbroken stream.
One interesting thing about this episode is its focus on the bad guys. A large amount of the episode's runtime introduces us to the remaining upper class demons—not just the ones that look to be directly important to this season. We learn a bit about their personalities, relationships, and powers. This makes them more of a concrete, looming threat than just the nebulous, undefined cloud hanging over the story until now.
The other interesting point of the episode is that it splits the party. While we get a little taste of Inosuke and Zenitsu, they are not in the Swordsmith Village, nor are they capable of finding it when things inevitably go wrong. Their absence from the plot allows us the space to focus not only on our lead siblings but also on the two Hashira visiting the village—Mitsuri and Muichiro. Having to juggle fewer returning characters should allow us the space and time we need to get to know the new ones, and thus care about them when things get rough.
The episode also does a good job of explaining to us the importance of the Swordsmith Village, and how the entire corps would fall apart without it. After all, without these special swords, there is no way to kill a demon. Thus, the stakes are already clear. On top of that, our main hero is weaker than he has been since the series began (as he lacks a weapon capable of killing demons) and the tension is already running high this episode—even as the show tries to lure you into a sense of false security with the sleepy little hot springs town.
All in all, while not the most action-packed or poignant episode of Demon Slayer, it does its job of putting a bow on the past while setting up the future as well. If nothing else, it's a solid start to the season.
Look, before any of you Demon Slayer fans take a look at that score and start accusing me of hating the show for the umpteenth time, allow me to repeat myself by saying that I really do like the series…most of the time. It's fun popcorn spectacle at its best, though it suffers from a severely underwritten cast of characters and some often self-indulgent pacing and direction on ufotable's part, so it can be very inconsistent.
For instance, take this season premiere. It's the kind of episode that Demon Slayer frequently falls back on after a big, climactic battle, where Tanjiro and Co. have to spend time healing from their injuries and/or training for the next big fight. These episodes kill time with a bunch of exposition and, more often than not, a glut of cringey comedy skits. I didn't love this part of the formula back when it killed the momentum of the Season 1 finale, and I'm disappointed that these episodes are still slotted in at the worst possible moments in the narrative sequence. If this were a middle-of-arc breather episode, sure, I could maybe see the use of spending almost 20 minutes watching Tanjiro lie around in bed or screw around with Inosuke, but it's a hell of a drag to kick off an entirely new storyline with.
It also doesn't help that I only tend to find Demon Slayer jokes funny maybe two or three times out of 10, so for every “Inosuke is creeping on the ceiling like some kind of furry Spider-Man” bit that works, we get just…so much pointless screaming. Speaking of which, there is no justifiable reason on this or any other iteration of Earth for this premiere to be nearly an hour long. I'm honestly baffled that Demon Slayer managed to spend 15 entire minutes—nearly the full length of a normal episode!—on the opening sequence with all of the Upper Rank Demons getting yelled at by Uzan, before being ordered to go do more Evil Demon Shit. I've been a Super Sentai/Power Rangers fan for my entire life, so I know for a damned fact that it is possible to accomplish every single narrative goal in two minutes, maybe three if you're really milking the silly monster comedy for everything it's worth.
It's a shame, because by the time that Tanjiro arrived at the titular Swordsmith Village, I found myself remembering that I legitimately enjoy watching this show when it can get to the point and give us some flashy new characters to meet, along with a mystery or two to solve. Hopefully, that is exactly what the rest of this new season will provide, as long as it picks up the pace a little bit and sticks to what it does best: giving our hero and his Murder-Tamagotchi of a sister some badass demons to slay.
We've reached a breaking point with Demon Slayer as an anime. I like the manga, I really do. I had my issues with it, but it was short, fast, and got to its point with a ton of great action. Yet the franchise's meteoric success has made the anime into something like the world's longest, most lavish victory lap. It's not enough to adapt the story with polish and flare; every single episode and scene has to be the Biggest Thing Ever, even when it really shouldn't be. That was true of the previous arc, my favorite in the manga, which was drawn out by an obligatory maximalist aesthetic that drowned out everything else, and that's still the case with this new season.
Simply put, this didn't need to be double-length. Usually, double-premieres are so we can have both set up and payoff, but the actual bones of the story here are incredibly simple. Tanjiro has to go to the village where the Slayers' special swords are made, runs into the new Hashira he'll be side-kicking with for the arc, and meanwhile, the villains are really angry that one of the Upper Moons is dead. Except even that description is too generous because we only see the second Hashira before we introduce him next episode. It's so bare bones you could easily have fit it all into 22 minutes with time to spare, but this is Demon Slayer, so it has to be big, long, and loud to show us how successful it is.
The nadir is the 15-minute opening scene with Muzan and his quarreling Upper Moons. Nearly every line of dialogue is punctuated with a blaring music sting or an unnecessary visual effect. There are endless, swooping shots of the CG environment that add nothing to the standard, straightforward dialogue. It becomes so exhausting that it borders on self-parody, and that's the first third of the premiere. It desperately tries to make the sequence a huge spectacle when it was never meant to be. Instead of building atmosphere, it highlights how basic the dialogue is – establishing that our villains are all evil weirdos who hate each other but serve Muzan out of fear, that's it. By putting so much sauce on it, you actively weaken the material because it cannot live up to the gravitas the direction is trying for.
That's a lot of complaining for an episode that eventually evens out to be just fine, but it's the biggest impression I was left with because everything else is the same. The show still looks fine, though it would benefit from fewer poorly-integrated CG props. The comedy is as loud as ever. Tanjiro exudes the infinite Good Boy energy he always has, and Nezuko is cute in the handful of moments she's on screen. Zenitsu and Inosuke are still loud but only present for a short time. It's Demon Slayer, simple, straightforward, and best consumed in the moment. It's the anime version of The Ramones, and there's a very good reason there are no double-length Ramones LPs.
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