Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc ?
Community score: 3.8
I'm going to describe to you a series of events that occur in "Awful Villain." It starts with the very opening shot of the episode: after chasing down and beheading the Tiny Crying Weirdo from last week, Tanjiro and Genya are shocked to discover that the horde of Hatengu's Emotion Demons they've been fighting have combined to form an even more dangerous form: Hatred (the internet tells me that his Japanese name is "Zohakuten"). Zohakuten spouts an evil monologue about how much he hates "villains" like the Demon Slayers, who would torment such an innocent creature as his other self. Tanjiro, naturally, spouts his heroic diatribe about how the Demons are, in fact, the real bad guys, and that they will never triumph over the power of good, and so on. Genya and Nezuko are also present, standing by in case Tanjiro needs another last-minute save or power-up, or whatever.
The point is, it's about as classic an example of the old "A New Challenger Has Arrived" story beat as you could imagine. It's the anime equivalent of that moment in every great pro wrestling match where an unexpected badass storm in with their entrance music to cause an even bigger ruckus in the ring. If, for some strange reason, you are reading these reviews before actually watching the latest episode of Demon Slayer, you might think that this scene would make for a perfect cold open before we smash to the credits. At most, it's the electrifying kick-off to the ups and downs still to come, merely the first stage—
Yeah, no, you all know that isn't how Demon Slayer rolls. This "scene" lasts for a full half of the entire episode. Eleven minutes—give or take one opening credits sequence—and all we get is a pointlessly nonlinear explanation of how the bad guy, who started as one dude but then turned into five separate dudes, has now become one altogether different dude.
I can't deal with this pacing anymore. Normally, it's not a problem for a show to indulge in this kind of absurdly protracted, decompressed storytelling if it's used to highlight a scene's tension or build up to a huge climax. You know when it doesn't work? When every single scene of every single episode is written and paced out the same way. It just turns the whole show into a maddening sludge of rug-pulls, random reversals, and endless cliffhangers that tease fates that we cannot possibly predict for characters we cannot possibly care about.
Speaking of which, the second half of the episode belongs to Tokito and the other swordsmiths' desperate attempt to survive the attacks of that weird Mouths-for-Eyes monster. To Demon Slayer's credit, the show does make an earnest attempt to inject this half of the episode with some much-needed pathos and tension, but I just can't get on board. Tokito's elaborate vision/hallucination of Ghost! Tanjiro didn't work for me at all because these characters have no meaningful connection between them, either on a personal or a thematic level. So the platitudes about survival and learning that doing right by others leads others to do right by you felt even more forced than usual.
Likewise, I feel like unmasking Haganezuka while he stoically takes all of the demon's blows are supposed to make us think he's a badass. But all I could think of is that the show already pulled the “Guy With Weird Mask is Secretly a Hottie” joke with a much more beloved character, and they both have nearly identical Pretty Boy Faces. I was laughing out loud, which I don't think is what I was supposed to take from the scene. Now, to my credit, I wasn't laughing out loud when poor Kotetsu got stabbed in the gut, but mostly because I was so irritated with Demon Slayer for trying to kill off the little kid for cheap drama.
I've said it before, but I cannot help but be reminded every week of how much better I think even the weakest aspects of this season would work if they had been condensed into a film. I still don't think the paper-thin characters or weak action choreography would stand up to the series' best efforts, but at least we'd be spared this agonizingly bad pacing. As a weekly series, you have no choice but to ingest one twenty-minute chunk at a time though. This Swordsmith Village Arc is becoming a chore to watch, plain and simple. The only good news, at this point, is that we only have a few weeks left in the season, meaning there are only so many opportunities left for Demon Slayer to waste our time before finally getting to the damned point.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.
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