Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
If “Together Forever” has a major hurdle to overcome, it's that its predecessor did such an excellent job making its heavy action focus work. This week, we pick up with the fight against Susamaru and Yahaba that started two whole episodes ago, and while the conclusion is definitely satisfying, it isn't enough to fill up a whole twenty-two minutes, so Demon Slayer has to figure out how to gracefully conclude this story arc and doesn't quite nail the landing. It's still a good episode, but it's also a natural lull in the story that isn't exactly firing on all cylinders after all that prior momentum.
Thankfully, episode 10 succeeds in its most important job, which is killing off Susamaru and Yahaba in a way that lives up to the trouble they've caused our heroes. Tanjiro gets in a couple more impressive Water Technique moves, which I always appreciate, but I was even happier to see Nezuko finally take the lead in battle. Trading temari kicks back and forth with Susamaru could've easily been a weightless bit of action filler, but ufotable is nothing if not excellent at giving fights a real sense of heft. You feel each and every kick between these girls, with the animation and sound design working in synergy to support Tamayo and Yushiro's awe at the younger Kamado sibling's growing power. Tamayo also gets an interesting moment to shine, when she uses her blood magic to befuddle Susamaru and trick her into uttering Kibutsuji's name. This activates Kibutsuji's curse, which causes a trio of monstrous arms to burst out of Susamaru's insides and eviscerate her. It's one of the most brutal deaths we've seen from this series, which hasn't exactly shied away from hardcore violence. Though I have to admit, I was puzzled as to why Susamaru didn't just pull that trick from the get-go and save our heroes a bunch of trouble, but it's possible I'm blanking on whatever explanation the show might have already provided.
Once Susamaru and Yahaba are finally dispatched, we get another moment of weary empathy from Tanjiro, who continues to excel as a heroic figure by taking the lives of the monsters he kills seriously. It turns out that neither Yahaba nor Susamaru belonged to the order of demons called the Twelve Demon Moons, and despite being much more powerful than Tanjiro expected, they were just lackeys, victims of Kibutsuji's designs. Demon Slayer also tries to imbue Nezuko with a little more humanity, though these results are more mixed. Throughout the episode, Nezuko imprints more and more on Tamayo and Yushiro, which Tanjiro explains as a consequence of the spell Nezuko is under. There's a confusing moment where Tamayo implies that Nezuko is treating them as individuals, since they're demons and not humans, but then Tanjiro says it's because Nezuko has decided to see the two as humans, except just a little while later,Tanjiro goes out of his way to announce that Nezuko is developing her own sense of free will outside of the curse.
I struggle to see why this whole exchange had to be so complicated, when the simpler and arguably more effective approach would have been to just allow Nezuko the ability to care about others without the aid of a spell. It's like the show knows how lame it is that Nezuko's personality and motivations have been so comically simplified, but then it doubles down on the rationalizations for this instead of taking the easiest route away from the problem. We're ten episodes into the season, and my biggest issue with Demon Slayer so far is that it set up this incredibly compelling relationship between Tanjiro and Nezuko, only to do almost nothing with her character development for months. Right now, Nezuko is little more than an emotional MacGuffin in the form of an especially cute attack dog – she's mechanically useful, and she's fun to watch when she gets stuff to do, but her contribution to Demon Slayer's thematic and emotional content is questionable at best. All the same, even though Tamayo offers to shelter Nezuko while Tanjiro goes off in search of the real Twelve Demon Moons, Tanjiro politely refuses. He lost his family once; he's not going to leave his only sister alone again.
Speaking of "questionable at best", Tanjiro and Nezuko end the episode by running into Zenitsu again, the orange-haired boy from the Final Selection, who's now clinging desperately to a visibly upset young woman. Zenitsu is such a coward who feels so close to death's door that he wants to marry the nearest girl who will accept him, and the results are about as cringe-worthy as can be. While the jury is still out on how likable Zenitsu will be, I'm eager to see how he meshes with Tanjiro and Nezuko's dynamic. It's about time for Demon Slayer to shake up its formula, and what better way to do that than with a man who serves to make our heroes look even more badass?
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