Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
For most of this season, if someone were to ask me to describe Demon Slayer's whole vibe in a nutshell, I would have said, “It takes the staples of a Shonen Jump action anime and cranks the dial up to 11.” This has never been an especially original show, but as with so many other ufotable productions, execution is key. “The Boar Bares Its Fangs, Zenitsu Sleeps” is not unenjoyable by any means, but it's the first time in a while I would say that Demon Slayer has felt like it's resting on convention. There are plenty of wonderful sequences of action and animation, but the narrative foundation underneath is shaky.
Much was made of Zenitsu's shrill personality last week – I wasn't surprised to find that many fans were not interested in putting up with the boy's loud antics for an entire episode. He's not exactly better this week, as 90% of his scenes with Teruko's brother Shuichi rely on the exact same shtick as before: Zenitsu is an obnoxious coward, and nobody will let him forget it. He does get one of the episode's most satisfying payoffs, though. After a demon with a grossly proportioned tongue and an appetite for the flesh of children spends a good amount of time chasing Zenitsu and Shuichi around, Zenitsu is so overcome with panic that he conks out completely; poor Shuichi isn't even surprised to see him fast asleep on the floor as he stares down their imminent doom.
There was no way that there wasn't going to be some kind of gimmick to Zenitsu's uselessness, and this week finally lets the other shoe drop. When Zenitsu is asleep, he enters into a kind of trance where he becomes absurdly good at slicing-and-dicing demon skulls. It's a quick but excellent action beat, another showcase for how effortless Demon Slayer can make its spectacle look. It might not be enough to make up for how insufferable Zenitsu is when he's conscious (he doesn't even realize that he becomes a sleepwalking badass, so he's back to sniveling within less than a minute), but I'm happy to know that he has some kind of role to play outside of being the comic relief of the ensemble.
We also pick up with the Boar Head Guy, though his introduction suffers from the pacing issues that also hamper Tanjiro's portion of the episode. I had assumed that the conflict with the Tsuzumi Demon might be finished up by the end of episode 12, but this mini-arc follows the same pattern as the last by relegating the majority of the action against the main demon of the week to a cliffhanger at the end of this second episode. So Boar Guy gets a flashy introduction, where he makes it clear that he'll take on any unlucky soul who crosses his path, friend or foe, since he mostly seems to be in this business for the excitement of battle. After he ruffles both Tanjiro and the Demon's feathers in the first act, the man in the mask disappears for most of the episode, only returning in a brief scene to kill a morbidly obese demon in a scene that seems like time-filler. Boar Head Guy seems like a cool character, but he didn't get enough to do this week for me to come away with any stronger opinion.
This leaves Tanjiro stuck with the story that feels the most like by-the-numbers material, with a lot of cool moments spread out between a bunch of exposition and out-of-place comedy. It doesn't help that the Tsuzumi Demon is the least interesting of the foes we've encountered so far. I dig his ability to flip around the mansion's rooms Inception-style with the tsuzumi embedded in his flesh, but he lacks personality. Outside of the admittedly beautiful shots of Tanjiro flipping about the seamlessly rendered CG background, most of Tanjiro's third of the episode came off as Demon Slayer going through the motions until the big fight next episode. We get a perfunctory flashback appearance from Kibutsuji, a somewhat underwhelming reunion with Teruko's other brother, and a whole lot of internal monologuing.
This week, Tanjiro's inner thoughts got laid on a little too thick, rehashing how difficult the fight has become because of his still-healing injuries. There's an attempt at an emotional beat when Tanjiro struggles to have faith in his own abilities, but it didn't do much for me, and the overuse of the cutesy animation for the voice-over bits only made the scene clunkier. There's also a clumsy dialogue exchange where Tanjiro's raven explains that the demons are after Grade-A blood, called “marechi”, though I did appreciate how the raven got to show more personality while he delivered his “ex-crow-sition”.
Fortunately, a merely okay episode of Demon Slayer is still pretty darn good, so it's not like our time was wasted this week. I think the lack of Nezuko and the focus on Zenitsu's antics have made this arc suffer in comparison to the show's best moments, and this villain isn't doing much for me either. My guess is that our three Demon Slayers will be teaming up more officially to take down The Not So Little Drummer Boy next week, which should prove to be very entertaining indeed.
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