Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
Demon Slayer wraps up its Tsuzumi Demon mini-arc this week in appropriately dramatic fashion, injecting it's potent and efficient mix of pathos and spectacle, which has by now become a comfortably predictable staple of how this show structures its stories. We get Tanjiro's final battle with the demon, a flashback detailing the demon's traumatic past, and some Zenitsu bits to fill out everything in between that alternate between being tolerably zany and surprisingly sweet. “Something More Important Than Life” is not a perfect step into the next phase of Demon Slayer's story – it suffers from the repetitive and clunky scripting that has hampered many of the show's mid-tier episodes – but it's satisfying and entertaining. Given the highs we know the show is capable of hitting, I think that's a perfectly acceptable benchmark for transitional episodes like this one.
I mentioned last time that I haven't been as big a fan of the Tsuzumi Demon – here named Kyogai – as I have been of the series' past foes. His design, while conceptually interesting, is nowhere near as immediately threatening as the other demons' have been, and I don't think it's out of line for me to point out that the consistent pom pom pom of Kyogai's drum's isn't exactly a sound that inspires fear and terror in the hearts of viewers. The best thing about Tanjiro and Kyogai's extended duel, though, has been the Inception-esque shifting of the mansion's gravity and orientation, which this episode absolutely makes the most of. Tanjiro's emotional self-directed pep-talk even works better this week, because there's a little less internal-monologuing and a lot more chaotic tumbling around the excellently produced CG backgrounds. It's been easy to make unfavorable comparisons between recent episodes and the high watermarks of action choreography we got in the most recent arc, so I was happy to see the Tanjiro v. Kyogai fight go out on a visual high note.
The attempt at giving Kyogai the same level of emotional sendoff some other demons have gotten is less successful. I won't lie to you and say I didn't relate to Kyogai's plight of feeling despondent about his prospects as a writer, and I really liked how his conflict with Tanjiro was resolved when Tanjiro gave the demon the respect and recognition he'd craved for so long (it cannot be stressed enough that Tanjiro is, in fact, A Very Good Boy™). The writing in Kyogai's flashback was a bit too ham-fisted for my tastes, though, and it didn't help that the episode insisted on showing us several cuts of the flashback twice within a few minutes, either because the show didn't trust us to make the connection between Kyogai's past struggles and his present fight with our hero, or because the episode was in need of a few extra seconds of padding. The show still hasn't topped the unexpected gut-punch of discovering Teoni's suppressed humanity way back in Episode 5, though I really dug the simple and low-key sendoff Susamaru had in Episode 10. Kyogai's end was fine, but it also smacked a little too much of Demon Slayer self-consciously diving back to the well of its more successful story beats.
Once Tanjiro wraps up the battle and finally gets some high-level demon blood to send back to Tamayo and Yushiro (and we meet the show's undisputed greatest character) we check back in with Zenitsu, who gets a very compact dose of backstory and character development, which works in spite of its wonky delivery. The show does that thing where Tanjiro walks in on an unexpected scene – Zenitsu getting his ass kicked by Boar Guy while he defends Nezuko in her box – only to undercut the drama by flashing back to what happened moments before, all so it can replay the beginning of the scene again to get the viewers caught up. That kind of structuring can work okay in printed form, since the pacing is only disrupted for however long it takes the reader to flip through a couple of pages, but I always find it irritating when an anime tries to pull the same trick.
That being said, it's a solid scene for our cowardly little trash fire, who is finally beginning to feel like a real character, instead of a pile of gimmicks stuffed into an orange kimono. Not only is it genuinely sweet (if a little sudden) to see him so earnestly defending Tanjiro's decision to walk around with a demon sister backpack, we also learn that Zenitsu possesses a kind of sensory power that complements Tanjiro's own super-smell abilities. In Zenitsu's case, he can hear the most subtle of sounds all around him, from the signature aural aura of demons to the micro-changes within the human body that signal their innermost emotions and intentions. This has understandably made Zenitsu a nervous wreck who struggles to navigate the world around him, but it also reinforces the trust he's built in Tanjiro, who apparently “sounds” like the earnest cupcake he's proven himself to be week-after-week.
All of which has led to the poor boy getting his face remodeled by the Boar Guy's rage-fueled kicks. Naturally, Tanjiro won't abide by a friend getting abused, especially when said friend is defending his little sister, so next week looks to be a bout between Tenjiro and the literally pig-headed rival Demon Slayer that refuses to back down – presumably, it won't take too long after that for everyone to become friends, given how things shake out in the show's ED. It's another instance of Demon Slayer going down what seems like the obvious genre path, but if it leads to more Good Boys Doing Nice Things (and Eviscerating Monsters), you won't find me grumbling about it.
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