Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
I've had a lot more patience for Demon Slayer's recent indulgence in its Tanjiro/Inosuke/Zenitsu shenanigans, but even I had to admit that the first half of “Mount Natagumo” is a real drag. We get it, Demon Slayer, this is a wacky dysfunctional trio – Zenitsu is an incorrigible coward, Tanjiro is the belagured responsible once, and Inosuke is insane. As the show's ending theme has been telling us for weeks, the only thing that motivates Zenitsu more than fear is a cute girl, so of course he gets all out of sorts whenever Nezuko emerges from her box. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Demon Slayer has felt like a completely different show in these past few episodes, and I've seen a lot of frustration from fans who just want Tanjiro and Nezuko to get back to the creepy, lush spectacle that this anime does so well.
Thankfully, we do get there, though it takes a lot longer than it ought to. There's a lot of the boys running around and heckling each other, and Zenitsu hits the nadir of his likability when he sits out the mission to Mount Natagumo and sulks to his bird the entire time. Comic relief is comic relief, but Zenitsu's insistence that Tanjiro and Inosuke should have just encouraged him more to join them brings out the orange boy's worst qualities, and it isn't like we needed a reminder that he's just a teensy bit pathetic. Also, the guy's sparrow has the patience of a little birdy saint to be trying to encourage him so much, when the only thing that actually gets him off his butt is his jealous rage over Nezuko being with Tanjiro.
Inosuke gets played up for laughs as much as Zenitsu in this episode, too, but it works a hundred times better. He's genuinely been broken by his anger and isolation, so the fluffy epiphanies he has whenever someone expresses a bit of kindness his way are funny and sweet. He's also useful in combat more than ten percent of the time, which makes him a much better partner for Tanjiro once they head into the forests of the mountain. This is where Demon Slayer cracks its knuckles and returns to form by introducing the family of spider demons that have been slaughtering the Demon Slayers that came before Tanjiro and Co. By using the silk of their arachnid minions to literally puppet the unwitting soldiers, Tanjiro, Inosuke, and the lone survivor of the first attack have to find a way to take on their incapacitated comrades without killing them.
We only get a glimpse of most of the demons, including the matriarch that is pulling everyone's strings, but the demon boy who comes to serve as his family's ambassador gives us a good idea of what the crew is up against. I absolutely love Demon Slayer's character designs, and the slick spidery look of these new enemies is yet another addition to the show's impressive catalogue. There's not a whole lot of action this week that can show off ufotable's production skills, but we still get some creative visuals to signal that we're at last stepping out of the sitcom zone and into more cinematic, horror-tinged territory. I especially dug the way CG was used to give us some POV shots of the dark mountain forest, and to enhance Inosuke's powers of detection, which function as a kind of psychic sonar.
This was another transitional episode of Demon Slayer, but it's easy to get over “Mount Natagumo's” biggest missteps when it's transitioning us into what looks to be a very cool and very creepy new threat for our heroes to overcome. I don't mind the show's sillier instincts enough to dismiss its attempts at ensemble comedy entirely, but it's far from Demon Slayer's strong suit. Now that we've all had more than enough time to figure out the gang's dynamic, I hope future arcs strike a better balance between eliciting chuckles and screams.
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