Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
“Against Corps Rules” is an episode that struggles in spite of its many strengths. The animation and direction are as on-point as always; ufotable gives even the briefest flashes of action a spark of life that many studios couldn't be bothered to embellish. When Tanjiro and Nezuko are being pursued by a young associate of Shinobu Kocho's, we're even treated to the indelible image of a tiny little Nezuko running through the forest and evading death like a Peanuts character. My criticisms of Nezuko's characterization still stand – it's Demon Slayer's greatest failing, and largely what keeps it tethered to good-but-not-great status in my book – but even I have a Cuteness Quotient that can be exploited by Tiny Nezuko.
That being said, no amount of little demon sisters or snappy animation can save “Against Corps Rules” from feeling like trussed-up wheel-spinning that exists primarily to get us to the episode's final shot, where Tanjiro comes face to face with the Hashiras of the Demon Slayer Corps, who are mighty curious as to why he's traveling with a demon in his backpack. Little else of consequence happens this week; this is one of those times where you could essentially read a three-sentence Wikipedia summary of the episode and lose very little of the Demon Slayer experience.
Take Rui's final moments, which drag us once again to the well of Tanjiro learning to feel sad for his enemies' tragic backstories, enough to even make a big speech about it to Tomioka, who barely cares about standing atop the ashen remains of a fallen monster. The problem is, we already got a much more interesting look at Rui's family-façade last week, and we could have easily guessed at what gets revealed this week. Rui got turned into a demon and manipulated by Kibutsuji, and then his parents tried to murder him, so he murdered them first. He spent the rest of his un-life trying to fill the void of familial bonds with spider-abominations, only to ultimately be reunited with his family's spirits in death. The first few times Demon Slayer pulled this trick, it was extremely effective, but Rui's last-minute injection of empathy is more a matter of routine than anything else. We get it, Demon Slayer, the demons are all tragic figures. Unless the show plans on exploring that tragedy more deeply or changing up the formula to introduce new ideas, we don't need to spend half an episode getting the same old point across.After that, the present-day story involves Kocho trying to kill Nezuko, Tamioka buying the siblings time to run away, Tamioka and Kocho fighting for a bit, Tanjiro and Nezuko running for a bit, and then all of our heroes getting rounded up and carried off to answer to the Demon Slayer higher-ups. The fight and chase scenes are all well done, but they're just killing time until the crows arrive to tell everyone to stop fighting and get back to HQ. There's not much dramatic tension in the build-up, and neither sequence has time to be truly entertaining because half the episode was spend on Rui's extended flashback. The tiny Nezuko stuff was cute, but that could have been inserted into any chase scene at any point in the story, so it comes across as yet another excuse to faff around for a while until the episode only has a few minutes left to get abruptly transported to the Hashiras.
As far as table-setting episodes go, I get why “Against Corps Rules” turned out this way. Tanjiro was going to have to reckon with his unusual sibling partnership sooner or later. But as a standalone episode of television, Demon Slayer just doesn't have much to offer this week. The cute gags and solid visuals are nice enough, but in the end they're little more than consolation prizes for having to watch the story shuffle about and get all of its business in order before it can get the plot rolling again next week.
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