Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 25 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
If I were to sit down and seriously ask myself whether or not Demon Slayer needed another hijinks-heavy, time-killing episode right at the tail end of its first season, the answer would probably be no. After all, the plot of “Tsuguko, Kanao Tsuyuri” mostly amounts to another extended training montage for the boys; the titular Kanao only gets a few minutes devoted to her backstory. But if Demon Slayer is going to stretch out this comedy rehab storyline for as long as possible, it helps that there's a smidgen of character development and foreshadowing tossed in for good measure, not to mention that the episode is just really damn funny.
If anything, “Tsuguko, Kanao Tsuyuri” proves that, should Demon Slayer's ambitions at thrilling horror-adventure storytelling prove fruitless, it will always have a future as a ridiculous sitcom. We open the episode with Tanjiro getting beaten in the night by a bunch of children to reinforce his “Total Concentration Breathing, Constant” technique. Shinobu gets in on the goofiness to both charm and belittle Inosuke and Zenitsu into taking their training seriously, and we even see the return of the swordsmith Haganezuka, who is less than pleased to learn the fate of the original blade he made for our hero. It's the kind of comedic episode where pretty much every joke lands, and it goes a long way toward making what could have felt like filler into a worthwhile twenty-two minutes.
In the middle of all that nonsense, the show does take a detour into the serious when we learn more about Kanao, though she still remains mostly an enigma by the time the episode is done. She was raised in a terribly abusive and impoverished home, and she suffered so much that she eventually snapped, retreating into a silent existence of pure passivity until Shinobu, along with the late Kanae Kocho, rescued her from slavery. The young Shinobu, who has yet to grow into a spitting image of her older sister, can hardly deal with Kanao's helplessness – the girl won't even eat unless ordered to do so. Kanae's solution is to gift Kanao with a coin she can flip whenever she is unable to decide something for herself, which is meant to be her first small step to growing into her own independent person.
In the present day, Kanao still isn't much for communication, and she still struggles to connect with other people or make choices that reflect her own agency. Outside of setting up the basics of her personality, the only other bit of characterization we get is some foreshadowing of a relationship that might develop between Kanao and Tanjiro. Kanae not-so-subtly declares that falling in love might be the true catalyst Kanao needs to open up to other people, and Kanao seems to find Tanjiro's dogged determination at least intriguing – or maybe it's his embrace of “Boom! Boom!” as his new catchphrase – though a coin toss determines that she isn't yet ready to approach the boy outside of training.
It's a little odd that the newest female member of the cast would be yet another mute girl whose trauma has rendered her incapable of relating to other people, and it doesn't help that she barely features in the episode that bears her name in its title. Demon Slayer's inability to balance its wacky tone with Kanao's more serious struggle is this episode's one major failing, because as far as comedic stories go, this might be the show's strongest outing yet. It looks like we'll be diving back into more fraught territory for the finale, though – next week's demon gets a sneak preview that suggests this foe will really put all of their train-ing to the test.
Odds and Ends
• Tanjiro, getting right to the point: “If I stop doing Total Concentration Breathing in my sleep, can you clobber me with these carpet beaters?”
• Zenitsu, who feels like a targeted attack on me, specifically: “Putting in effort isn't my thing. There's nothing more draining than persevering every day.”
• Speaking of Zenitsu, my favorite exchange from the episode has to be him complaining to his sparrow, Ukogi: “Now I realize that we're a total lost cause.” Ukogi: *chirps*. Zenitsu: “Wait, did you just say, ‘Yes you are’?”
• Nezuko psychically whispers some words of encouragement to Tanjiro as she takes one of her long naps. At least it's something for her to do?
• There's some kind of specific distinction made between the “Fire Breathing” that Tanjiro's father practiced, versus the “Flame Breathing” that Shinobu is more familiar with, as practiced by the Flame Hashira Kyojuro Rengoku. What does this mean, and will it have any bearing on the single episode we have left in the season? Who knows!
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