Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
The minute Sakonji accepted Tanjiro as his apprentice for the Demon Slayer Corps, I knew that there was bound to be a training montage ahead—it's genre tradition, after all. I don't know if I expected this third episode to be a full half-hour of montages that span two full years in the story, but Demon Slayer doesn't seem content to do things by half-measures, so I probably shouldn't be too surprised. "Sabito and Makomo” is the most straightforward chapter of this story so far, sometimes even being downright cliché, and its familiar elements are compounded by just how much ground must be covered in such a short amount of time. Normally, I'd be poised to snooze right through an episode like this, but Demon Slayer's execution was strong enough to sweep aside my reservations and take me on an enjoyable ride.Demon Slayer's pacing has so far been the ticket to its success, and that continues to be the case. This is an episode devoted entirely to moving along the plot of Sakonji preparing Tanjiro for the deadly Final Selection process. It's a full two years worth of swordsmanship training, obstacle courses, breathing exercises, and attempted boulder slashing, and Nezuko spends the whole thing asleep and unresponsive. This could have easily felt like a cheap way to brush through the necessary busy-work of explaining how goofy little Tanjiro could be so capable with a blade, but the editing and staging are breezy and energetic enough to keep every step of Tanjiro's journey feeling fresh. I was worried at first when I noticed that this was the most broadly comic and Shonen Jump-y the show had ever felt, but pulling off such a dramatic shift in tone and structure so effortlessly was an impressive feat.
Outside of the montage's excellent comic timing and sense of flow, I lay a lot of the success here at the feet of Natsuki Hanae. His performance of Tanjiro isn't too far removed from his excellent work as Rokuro in Twin Star Exorcists, but if it ain't broke, I won't blame the actor for not fixing it. His vocal quality is equal parts bullheaded pride and unabashed optimism, with a dash of crushed-up gravel for good measure. It's a perfect archetype of the headstrong male hero that still manages to be endearing and invigorating. I had initially worried that Tanjiro wouldn't be able to carry the story without his dynamic with Nezuko, but if anything this episode proved that he's a perfectly capable leading man in his own right.
When Sakonji claims that there's nothing left for Tanjiro to be taught, the boy is left with one final task: he must slice a boulder in half with a single katana strike. The episode's prelude and all of Sakonji's training put a heavy emphasis on the physical limitations of being a mortal in a war against demons, so I was just as curious as Tanjiro to learn how exactly this was supposed to be accomplished. This is where the titular Sabito and Makomo come in. They're two orphaned children that Sakonji adopted, who each don kitsune masks and challenge the limits of what Tanjiro believes he is capable of. Sabito's scarred mask complements his combative approach to Tanjiro's trials but Makomo's approach is more patiently instructive. She spends time correcting Tanjiro's techniques and picking up where Sakonji left off, though her intentions (and Sabito's) remain mysterious. Makomo reveals that the secret lies in Sakonji's Total Concentration Breathing technique, which is essentially this series' version of the Ripple technique from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. By breathing in just the right way, Tanjiro can gain superhuman strength and reflexes in pivotal moments. In his final fight with Sabito, our hero slices Sakonji's giant stone clean in half.
Tanjiro's final epiphany was the only beat of the episode that felt too rushed for its own good, but it was balanced out well by the dreamy and melancholy tone of these final scenes. Sabito and Makomo vanish with Tanjiro's winning blow, which implies that they're some manner of spirits or something. There's a lot to be explored in how their fates might tie into Sakonji's character—he has remained pretty flat so far—but I appreciate how they lend a surreal quality to Tanjiro's own story. The bones of this plot may not be anything special so far, but Demon Slayer knows how to make every shot and scrap of character count. I hope Nezuko wakes up before too long, but it's nice to know that even in her absence, Demon Slayer can take the most overdone shonen tropes and present them with charm and grace to spare.
discuss this in the forum (108 posts) |