Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
The first five minutes of “My Own Steel” have no right to be as good as they are. Teoni was a villain for just half of one episode, and while he was a wonderfully vile pile of limbs and rage, there was no reason to expect any more from the character than that. Tanjiro slicing off Teoni's head was such a fist-pumpingly badass moment that we get to see it again before the credits roll this week, and I figured that would be the last we saw of the demon. Then Demon Slayer does something that I wasn't anticipating in Teoni's final moments. In stark black and white, we get a flashback to when he was first turned as a child, and we see the trembling young boy that still exists somewhere, locked deep inside the heart of the demon he has become. As he dies, the human part of Teoni wants nothing more than to hold his big brother's hand one more time. Despite his own anger, Tanjiro senses his foe's anguish and takes the monster's hand. Tears trickle down Teoni's cheeks as he dissolves into ash.
So in about fifteen minutes that span just two episodes, Demon Slayer managed to introduce a monster-of-the-week that I was overjoyed to see killed off, only to have me wiping away tears for him by the time he was gone. There might not be much about this show that you could describe as fresh or subversive, but I'm not going to complain when Demon Slayer is firing on all cylinders with the story it's trying to tell. In my opinion, a great shonen series is able to strike the right balance between its three pillars of action, comedy, and drama. If last week was an immaculate example of how to do an action episode right, “My Own Steel” nails the drama portion of the equation. In demonstrating his capacity for both bloodshed and empathy, Tanjiro is coming into his own as a hero. His victory in the Final Selection feels earned, and we're happy to see him choose the ore for his blade alongside the other four victors who survived the trial.
This induction ceremony is also where the show begins to expand its cast of Demon Slayers, even as it dispenses some fairly dry exposition about the hierarchy and function of the Demon Slayer Corps. The blond inductee, who the internet tells me is named Zenitsu, has some hilarious reaction shots, such as when he discovers that he's received a sparrow instead of the traditional crow for his messenger bird. We also meet the prerequisite douchebag Genya, who's appropriately voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto, like an alternate-universe version of My Hero Academia's Bakugo. While I have little patience for characters with such over-the-top attitude problems, Genya's bullying of the twins gives Tanjiro another opportunity to demonstrate his newfound resolve. Tanjiro doesn't just threaten to break Genya's arm, he squeezes it hard enough for the bones to creak audibly!
The final act of the episode is just as well-paced and gorgeous as everything else we've gotten in the past two weeks. The sequence of Tanjiro hobbling home uses long shots and a lush color scheme to excellent effect, and there's another bit of great comic timing when Nezuko announces her grand entrance by literally kicking down Urokodaki's door and embracing her brother in a painfully adorable demonic hug. Demon Slayer managed to squeeze some tears out of me again when Urokodaki joins in their hug session.This sequence, along with the departure of the dead apprentice spirits, does a great deal to cement how the old man has become a surrogate father for both of the Kamado siblings.
The last scenes of the episode introduce Haganezuka, a sword-obsessed man in a hilarious mask who gives Tanjiro his jet-black blade, which looks absolutely badass. There's a lot of work going into setting up future demon-slaying missions, the next of which will be investigating a village where young girls are vanishing without a trace. From what I've read, a lot of what's to come in Demon Slayer consists of more episodic action-adventure fare. Normally, I might be disappointed in the lack of a clear overarching narrative, but I'm perfectly happy to let Demon Slayer do its thing for now. The one-two punch of “Final Selection” and “My Own Steel” has been a near perfect example of traditional Shonen Jump style excitement, and I could not be more excited to follow Tanjiro and Nezuko on more demon-slaying adventures.
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