Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
I'm hesitant to use the term “slow burn” when describing movies and TV these days, because I feel like it's become overused, and I often see it deployed as thinly veiled shorthand for "secretly boring". “Swordsman Accompanying a Demon” definitely moves at a slower pace than previous episodes, but I wouldn't call it boring. I appreciated this shift in gears, given that we're watching Tanjiro and Nezuko work their first case as Demon Slayers. It's a classic setup too: young girls in a sleepy Japanese village are disappearing one after the other, and Tanjiro has to use his wits (and his nose) to track down the culprit before another victim gets devoured like his family did.
If I'm being honest, it was a little goofy to watch Tanjiro spend so much of the episode with his face down in the dirt as he literally sniffed out his mark, but the show was at least keen enough to frame it as a tongue-in-cheek joke. Kazumi is the boy we met briefly last week whose girlfriend was taken by a demon, and he serves as our everyman. He watches Tanjiro do his thing with bemusement, and his genuine terror at what's happening in his town keeps everything grounded in the first half. The episode gets stylish and atmospheric at times too, especially when the demon's next victim is swallowed into the inky black void that it generates to move about and seize its prey.
All of the build-up pays off nicely, which is all I ever ask from these so-called “slow burns”. The demon itself is a creepy teeth-grinding menace that can pull off the neat trick of splitting itself into three distinct entities (you can tell them apart by their differing personalities and the number of horns on their heads). It's not quite the terrifying mess of limbs and rage that Teoni was, but it's good enough to keep Tanjiro on his toes. The demon's ability to be in multiple places at once also makes for a more interesting and dynamic battle. Tanjiro gets to show off a lot of his moves, including many new forms of his Water Breathing technique.
The direction and animation holds up too, which is good,because the one worry I had with the less action-heavy first half was that there wouldn't be as much spectacle this week. Thankfully, Tanjiro's battle delivers the goods, though this episode is clearly all about building up to Nezuko's battlefield debut for next week, so it's slightly more subdued than expected for a big fight. Speaking of Nezuko, I will admit to being disappointed with how she's been utilized. For one thing, she's stuck in a box this whole episode, which is unfortunate even if it makes her eventual emergence more exciting by the end.
Also, we learn that Urokodaki used hypnotic suggestion to instill Nezuko with protective instincts for all humans. This feels cheap to me, a short-cut to a character arc that could have been earned more organically through Nezuko interacting with people. The whole idea of just “training” her not to want to attack humans also makes her feel too much like a pet. I'm all for her animalistic demon instincts clashing with her former human self, but her lack of screen time combined with this development are making her lacking in personality, which could end up being a big problem.
There's also the major reveal at the end of this episode, which is the identity of the master demon, Muzan Kibutsuji that could hold the key to bringing Nezuko back to her human form. Instead of having Tanjiro and Nezuko discover this information on their own, Urokodaki just hands it to Tanjiro in a flashback, which robs it of its inherent dramatic potential. Moving forward, I'm not concerned about Demon Slayer's knack for action set pieces and raw emotional power, but I hope to see it tighten up its storytelling chops. The beautiful animation and direction can only sustain it for so long – eventually, the plot and characters will have to pick up their fair share of the weight to keep things moving forward smoothly.
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