Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
Episode 7 is the kind of half-and-half affair you get from time to time with adaptations like Demon Slayer, where the first half of the episode is devoted to wrapping up the conflict that got started last week with the woman-eating demon, and the second half of the episode is used to lay the groundwork for the introduction of the nefarious title character, Muzan. So “Muzan Kubutsuji” ends up feeling more disjointed and utilitarian as a result, though the episode is still perfectly fine overall, even if its titular demon is rotten to the core.
Before we get to Muzan though, Tanjiro and Nezuko have to finish off the demon they started a fight with last week, and the results are as entertaining as you'd expect. The fight choreography and animation continue to be top-notch, and I dug the scene where Tanjiro had to engage in underwater combat when he entered the demon's home turf underground. It provided a nice change of pace for the sequence and gave Tanjiro more opportunities to test his wits in the midst of battle. Tanjiro was generally not taking any crap this week; more and more he's getting to show off his ruthless side, which I like so long as the show doesn't forget his empathetic core. Honestly, could anyone blame him for slicing out the demon's tongue when the monster suggested he was doing the women he killed a favor by eating them before they got old and “undesirable”? There was an attempt to inspire some sympathy for the creature when it showed how afraid he was of spilling the beans and angering Muzan, but it didn't take away from the satisfaction of seeing Tanjiro slice the dude's face in half.
My one gripe with this first act would be how Nezuko continues to feel underutilized, both as a tool for creating spectacle and as a character in her own right. Last week's final shot proved to be more of a tease than anything; she gets some good licks in this fight, but it's still a showcase for Tanjiro. Outside of a perfunctory acknowledgement that his demon sister probably doesn't need much protecting, there's little in the way of development for the pair's relationship, and Nezuko even ends up asleep again as soon as the fight is done. I could understand the convenience of setting Nezuko aside in her extra-long nap during Tanjiro's training arc, but now it just feels like Demon Slayer doesn't know what to do with its second most important character.
There's far less action in the episode's second half, which sees the siblings off on their next mission in Asakusa. This is actually a great sequence, giving us a glimpse of Tokyo's metropolis right in the middle of its early 20th-century boom, when the Taisho period's headfirst dive into modernization and Westernization was in full swing. I love that Demon Slayer gets to play around with the visuals and tropes of such a tumultuous time period, where old-fashioned swordsmen like Tanjiro can stand alongside a debonair demon in a three-piece suit and a fedora. Our hero's culture shock makes for some pretty great reaction shots too.
With only five or so minutes left in the episode, I was wondering how Demon Slayer was going to work in the titular Muzan Kubutsuji. The show surprised me yet again by getting right to the point and having Tanjiro literally sniff the guy out, and at first I was disappointed that the show would be so straightforward. Here's the ostensible antagonist of the story, and Demon Slayer is just going to toss him into the final scene of an episode with almost no fanfare? However, the show makes this work when it gives both Tanjiro and the audience a big complicated twist at the heart of Muzan's character. He's got a wife and a daughter, and he's living his life disguised as a human. This isn't some barely functioning bloodsucker like the demons we've met before. If Tanjiro kills Muzan straight away, he'll be doing the exact same thing that Muzan did to him and Nezuko. He'll be destroying a family.
It's a great setup for the next stage of the story's conflict, and when you couple it with Muzan's slick and devious character design, you've got a recipe for an excellent villain. While I don't expect Muzan to be curing Nezuko of her own demonic affliction any time soon, I hope his entry into the story gives Demon Slayer cause to treat Nezuko with a little more complexity and depth. She's a badass, and she works fine as the emotional carrot at the end of the stick that's motivating Tanjiro to hunt Muzan down, but if the show fails in letting Nezuko be more than that, it will be missing out on a huge opportunity.
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