Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
Last week, when we were introduced to Muzan Kibutsuji, I wondered if Demon Slayer was jumping the gun by tossing Tanjiro and Nezuko into the show's central conflict without allowing time for everything to be properly established. Luckily, this week's episode proved that the show is still perfectly in control of its own pacing – not only does Kibutsuji get his properly heinous debut, but we meet several new characters that help set the stage for Demon Slayer's long-term goals, a conflict that encompasses both Tanjiro's quest for vengeance and the hope that Nezuko might someday be restored to her human form. In this way, “The Smell of Enchanting Blood” is the best kind of table-setting episode, one that manages to expand the scope of Demon Slayer's world while still providing stylish entertainment in its own right.
After picking up where last week left off, with Tanjiro confronting Kibutsuji only to find that the demon has a family and masquerades as a normal human, the episode follows two different threads. The first follows Tanjiro and resolves the lingering issue of the demon that Kibutsuji created right in the middle of a crowded city street, and the other gives us a deeper glimpse at the depth of Kibutsuji's evil. Pairing this episode with last week's prelude, I dig how Kibutsuji is being handled so far. He's the kind of slick, attractive, and approachable bastard that makes for a delightfully hateful antagonist, but he still hides the capacity to unleash obscenely horrifying carnage on the unsuspecting humans around him. This much is proven when Kibutsuji takes to the city's back alleys to plan his next move against Tanjiro, only to take his fury out on a pair of drunkard brothers and their female companion, after they make the fatal mistake of insulting him. He makes quick bloody work of the two men, but he takes his time dispatching the poor woman who had to watch them die.
Toshihiko Seki really gets to have fun in this scene, as he imbues Kibutsuji with a menace that's equal parts aloof ego and unhinged sadism. The whole scene is fabulously directed, especially the cut of Kibutsuji dissolving the woman's body into screaming sludge – it's utterly gruesome, and it gave me some serious flashbacks to the most traumatizing moments of Made in Abyss' finale. I may have had my doubts before, but this sequence alone goes a long way toward cementing Kibutsuji as a force to be reckoned with, and his malicious shadow lingers over the rest of the episode, even when things take a turn for the more lighthearted and comedic.
As Tanjiro struggles to subdue the newly turned demon, we're introduced to a pair of friendly demons named Tamayo and Yushiro. The former is a centuries-old woman who now works as a doctor; over the years, she's learned to suppress her craving for human blood, and now she only requires small amounts that she receives by purchasing blood from consenting donors. Her blood magic is seriously cool, taking the form of gorgeous streaks of flowery light, which she uses to help Tanjiro secure the demon and the injured woman before inviting him to her magically camouflaged home.
Yushiro is Tamayo's apprentice, and his antagonistic attitude provides some much needed humor to smooth out the stretches of Kibutsuji's killing sprees and Tamayo's expositing. My favorite gag was Tanjiro's insistence on correcting Yoshiro's poor opinion of Nezuko's looks – the gag could have been awkward, but it worked by focusing on Tanjiro's strong brotherly instincts. This poor kid's whole family has been murdered, and his sister is now a mute murder machine, so it stands to reason that he's going to be a little defensive about her. I'll admit that I got tired of the over-reliance on the “Yushiro hates Tanjiro and constantly beats him up” shtick, but the comedic rapport between the two boys was entertaining nonetheless.
The gist of Tamayo's guidance is that there may indeed be a serum that can restore Nezuko's humanity, but it would require much research, not to mention samples of demonic blood. Specifically, Tamayo needs Tanjiro to retrieve the blood from demons whose powers rival Kibutsuji's, which is no small feat, but we wouldn't have much of a story if Tanjiro just said “No”. He agrees to take on the worst of demonkind, right when next week's baddies show up to wreck Tamayo's stuff and kill Tanjiro on Kibutsuji's behalf. One of the demons is a blind boy who uses his freaky hand eyeballs to track prey (with another superb visual effect demonstrating this power), and his partner is a wicked girl who uses her bouncing ball toys to wreak havoc. This was an understandably action-lite episode, so I can't wait for Demon Slayer to kick things back into high-gear next time. Hopefully Nezuko will get more to do than roll around on the floor like an adorable little cat next time.
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