Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ?
The title “Temari Demon and Arrow Demon” does a perfect job of setting up the showdown that is Demon Slayer's ninth episode: just twenty minutes of nonstop battle between our heroes and the titular demons. Susamaru is the Temari Demon, a cruel and cackling madwoman who grows two extra pairs of arms with which to lob her destructive temari around Tamayo's refuge. Yahaba is the Arrow Demon, whose gross hand eyeballs literally shoot out invisible arrows of pure energy that can do an awful lot of damage on their own, as well as manipulate Susamaru's temari. Yushiro's skull gets obliterated right away, so he and Tamayo are preoccupied with healing for most of the episode, which leaves Tanjiro and Nezuko to figure out how in the hell they're going to defeat the toughest demons they've encountered yet.
Being a battle episode, that's about all there is to recap in terms of plot. The bad guys have shown up with their weird and wild weapons, and the good guys have to find a way to beat them. Thankfully, this is an ufotable production, which means that Demon Slayer is perfectly capable of maintaining interest by prioritizing off the staff's considerable chops for spectacle. Outside of the questionable smoke-effects, which have never looked quite right to me in any ufotable project, this is an immaculate half-hour of television. The colors are subdued without losing their depth, the animation is fast and fluid, and the storyboarding highlights all of the key moments at all of the right times. In manga form, there are plenty of tricks that an artist can use to make enemies like Susamaru and Yahaba imposing, but it's harder to translate that excitement into a medium that relies more heavily on motion. If Susamaru's temari are going to be truly threatening, they have to move violently enough to be convincing. For Yahaba's arrows to be anything other than a goofy gimmick, they need to slice through the air with real speed and menace.
And as usual, Demon Slayer is up to the task. Susamaru and Yahaba not only have the most personality and charm of any of the villains we've met so far (save for Kibutsuji), and they're totally badass to boot. Yahaba's weird powers make him suitably creepy, which even Tanjiro must acknowledge in the middle of getting his butt kicked by the guy for the fourth or fifth time. The demon doesn't really get to shine until a recuperated Yushiro gives Tanjiro the power to see the literal arrows that have been pummeling him and his sister all night, but I enjoyed that visual trick as much as I loved watching those evil temari reduce body parts to a pulpy blood-mush. I'd argue that Susamaru steals the show though – she's got the more fiery personality of the two Demons of the Week, and I have to give ufotable credit for knowing exactly that its audience wants to see a ripped, bloodthirsty monster-girl with extra limbs and a killer hair-style who's eager to step on you at the first opportunity.
At the end of the day, “Temari Demon and Arrow Demon” exists to do what Demon Slayer does best: deliver a satisfying over-the-top shonen battle, cranking the style and excitement knobs all the way up to eleven. I could write another seven hundred words just listing off the most awesome animation cuts, from the delightfully nasty skull-worm things that stitched Yushiro's head back together to the way Yahaba knocks Tanjiro around in the air like a human pinball to the surprisingly well-integrated use of CG models in the wide shots of Tanjiro and Nezuko's fights. We're nine weeks into the season, and I still get giddy whenever Tanjiro busts out one of his Water Technique moves – the block-painting effect somehow never gets old.
So we end with Tanjiro finally getting at least one victory, slicing off Yahaba's head in a satisfying final attack before the credits roll. But Nezuko is down after losing a leg to a temari, and Susamaru is still very much alive, so there's plenty of action to anticipate next week. This might not have been the most thematically or structurally daring episode of Demon Slayer, but it's difficult to complain when the show continues to deliver some of the most polished and entertaining shonen action I've seen in years.
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