This Week in Anime
Demon Slayer Weaves a Tangled Web in the Forest Spider Arc

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

Demon Slayer delivers its own twisted take on the classic Shonen Jump themes of family by surrounding our heroes with six episodes of spiders! This week, Micchy and Andy discuss Kimetsu no Yaiba's best arc yet.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


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Andy
Hey Micchy! It's been a while since we checked in with Demon Slayer, so you know what that means? It's finally time to talk about my boy!
Micchy
Okay, but only if we also talk about my boy, the whiniest and most irritating baby to ever live.
Everyone gets a garbage son!
There are a lot of good boys in Demon Slayer, but between the three main cast, they have a total of only three brain cells, of which Tanjiro has two. Tanjiro can't believe he has to take care of two extremely stupid sons as well as his sister in a box.
Tanjiro wasn't the smartest cookie in the shed to begin with, which isn't a surprise since he's got that typical shonen protagonist thing of being tough and determined, so it is truly impressive that these two are significantly dumber. But it also kinda makes sense, because what intelligent child would sign up for demon slaying duty?
Seeing as demon slaying entails getting beat up by monsters and other problematic 10-year-olds, I can't imagine a wiser soul volunteering to do it.
Hey, sometimes you literally get sold into it.
Or maybe you're just a rowdy boy who stole a sword.

Bless Tanjiro's heart, he somehow has the patience to deal with Inosuke, who can't stop flexing at every opportunity. I guess when you have that mom friend instinct, all those shenanigans just look cute to you. Tanjiro might be a blockhead Shonen Jump protagonist, but he's also a hell of a big brother to everyone.
Tanjiro is literally too dumb to realize Inosuke's provocations, so he becomes a mature parental figure by accident. Well, after he Mortal Kombats
Inosuke's ribcage.
We'll just call that tough love.
He takes it well! I love how after Inosuke loses to Tanjiro's thick skull, he takes it upon himself to learn his rival's ways by headbutting everything.
Giving yourself a concussion to own your unflappable mom friend, truly the pinnacle of wisdom. I gotta give him credit for his unshakable determination, even if it is directed toward the dumbest of pursuits. He's so set on being the best that when he sees Tanjiro trying to play a support role, he decides he'll be an even better support.
Life goals according to my pig son:
1) Become the Best
2) ???
3) BEST!!!
I'll take it over being a bargain-bin Miroku.

Zenitsu sucks so much. He hounds every girl he meets, he never stops complaining, and I love him dearly.
I struggle to think of a louder baby in nearly all of anime history. It's a god damn impressive feat how much he screams throughout episode 11. He's on screen a LOT, and every moment is a new level of screech.
Hey, I'm pretty sure the Black Clover guy yells at least as much, and he's the protagonist.
Okay, but you're also supposed to like the Black Clover guy. Demon Slayer seems determined to convince you that Zenitsu does indeed suck. He sucks so very much. And then it makes you care about him despite that!
I hate that it works.
It's kind of incredible how well it works! Every moment Zenitsu's on screen, the other characters look like they're absolutely fed up with him, but then he goes and willingly gets thrashed to protect what Tanjiro
holds dear.
He spends the whole episode making you go "God I want someone to smack you around", and then he shows up like this and you're forced to go "Oh no who would do such a thing?"
He might be a whiny shit who's far too open about prioritizing his own safety above all else, but he's loyal enough to risk his life if he has to. He just prefers not to put himself in a situation where he has to make that decision.
His self-preservation and innate suckitude have combined to literally compartmentalize his ability to keep himself alive, because as we saw in the mansion, he absolutely can protect himself, but he's such a giant weenie that he can't do it consciously.
His one brain cell screams "don't do the dangerous thing," so to awaken his latent ability, he literally has to turn his conscious mind off—by freaking out so hard that he blacks out, of course. In the meantime, he cowers behind little girls as if that's gonna do any good. He's smart enough to avoid danger, but not smart enough to figure out good ways to do so.
Note: the hiding behind a child scene happens AFTER he does this.
It speaks to his lack of his self-esteem that he assumes the kids did it instead. The thing that keeps him from acting isn't his cowardice so much as his belief that he's a coward who's not cut out for the job.
Zenitsu sends your feelings through such whiplash as you watch. First, he's a screaming whining weenie. Then WTF, he can kill things? Oh no, he's STILL a screeching idiot. But now he's protecting Tanjiro's box, oh no he's actually a good boy.
And then we find out the reason he's so desperate for people to take care of him. He grew up without a family to validate him, so he looks for support in anyone he can find.
Yeah, as long as we're on this Zenitsu train, we may as well ride it straight into the horror that is spider forest.
So YUP, LET'S DIVE INTO MY NIGHTMARES.
What, you're not a fan of Australia-sized spiders with creepy baby heads?
No, I am not a fan of this Toy Story monster.
Hey, I think they're kind of cute and only a little disturbing.
You also watched all of Heybot!, so you cannot be trusted.
That's fair. Anyway, speaking of family or a lack thereof, this arc's pretty much all about people holding onto familial bonds no matter how messy—between Zenitsu's grandfatherly relationship with his mentor, to Tanjiro's bond with his sister, to Rui's complicated web of abuse, these last several episodes are full of different ideas about what constitutes family.
It's honestly one of the best and most shockingly well-paced arcs I've ever seen in a shonen anime. There are multiple fights, shifting motivations, and even new character introductions nicely packed into these six episodes, which is really impressive.
Yeah, it's pretty cool that the show manages to contrast the main cast with the villains' motivations so neatly in just a handful of episodes. Tanjiro grew up in a loving household, but Zenitsu didn't have that luxury. That's why he fights so hard for the right to call his teacher "Grandpa"; even if he only lives with the guy to train, he still craves a pseudo-familial relationship. He's so desperate for any sort of connection that he even finds beatings preferable to abandonment, though he acknowledges that his teacher maybe
didn't treat him great.

There's some deeper underlying problems to Zenitsu's only family being a man who literally bought him, compares him to a sword that he has to beat the impurities out of, and hones him to become a weapon more than a person, but somehow at the end of the day, the old man did care about Zenitsu and want him to succeed as a person. So seeing Zenitsu struggle now that he's out in the world makes him intensely relatable.
 
 
Like goddamn, same. Other than the "being in mortal danger of turning into a baby spider" thing.
Considering the closest thing Zenitsu has to family barely treated him with any humanity, it's no wonder he has zero confidence in his worth as a person. His insecurity manifests in supremely irritating ways, but the underlying emotions ring true.
It's a kind of self-perpetuating cycle, because when you suck and screech as much as he does, of course no one stays around to rely on you.

He even gets left behind as Tanjiro and Inosuke head into the forest, because he deliberately creates a situation where they'll have to ask him to come, but since he's just protested so much at this point, they leave him rather than ask so he can say yes.
He wants the unconditional love of a family, so lacking that, he looks for reassurance that he's wanted from anyone, even practical strangers like Tanjiro and Inosuke. It's largely his own fault that everyone finds him too annoying to bear—nobody should feel obligated to coddle him—but the way he latches onto anyone who will listen really speaks to his fear of abandonment.
All things considered, Zenitsu's method of seeking validation is way healthier than spider boy's here:
Rui sucks in a much different way from Zenitsu. Zenitsu sucks because he laments his own uselessness and wishes to be able to help others and be appreciated, which he has a very good mental image of btw.
Rui abuses his strength to force others to do whatever the hell he wants, and what he wants is a puppet family that will fill the "roles" he gives to them. This boils down to "everyone will sacrifice themselves to protect the baby boy, and I'm baby".
Rui craves the unconditional love of a family, but the only type of relationship he's willing to enter is one where everyone else satisfies his emotional needs, and he only contributes if he can lord the debt over their heads. His idea of a bond is purely based on control. He's less connected to his "family" by a thread of destiny than he is controlling them with puppet strings—or spider thread, as it were.
We get a lot of information on Rui out of those puppets. Tanjiro and Inosuke's initial fight against Mother is a good example of his influence. At the start, she happily abuses others just as she is being used.

But then as things stop going her way, she becomes frustrated and blames her puppets, which definitely does not sit well with Tanjiro, as he spent a lot of effort finding a way to win without injuring any of them further, only to watch them all die right in front of him. It's a brutal, somber moment.

Under threat from Rui to perform, she takes out her fear and pain on her own victims. She doesn't seek forgiveness, only freedom from the threads tying her to her abuser. But the damage is done, and nobody gets out of it okay. The kicker is that she's probably even younger than Rui and only arbitrarily cast as the mother in his twisted play, so no duh her response to constant threats is to lash out.
That reveal was so creepy and awful and fit so eerily well with what we had seen from her before then. Rui forces the role of nurturer/protector on this demon child who initially sought that comfort from him, and then keeps her in line through a web of abuse that involves all the other family members.
It's truly terrible that he uses his "father," who seems to be the only one enjoying the ride, as a tool to keep the women in his family under control.
I mean, that creepy full-spider brother sure seemed to be enjoying things, but the kicker is that even with his smoldering rage at the senseless slaughter of the restrained puppets, Tanjiro's empathy wins out, and Mother's death is chillingly beautiful because of it.

Tanjiro loves and cares so hard that he severs Mother's connection to Rui, which was both a chain and a lifeline to her. In cutting down her life, he also releases her from the fear and debt tying her to her abuser.

The urge to live while suffering such abuse eventually gives way to welcoming the sweet release of oblivion, and Tanjiro somehow recognizes this with his weird super nose.

Tanjiro can smell fear. And a host of other emotions, because he's weird like that.
Tanjiro has super-smell, Zenitsu has super-hearing, care to hazard a wild guess on what this dumbass can do super-good?
Um...yell?
No, that's still Zenitsu.
I think that's all of them, actually.
True. But the correct answer is...!

Gee, Inosuke! How come your mom lets you have two swords?
Probably because she dropped him off a cliff and hasn't done a good job keeping him away from sharp objects since.
That makes sense. Inosuke's main role in this arc is to stab things and be baffled by his own tragic backstory. He has no time to reflect on the family he might have had when he's so damn busy flexing.
He didn't even remember that he had 'em! So it's a good thing Shinobu has showed up to give vital exposition about why all three of our dumb boys are drawing strength from the past now.

By the way, Shinobu is an extremely good
new character.
Shinobu kinda scares the shit out of me? So yes, she's very good. Though she hasn't gotten to do much yet besides exact punishment on the spider sister.
But it's not murder because
You just gotta torture the murderer enough for them to repent, and then you're friends!
Anyway, she absolutely painfully murders the hell out of the snitch sister, which is a helluva contrast to Tanjiro's more softboy murder style.
Tanjiro got his murder techniques from introspection about happy days with his dad, so it's very different. Though that's such a crass way to describe one of the most satisfying moments of the series yet.
That collage of everything he's been through so far is really neat, and from all of that information, his brain settles on "Yo, remember when you did that cute dance
as a kid?"
 
 
Not gonna lie, I just about died at the sight of baby Tanjiro and Nezuko, they're so precious.
The alternate credits at the end of the episode are once again proof of how cruel this show can be.
It's so fitting that Tanjiro's respect for his father's legacy grants him the power to cut through Rui's web. He overpowers Rui with a technique borne of genuine familial love, which Rui's bonds of fear and power can't combat.
It's extremely good, and as soon as we learn that his family has a trademark on fire, Nezuko also busts out some flaming blood that combines with his sword dance to overcome Rui.

Their tandem attack is so dope.
It's extremely satisfying! And then we continue the music into the sad/proud family credits.
Even though they can't speak to each other anymore, the siblings are on the same wavelength. Whatever happened, they still understand each other, and that's what family is all about. Rui's pretend family has nothing on the real deal.
It's so wholesome and good and oh shit wait there's another episode oh no.

I mean, he doesn't last much longer anyway; the guy with terrible taste in patterns takes care of him pretty quick. Seriously, who wears half green/orange checks, I'm reporting this man to the fashion police.
Giyu's too busy murdering extremely scary demons to care about bad color coordination. It was interesting to see each of our dumb boys meaningfully struggle, only to establish their lowly place in the Demon/Hunter war. We know Tanjiro has to hunt down the 12 moons, he finally meets one, and his best effort is noteworthy but not good enough. Then we see the Hashira in action, and they clean this mess up easy. It's a bit anticlimactic, but not in an especially cheap way, sincethe struggle was more the point than the victory.
Just goes to show that our Mizunoto boys are nowhere near ready to take on the most powerful foes the demon world has to offer. And seeing how cold and detached the Hashira are when they do their thing, I have to imagine our protagonists are gonna go through emotional hell as well, at least as much as they can show in a Jump manga.
This sure was a bad time for them, and there's gonna be worse to come. So it's comforting to remember that throughout all of this, there is an invisible cat following Tanjiro at all times.
When things look grim, remember the invisible cat. Please tell me it gets to be a visible cat more often, though?
I hope so, since its visibility turns off and on based on its meows, and this cutie deserves to be heard.
Whatever happens to our boys in the future, this is the greatest thing I'm holding out for. Please, Demon Slayer, show us more of the good kitty.
More of the good kitty, and way less of these:
I'll drink to that.

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