NOTE: This article contains mention and screencaps of potentially disturbing content due to the nature of the series in question. Reader discretion is advised.
The current arc of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is really mainly about one thing. That being Tanjiro’s first case as an official demon slayer. Tanjiro is sent to a nearby village where young women have been disappearing, and a demon is the suspected cause.
Sure enough, much of episode 6 builds up this tale and it quickly becomes clear that it is in fact true. We meet that demon about halfway through the episode. He is, certainly, a nasty piece of work, and has a frightening set of abilities. This is a creature that can split itself into three copies, and lurks in CGI oil puddles that he can control at will. But demons kidnapping and eating people is not new territory for this series. What is new territory is the specific mechanics at play here.
The Evils of Objectification
The demon introduced in episode 6 only kidnaps and eats young women. The emphasis there is important, even moreso than we’re initially lead to believe. We get this demon’s motives straight from his own mouth in episode 7. Women who get “old”, he says, “taste bad”.
This is such a straightforward metaphor for sexism that it’s almost on the nose. The demon himself, in fact, even at his most sinisterly-depicted, is just basically a young man with some monstrous features. This is a sharp contrast to the hulking mega-monster Tanjiro had to slay just a few episodes prior.
This, coming from most shonen, might ring kind of hollow. Coming from one that’s adapted from a manga written by a woman however, makes the intended message very clear. This makes the role of Nezuko, who here returns to the narrative, also quite interesting.
The Girl in The Box
Nezuko’s place in Demon Slayer remains rather uncertain. Her condition keeps her from truly being a driving force, since she sleeps for entire episodes at a time. Her turn here though, where she helps Tanjiro defeat the kidnapper demon, is short but incredible. And it is worth noting that Tanjiro himself has a pretty spectacular turn in the fight sequence here. He battles the kidnapper demon’s split selves in their native underwater environment, and ends up creating an underwater cyclone that cuts them to ribbons.
I’d argue though that Nezuko’s segment of the fight scene–where she fights the “main” body that remained aboveground–is actually more impactful. Nezuko’s fight choreography is much less complicated. She exclusively punches and kicks, very, very hard. As simple as it is, it might be easy to underestimate it, but you really feel the impact of every single strike in a way that you just don’t with Tanjiro’s part of the scene.
But of her role in the story it’s harder to say for certain. Nezuko’s in-and-out presence makes it hard to really get much of a handle on her character. The fact that she’s literally carried about inside a wooden box and only unleashed narratively when she needs to kick some heads in certainly feels like commentary on something. It is hard though, to say what for certain.
The Sullen Swordsman
Then there’s Tanjiro himself. His journey is at this point colored by his quest to learn more about Muzan Kibutsuji. The mysterious “first demon” who allegedly may know how to make Nezuko human again. Over the course of episodes 6 and 7 he bonds with a young man who’s had his fiancee taken–and we later learn, consumed, by the kidnapper demon. The two have something of a confrontation during the end of episode 7’s first act. The young man, now knowing his fiancee is dead, is distraught. Tanjiro tries to comfort him, offering the honestly pretty powerful sentiment that no matter how much we lose, we have little choice but to live on. The young man, not understanding, rebukes Tanjiro’s words as platitudes, asking what he, a child, could possibly know about loss.
It occurs to the young man not long after Tanjiro simply smiles sadly and holds his shoulder that he’s perhaps assumed too much. But by then, Tanjiro has already been ordered off to his next assignment by his loudmouthed crow familiar. The two depart with not much more than a handwave, and some well-wishing on Tanjiro’s part.
It’s an interesting moment. Much more than his increased competency as a swordsman, it’s this that really showcases Tanjiro’s character development over the show’s first quarter.
Panic in Tokyo
The episode’s second act is a different beast entirely. Much of it is comedic, as Tanjiro tries to adjust to the crowded, comparatively hi-tech nature of Tokyo. That doesn’t last however, while relaxing near an udon stand, he suddenly picks up a familiar scent. The same one that was left when his family was murdered all the way back in episode 1.
I must admit, I did not think we’d be meeting this character in person quite so soon.
This is Muzan Kibutsuji. The aforementioned ur-demon that Tanjiro has been hunting. Someone who the show has sold to us so far as something of an over-arching, big-picture villain. So it’s a little surprising to see him here, just 7 episodes in. As for what he’s doing in Tokyo, Tanjiro quickly puzzles it out, much to his horror.
Realizing that whoever this boy is, he’s up to something, Muzan uses his lightning-quick speed to slash the back of a passerby’s neck. This causes said passerby to turn into a demon, and attack the woman he was walking with. And on that violent, grim note, the episode abruptly ends, leaving us with a monster of a cliffhanger.
Where Demon Slayer goes from here is anyone’s guess. It managing to be so well-considered and at the same time quite surprising at turns, especially for its genre, is really reassuring. I look forward to continuing to cover it here on GGA.