Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 11 (Fin) – Into the Darkness Together

Gyuutarou’s auto-destruct causes a huge explosion, but Tanjirou survives, and Lil’ Nezuko wakes up to purge the poison from his body with her Blood Demon Art. She then puts the immobile Tanjirou on her tiny back and dashes him across the ruins of the district, eventually coming upon Zenitsu and Inousuke, whom she also heals.

Finally, Nezuko and Tanjirou find Uzui and his wives, who are bickering with each other rather than hearing the final words he has to say. But before any of them know it, Nezuko has sidled up and envelops him in her pink flames. The wives have no idea what is happening, but when Uzui’s poison wounds vanish and he pulls through, they envelop him in hugs and sobs of relief.

Nezuko and Tanjirou then search for the heads of Gyuutarou and Daki, and find them still alive, bickering with each other over their loss to the humans as their heads slowly dissolve. When their argument escalades into saying they aren’t brother and sister, Tanjirou intervenes, saying that even if the entire world is against them, they shouldn’t be against each other; not in these final moments.

Daki then directs her ire at Tanjirou for lecturing them, but an in-depth flashback narrated by Gyuutarou shows that Tanjirou was quite correct. Long before he became a demon, Gyuutarou was cursed for being an extra mouth to feed in the poorest part of the district. When his sister, whose original name was Ume, was born, he leaned into his ugliness, found his strength, and found work as a debt collector.

Sadly, once Ume turned thirteen she joined a run-down house where her body could be sold, and the defiant nature Gyuutarou baked into her backfired. She took the eye of a samurai she didn’t want to sleep with, and was bound and burned alive while Gyuutarou was out on a job. When he grieves over her body, he’s cut down by that same samurai, but not deeply enough, and Gyuutarou in turn kills the samurai and madam.

Gyuutarou always cursed the fact that for all of the misfortune he and Ume had to deal with, the world never once cut them a break and allowed them any good fortune. The nearest thing to providence came in the form of the former Upper Six, who gave Gyuutarou and Ume blood to drink, turning them into demons. Gyuutarou never regretted being one, but did regret that Ume could never live the life she should have. We see heartbreaking glimpses of that possible life.

Now in the void between worlds, Gyuutarou doesn’t want Ume to follow him any more, and is very mean about it, telling her to go in the opposite direction, towards the light, where perhaps she might be resurrected and have another chance at that possible life of comfort and fortune. But Ume won’t go that way. She pounces on Gyuutarou from behind and reminds him of his promise: they’d always be together. She’d rather follow him into the deepest darkness than step into the light alone.

While I’m usually not a fan of filling in character backstory after they’ve already met their fate, the postmortem backstory of Gyuutarou and Daki/Ume had ample emotional resonance, and gave this finale a quieter, calmer, yet still powerful rhythm, winding down the bombastic battle of previous weeks.

All’s well that ends well, with Uzui planning to retire and spend more time with his lovely wives, confident that Tanjirou is about to reach Hashira-worthy potential. Tanjirou, Nezuko, Inousuke, and Zenitsu also share a tearful group hug, reunited and in (mostly) one piece. Yet I’m sure Tanjirou’s joy is tempered by the “there but the grace of god go us” vibe from a brother-sister pair who weren’t as lucky as they are.

So ends the Entertainment Arc, where most other Winter shows have only hit their halfway point. What’s next for Demon Slayer? No official announcement follows end credits—an extended arrangement of the rippin’ good Aimer opening theme—but I can say with certainty the Demon Slayer anime will return (Update: it will!).

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 10 – (Be)heading for Trouble

As Tanjirou lies in the rubble, bloody and exhausted, he’s briefly transported back to his snowy home, where a pre, then post-demon Nezuko tells him to stop blaming himself (as if) and keep fighting. The vision is at least enough to wake him up, but he’s almost sorry he did.

That’s because the scene around him is a hellscape of flames, and among his allies, he’s the only one still conscious. Gyuutarou spends a good half of this episode taunting him and laughing at how “disgraceful” he is, especially to have to be protected by his demon little sister. It’s a welcome change of pace from the unrelenting battles of the past few episodes, with no score and only the flickering of flames accompanying the dialogue.

When Gyuutarou eventually falls, he’ll regret wasting so much time toying with Tanjirou, who was simply playing possum and waiting for a chance to stick a poison kunai in his opponent’s leg, then using Hinokami Kagura to attempt to slice off his head. When Gyuutarou counters with his blades, they’re deflected by Zenitsu, who while still asleep is back in the fight.

As Zenitsu continues to battle Daki, Tanjirou is bailed out by Uzui, who stopped his own heart to keep the poison from getting there, and can also double-wield even with just one hand. Daki, with his second wind, goes in for the win, having charted the musical “score” of Gyuutarou’s moves. Tanjirou keeps up as best he can as Uzui and Gyuutarou exchange slashes with increasing speed and ferocity.

When Tanjirou jumps into attempt another beheading, Gyuutarou stabs him through the jaw with his poison blade, meaning there’s just that much less time for Tanjirou to fight before succumbing that poison. Still, Uzui has him where he wants him, and Gyuutarou’s neck is exposed, so Tanjirou finds yet another higher gear, his scar seemingly spreading across his face in a flame pattern.

After a lot of screaming, Gyuutarou’s head is finally sliced off. At the same time, Zenitsu, with help from Inousuke (who moved his heart so it didn’t get impaled) slice off Daki’s head. The two siblings’ heads fly gracefully through the air, then fall to the ground, bounce, and roll to a rest right beside each other.

The battle is seemingly over, and the Demon Slayers have won…but then Uzui shouts “RUN!”, for Gyuutarou self-destructs, enveloping half the district in a massive fireball. As those flames die down the credits roll with a certain finality, until the post-credits omake is handled by pre-demon Nezuko.

Assuming Gyuutarou was destroyed in that blast, the question becomes who survived. Obviously Tanjirou, Nezuko, Inousuke, and Zenitsu. I find it hard to believe two straihgt arcs would end with the death of the Hashira, and the three wives haven’t quite gotten enough development (or screen time) for their deaths to make much of an impact…so we’ll see.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 09 – Mixing it Up

Perhaps realizing it hasn’t shown that much of Uzui’s life with his three wives, the show takes us back to when the four visited Uzui’s family grave and enjoyed a meal together under the cherry blossoms. Hinatsuru cements her role as the “mature” wife, while Makio and Suma are more childish.

While it doesn’t make much sense to include these moments right in the middle of a crucial battle with an Upper Six demon, I nevertheless appreciated an extra look at the mostly-absent wives, and Hinatsuru’s mature personality explains her presence fighting by her husband’s side.

The problem is, Hinatsuru is not a Demon Slayer, and while her kunai attack momentarily turns the tables, Gyuutarou soon shakes it off and grabs her. I’m baffled why he doesn’t simply kill her right then and there, but he loses his chance when Tanjirou, finding what seems to be his eighth or ninth second wind, swoops in to save Hinatsuru from Gyuutarou’s clutches.

In a move that acknowledges she’s a liability on this particular battlefield, Hinatsuru finally departs to hide. With Inousuke and Zenitsu having no luck closing in on Daki, Tanjirou leaves Uzui’s side to help them out, in hopes that three demon slayers will be able to break through her shield of belts.

Inousuke uses Beast Breathing to launch himself at top speed towards Daki’s neck, completely disregarding defense, which is provided by Tanjirou and Zenitsu and their water and lightning breathing, respectively. It’s great to see these three kids not only near the top of their game (though Tanjirou is pretty beat up) but working as a cohesive unit.

And it works! After some effort and more Beast Breathing, Inousuke manages to saw off Daki’s head, and decides to run around with it like a rugby ball so that it won’t be able to reattach. But while Daki’s head is extremely weakened, Gyuutarou is not, and he’s mad, quickly catching up to Inousuke and stabbing him through the back.

Tanjirou, wondering where the heck Gyuutarou came from, spots Uzui lying unconscious in a bloody heap, one of his hands chopped off. Now Inouske has been gravely injured, Tanjirou has got to be running out of even his final reserves of stamina, and Zenitsu is the only member of their party not injured…but you have to think it’s only a matter of time.

Will Hinatsuru return with Makio and Suwa to try to save their hubby? Will Nezuko have to wake up and bail out her brother once more? Will another Hashira have to save the day? Will Inousuke finally have to throw out that boar mask now that it’s been stained with his life’s blood? I have no idea how many more episodes this arc runs for, but it definitely feels like we’re nearing the end of this battle.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 08 – Collecting from the Blessed

Gyuutarou deeply resents Uzui’s talent and lucky lot in life, but that makes Uzui laugh. Not only does he not consider himself talented in the least compared to some of the other amazing Hashira he knows, but he’s one of only two surviving siblings in the Uzui family, and of them, only he decided to live life as a better man and shinobi, not treating his subordinates like pawns or his wives as expendable.

At the end of the day, Gyuutarou isn’t interested in Uzui’s life story, only killing him and continuing to be ridiculously evil, so seven minutes in, the their battle continues. While Uzui’s resistance to potion is impressive, it is not absolute, and he’s definitely at a disadvantage against both Gyuutarou and Daki. So he’s happy when his underlings make flashy entrances all at once.

Inousuke and Zenitsu take on Daki on the roof, with the latter showing off some lightning breathing (there’s nothing flashier than lightning) and the former showing off…well, his usual bluster and confidence. But when Gyuutarou closes one of his eyes below them and it appears as a third eye between Daki’s, the two are suddenly in synch, with his blood slashes and her beefed-up belts packing a nasty one-two punch.

While the brother and sister are fighting in harmony, Uzui’s poisoned state combined with the others’ inexperience mean they’re totally out of synch, a vulnerability Gyuutarou can easily see and is ready to exploit. That said, Uzui, Tanjirou, Inousuke and Zenitsu still have numbers on their side, and are just able to hold of the horrifying flurry of blood and belt attacks.

Their four-on-two advantage becomes five-on-one when the still-hobbled Hinatsuru makes it to a rooftop and fires off a fusillade of wisteria-laced kunai that Gyuutarou cannot escape. Even though Uzui gets hit by some of the blades, the wisteria doesn’t affect him, while it makes Gyuutarou slow and numb.

Hinatsuru’s assist seems to be just the thing to turn the tables in the battle, as now Gyuutarou is as poisoned as Uzui, and has slowed enough that Tanjirou can come within an inch of his neck. Of course, we know that he and Daki can (most likely) only be defeated if they’re both beheaded. But as next week’s episode is “Defeating an Upper Rank”, I imagine one way or another Daki and Gyuutarou are going down, perhaps after one or two more turns of the tide. Should be fun…and flashy.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 07 – Tantrums and Lullabies

While Tanjirou is unconscious, the transformed and leveled-up Nezuko goes to absolute town on Daki, to the point where, again, I kinda felt sorry for the poor demoness. When Daki tries to counter by slicing her opponent to bits, Nezzy’s blood not only coagulates, keeping all her parts together, but burns Daki everywhere it splattered, reminding her of her human death in flames long ago.

The problem, is, Nezzy has no limiter but Tanjirou, and by the time he comes to she’s already inadvertently wounded some human bystanders (not to mention scared the absolute shit out of them). When she smells the humans’ blood, she can’t help but charge towards them. Thankfully, Tanjirou is there to stop her from killing anyone. But he calm his sister down and protect the bystanders from Daki, who is partially healed and pissed.

Things look bad for Tanjirou, but Uzui shows up just when he should, cutting all of Daki’s attacking belts in the blink of an eye. And nobody, not even Daki, realizes that he also beheaded her with that same arriving attack. Uzui doesn’t consider her an Upper Rank, as how could someone of such rank be holding their head in their hands like she is now?

Just as I love how Daki is someone with whome you can occasionally sympathize, I also love how nonchalant and casual Uzui goes about his business. When he sees a hulked-up Nezuko trying to break free from her undersized brother, he basically tells Tanjirou to get it together put Nezuko to sleep already. The problem is, Nezzy doesn’t seem to be listening to him.

That’s when Tanjirou takes Uzui’s offhand advice to “sing her a lullaby”, which he does while she struggles. Suddenly she’s transported back to better days when she was walking with her mom, who was singing a lullaby to her baby brother. Big Nezzy bursts into tears, then shrinks and falls right asleep, ending one of the many threats facing the Demon Slayers.

The next problem is that despite being beheaded, Daki’s body isn’t disintegrating. Daki doesn’t think much of this, as perhaps it will just take a while, until Daki starts having a full on tantrum about how mean everyone’s been to her. Then she calls out to her “brother”, and Uzui instinctively goes in for the kill…only for his strike to miss. A second demon sprouts out of Daki’s back and moves her to safety.

The second demon is her brother, Gyuutarou, as grotesque a demon as she is beautiful. He heals her and calms her down in much the same way we’ve seen Tanjirou calm his demon sister. What with Nezzy being almost ever-present in her box, you could say both pairs of siblings are attached by, well, not the hip, but certainly the back.

Uzui didn’t consider Daki an Upper Rank because she was so easy to behead, but beheading didn’t kill her, and now we learn that she’s not only not a single demon, but the brother within her is the demon Uzui has been searching for all along. It made me wonder if you somehow managed to separate Gyuutarou whether Daki could be redeemed, as he’s the brains behind their symbiotic existence, controlling her from within.

For now, she’s very much one-half of the latest boss, and powerful enough that even Uzui will have to break a sweat. With Inousuke and Zenitsu finally catching up and Tanjirou ready to rejoin the fray once he stashes Nezuko away (which…rats), this arc is ratcheting up at precisely the right time.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 06 – No Regard for Safety

Tanjirou continues to just keep up with Daki, until the battle in her pantry results in her absorbing the belts of her subordinate/familiar and leveling her up, complete with more veiny skin and brighter, longer hair. All the commotion finally causes one of the townsfolk to emerge from their home to complain. Daki isn’t pleased by this human’s attitude.

She demonstrates her heightened power by destroying the entire block in the blink of an eye, killing several bystanders. I appreciated that the show finally acknowledged that this wasn’t just an abandoned part of the city, but an extremely dangerous place to hold a fight with an Upper Six, resulting in horrific bloodshed. Tanjirou is slashed across his chest shielding the complaining man (who still loses an arm) and for a few moments, despairs.

Then he remembers the letter from Kyoujirou’s father apologizing for his behavior, telling him he’s actually proud of both of his sons, and saying the red mark on Tanjirou’s head means he was chosen to wield Sun Breathing. Tanjirou isn’t so sure; after all, it’s not a birthmark but a burn sustained saving his little brother, then made worse during the selection. Even so, he’s still going to fight as long as he can. He grabs Daki by the leg and the dazzling battle continues on a rooftop.

Tanjirou says things to Daki that may just be representing his own sense of justice, but they match what his father said to Muzan once upon a time. Since Muzan’s cells are in Daki, so are the memories, mixed with fuzzy memories of the destitute human she once was. Seeing this, and watching Daki waiver in the present, give her character depth and even pathos, especially as Tanjirou gets stronger and faster and cuts through her many belts.

Even so, Tanjirou is only human, and has eventually bled and exerted himself so much he can no longer move and barely breathe. The timing couldn’t be worse, as he was less than a second away from beheading Daki for good. Thankfully, Daki is caught off guard by suddendly self-KO’ed opponent. Before she can kill him, Nezuko finally, finally takes the stage in her brother’s place.

Daki quickly makes mincemeat of Nezuko, whom Muzan ordered her to kill and whom she sees as an only partially-formed demon who hasn’t eaten enough humans to be a threat. However, Nezuko is as pissed at Daki as she is at Muzan for killing her and Tanjirou’s family. That rage causes her heal as fast as an Upper Six, power up into an adult form covered in leaf tattoos, and chomps through her bamboo gag, revealing her beautiful avenging scowl for the first time in a while.

Tanjirou’s brother once told him that it scared him when Tanjirou or Nezuko got mad for their siblings’ sake, because they would lose all regard for their own safety. Now that’s basically how Tanjirou and Nezuko always roll these days, so while Nezuko is stomping on Daki’s skull now, it may only buy her and Tanjirou a little more time. Tengen, Inousuke and Zenitsu need to hurry their asses up.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 05 – The Demon’s Pantry

Tengen looks to be on his way to relieve Tanjirou from his ongoing duel with Daki, but he hears a battle going on deep underground, and also finally locates one of his wives, Hinatsuru, voiced by Tanezaki Atsum (Vivy). There’s actualy a lot of characterization packed into their little reunion moment, with Uzui clearly just happy his wife is alive, and Hinatsuru, while certainly glad to be in Tengens embrace again, feels like she failed in being useful to him.

It’s mostly okay that Tengen is indisposed, since Tanjirou changes tactics and uses Hinokami Kagura Fire Breathing instead of Water, certain his body just isn’t well-suited for the latter. Daki is surprised by how scrappy this ugly kid is, but he’s still not really giving her headaches.

You get the feeling Daki can end this fight at any moment due to their power gap, but waffles between wanting to kill Tanjirou and wanting to continue to be entertained by him. It makes sense for a high-level demon like her to want to see just how far this opponent can last. Power often breeds boredom.

Meanwhile in Ogimoto House, Inousuke scares the hell out of his co-workers while running around breaking shit and finally chopping a hole in the floor to reach the demon presence he feels. He dislocates all his limbs and worms his way into a massive demon larder, where dozens of women—and Zenitsu—are trapped in a web of obi.

Turns out this demon, which Inousuke names “Worm Belt”, because it grosses him out, is a subordinate of Daki, tasked with keeping her beautiful food fresh and safe. It’s thanks to Inousuke’s beast-like nose that he’s able to infiltrate the pantry and free the women. When the Worm Belt goes on the offense and threatens the freed women, Inousuke is bailed out by Tengen’s other two wives whom he freed: Suma (Touyama Nao) and Maiko (Ishigami Shizuka).

While they certainly give Inousuke a boost in his fight, they’re not Demon Slayers, just very strong shinobi, and can’t break the stalemate. Fortunately, Zenitsu is also free and still unconscious, which means he’s at both his least annoying and most badass and effective, launching a sixfold lightning attack that deals the Worm Belt a body blow. An assist goes to the slightly frightening Muscle Mice for getting retrieving his sword.

Of course, it’s Tengen himself, blasting through the earth above the larder with his twin blades, who finishes off the semi-boss in one fell swoop. Good to see the Worm Belt acknowledge how screwed she is once a Hashira arrives. Once the enemy is defeated, he greets his two wives and comforts them as he did Hinatsusu. Makio, for her part, has always found it odd that he values their lives above his own or even the common folk—but that’s just love, baby.

Five episodes in, Tengen has proven to be a much more interesting character than Rengoku, Daki has proven to be a much more interesting villain than the Mugen Train, and the combat animation just as creative and, shall I say…extra-flashy. The outing’s only demerit is still no Nezuko.

Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train – All Aboard

In 2020, and what I believe to be the first time ever, the highest grossing film of the year wasn’t American. It wasn’t Chinese, either, which one could reasonably expect to be the first non-American film to take the crown. No, it was Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train. That’s an achievement that may never be matched. It also broke the record for home box office gross, now reigning over both Spirited Away and Your Name.

$500 million gross is a lot of cash to rake in, especially during a global pandemic. But after finally getting around to watch Mugen Train, which is essentially “Season 1.5” of the series, I totally understand why: it is an absolute crowd pleaser stuffed with action, comedy, and drama. I laughed; I cried; I may have pumped my fist and shouted “Fuck yeah!” once or twice.

But! Mugen Train is merely a very good movie. It is certainly a very good movie watching experience. What it is definitely not is a great film, and falls far short of the masterpiece status of the anime films whose records it broke. There is no single big reason for that, but several smaller ones which become evident throughout its prestigious 117-minute runtime.

* * * * *

First, as we know from the end of the first season (yes, you really should watch it), a Kasugai crow ordered Tanjirou (with Nezuko on his back), Zenitsu, and Inosuke to join Flame Hashira Rengoku Kyoujurou aboard the titular Mugen Train, which has a demon problem. Rengoku is, as most high-ranking warriors in these kinds of shows, a bit of an eccentric, but has heard about Tanjirou and Nezuko and is even willing to train him.

Their demon opponent is Enmu, a member of the Lower Six and the group’s resident “gross body horror” expert, a niche occupied by the likes of Bleach’s 12th Captain, Kurotsuchi Mayuri (or more recently, Jujutsu Kaisen’s Mahito). Enmu spends much of the movie standing atop the front of the train, talking about how much he’s looking forward to devouring its 200 passengers but never actually doing so despite having ample opportunity. Ya know, typical big bad behavior.

Enmu’s preferred way of rendering his prey helpless is by putting them to sleep. He has made four regular human passengers plus the conductor into his minions: the tickets the conductor punches contain a bit of his blood which is used to put the slayers to sleep along with everyone else. In exchange, the minions are promised wonderful dreams in which to lose themselves.

With all the demon slayers asleep, we take a look into the dreams they’re having, none of which come as much of a surprise. Tanjirou’s is a very happy dream in which he’s reunited with his family, who act like they were never slaughtered by a demon. Suffice it to say, it’s an easy dream to get lost in.

Zenitsu’s dream involves frolicking through forests and fields with Nezuko, which would be touching were his relationship with her in the show not so easily boiled down to “one-sided obsession” or simply “toxic.” Inosuke’s dream is aggressively weird and surreal, like him, but like Zenitsu and Tanjirou’s doesn’t offer any further insight into the character.

Rengoku’s does, but only because aside from a couple of brief scenes last season, we don’t really know who the guy is. What we do get is pure hero boilerplate: following in the footsteps of a former Hashira father who gave up the life and doesn’t care anymore, while having to be both big brother and father figure to his younger brother to keep him from falling into despair. Also, their sainted mom is dead.

Ultimately the dreams aren’t supposed to be particularly enlightening to us, as long as they keep the dreamers occupied and distracted. The minions then go in, find the edges of their dreams, tear them open with what look like icepicks provided by Enmu, and pass into the subconscious where their spiritual cores lie. Obviously, none of the minions succeeds.

Tanjirou already has an inkling he’s in a world of illusion, since his default thoughts are that his family is dead and Nezuko is a demon, so his senses must be wrong. His subconscious actually reaches out to him through a reflection in the water, telling him he needs to wake up, even if it’s being made very difficult to do so because it means running away from his confused and upset family.

His minion, by the way, sought relief in his dreams because in the waking world he was wasting away from Tuberculosis. When he reaches Tanjirou’s gorgeous (and very Spirited Away-esque!) subconscious, he doesn’t have the heart to go through with destroying his core. Tanjirou ends up waking up by slashing his neck with his own sword—call it the equivalent of the “kicks” in Inception that wake you up from dreams (or dreams within dreams).

Tanjirou is the first to wake up. Rengoku’s survival instinct kicks in and he chokes his minion before she can destroy his core (a very graphic depiction of violence against a woman that’s very oddly scored as triumphant) but he remains asleep. Tanjirou sees that Nezuko burned away the rope connecting him to his minion, and asks her to burn away the others’ ropes while he goes topside to meet the boss.

After exchanging some standard big-bad/hero dialogue, Tanjirou manages to behead Enmu, but of course his head isn’t really his head, nor his body his real body. Turns out he’s merged with the train, meaning the entire train his his body, with his head hidden…somewhere (the head of the train).

Enmu then continues to put Tanjirou to sleep, taking the same route as the Farscape masterpiece “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, turning the dreams into increasingly disturbing nightmares to throw the hero off his game. Tanjirou counters this by continuously slashing his neck as soon as he enters his dream.

With every surface of the train suddenly erupting with reddish-purple goo, suddenly all 200 passengers have to be protected at once. Fortunately, thanks to Nezuko burning their ropes the others start waking up, starting with Inousuke, who is ready to rumble. Nezuko slashes at the tentacles attacking passengers, but is quickly overwhelmed and restrained.

Enter Zenitsu, who gets to have a seriously badass moment with his thunder breathing assault, rescuing her from her doom. Let it be said this film does nothing to make Nezuko more than the bit character/mascot she devolved into in the anime, and outside of Tanjirou and Zenitsu’s dreams, she never speaks, which remains odd as there are plenty of demons who can talk.

All the commotion caused by Zenitsu’s thunder and lightning finally wakes up Rengoku, who has does his whole “how have I been sleeping through all this” line, and fills the cars with tentacle-burning flames (which naturally don’t affect the passengers). He orders Tanjirou and Inousuke to find Enmu’s head while he protects the passengers in five of the eight cars and Zenitsu and Nezuko handles the remaining three.

When his best water breathing technique can only tear away the flesh of Enmu’s “neck” to reveal the bone, Tanjirou employs his dad’s Hinokami Kagura breathing, which does the trick. Enmu’s real head is separated from his body (the train) and in his death throes, the train is derailed and crashes…which really should kill a lot of the passengers, yet doesn’t.

During his struggle with Enmu the minion conductor stabbed Tanjirou in the abdomen, but Rengoku quickly teaches Tanjirou how to use Total Concentration, Constant to staunch his broken blood vessel. Even so, Tanjirou is in no condition to fight anymore, with more than forty minutes left in the film. Enmu slowly disintegrates after lots of whining, including about how he was never able to enjoy his meal (which was all his fault) or rise to the ranks of the Upper Ten.

Right on cue, one of the members of that Upper Ten shows up completely out of the blue: the Upper Three, Akaza, covered in tatts and slightly resembling an evil Tanjirou with his short-cropped red hair. And while the ensuing duel between Akaza and Rengoku is pretty cool, the combat animation isn’t appreciably better than that of the TV show. More importantly, Akaza and the battle feel tacked on rather than a natural escalation of the conflict.

It also begs the question of if an even bigger demon big bad could show up willy-nilly, why couldn’t the same be true of other Hashira? The answer is, because the movie needs Rengoku to die, even though he was being set up as Tanjirou’s new mentor and big brother figure. At the end of the day, Akaza can regenerate almost instantly, while Rengoku is a mortal human of flesh and blood, and the wounds he suffers prove fatal.

The climax of the film also plays with the timing of the rising of the sun, which begins to light Akaza’s face as Rengoku tries to hold him in place so he’ll disintegrate. Instead, he flees into the forest to fight another day and provide Tanjirou with a future opponent with whom to avenge Rengoku. Like Demon Slayer reinforcements, the sun doesn’t show up when you’d think it should.

The final act consists of Rengoku providing Tanjirou the same encouragement as his little brother in his dream (and presumably in real life), as well as meeting his force ghost sainted mother, who tells him she’s proud of him (he did reject Akaza’s repeated offers to turn him into a demon, after all). Tanjirou is naturally very upset over losing another important person in his life.

As for the impact it had on me…the film just didn’t do the adequate legwork to make Rengoku anything more than a passing guest star. He had a few goofy moments, a few badass moments, and a very long and melodramatic death scene, and then he was suddenly gone, seemingly as soon as he arrived.

So as much of a funny, thrilling and sometimes genuinely moving crowd-pleaser as Mugen Train was, as a sequel to the series it fulfilled a merely utilitarian role, establishing how tough the Hashira can be, while establishing that the most powerful demons are even tougher, on the biggest screen possible. There’s not much else that’s new here.

It also gave Tanjirou both further motivation to fight the demons, though considering what he’s lost so far, I’d say he already had plenty, as well as the direction to the next nugget of info about his pop’s Kagura, which he’ll surely pursue in the second season. Mugen Train had no shortage of faults to go with its merits, but one thing at which it unassailably succeeded was making me excited for the second season, for which my ticket is already punched.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 24 – Getting Back in the Game

While rest and recovery are the order of most days at the Butterfly Mansion, relaxation is most certainly not. That’s not just because of Zenitsu’s constant bellyaching, but the fact that Shinobu wants to begin their rehabilitation training ASAP, starting with Tanjirou and Inosuke. The training is handled by Kanzaki Aoi, Tsuyuri Kanao, and three pint-sized masseuses.

Zenitsu is perturbed when he sees the two returning from their first session as if they had just been beaten to a pulp, but Zenitsu soon finds out the score for himself, and he’s very disappointed in his companions. Why, he raves like a madman after taking them aside, are the complaining about getting massages, playing cup games, and light sparring, all with cute girls?

Zenitsu has no trouble with the massages or with beating Aoi at cups or tag, but Kanao is another story. She beats them at everything, and handily, as befits Shinobu’s apprentice. Zentisu and Inosuke are so frustrated that they stop showing up, but Tanjirou is determined to become strong enough to beat her.

The three little lady masseuses, who have really taken a shine to the sweet, wholesome Tanjirou (let’s be honest, Zenitsu’s a creep and Inosuke’s a forlorn beast) offer him some key advice. Kanao, along with Shinobu and all the other Hashira, are practicing Total Concentration Breathing … continuously. That is, every breath, morning, noon, and night.

The girls present him with a small, extra-hard beginners gourd he’s expected to break with nothing but his breath; Kanao can break a gourd over ten times its size. But while he clearly has a lot of grueling work to do (even short bursts of breathing wear him down), Tanjirou knows he can’t save Nezuko unless he’s stronger, so he puts the work in.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed by the lady of the mansion, Shinobu, who visits him on a rooftop while he’s practicing and even getting him to blush due to her close proximity and striking beauty. Shinobu is rooting for him because she too would like to live in a world where humans and demons got along.

It’s just, unlike him, she’s growing tired of believing that will ever be possible, having been ground down by battle after battle with lying, deceiving demon opponents. Tanjirou can smell anger behind her smile, which surprises Shinobu, causing that smile to briefly fade.

She tells him how her older sister, pure of heart like him, fought for peace with demons even when they ended up killing her. Due to her love and admiration of her sister, Shinobu promised to always carry the smile her sister loved, no matter how much she might want to frown or cry.

Knowing how much it sucks to lose a sister, she implores Tanjirou to keep Nezuko safe with everything he’s got—and there’s no reason to think he won’t. While I enjoyed this episode and the added depth given to Shinobu, Nezuko’s total absence is both conspicuous and disappointing—especially with only two episodes remaining.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 23 – On the Mend

Now that’s more like it. After Shinazugawa Sanemi stabs her three times, cuts his own arm and lets the blood tempt her, Nezuko doesn’t take the bait. Memories of the past and her family flash through her mind. She turns away in disgust, Sanemi’s gambit fails, and the Master puts the matter to rest once and for all: Nezuko won’t hurt humans.

That said, Master understands that it won’t be easy for Tanjirou to convince everyone he encounters, so he’d better hurry up and prove he and Nezuko can slay demons by defeating a Twelve Kizuki. When Tanjirou goes one further and says he’ll kill Kibutsuji Muzan, the Master tells him not to aim so high so soon. When Tanjirou turns beet red, Kanroji Mitsuri has to hold back laughter. Also, like Tanjirou, the Master knows Tamayo, which is instructive.

With Tanjirou and Nezuko’s trial and business with the Hashira at an end, Shinobu summons two kakushi to escort the two to her family’s Butterfly Mansion for rehab. There, he meets Tsuyuri Kanao, who he first met at the Selection. Turns out she’s not Shinobu’s sister but her Tsuguko, or sword apprentice. Kanao notably doesn’t say a word to Tanjirou or the kakushi.

Instead, they’re led to the infirmary by another girl, where Zenitsu is already causing problems with his constant whining and screaming, while Inosuke is uncharacteristically quiet and depressed, recovering from a crushed throat. Tanjirou thanks them both, and later in Nezuko’s room he resolves to become stronger.

The episode ends by giving us a look at the evening Hashira meeting, where the Master tells them they’re the strongest unit of demon slayers ever assembled, and they’ll get Kibutsuji Muzan come hell or high water. It’s clear the master considers Kibutsuji a personal nemesis; I wonder if we’ll ever get any history about the two. Maybe his horrible facial scarring is Kibutsuji’s doing?

This episode was everything last week’s should have been, both introducing and resolving the trial in short order. Sure, last week introduced each of the Hashira we hadn’t met yet, but in the worst possible light, as only Giyuu, Shinobu, and Mitsuri didn’t come off as assholes. I’m glad they fell in line once Nezuko proved she’s harmless to humans, and it was good to see them in a more positive light here, united against their enemy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 22 –Nine Angry Hashira

This week we meet the seven remaining Hashira, a most colorful bunch in both appearance and personality. Unfortunately, when they’re all standing in one place they look a bit silly rather than intimidating, and they stand in one place this entire episode. Tanjirou is bound and lying on the ground the whole time, his voice of explanation drowned out by the competing egos of the entitled, arrogant Hashira.

This is an episode where nothing really happens. Everyone stands around, and for over half of the episode, they stand around talking about nothing in particular. This episode is meant to bring the Hashira up to speed about Tanjirou’s unique—and officially sanctioned—situation. We the audience are already up to speed. Thus, the Hashira look even more foolish for dominating the with their opinions despite being completely in the dark.

At the halfway point of this episode where nothing happens and nothing is said we didn’t already know, the venerable “Master of the Mansion” finally arrives. Where the hell were ya, buddy? He calmly explains to his “children” that Tanjirou’s traveling with Nezuko has been sanctioned by the Corps. Urokodaki, Giyuu, and Tanjirou have all vouched for Nezuko with their lives.

Considering the deference the Hashira show to the Master, the matter should be fucking CLOSED. And yet many of the Hashira won’t accept their Master’s decision. These are the same Hashira who only minutes before were barking and whining about Tanjirou and Giyuu “breaking the rules” all Demon Slayers were sworn to follow. Excuse me, but how is contradicting your boss and acting on your own following the rules?

Not all the Hashira are foolish. Giyuu is obviously on Tanjirou’s side. Shinobu is at least willing to hear him out. Kanronji Mitsuri, who seems to love everything and everyone, is fine with her master’s wishes. Tokitou Muichirou is indifferent, going whichever way the wind blows. But Hotheaded Wind Guy, Giant Weeping Monk, Everything Must Be Flamboyant Guy,  Snake Guy, and Hot Rod Guy form a caucus of dudes who have decided their Master’s word isn’t good enough.

Frankly, they are the ones who should be put in their place, for speaking and acting on matters they know nothing about. And yet, the Master gives them leave to make an argument convincing enough to overturn that of three people who have pledged to commit Seppuku if they’re wrong. Hotheaded Wind Guy (Shinazugawa Sanemi, yet another white-haired guy right on the heels of Rui & Co.) decides to make his argument by slicing his arm open and dripping it into Nezuko’s box to tempt her.

Leaving aside the fact Demon Slayer is playing fast-and-loose with these five Hashiras’ devotion to The Rules, as a practical narrative matter, you, I, and everyone else watching know full well that neither Tanjirou or Nezuko are dying anytime soon; they’re the goddamn co-protagonists, and this is not Gurren Lagann. So this is a big ol’ waste of time better spent formulating a plan for dealing with the real villain, Kibutsugi Muzan.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 21 – Tragic Creatures

It’s always best to know about an enemy before they do bad shit and get killed for it, so Demon Slayer’s penchant for having the lives of demons flash before their eyes as their heads turn to ash isn’t the best approach for engendering sympathy.

Don’t get me wrong, Rui’s origin story is a sad one, especially how he misunderstood his parents’ intentions and how Muzan manipulated him, and I like how Tanjirou doesn’t apologize for sympathizing with demons who feel guilt and regret in their final moments, which Rui clearly does.

It’s less a matter of the content of Rui’s backstory and more a matter of timing. Call it Mount Nagatumo fatigue, but when Giyuu hacked Rui’s head off, I was ready to move on to other things. The episode, however wasn’t, and quite a bit of melodrama ensues.

Once Rui is gone, it’s basically cleanup time on the mountain, which is where the Kakushi come in. The unsung heroes of the Demon Slayer Corps, they provide a support role, treating injured frontline slayers like Zenitsu and Inosuke (who may now be facing a crisis of confidence) as well as the near-victims of the demons.

No sooner does Rui burn away than Shinobu swoop in to kill the only other demon in play: Nezuko. Of course, she’s not aware that Nezuko is different, and has been conditioned not to harm humans. She’s simply following her edict to slay demons, and when Giyuu stops her, she sites both the rules and repeatedly tells Giyuu that no one likes him.

Tanjirou and Nezuko makes a run for it, but they’re soon caught by Shinobu’s sister, who was part of the Final Selection and sports a very sweet boot-and-cape ensemble. Nezuko is able to get away and shrink herself to make for a smaller target, while Giyuu catches Shinobu and the pair prepare to fight each other seriously.

Thankfully, Crows from HQ provide fresh orders: they are to take both Tanjirou and Nezuko into custody and deliver them to HQ. That means for the time being, Nezuko lives. When Tanjirou wakes up, he finds himself surrounded by the Hashira (i.e. elite slayers).

Looking at these guys I couldn’t help but think of Soul Society’s Gotei 13 from Bleach, whose captains were a similarly eclectic, eccentric bunch who heavily personalized their shinigami uniforms. I look forward to meeting these weirdos and learning more about the Corps, while sincerely hoping the higher-ups don’t push for Nezuko’s execution or separation from her brother…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 15 – Night of the Spider Demons

As soon as Zenitsu learns (off-screen) that Nezuko is Tanjirou’s sister, he starts chasing her around their room. When Tanjirou tries to stop him, Zenitsu starts chasing him around too. Then Inosuke, who is ticked off from hunger, starts chasing them, leaving Nezuko out of the loop.

A fun time is had by all, but the next day the doctor declares the three lads have fully recovered, and a crow arrives with fresh destination: Mount Natagumo, with no further explanation except that there’s bound to be demons. With Nezuko secure in her box, the slayers set off for their first mission together.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, Zenitsu senses something creepy and chickens out. Tanjirou prepares to press on, but Inosuke rushes ahead of him; later Tanjirou thanks him for going with him, but Inosuke either didn’t do it for him, or he did and doesn’t realize it. He’s a very enigmatic fellow who is decidedly not brushed up on the social graces.

Once on the mountain, the two encounter a third demon slayer being carried off as if by some invisible threads. Eventually learn that he’s one of ten slayers sent to the mountain to deal with a demon infestation, but they’re all too low-ranked, and end up being turned into puppets, the strings connecting them to a family of spider demons.

Tanjirou and Inosuke sever the threads from the slayers, but neither that or killing the countless tiny spiders making the threads will solve the problem. They need to find the demons behind this, and that’s when Inosuke’s Beast Breathing Form Special Awareness comes in handy. In a very cool sequence his awareness stretches out across the forest until it locates the lead spider demoness, then travels back to Inosuke.

They now have her location, but her apparent son is standing on threads suspended high above the ground, just out of Inosuke’s vertical reach. The boy declares that no one will stop his family from living a happy life together, and that made me wonder: Why exactly are the Demon Slayers bothering with these guys? They’re secluded in the mountain forest, minding their own business. Their only victims seem to be intruders who couldn’t mind theirs.

I guess demons can’t be allowed to be left unchecked, lest they expand their territory and start threatening human settlements. The Demon Slayer Commander certainly seems resolved to eliminate the threat of them. When a crow arrives to report the lower-ranked slayers’ defeat, he prepares to send two Hashira slayers: Giyuu and Shinobu.

Combined with Zenitsu realizing Tanjirou took his beloved Nezuko into danger, that will eventually make it five slayers plus Nezuko against the five spider demons. They’ve just got to hold out and wait for the cavalry.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: