So we went from Rengoku to Tengen. Seems like a hell of a downgrade to me.
Picking up right where the Mugen Train arc left off, we pick up with Tanjiro and friends as they mourn the death of Kyojuro Rengoku. Despite being severely injured, Tanjiro goes to deliver Kyojuro’s final message to his brother and father. At the Rengoku estate, he’s suddenly attacked for knowing Sun Breathing. But there, Tanjiro finds the will to keep fighting, and thus continues his training and missions. A few months later, he and his two friends are recruited by Tengen Uzui for a dangerous mission in the Entertainment District.
Clocking in at 40 minutes long, this episode is dense. Filled with a whole ton of people crying over Kyojuro, Kyojuro’s father being incredibly drunk and angry, a pretty cool training montage, a brief fight, lots of effective comedy to lighten the dreary mood, and a re-introduction to our next big Hashira, there is a lot to unpack here. You can tell that Ufotable wanted to go all-out with this season debut.
We’ll start with Tengen. It’s interesting how we go from a Hashira who was immediately likable to one who was immediately unlikable. Because good God, does Tengen make a bad impression! For fuck’s sake, his introduction his him trying to kidnap girls, insulting Tanjiro, and spanking Aoi like a pervert! Granted, this is his first scene; he still has plenty of time to win the audience over. Still, it is fascinating to see such a massive contrast.
Also, I didn’t really like him all that much by the end in the manga anyways, so don’t expect me to warm up to him anytime soon.
Two characters I did absolutely love were the Rengoku’s. Senjuro is a pure baby boy and is immediately likable, given how much he has to struggle in an abusive house and how he feels he failed in his own expectations; yet we can see the positive effects Kyojuro had on him which made him the kind boy that we can immediately love. Shinjuro, on the other hand, is an abusive drunk. Of the two, I found Shinjuro to be the more interesting. Especially when he hears Kyojuro’s final message to him and shows his true emotions regarding his eldest son’s passing.
Not to mention that he reveals some pretty major bombs regarding the mystery of the Hinokami Kagura. Bombs that are also tied to the series lore in pretty interesting ways. It isn’t a huge revelation; it’s more of an extra addition to the puzzle, really. Still, it is interesting.
Of the main three, Tanjiro is the only one who has extensive screen time. Luckily, it’s used fairly well. Seeing Tanjiro actually go through the grieving process, struggling with his frustrations when confronted by Shinjuro, adds a nice bit of humanity to the character.
Unfortunately, Zenitsu and Inosuke don’t get much. What little character growth they have is displayed purely through a throwaway line from Tanjiro during their montage. Aside from that, they’re more played for gags and just hang out in the background while the actual drama happens. Zenitsu has a bit more to work with, as he shows comfort at the knowledge of his friends’ struggle and determination to help them back to their feet, but that is short lived and ultimately ends in a joke.
This episode isn’t all character introductions and sad drama, though. We do get a brief fight with Tanjiro, Nezuko, and a demon. The setup for the fight is really cool; a duel with a demon in an abandoned temple on a rainy night. Unfortunately, it’s brushed past incredibly quickly. There are no cool powers, no fun struggle, just in and out, over and done. It feels like it’s only there to remind you that the show is called ‘Demon Slayer’.
In terms of presentation, I don’t think people will be surprised to hear that this episode looks great. Even the smallest detail, like the bobbing of a little girl’s braids, is animated incredibly smoothly. The Demon Slayer art style is as gorgeous as ever and every single motion is animated beautifully.
Musically speaking, I wasn’t all that impressed. There didn’t seem to be many new memorable tracks. I’m fairly sure that most of the OST was recycled from the last season. That’s not a major complaint; the arc is only just starting, after all. Hopefully we’ll get some new bangers later on.
Overall, this episode was an incredibly strong start. I had my grievances, but this was still a strong display of all the things I love about this show: strong character drama and introductions (even if the characters introduced were fairly unlikable), gorgeous action (if brief), and a perfect set-up for our next big adventure. I can’t wait to see where we go next.
Also, the OP is great. If only because we get shots of each of Tengen’s wives being adorable.