Okay, I know I’ve said the animation has been amazing in every episode so far. But this is the best one! For real this time, I mean it! This one looks better than some full animated movies that I’ve watched!
In the battle against Daki and Gyutaro, only Tanjiro remains standing. Exhausted and bloodied, he stands no chance against the two Upper Six demons. He refuses to give up, but will that be enough?
The first half of this episode is brutal. It’s just Gyutaro mocking and torturing Tanjiro while Daki sits back and laughs, surrounded by the burning ruins of the entertainment district. There is no music, only the ambient sounds of burning, Gyutaro’s mocking laughter, and the cracking of Tanjiro’s bones. It is genuinely uncomfortable and horrific to see Tanjiro go through this.
It all culminates in Gyutaro making Tanjiro an offer: become a demon. Gain the strength he needs to protect his little sister and escape the pain, escape death. Become like Gyutaro himself, a demonic older brother his sister can rely on. Do that, or die. A terrible decision, one that Rengoku faced at the end of the last arc.
And just like Rengoku, Tanjiro refuses to buckle.
While I do like this first half, it isn’t perfect. It more or less destroys the subtle parallels between Tanjiro and Nezuko and Gyutaro and Daki. Tanjiro straight-up explains that the two pairs of brothers and sisters are all but the same, only with a darker twist of fate. This is more of a personal gripe than a critique; I much prefer subtlety in storytelling, but I understand that this is a shounen story.
Also, this first half kinda pales in comparison to the second. Because the second half is where this shit gets crazy!
The final clash between our four heroes and the two demons is easily the best-looking action scene of the season. Everyone busts out all the stops, pushing themselves beyond their limits in one of the most beautiful, brutal, and exciting final battles I’ve ever seen in a shounen anime! After being pushed to the utmost limits of despair, you can feel every last bit of hope, desperation, and determination filling our battered heroes as they struggle one last time. Combined with the jaw-dropping animation, direction, and editing, we get a scene as impactful and memorable as season one episode 19’s climax and Rengoku’s final attack against Akaza.
Then we reach the end. And once again, we’re treated to a cliffhanger. Did our heroes manage to survive, or did this battle end in a draw? It’s pretty obvious that our heroes will survive, at least most of them will. But the scene is still effective thanks to the haunting music and the imagery. As the credits role, we watch the flames slowly die down on the ruined entertainment district. By the time the episode ends, all that’s left is a silent ruin of a city in the darkness. It’s a haunting image that makes for an incredible cliffhanger.
Aaaaand then we get the post credits scene. Which feels a little too cute and innocent after everything we just witnessed. Don’t get me wrong, it is funny to hear about how Tanjiro inherited his hard head from his mother. But maybe we should have gotten that sometime before the dramatic cliffhanger to end all dramatic cliffhangers?
Overall, this was a phenomenal episode! The brutality and despair of the first half lead perfectly into the hopeful final push of the second, and it all culminates perfectly in a seemingly hopeless cliffhanger (even if it obviously isn’t as hopeless as the show makes it seem). Combined with some of the best action animation I have ever seen, and this episode earns its place as one of the best in all of Demon Slayer.
Now, all that’s left is the double-length finale episode. Which will inevitably reveal the demon’s backstory for half that runtime. Which means that once again, we’re getting the villain’s backstory after they’re defeated.
*Sigh*… that’s never going to change, is it?