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Kimetsu no Yaiba // Episode 1 Review

Episode 1 Review: Cruelty

Kimetsu no Yaiba is the story about a young boy losing all but his sister in a demon attack. It isn’t a comedy where everything turns out great in the end. It isn’t a ’90s style Inuyasha like story. The world isn’t overly dark for a place where demons exist. In fact it is more interesting in its setting. We are in early 20th century rural Japan where things like powerlines can be seen in small towns. Not a lot of anime I am familiar with have taken the route of setting it this late in Japanese history to note set it in modern times. Its one of the most fascinating parts of the setting of this story. Beyond that is our two main characters.

Tanjiro, the hero of our story, has taken over as head of the household. He is around 16 years old, but extraordinarily mature for his age. It has been some time since his father died, but not that much time. He has five younger siblings that appear to be as young as four. Nezuko is the second oldest and takes after their mother. We first see her caring for the youngest. Its too bad we don’t get much time with Tanjiro’s family. The must have a close dynamic living mostly secluded on top of the mountain.

Tanjiro, the Demon Slayer

Tanjiro is clearly a popular figure in town. When he arrives everyone know him and is happy to see him. Even in this cold winter day, people are storming out of their houses to greet him. Some of the townsfolk allude to him helping out with doors, and another boy roughly the same age needs his immediate help. Here we first see Tanjiro’s almost superhuman nose. He can smell the cat that broke the boy’s mother’s ceramics. Its an incredible sense of smell.

As he heads back home, he an old man stops him at the base of the mountain. Here is some very heavy foreshadowing for anyone who wasn’t already aware of the eventual plot. Grandpa Saburo warns Tanjiro not to travel at night for fear of demons. From the construction of the town and the power lines, we know that we are just past the turn of the century in Japan. We aren’t quite out of the era where ghost stories are revered as truth, but Tanjiro is skeptical of Saburo. He knows that Saburo lost his family many years ago, but doesn’t quite put together it was probably demons that killed everyone. He also doesn’t quite put together the demons are coming for him too.

Nezuko, the Demon

It is heartbreaking to watch Tanjiro come upon his family. He knows well ahead of time that there is something amiss. Tanjiro can smell the blood in the air. He just doesn’t understand what could maim and slaughter the remainder of his family. Nezuko is alive, fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it. She has transformed into a demon, but Tanjiro doesn’t know that yet. He just knows she is severely wounded and rushes down the mountain to save her. We know that it takes a lot of energy to travel and that he doesn’t have a cart to carry her down in. It seems like a fools errand to try and save his sister at this point. It is almost more logical to put her out of her misery, but the demon in her has healed her wounds, so it only looks like she can survive.

When she stirs from her demonic transformative slumber, she almost kills her brother by causing him to fall off a cliff. The snow breaks his fall, which is very happy about. The episode didn’t spend an incredible time on his fall, but Tanjiro was incredibly happy for the snow. I am going to make a mental note of this for when it comes up again. While Tanjiro may be safe from the fall, he is not safe from his own sister.

Of course a show about demons would not be complete without demon hunters. We get to meet our first of hopefully many as Tanjiro fights off his cannibalistic sister. The demon hunter is a young man not much older than Tanjiro, who is very skilled with the sword. He fights off both Tanjiro and Nezuko, and almost kills both of them if not for pity. The action in this scene, while not a lot, gives us some cool moments. Tanjiro’s top-knot is sliced clean off at the beginning of the skirmish. The demon hunter swiftly captures Nezuko. In a desperate move Tanjiro feints a last ditch attack for a surprise ax. Can’t go wrong with a surprise ax.

To Train as a Demon Hunter

Every good show should have a larger overarching plot, and we get to the crux of it here at the end. As the demon slayer takes pity in Tanjiro and his sister, he tells him to go see an old man at the foot of Mt. Sagiri. The demon hunter doesn’t say it, but he pretty clearly implies this is the man he trained under. Now it is Tanjiro’s turn to learn how to hunt demons and cure his sister.

We didn’t see the original demon who slaughtered the family which is disappointing. It is hard to know what evil our protagonist is searching for, even when he hasn’t pledged to destroy it. The only demon we saw was Nezuko who might still have some humanity left in her. Tanjiro seems to be able to cut past the demon in her and appeal directly to her inner human. It is almost cliche, but usually that is left to the end of the series when all hope is lost. Maybe Kimetsu no Yaiba can turn that around and make something unique out of it.

The action in the first episode wasn’t much, but it hopefully is a good taste of the cleverness of the series. Tanjiro’s attack on the demon slayer was a great piece that really caught me as the audience off-guard. The animators did a great job masking the feint in the moment like Tanjiro did against his opponent. It will be interesting to see which direction the series takes itself. Will the series focus on Tanjiro becoming a master demon hunter, or will he focus on curing his sister at all costs?

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[Images via Official Site]