How would you rate episode 6 of
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc ?
All right. Considering the pacing of “Aren’t You Going to Become a Hashira?”, it seems that I will finally have to come to terms with the fact that this entire season really is just going to be this fight against The Feelings Demons and That One Asshole with The Disgusting Mouth-Eyes. I probably should have guessed that, seeing as this approach to action and narrative pacing has been Demon Slayer’s modus operandi since the Mugen Train arc hit, but man, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
To be clear, this is a perfectly fine episode. I liked it more than last week’s chapter, if only because we spent a ridiculous amount of time following Genya as he chased around a tiny, crying weirdo of a demon, and that’s the kind of stupid bullshit that Demon Slayer does well. However, the problem is that the all-consuming “fineness” of “Aren’t You Going to Become a Hashira?” speaks to the larger pacing issues of the show, which are quickly overtaking the things that make Demon Slayer fun to watch.
I’m going to try to make this as succinct as possible because, Lord knows, nobody wants me to spend any more words complaining about Demon Slayer than necessary. In short: by the time this season concludes, if there are no changes to the direction and pacing of the show, we will have spent approximately four hours on this one battle at the Swordsmith’s Village – that’s too many hours to spend on this material, doesn’t matter how flashy your animation is. After that much time spread across an entire television season, things are bound to become boring.
Here’s the longer version: The season subtitles keep using the term “Arc” to describe these mostly standalone excursions to the different battlegrounds of each movie/season. However, to me, the word “arc” implies a collection of events. It suggests a series of ups and downs that compel the characters to confront various challenges, which in turn shed light on their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately leading to a cathartic climax. You know—like in a story? Yet, in this case, the big climactic fight is the story. There are no characters to develop an emotional connection with, no stakes to become truly invested in, and the fight choreography has been unusually subpar this season. Consequently, I have serious doubts that even the sheer spectacle of the showdown will be sufficient to sustain our interest throughout the second half of the season.
The funny thing is, I love action-heavy spectacles of violence that accomplish sparse but impactful moments of storytelling. I could write you another ten thousand words right now on the ways that movies such as Hero, Mad Max Fury Road, and the entirety of the John Wick series offer perfect proof of how fight scenes with creative choreography and cleverly written character interactions can tell incredibly compelling stories with virtually no dialogue. However, what sets those films apart from this show is their mastery of economic storytelling, whereas Demon Slayer‘s particular speed and tone represent some of the most inefficient writing I’ve seen in a blockbuster production such as this.
Take the flashback at the heart of the episode, for example. Demon Slayer has always struggled with its reliance on cheap and intrusive flashbacks as crutches, where most of them serve as last-minute Hail Marys to cram an otherwise emotionally barren fight sequence with easy pathos that is never even especially interesting or well written. Genya’s backstory is no different. While there is the potential for something intriguing here, the way Demon Slayer presents it feels incredibly wasteful. In the span of one memory, we witness Genya losing his family to demons (no surprise), accusing his brother of being their killer, discovering that his brother wasn’t the killer, and bidding a bittersweet farewell to his brother, leaving a haunting impact on him to this day.
Can you imagine how much more interesting it would be if we actually spent time with Genya, as he harbored this rage and resentment for his brother only to be undone by learning the tragic truth – and then be forced to reckon with his new knowledge as he grows as a person? Yeah, it would hardly be an original story beat, but it’s already a cliché. My argument is simply that the cliché could be delivered with a tad more grace, rather than resembling the rushed act of a teenager hastily shoving a late homework assignment into the collection bin without even bothering to check if their name is on the paper.
Oops, there I go again, rambling on for hundreds of words about everything I didn’t enjoy in an otherwise decent episode of Demon Slayer. That’s partially my bad, I guess, although I’m somewhat at a loss for how else to approach a show that is so pretty on the surface, so fundamentally lacking in any meaningful substance beneath its shiny veneer. When you go out of your way to ask me to empty my head and enjoy the pretty colors for a half-hour every week, I’m bound to start thinking about something. Maybe if this storyline can take a turn for the more creative and inspired, I could spend that time thinking about more positive things, instead.
Still love that tiny little idiot running around in the grass, though.