Hi, and welcome to our collaboration review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba episode 13, “Something More Important Than Life.” I’ll be in standard text this week, and Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime will be in bold.
Yes – Finally! My time to be Bold!
I guess we could pause for our disclaimers. Crow and I will be discussing episode 13 of Demon Slayer so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know anything about it, please go on and give it a watch nw. We’ll wait right here so take your time.
For the rest of you, let’s get started with this week’s Kimetsu no Yaiba.
A lot happened in this episode! Tanjiro learned a vital lesson about the shōnen genre; we learned what had turned Kyogai (the demon with tsuzumi affixed to this body) into a demon; we get to meet an amazing way to deliver blood samples back to Tamayo; we get to see Zenitsu use his head; we learn who the fifth survivor was from the Final Selection; and we learn, with brutal clarity, exactly why Zenitsu has so many fans despite how annoying he’s seemed the last couple of episodes.
And for how I thought of him, I can honestly say I feel ashamed.
Irina, any opening remarks?
You know, Demon Slayer is exquisitely paced. I mean it. Not only do episode just fly by in the blink of an eye, characters like Kyogai or Zenitsu work because of how deliberately development and exposition is doled out. Even with the exact same story, I doubt I would have cared much for either of these guys but the deliver is what pulled me in. Good Job director whose name I should look up…
It’s Sotozaki, Haruo. I’m not that familiar with his work.
Now, please remember that as the episode started, as far as I knew, Zenitsu’s distinguishing characteristic was his near-infinite supply of tears and mucus. I say this because later events have reminded me of the perils of passing judgement on someone, but in this moment, that’s how I saw him. So, when Shoichi (the little boy who had entered the mansion with his sister and Tanjiro) asked him if they were just going around in circles, Zenitsu’s reaction surprised me.
He didn’t completely freak out!
He wasn’t a model of calm, but Zenitsu did seem to be making progress. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
He did have to restrain his panic, but he actually praised Shoichi for noticing, too! Let that sink in for a second: he didn’t scream at the boy! Before I could mark that down as progress, Zenitsu asked Shoichi to look in a door to see if the room was safe. The camera was on the door from inside the room, so we couldn’t see either of them. There was a pause, and Zenitsu asked Shoichi was he was glaring at him! I liked that little bit of humor since there was no screaming involved.
I had no way of knowing what was coming for Zenitsu.
True, Zenitsu moment of redemption last episode was unconscious so the “real” him hadn’t in fact changed at all. It took me a moment to remember that. I have a soft spot for cowards, I think they often make for interesting if under-appreciated characters. As soon a Zenitsu tones down the overacting, I quite like him.
Next, we dive right back into the battle between Tanjiro and Kyogai. The room’s spinning; the invisible claws continue raking. Tanjiro’s still trying to psych himself up, but he’s in great pain, and he’s getting tired. And then he says something that illustrates one of the reasons I love this series.
“Spirit alone isn’t gonna get me anywhere! …Use your head, not just your spirit!”
I didn’t know he was allowed to go against tropes like that! Very glad he did, though, because it showed Tanjiro was at the limit of his experience. If he was going to win, he had to push himself using all of his skills — not just his spirit.
There’s one thing that Tanjiro has been repeating for a few episodes now “I am the eldest son”. He said it again this week. I can imagine what this means but there’s an insistence on it.
It’s meaningless of course. Tanjiro’s entire family is dead. Oldest son no longer has any context for him except for Nezuko and let’s just say, that’s complicated. Yet he holds onto that. Not his master’s training, not honor, not revenge. He spurs himself on through a vague sense of duty that’s usually reserved for supporting characters or villains.
Tanjiro hit the limit of how far his spirit alone could push. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Yes, he has his immediate goal for Nezuko and he’s also a Knight in Shining Armor archetype, but the way he removes himself from the equation is interesting. It makes it a bit more difficult for the audience to bond directly with him but allows those around him to take up more room and shine a little brighter.
It’s a good way to avoid Demon Slayer becoming essentially a one man show, which is also something of a trope or at least a common shonen trait.
In extreme conditions, we fall back to our essential being. This is how, I think, Tanjiro sees himself… and your observations made me realize just how painfully sad that is.
If you’re a writer (and I like to think of myself as a writer!), you might find yourself sympathizing with Kyogai. As the demon spins the room and Tanjiro continues his struggle, we get a flashback where a young Kyogai is kneeling in front of an editor (or maybe a teacher — I’ll say editor, because I’ve had this kind of experience with an editor before). The editor is heaping insults on him and his writing. He told the cowering young man that “Every last word is utter trash.”
And he didn’t stop there. He said he would suggest that the young man try to teach the tsuzumi, the drum he loved to play, but he was terrible even at that! You can guess what happened moments later when the editor stalked past Kyogai on his way out the door. Yep — Kyogai turned into a demon. Or maybe completed the turn, because he already had a stomach-mounted drum (the claw drum) installed at the time.
I made a mental note to myself: If I ever edit anyone’s work, I’ll try to be kind. No need to get myself murdered by a newly created demon!
Just remembering the editor incident drove Kyogai into a rage — and rapid drumming. It looked like Tanjiro was in the drum of a high efficiency washing machine’s spin cycle. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I did… but I shouldn’t have.
It’s nothing but hubris after all. Believing your art to be so great that not having it recognized turns you into a murderous demon. It’s super relatable because frustration is simply a very relatable feeling, but let’s face it, if he had been louder or more insistent of his own talent, he would have immediately been an irremediable good guy.
What made him sympathetic, was that he was pathetic. The entire cinematic language, the dramatic lighting and shift in colours in the flashbacks, the way he remains mostly stationary even in combat, his voice that comes out as an insecure whisper. Despite what is clearly happening on screen, the character is portrayed as helpless and meek. It’s a way to make the audience want to protect hm a little, and it worked on me! (I do not consider myself a writer…)
This is a way to make your visual language go against your textual one. A touch of dissonance between camera work and script. And it was really well done. Good job Mr. Sotozaki, yet again!
Harlan Ellison said that none of us are writers until another writer says we are. So, sorry if this comes out of left field, but Irina: You’re a writer.
We’ll pause a moment to let the shock wear off — the shock that you didn’t ready know that!
Back to the action…
After that memory, you can imagine that Kyogai was even more angry, and he started playing this attached drums like he was Neil Peart from the rock band Rush. Which is to say, insanely fast. Poor Tanjiro was in free fall! Honestly, I was worried for him, hero or not. I didn’t know how he was going to get himself out of this!
Tanjiro’s natural respect gave him an opening. The demon was shocked that an enemy — a Demon Slayer who he was trying to brutally murder — would treat his manuscript with such respect. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I think his respectful nature might actually have saved him. As he approached what was usually the floor, the demon saw one his his manuscripts scattered there. Tanjiro intentionally did not step on any of the pages. In fact, he had to practically dance to avoid stepping on a single page. I think that Kyogai was so surprised that his enemy would be so careful with his manuscript that he paused.
Tanjiro used that pause to figure out how to better control his breathing. Shallow breaths would help him ease the pain in his ribs; better focus let him compensate for his broken leg by changing his he used his leg muscles. As he gathered his wits, he realized he could use one of his powers to crate a water whirlpool that stayed more or less stable as the room spun. If he was careful, he could propel himself forward, and he began to close on the demon. As he approached, he yelled that the Kyogai’s Blood Demon Art was “incredible.” The demon was utterly shocked. But he was probably more shocked when Tanjiro’s blade severed his head.
What’d you think of that battle, Irina?
I think that was the prettiest water design scenes we’ve had so far. Gorgeous! And the CG was brilliant. I’ve read a few fans that want the studio to drop this and go back to more fate shows, but guys, they are doing some of their best technical work here!
“Gorgeous” is the perfect adjective. Man, this scene was fun to watch!
As the demon died, it asked Tanjiro if he had been honest. Was his Demon Blood Art really incredible? I’ve had people tell me I’m soft on evil because questions like that stab me in the heart. I think it’s less than I’m “soft on crime” and more that I realize all of us carry the potential for evil that I wish was unimaginable. So instead of seeing an evil creature who’s getting what he deserved, I’m relieved that I’ve managed to avoid that fate.
I loved Tanjiro’s answer: “It was amazing. But… I can’t forgive you for killing others.”
Irina’s right — the demon only understood that Tanjiro had recognized his work. The wider context was beyond him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Is Tanjiro a combat form of Tooru from Fruits Basket (2019)? Just by being himself, he brings healing and peace wherever he goes. Even to his enemies! Remember Susamaru’s little girl voice asking if Tanjiro would play with her as her body burned away (episode 10)? Irina, tell me if I’m crazy, but that kind of thing sets the series apart; it makes it more interesting and distinctive. It reminds me of D.Gray-Man’s Allen Walker, in a good way.
Actually, the entire series has a bit of a D-Grey man feel but with a better throughline. Those naive yet oddly upsetting demon designs also remind me of D-Grey man (I should say I’ve only read the manga, not sure if they were the same in the show).
And although that may be a good thing for me, it may not be the best news for Tanjiro. Allen didn’t exactly have a happy life.
I suspect that for Allen — and maybe even for Tanjiro — “happy” was not relevant. Mission was what mattered, with all the existential pain and anguish that entails…
It’s dangerous for me start thinking about D.Gray-Man!
Tanjiro suddenly remembered that he needed to get a blood sample before the body disintegrated, so he tossed a hypodermic that Yushirou had developed at the demon’s torso. It was kind of cool to see if attach itself and extract a blood sample. Tanjiro even marveled at Yushirou’s craftsmanship!
Didn’t you? I thought is was amazing! I miss Yushi.
Now that you mention it, me too. Tamayo, too.
As soon as the device was full, we heard a “meow!”, and suddenly there was a cat. With a backpack. I was even more surprised than Tanjiro! But do you know was really cool? Tamayo had sent the cat! I was wondering how Tanjiro was going to get the blood samples back to her. I have to admit that I was irrationally happy to see the delivery cat! As soon as Tanjiro loaded the sample in its backpack, it meowed again and disappeared.
And this is what really strained my suspension of disbelief. Demons, sure I know a few of those. Dimension bending blood arts – ok, I can get behind that. Super though teenagers that fight on broken legs, hmm, fine I guess. But a cat that can be relied on to deliver… anything!?! I like cats but they are not likely to be trained and even less likely to do anything they are not getting immediately rewarded for. That’s insane. That cat is getting food from every house in the nearest village as the sample rots in a ditch somewhere… And don’t tell me it didn’t scratch off that charm!
I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but Irina brings up a good point. Is a trained cat even possible? Even with magic? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I… don’t have an answer to that! Maybe it was a dog in a cat suit? Now I’m going to worry about that…
Now we start getting into personally uncomfortable territory. It’s not because the characters did anything unsavory (well, not Tanjiro or Zenitsu anyway — more on that in a second). It’s because I learned how terribly I’d misjudged Zenitsu. Maybe I should have known. Remember when Irina mentioned how sad it was that Zenitsu lived in so much fear despite having such incredible power when he was asleep (in episode 12)? It showed how the poor guy was trying to be brave but had no idea he was powerful.
He was staying in the fight despite not knowing he had any chance.
You knew something like this was coming, didn’t you, Irina?
I know something was up. I mentioned it before. The fact that he survived the final trial meant there was more to him that meets the eye. That was the subconscious fighting. But the fact that he showed up for it in the first place…
And why would he have a sparrow?
I figured they were gearing up the character for some type of redemption (that’s not the right word but you know what I mean) but I never expected anything like that… how could I have!?!
I think you’re being too modest!
Zenitsu begins his redemption (or, more accurately, helping me understand the reality of the situation — my redemption?) during Kyogai’s imitation of Neil Peart. The house spun so much that it threw Zenitsu and Shoichi out of a window, and Zenitsu used his head — literally! — hit the ground first. He apparently also used his body to cushion the boy’s impact. At first, he was really happy that he’d helped the boy. Then, he realized that he was bleeding.
I really liked that he protected the boy. He did attempt to protect him from the demon in the last episode as well. Before he fell asleep that is. His instincts are very noble. It’s understandable why the boy would care so much about him now.
And although they said they fell from the second floor, the way the house had spun on its side, it seemed to me they fell from at least 5 floors worth. It’s pretty surprising ether are o.k. Yet Zenitsu hardly felt it at all. He was wondering why the boy was even worried.
For a brief moment, Zenitsu thought he’d done well and was not killed in the process. Too bad the moment didn’t last. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
“Now I get it! I feel right onto my head, didn’t I,” he said in a rapidly rising voice. He immediately wondered if he was going to die. It didn’t help when Inosuke Hashibira, a.k.a. Boar Head Dude, burst out of the door, scaring both Zenitsu and Shoichi.
But then he stopped, his fear vanishing. As Inosuke started going on about sensing a demonic presence (a statement whose importance didn’t register right away — though I’m betting that Irina realized instantly), Zenitsu recognized the voice. Remember how he has legendary hearing, like Tanjiro has a legendary sense of smell? Well, Zenitsu recognized the voice as the fifth survivor of the Final Selection (all the way back in episode 5).
And things got dark.
You probably say this coming, didn’t you, Irina?
You know, I see the opening credits, like everyone else. I see those scenes of boar head playing around with the rest of them and I have to wonder how are they going to make us forgive this character….
After this episode? He’s gonna need a lot of forgiving!
Inosuke looked around and found the source of the demonic presence. You can guess what it was, can’t you? Yep. It was the box. The box with Nezuko in it.
Tanjiro was still in the house.
You know how much Inosuke/Boar Head Dude loves to fight, right? He sprinted right at the box. Both swords were drawn. He drew back to strike.
And so Zenitsu begins to show me how wrong I was. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
He didn’t hesitate at all. He introduced himself at a member of the Demon Slaying Corps, and Inosuke said he should know what’s up — why they had to destroy the box and its contents. He demanded Zenitsu move out of the way.
He didn’t move.
“Inside this box is something I’m not letting you touch,” Zenitsu said, shaking but not retreating. He said what was in the box was precious to Tanjiro. Inosuke was incredulous; he plainly stated that there was a demon in that box. He sounded like he couldn’t believe how dumb Zenitsu was.
And do you know what Zenitsu said?
“I’ve known that from the very start!”
Irina, were you as shocked as I was? Which is to say, very shocked?
I don’t know if shocked was he right word. They did foreshadow it. More like the way the scene unfolded was just perfect.
It didn’t matter what was in the box or who this boar guy was. All that mattered was that Tanjiro considered the box more important than anything else and that’s all Zenitsu needed to protect it.
This is when I realized what Tanjiro had needed all this time. Possibly even before the tragedy. A friend. What good shonen is complete without an important friendship at its core? And the only way to have a real friendship, is for the two friends to be on more or less equal footing. This is why this scene needed to happen.
You just said in a sentence what I’ve been trying to describe in several pages. Trying to distill it to its essence: Zenitsu is Tanjiro’s friend.
A little side note, I wasn’t sure where to fit it… You know what I realized this episode? Nezuko probably has a blood art! I really wonder what it is. Weaponized cuteness?
If it’s weaponized cuteness, it’s extremely effective!
I was still amazed that Zenitsu had known all along! His sense of hearing was so sensitive that he could tell the difference in different living bodies — humans, animals, and demons. He said that he could differentiate all living things, and that Tanjiro gave off a kind and gentle sound. It was unlike anything he had ever heard; it made him want to cry.
This is Zenitsu we’re talking about here!
So Tanjiro emits a sound that’s so kind and gentle that it almost brings Zenitsu to tears. Moments like this are among the reasons I’m so enjoying this show! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
“Tanjiro, despite being a demon slayer, is traveling with a demon,” he said. This is the man who I called a coward talking! “But I’m sure he has a reason for that. And that it’s a reason I can accept! I believe that!”
He was willing to put himself into harm’s way for a demon. Simply because he trusted his friend had a good reason.
He did this knowing with utter clarity want “in harm’s way” meant.
Boar Head Dude’s not having it. He’s still going to destroy the box and its contents (Nezuko!); but now, he’s going to do it through Zenitsu. Inosuke starts kicking and beating Zenitsu. He keeps trying to get to the box. Zenitsu keeps intervening. Soon, he wraps himself around the box, and he takes punch after punch after punch until his face is swollen and his nose is freely bleeding.
Tanjiro emerges from the house.
“Tanjiro, I protected it,” Zenitsu says in a weak voice. By now, one eye is completely swollen shut. “Because you said this was more important to you than your life.”
Tanjiro is on the verge of tears. Until Boar Head Dude resumes his attack. Tanjiro seems frozen by the memories of his dead family, two of which were in a pose almost identical to Zenitsu and the box. Inosuke says that if the blonde Demon Slayer won’t move, he’ll skewer both of them. He raised his sword.
Yes, he protected the box. The price he paid was obvious, especially to Tanjiro. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Zenitsu hugged the box more tightly. Boar Head Dude doubled his attack.
What were you thinking at this point, Irina?
I wondered why Zenitsu never fought back. He never even reached for his own sword at all. This wasn’t cowardice, he isn’t running away. He simply didn’t want to raise a sword against a human? Does his waking self never use a sword?
Also, for the few that weren’t convinced the character was bearable last week, did this scene change your mind?
What happened next reminded me of a quote from Patrick Rothfuss. He said, “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
Screaming “Knock it off,” Tanjiro charged.
Boar Head Dude’s about to experience the anger of the gentlest of men.
And now, on that cliffhanger, we wait.
As always, it has been a pleasure discussing Demon Slayer with you!
Reviews of the Other Episodes
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 01: Cruelty
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 02: Trainer Sakonji Urokodaki
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 03: Sabito and Makomo
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 04: Final Selection
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 05: My Own Steel
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 06: A Friend fo All Humans
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 07: Muzan Kibutsuji
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 08: The Smell of Enchanting Blood
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 09: Temari Demon and Arrow Demon
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 10: Together Forever
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 11: Tsuzumi Mansion
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 12: The Boar Bears Its Fangs, Zenitsu Sleeps
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 13: Something More Important Than Life
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 14: The House with the Wisteria Family Crest
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 15: Mount Natagumo