Anime

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 15: Oh, What a Tangled Web

Hi, and thanks for reading our collaboration review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba episode 15, “Mount Natagumo.” I’ll be in standard text this week, and Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime will be in bold. We’re about to talk about an interesting episode — it took us from the depths of a controversy through some signs of hope that the controversy will pass. Even better, it ended on a note that felt a lot like what I think of as “classic” Demon Slayer, even though we’re only on episode 15.

Irina, before we dive into the controversy, do you have any opening thoughts?

Well now you’ve got me curious….  I really want to find out about his controversy! But first, I guess I’ll do the disclaimer part.  haven’t read ahead but odds are pretty high that Crow and I will be discussing the events of episode 15 so if you have not watched it yet and don’t want to know what happens, please go watch the episode first.

Otherwise, welcome! Happy you could join us. Now let’s see what’s this controversy Crow’s been on about!

What is this controversy, you might ask? 

We did, Crow! Stop teasing us!

It’s something that began back in episode 11 (Tsuzumi Mansion). Some of y’all might think, “Say, isn’t that the first episode we got a taste of Zenitsu’s personality? 

Yes. Yes, it is. 

Guys, I think I know where this is going… go ahead Crow.

Irina, correct me if I’m wrong, but by the end of the previous episode, you weren’t really enjoying the over the top humor that Zenitsu introduced, and that Inosuke expanded on. Based on what I’m seeing in Tweets (like this one from Karandi from 100 Word Anime or this one from IWatchedanAnime of I Watched an Anime fame), the humor is at best divisive, and at worst, seriously harming Demon Slayer’s reputation. Or at least keeping some folks from enjoying it.

I would like to add a small nuance for my personal take. I don’t mind Zenitsu as much as most people, but I think when you combine him with Inosuke it’s just too much. Since they both do the over the top, super loud irrational delivery, it ends up very one-note.

But overall I clearly prefer calm Zenitsu (more on this later).

It was cool seeing Tanjiro trying to protect his little sister. But the antics, multiplied by Inosuke, are starting to wear a little thin. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

I was thinking about this when this episode opened. I try to be tolerant, because I remember the Lesson of Asta (from Black Clover). He annoyed me to death — until he didn’t. However, I felt my patience strain when Inosuke started chasing Zenitsu and Tanjiro around the room, apparently for no reason.

What did you think of that moment, Irina?

I just thought back to the three stooges again. They’re establishing a friendship dynamic, I get that, but it’s not my favourite part. 

I also think Yushiro was a better foil for Tanjiro, and I wish he would replace Inosuke. A cool slightly sarcastic archetype would balance out the personalities better in my opinion and provide the potential for more varied dynamics.

You know, so far I’m not seeing anything that controversial Crow.

Interesting point about Yushiro. That’d provide a lot of chances for character reactions and insights!

I didn’t know it, but that scene actually carried a seed of something that I think might be a way out of this. Just before he “attacked” Tanjiro and Zenitsu, Boar Head Dude had become confused. The old lady who managed the facility talked to him about comfortable clothes he could wear while she washed his outfit, and it was like he didn’t know what she was talking about. So, he went on the attack.

Then something happened that I thought was completely unexpected (though something Irina may have foreseen, given her remarkable character insights). 

After the doctor proclaimed them healthy, the Crow showed up and told them to get to Mt. Natagumo. I had to wonder if Tanjiro welcomed the diagnosis — they were living very, very comfortably, after all! But the three of them (and Nezuko!) got ready to leave. The old lady told them to live with great pride and wished them luck in battle.

I guess the days of free room and board — not to mention health care! — are over for now. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Then the unexpected thing happened.

As they were jogging, Inosuke started asking questions. He didn’t know what living with great pride meant. He didn’t know why the lady would pray for them. But notice what he didn’t do — he didn’t attack Tanjiro or Zenitsu. He asked questions!

That stunned me! Okay, the hope that moment represented stunned me. Could it be Inosuke was about to grow beyond just being a loud belligerent stereotype?

It was with this renewed sense of hope that I watched as our heroes came up to Mt. Natagumo. Tanjiro did his scent detection thing; Inosuke was tense and on edge, but ready to fight.

And Zenitsu was sitting in the road.

Dang it, Zenitsu! What did you think of this moment, Irina?

Let me take a step back. The episode did establish at several points that Inosuke is essentially a violent noble savage archetype. He grew up completely isolated from society and has no concept of social moires. His life has always been kill or be killed and establish dominance to avoid being attacked and he acts perfectly logically in accordance with that. I do think they are slowly evolving the character out of it and it may be interesting.

I still think a different archetype would have brought better balance though.

As for Zenitsu sitting down on the side of the road: I loved it. This is what only Zenitsu can bring. I like the idea of an openly cowardly hero, I think it’s interesting and unusual. And he did completely freak out, he was reasonably scared and reacted in an ultimately futile but understandable way without yelling. I am completely onboard with this Zenitsu.

I have a feeling this may not be the popular opinion. In fact, I think you may not share it either Crow.

I have to admit that Zenitsu’s reaction here is not only understandable — it’s flat out reasonable! I mean, approaching that mountain at night? That’s scary stuff! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Zenitsu alone, even loud? As you pointed out, the cowardly hero is a decent counterpoint to Tanjiro’s quiet heroism. And you just brought up another reason for hope: Zenitsu wasn’t nearly as loud when he sat in the middle of the road. That’s an evolution, and I like character development! Maybe he’s feeling he can be more himself when he’s with Tanjiro now? 

But my hope persisted, because Inosuke followed Tanjiro into the forest. Tanjiro even stopped to thank Inosuke, who didn’t quite understand why, but it was a solid Tanjiro moment. He’s incredibly gracious, even under pressure. Or maybe especially under pressure!

I’m not entirely sure about that. I think Inosuke picks up on more than he lets on.

You might be right; I’ll watch for signs of that going forward. 

In the forest, after running through far, far too many spider webs, they meet a terrified Murata, a Demon Slayer. He’d been part of a 10 Demon Slayer contingent that came to the mountain to attack the demon there, but the mission soon went badly. The Demon Slayers started attacking each other! Within moments, some of the other Demon Slayers found them and began attacking.

I thought it was kinda funny how Inosuke taunted them for not knowing about the taboo against Demon Slayers fighting Demon Slayers. To his credit, Tanjiro didn’t look exasperated or laugh.

I actually loved that moment. It was one of the most charming moments for Inosuke and it shows that he’s actually really proud to have learned something about Demon Slayer tradition (and he bothered to remember it)

I love the image of Inosuke feeling proud he learned something!

Very quickly, Tanjiro figures out that the other Demon Slayers are being controlled by spider webs connected to their backs. As soon as they cut them, the Demon Slayers would fall. Within seconds, however, they’d rise again. Remember the spider webs Tanjiro and Inosuke had walked through? The woods were packed with tiny spiders. Maybe millions of them. As soon as our heroes would cut the webs, the spiders would jump into the fallen and attach new webs that were controlled by a demon somewhere else in the woods.

This moment felt very classic — it felt foreboding and terrifying in the way that the teeth-chattering demon or the vector and ball throwing demons did. In retrospect, I could feel myself relaxing and thoroughly enjoying the moment. Irina, what about you?

From the very first scene in the forest, even before with the wounded slayer on the road, I was getting chills. This is the creepiest Demon Slayer has been and that is saying a lot! It should be noted that I quite like spiders, so it’s not relying on creepy crawlers.

Demon Slayer is good at building up suspense. Apparently, way better at it than at Slice of Life (in my opinion). 

And just the way the controlled boys were moving, the jagged animation and slightly odd angles, was so unnerving to watch! They added some fantastic CG. It was just a great scene. 

Irina’s right — their jagged movements and odd angles were unnerving! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

So yeah, good animation, good design, scary power, even Inosuke go the chance at some good moments, great scene!

About this time, we got a scene where a wounded Crow returned to someone I’ve not seen before. Giyu was there, and we met someone else new named Shinobu. No, not that Shinobu! Quite a different Shinobu. She and Giyu seemed to have the rank of Hashira in the Demon Slayers, and apparently, that’s much higher than Tanjiro’s rank of Mizunoto. There were two others there, maybe demons like Tamayo? I’ll be honest: I could see the scene was important, but I didn’t get why. What did you think of it, Irina?

I think the person with the crow (great animation on the Crow…also on Tanjiro’s Crow earlier) was a demon. My feeling is that the Demon Slayer corp may not, in fact, be the heroic protectors of humans they seem to be, but a pawn in an inner demon power struggle. Someone is using them to get at Kibutsuji, and if they happen to protect some humans along the way, that’s just a side effect.

This is pure speculation.

Wouldn’t that be an interesting twist? I’d love to see how Tanjiro would react to that!

Back on the mountain, Zenitsu realized that Tanjiro had taken Nezuko into danger. Apparently, Nezuko is the only thing known to humanity to inspire some courage in Zenitsu, because he high-tailed it after them after having sat in the middle of the road since Tanjiro and Boar Head Dude had gone ahead. Yes, his yelling annoyed me. But at least, it was something a little different. He wasn’t asleep, but he was acting.

I’ll take what I can get! And I don’t want to forget that he did protect Nezuko from Inosuke. I have to remember that.

Spiders in the service of demons were creepy enough. But a new demon showed up — a demon other than the one manipulating the spider webs to force the Demon Slayers to attack each other. At first, he appeared to be floating in mid air, but then Tanjiro realized he was walking on strands of spider silk. He looked subtly scary in that at first glance, he looked merely human. A longer study revealed slitted eyes and what looked like chitinous hair.

Inosuke, to his credit, attacked immediately. But he couldn’t quite reach the monster. He said something to the effect that he wouldn’t tolerate anyone disturbing his family’s peace. 

His talk of mother killing the Demon Slayers was a little unnerving! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Any thoughts on this demon, Irina?

This idea of a demon family is not that different from Tamayo, is it? It could prove powerful as well. My understanding is that Demon Slayers were being ordered on this otherwise peaceful mountain to go slay this family of demons. I don’t think we heard anything about the Demons having caused any trouble so really, the slayers threw the first punch here at this point, as gruesome and terrifying as they may be, the demons are just acting in self-defence.

And that’s even scarier.

That seems to support your speculation on the true nature of the Demon Slayers! 

We had some shots of the demon pulling the strings, and it appeared to be a female. The subtly scary demon mentioned that mother would kill all of them, and I’m assuming he meant that other demon. Honestly, whenever I hear demon and queen in the same sentence, I think of the xenomorph queen from Aliens

I kinda think she’d make even Inosuke a bit nervous.

And the demon reveal also showcased one of the series’ strongest points. Character design! I’ve talked about this before but the demon designs are fantastic. Once again, this was a beautiful and intricate design that I would love to get a figure of. It was attractive in many ways, yet instantly menacing without the use of any traditional visual marker. Or rather there were but used in ways we rarely see in anime. Those red circles of her face mimic markings of poisonous spiders, which is ominous enough, but they also look like symptoms of a serious and infectious disease, which instinctively makes most people recoil. Even in this smooth and stylized rendition, large red markings on someone’ face are unsettling.

This is a case where the demon’s design is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Now we come to the moment where I the strongest sign that the controversy will pass. Tanjiro didn’t know what kind of super power Inosuke had. He understood his own sense of smell. He knew about Zenitsu’s amazing hearing. He told Inosuke that he had to find the demon who was controlling the Demon Slayers. While he searched, he and Murata would hold off the attackers.

Jamming both of his swords into the ground, Inosuke invoked his power: Beast Breathing Seventh Form… Spatial Awareness! His awareness spread outward until he encountered their target. He now knew her direction and distance.

That was the kind of moment I’d grown to love in this show! Not only was Inosuke fighting (mostly) effectively beside Tanjiro, but he had a power that could contribute to the team. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but in that instant, I felt like we were back on track.

What do you think. Irina?

Wait Beat Breathing??? I read Beast Breathing…. Beat Breathing makes so much sense. It was “Beast.” It was a typo on my part, but it’s humorous, so I’ll correct it above but leave your reaction in place! So he’s feeling vibrations! I liked it. I do wish they would give one of the random disposable slayers a power as well, just to mix things up a bit. I find it a bit on the nose that only the main characters get to have superpowers.

This said, I agree, it started off a bit rocky but once the episode settled back into action horror, it quickly found its footing again. And now, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

One thing I was a bit disappointed about: Inosuke had no reaction to Nezuko at all? We’re just not going to talk about it? He was resolved on murdering her for reasons that could even be worded in a reasonable way but then he just forgot ? Because he fell asleep? That makes no sense at all. 

That aside, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, something I’m not entirely sure I could say last week.

Well, we’ll have another week to consider the evidence. It’s not that I mind humor. It’s that I prefer it to be just a little less loud!

Until next week!

Reviews of the Other Episodes

14 thoughts on “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 15: Oh, What a Tangled Web

  1. I raised the idea about the demon slayers not necessarily being the good guys a while back and something in what you guys said just clicked. Could the crows be a part of a demons blood magic? It would certainly explain how they can talk and seem to appear at will.

    Also that opening scene with them all running around the room… if this wasn’t episode 15 I think I would have turned it off.

    1. “I raised the idea about the demon slayers not necessarily being the good guys a while back”

      I remember you talking about that idea. It was in one of your reviews, wasn’t it?

      “Could the crows be a part of a demons blood magic? It would certainly explain how they can talk and seem to appear at will.”

      I hadn’t even thought about that — and I don’t think Tanjiro did, either. Everyone just accepted the Crows.

      One of the things I’m enjoying about the show is that its world is so rich it supports this kind of conjecture. I think that’s a great sign!

      “Also that opening scene with them all running around the room… if this wasn’t episode 15 I think I would have turned it off.”

      I had to suppress my cringe urge. It wasn’t until Tanjiro and Inosuke got up into the mountain that I was able to relax. Maybe there’s a segment of the viewership that enjoys that, and if so, more power to them! I’d prefer a little less yelling…

      1. Yeah, I’ll have to go back and find it. I think it was around the time Tanjiro had just met Muzan. He seems to be another that is just trying to maintain a quiet family life… maybe…

        Agreed. It is a fascinating world that they’ve developed.

        I think the main reason we’re having a hard time with the mindless frivolity is that we’ve been all in on the more serious and dark side of it. There wasn’t anything at this level in the first episode to prepare us. Other than Tanjiro smelling the broken plates it was fairly serious.

  2. If you are curious about why the eyes of the human characters look weird it’s because it the style of the manga. It’s a rare thing to even have 2 character that have the same eyes design.

    This arc actually go into more depth of both Zenitsu and Inosuke, more so on the former. And i can’t wait for tem to animated all the other spider demon, there 2 that extremly creepy.

    1. “This arc actually go into more depth of both Zenitsu and Inosuke, more so on the former. And i can’t wait for tem to animated all the other spider demon, there 2 that extremly creepy.”

      I remember in this episode someone (was it Tanjiro?) mentioned there might be four demons — so that number sounds about right.

      I’m looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings! I’ve avoided reading the manga so I don’t find spoil myself, but it’s hard sometimes!

  3. Is no one going to mention that the Wisteria family house wasn’t explained at all either? They just came in there, got healed, and left without thinking about it? Kind of adds to Irina’s speculation as well.

    1. Interesting. I’d just chalked it up to just what the old lady said: The Demon Slayers had saved her, so she’s repaying her debt.

      But to do that, she’d need enormous resources, wouldn’t she? Where’s she get them?

      Now that you brought it up, the more I think about it, the more it seems fishy.

      I think Irina’s on to something with her theory of who’s running the Demon Slayers. I rewatched that scene a few times, and Giyu is clearly uncomfortable, while Shinobu is trying not to show it. So _something’s_ up.

  4. I’m honestly falling out of love with this series since the Zenitsu and Boar Head showed up. I kind of just want them to go away so I can focus on Tanjiro and the demon slaying which was actually really cool. I’m still hopeful they will settle, but part of me feels this whole story would have been better without them being ongoing characters.

    1. “I’m honestly falling out of love with this series since the Zenitsu and Boar Head showed up.”

      Maybe I overstated it in the review, but this is what I meant by controversy. If someone as rational and level-headed as you are thinking this way, it’s a real problem!

      “I’m still hopeful they will settle, but part of me feels this whole story would have been better without them being ongoing characters.”

      I tried to make the case that I see early indicators that both Zenitsu and Inosuke are starting to settle. The dynamic will be different, of course, but seeing Tanjiro and Inosuke fight together felt great! It was even better when Inosuke shoed that he had a super power. Between his geo-location, Tanjiro’s sense of smell, and Zenitsu’s sense of hearing, they would make a formidable team.

      I honestly think they can do that, and I honestly hope they’ll do it quickly. Good will is a precious thing, and burning it is dangerous!

      1. The other issue is that both Zenitsu and Inosuke are classic shounen characters and I’m really not that into shounen. I was a Bleach fan but at this stage in my life the screaming, over-reactions of super-powered characters is something I can do without.

        1. That could be a problem. I’m not sure the over-reactions will ever completely go away! I just hope the rest of the story will stay interesting to you!

  5. I had the exact same reaction as Irna about the Zenitsu and Inosuke dynamic. The problem is that they’re both huge loudmouths and incredibly annoying, especially when they are talking to or around each other. However, we disagree on which one is more likeable. The fact that Inosuke was able to demonstrate such incredible growth in just this episode makes him a much better character in my opinion. When it came down to fighting, Inosuke became a very reliable ally. If Zenitsu is only ever motivated into action by pretty girls, his character is going to continue to wear me out. It’s not that pretty girls aren’t allowed to motivate boys (that’s something that happens all the time in real life and anime alike), it’s just the way that he chooses to express it…out loud…very loudly…while ignoring everything else around him… It feels so out of touch with the vibe that the first half of the season introduced, so of course it’s going to upset a lot of people. It just isn’t the tone you originally set, so introducing such loud characters all at once and trying to slapstick them into some kind of friendship dynamic is going to be incredibly divisive. For me, this show works a lot better with the touch of humor it had before and the fun heroic action that permeated the early conflicts. What once was one of my easiest recommendations before is now one of my toughest because, while the demons and fighting is all very fun and exciting, there is a jarring tone shift that I now have to consider since it almost feels like two different anime now.

    1. “The fact that Inosuke was able to demonstrate such incredible growth in just this episode makes him a much better character in my opinion.”

      You make a good point! Even though he head-butted Tanjiro part-way through the fight, other than that, the main problem is keeping him on task — which makes perfect sense given his background.

      “It feels so out of touch with the vibe that the first half of the season introduced, so of course it’s going to upset a lot of people.”

      I think that’s why once Tanjiro and Inosuke got into the woods, I could actually feel myself relax — this was familiar territory; this was what I expected from the show!

      To be fair, he defended the box that was dear to Tanjiro, simply because it was dear. I’m not going to take that away from Zenitsu. But I also can’t dispute your point that if he’s just going to get motivated to protect Nezuko or some other pretty girl, it’s going to be a detriment to the team.

      One thing I found interesting but didn’t think to bring up in the review: Zenitsu mused that if Tanjiro and/or Inosuke had tried to calm him or persuade him to go with them, he might have. I wonder if this signals a potential change of heart? Maybe Tanjiro and (odd as it may seem) Inosuke are actually role models for him?

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