Hi, and welcome to our collaboration review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba episode 17, “You Must Master a Single Thing.” I’ll be in standard text this week, and Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime will be in bold, which, as I’ve said before, feels like the most natural disposition. I have a feeling this episode might not tickle everyone’s fancy, because it featured Zenitsu. That being said, I’ve subtitled this episode “The Six Yikes.” I’ll explain as we go on.
But before we do, Irina, do you have any opening remarks? Maybe warn folks about spoilers (because there will be spoilers!)?
I think I know what these six yikes you talk about are but I’m going to let you tell us all about it!
The episode opened with Tanjiro realizing or remembering the importance of one of the Twelve Demons being on the mountain. Namely, that such a powerful demon’s blood would likely help Nezuko. So, Tanjiro’s fully in at this point.
Not that he would have run away, but it was nice to see a reminder of what’s really at stake here.
My money is on the girl… Oh, wait that comes later. Nevermind!
Pretty early on, we had confirmation of something Irina pointed out in our review of the previous episode. Namely, that Zenitsu’s hearing was fantastic, so it was likely he could hear what was going on with Tanjiro and Inosuke, at least to some degree. In this episode, Zenitsu came out and said he could hear the little spiders scurrying around. He even went so far as to say they were just trying to survive! I don’t know about you, Irina, but I took that as a hopeful sign that maybe — just maybe — Zenitsu would scream slightly less than before.
Then we came to the first “yikes!” moment. He heard louder scurrying behind him. He turned and saw a spider, the size of a small dog, with a human head.
Instead of simply screaming, Zenitsu yelled, “Is this even possible?”
Irina, what’d you think of the creature’s design?
It was so so SO creepy. Now, bear in mind that I am not someone who is afraid of spiders. I quite like the little guys, in fact! After living for years in countries with a lot of malaria, anything that would eat mosquitoes became a good friend of mine! Yet that thing completely freaked me out. If it was me, I would have been way way worse than anything we’ve seen from Zeni so far.
Also I’m calling him Zeni now. We’re just close that way, Zeni and I!
I’ve been praising the unconventionally unsettling designs of the demons, but sometimes a classic nightmare is tough to beat, and these suckers, with their bald baby-like heads, were downright primordial nightmare fuel — and it was chilling.
I think Dorthy would agree: Kansas this ain’t! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I’ll forgive Zenitsu’s screaming at this stage. I mean, the creature reminded me of something out of Dead Space 2. Also, I won’t hold his sprint away from the creature against him, either. That was one of Zenitsu’s more reasonable moments! However, he ran right into the second “yikes!”
Skidding to a stop, it took him a second to register what he was seeing. There were dead or dying Demon Slayers hanging from webs. In the center hung a wooden cabin. The smell was overwhelming, and I want to give Zenitsu credit: Despite his own terror, he thought that the smell was so intense that it would kill Tanjiro. Here Zenitsu is, in the spider’s (well, a spider’s) lair, and he took a moment to think of his friend.
Then something moves in the cabin. Even the sparrow is scared at this point, and he’s a brave little bird! So I’m feeling more charitable towards Zenitsu’s reactions at this point.
What was moving the cabin? Why, the third “yikes!”, that was what!
Irina, thought on big brother’s debut?
Honestly, Zenitsu was completely justified in his reactions this episode. Freaking out all the time because of shadows and moving branches: annoying. Freaking out now: appropriate!
As for the big spider, I think what was most unsettling were his movements. The jerky way his legs kicked independently. It wasn’t very natural (duh) and it creeped me out even more.
I thought back on his cameo last episode, how his head was almost on the ground as if he was lying down or squatting. It was a bit odd but now we know why! Trying to visualize what his entire body would have looked like is giving me “not fun” goosebumps.
Did you notice he lowered himself down his web using his back legs? I thought was a great detail. And did you notice that when it sneered at Zenitsu, even the sparrow was about ready to faint?
I did notice, those movements dude… gwaaahhh
Can’t blame Zenitsu at all for his reactions for most of this episode! The sound effects and big brother’s movements really sold the horror. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Again, I’m feeling charitable towards Zenitsu’s fear right now!
Instead of just screaming, though, Zenitsu did something else that bordered on — which is to say, was really close to — intelligent. He just stated, “You know what? I refuse to speak to anyone like you.”
Can’t say as I blame him.
Then he turned and ran.
Big brother decided to unleash “yikes!” number four: Zenitsu had already been bitten. The spider’s poison coursed through his veins. Big brother spider pulled out a pocket watch (not sure where he had pockets; and it was a wind-up watch, so how did he wind it with those spider claws?!) and described that over the next half hour, Zenitsu would turn into a mindless spider thrall.
What were you thinking at this point, Irina?
I’m thinking Oh my that is a horrible fate. Interesting though. Let’s face it, demon encounters haven’t been charitable so far and last week’s becoming a living puppet fate was absolutely horrific. But for some reason this struck me as worse. Maybe because it’s so pathetic. Those puppets dies pretty quickly and remained themselves. Slowly turning into one of those things just seems so awful.
Honestly I can’t really say which is worse. All I can say is that spider mountain is doing great in the action horror aspect and as this is a strong point of the series, I am both enjoying and slightly repulsed by this arc.
The feeling I’m getting is delightfully repulsed!
Zenitsu decided to run up into a tree to try to get away from the little head spiders. Little here is relative, of course; little compared to big brother, but really, really big to natural spiders.
I really liked that as the little spiders were scurrying up to him, he desperately said, can I just have 5 minutes to myself! Of course it was a futile thing to say but so utterly relatable. Once more, Zeni and I are on the same wavelength this week.
Seriously, Zenitsu’s reactions this week felt more much appropriate! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
While he was up the tree, we got a flashback to Zenitsu’s childhood — to another time he had climbed a tree, this time to get away from his grandfather. His grandfather (who blushed when Zenitsu said he loved him) was a stern sword teacher, and he apparently had a soft spot for Zenitsu. He rescued Zenitsu from a scheme to raise money so the girl he liked could run off with another guy (no wonder Zenitsu’s so insecure!). He trained Zenitsu hard despite him showing no progress — no progress despite the fact he was even training by himself in secret!
So as Zenitsu’s telling his grandfather that he hated being so sniveling and weak, lightning struck the tree. His hair had been brown; now, it was the yellow we’ve gotten used to in the present.
I have to say that the show of a smoking Zenitsu lying on his back, legs in the air, with his grandfather kneeling anxiously beside him, was kinda funny.
Was that just me, Irina?
I was still too distracted by brunette Zeni. I’m so used to having him colour coded as yellow for coward that the change threw me off balance! I did enjoy the fact that he got struck by lightning as an origin story, though. It’s a classic western trope that I don’t see much at all in anime.
Back in the present, Zenitsu was barely holding it together. When a fresh batch of head spiders came up the tree after him, he started screaming and pulling his hair. Which started falling out. That was too much for him. Zenitsu passed out.
Full disclosure: That made me happy. I felt like a bad person, but in my defense, I remembered that Zenitsu’s fighting competency in inversely proportional to his consciousness. So, no, I didn’t just want him to shut up (well, maybe a little). Instead, I hoped that I was about to see combat mode Zenitsu.
Irina, were you thinking something similar? At least hoping to see Zenitsu repeat his performance from the mansion?
I was still stuck on the hair… As in oh no, don’t do that to your pretty blonde hair. You had to get hit by thunder to get that hair. I may place way too much importance on people’s hair… In my defense, it’s cause keeping mine silver white is so time consuming that I can’t help but notice other people’s…
I was actually thinking he may break out of his narcolepsy thing if pushed far enough. He was conscious while training so the skills are in him, not some split personality or something.
That’s a real possibility, I think!
Now, this is what I’ve been waiting for! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
As he fell unconscious from the tree, you could see his fighting spirit take over. Instead of smashing head first into the ground, he grasped his sword and twisted. Invoking Thunder Breathing, First Form, he launched himself off the tree trunk straight at big brother, who had been deriding Zenitsu for his weakness and cowardice.
To his credit, big brother didn’t waste any time wondering at the transformation. He spit a ball of acid/poison at Zenitsu, who spun in mid air to avoid it. The defensive maneuver meant he had to restart his technique. Big brother ordered the head spiders to attack, so Zenitsu had to defend again — again having to restart Thunder Breathing, First Form.
This went on for a couple of cycles until Big Brother realized that Zenitsu had only one attack: Thunder Breathing, First Form. We got a brief flashback showing how grandfather had accepted Zenitsu’s weakness (only having one attack) and said okay, if you can learn only one attack, own it; hone it; perfect it.
Irina, what did you think of grandpa?
I always like mentor characters, but not much thoughts beyond that. Maybe a bit too quick with the corporal punishment. Honestly he was pretty interchangeable with Urokodaki, not that that’s a bad thing.
I did and do like the notion that bravery isn’t everything and that retreat is an option. It is. Often a strategically smart one at that. As for crying, there is absolutely nothing shameful in it. I think everyone should feel free to cry whenever they want.
Irina’s right. Grandpa might have liked corporal punishment a little too much. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
There’s something nice about Zeni being a specialist. This notion of knowing just one attack really sets him apart from the others when it comes to fighting. This lack of options forces him (and the writers) to be more creative in order to use it in any situation.
This said, in practicality it doesn’t make much difference. Tanjiro knows 50 techniques or something (exaggerating to prove a point but it seems like every time he fights he’s learned a new one), but for the most part they all are him jumping around and having a water blade. If the first stance was just a flexible water blade that could take on several shapes, cause it’s water, then it would cover a whole slew of his techniques.
In the present, even combat Zenitsu is feeling inferior. He knows Thunder Breathing has three forms; he can only do one. And in a minute, we find out just how well he learned it.
We got another series of flashbacks of Zenitsu trying to get away from his training. We got to see Zenitsu remember that “If you fail, cry and run away even once, they say, ‘Oh, this guy’s no good,’ and they walk away.” But Zenitsu remembered something about grandpa.
“Clearly, he did smack me around a bit too much. But he never abandoned me!”
By now, the poison was taking its toll. Zenitsu was having a hard time standing. He began coughing up blood (the universal anime sign for “time’s about up!”). Things certainly looked bad. Until Zenitsu unleashed “yikes!” number five.
Big brother ordered the head spiders to converge, and they swarmed our hero. He disappeared under a writhing mass.
Did you find that as horrifying as I did, Irina?
Oddly no, maybe it’s because we weren’t seeing their heads as much. I’m a pretty simple creature. That particular moment was much less yikes for me than most of the episode up until now. Even I will admit that’s pretty weird, though.
But as big brother cackled, the head spiders began to glow, and we got to witness “yikes” number five: Zenitsu’s lightning power up blew the head spiders in all directions. And boy, did Zenitsu look like he meant business!
But the clock was still literally and figuratively ticking…
Without the head spiders to bother him, Zenitsu finished his powerup. He was now so fast that big brother’s poison spit couldn’t get close to him. Realizing his foe was now something entirely different, big brother tried to retreat back into the cabin.
Without the head spiders to distract him, Zenitsu was able to complete his powerup. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Zenitsu exploded into the cabin and with a single strike, clove big brother’s head. It happened so fast that the demon couldn’t believe it.
What’d you think of the fight, Irina?
I love bada*s Zeni. Part of me also thought that it would be nice if Inosuke had to pass out to access his power. That would make this series much more relaxing. But I digress.
I am a supporter of unconscious Zeni and this moment was no exception. It was also no surprise, obviously that was exactly the only way it would play out, but it was still fun to watch.
Zenitsu regained consciousness, and to him, the fight was a pleasant dream where he could help people and feel proud of himself. I thought this was a terribly sad moment. He’d done so well — all by himself — but he couldn’t give himself credit for it.
Worse, the poison was now far advanced. He couldn’t even move. His little sparrow (did we know his name was Ukogi? Zenitsu said Chuntaro, but Aria, in the comments, said that was a nickname?) was all teary eyed at Zenitsu’s state. In desperation, he flew off in search of help.
What happened next is my favorite moment from this episode.
Zenitsu’s done. He’s bleeding from his nose; even the skin on his face is hemorrhaging. He closes his eyes to “sleep.” Distantly, he remembers his grandfather screaming at him to never give up. And Zenitsu — the awake version of Zenitsu; the cowardly version — begins a breathing technique to slow his metabolism to buy time. It’s agonizing. Big brother had said the later stages of the poison would inflict intense pain. But he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t scream or cry. He just tries to breath through the pain because that’s the only way to cling to life.
Things are not looking good for our hero. Even his sparrow is in mourning! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
He didn’t want to disappoint his grandpa. The kicker? The last thought we see from him in this episode was that if he gives up, “Tanjiro’s gonna yell at you, too.”
Irina, what did you think of that moment?
You know this episode made me realize something. There may be a culture clash going on. Zeni is, in my opinion, a pretty well constructed character. He has enough flaws and qualities to grant hm some depth and complexity. He represents an archetype that is quite unusual in fiction. His thought pattern is usually logical, which should make him seem more realistic and relatable. Most of the time I understand exactly what his motivations are, which is surprisingly not that common in anime where you often have to accept that people are just doing something because it’s their dream, or they are like that… To create a character that can work rationally in an irrational, magical universe, is actually good writing. Again in my opinion.
But the over the top loud behavior is just so annoying to me and seems like such an immature and slightly obnoxious way to add in some comedy relief that you would think a separate team of writers came in for those parts.
But I know that humour is highly influenced by culture and habits and I think that aspect of his personality is simply getting lost in translation for me. With the proper cultural background, I may find the loud parts delightful slapstick humour that just makes the character more endearing.
I know that the super snarky/sarcastic aspect of Marvel heroes, for instance, makes them funny and cool for a lot of viewers, but is somewhat unpleasant and annoying to some who consider it nothing but crass and uncouth display of disrespect. Maybe it’s the same type of situation.
Well that was a long tangent, sorry let’s get back to the episode!
If you’ve been counting, you know we’re one “yikes” short. We return our attention to Tanjiro and Inosuke. They’re trying to decide which way to go when they spy little sister. Inosuke doesn’t pause even for a second. He attacks.
And so does “yikes!” number six.
At the time, this really felt yikes-like. In retrospect, maybe it is a little too conventional. I wonder what that means? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Big Daddy is somehow above them, and Inosuke barely had time to get out of the way. He also avoided the demon’s punch by inches, but while he was still in the air, the demon tried to strike again. We ended the episode (curse Demon Slayer’s cliffhangers!) with Tanjiro invoking Water Breathing, Second Form in an attempt to save Inosuke.
So, what’d you think of Big Daddy, Irina? You have a great eye for character design — what’d you think?
Meh… who cares.
My thoughts were on little sister. Scared and quiet little sister that seemed like she might have simply left them alone if Inosuke hadn’t immediately attacked. Now, that is a big bad if I ever saw one! I’m thinking we just found our Juni…
Alright alright, I brushed you off a bit quick. A big really tough guy with a monster face? I think Demon Slayer has moved way past that. We had more or less the same thing in the headless demon puppet just a few episodes ago and he was headless which is way scarier. Unless he turns out to have something more interesting up his sleeve than being strong and hard to kill, no matter how fun the battle choreography will be to watch (cause they have some really good fighting choreographies in this show!), I will consider him a throwaway character. His wife was wayyyy more interesting!
I read some interesting conjecture by Luc on Believe in Geek. In the post “DEMON SLAYER : KIMETSU NO YAIBA : LETTING SOMEONE ELSE GO FIRST,” Luc wonders if Big Daddy is really the member of the Twelve demons — or if the member is someone else, like maybe the first male spider demon we met, or maybe even little sister. Interesting conjecture!
Little sister did seem less than interested in Tanjiro and Inosuke until the latter attacked. What’s up with her? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Uhm… I want it to be the girl but if I’m being logical about it, they foreshadowed the boy a lot. He had that cool regal demeanor essentially ordering his mom around. Unlike anyone else, he has so far not been scared or lost his calm, he simply seems mildly annoyed by the situation.
Double that with the fact that his character design keeps one eye hidden, and the mark of the twelve are in one eye, so it creates a good parallel, and the clues really point to him. I am hoping it’s a little too obvious though and will end up a misdirect. A borderline “innocent” Jun would be such an interesting dilemma for Tanjiro!
To be honest, I had never even thought of the possibility that the dad was the one. It’s a little embarrassing now that you point it out. I guess if he is, then he won’t be a simple throwaway character, and that possibility completely changes my analysis above… oops.
Unless you’re right. In which case, you’re prophetic!
And now we wait another week!
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
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 16: Letting Someone Else Go First
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 17: You Must Master a Single Thing
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 18: A Forged Bond
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 19: Hinokami
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Episode 20: Pretend Family