In honor of the time-tested traditions of shonen anime, I almost feel like I should spend the first few paragraphs recapping the previous episode. After all, that’s what we got before the OP in this episode! But I can feel you recoil even from here, so I think instead I’ll opt to welcome you to the collaboration review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba episode 5, “My Own Steel.” I’ll be in plain ordinary text this week and Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime will be in bold type.
Irina, any opening thoughts about this episode?
Demon Slayer continues to be just a pure decadent feast for the eyes. The technical merits might end up overshadowing the story but the narrative is holding its own. It’s predictable and cliché to be sure, but it has tons of heart and this episode opened up a lot of questions that are going to be interesting to answer.
This episode was all about endings and beginnings. Some were easy to see ahead of time. Others were a little more of a surprise. Plus, we get a cool new sidekick that I immediately liked for reasons that’ll be clear in a moment. Let’s dive in!
There will be spoilers, so please be cautious! All the spoilers!
And speaking of spoilers, here’s one if you haven’t seen episode 4 or 5: Tanjiro defeated the demon that had murdered too many of Sakonji Urokodaki’s disciples. That included Makomo and Sabito, whose deal souls had taught Tanjiro how to slice the boulder with his sword. After the flashback and opening song, the monstrosity of a demon began to burn away, just as we’ve seen others burn away. As it did so, it muttered, “How did it come to this?”
I’m thinking, “Crap. I don’t want to know about this monster’s past! Let it be a monster so I can feel good about it dying!” Am I a terrible person for that, Irina?
Yes Crow…yes you are!
Creating conflicted villains to play with the audience’s feelings and perceptions is a staple. Personally though, I find very few stories manage to pull it off properly.
At the end of the day, no matter how sad a childhood you had, you still ended up murdering a whole bunch of kids. Their childhoods weren’t all that great either thanks to you. It’s very easy to get on my nerves when a narrative suddenly wants my to feel sympathy for some monster just cause they had a bad day.
You are not that bad a person Crow!
That’s a relief — kinda! I guess I could always be worse!
But again showing that he shares a lot of good traits with Allen Walker from D.Gray-man, Tanjiro took pity on the demon’s soul. To help us understand how Tanjiro could do that, we got a flashback to the demon just after it had become demonized. The little boy wept because his brother was not there to hold his hand — because he had killed his brother. “Why on earth did I bite you to death, Big Brother?” he asked. The memory was a shock to the demon, who had apparently buried those memories. So, okay, that scene made me feel a tiny grudging sorrow. The little boy hadn’t aspired to become a demon. We’ve seen how demons are made!
I’ve only read D.Gray-man and I’m not sure how faithful the anime is. The manga (which I haven’t finished but I read a lot of it and plan to continue) was harsh. To the point where I would regularly need to set it aside. It was a bleak and cruel story. It had this sharp almost hopeless tone to it and it carved out a place in my mind. I think back to it often. I liked it quite a lot.
And yet, despite the harshness, Allen remained Allen. Now I want to go rewatch it again…
Although to me Demon Slayer is a completely different animal at its core. It’s hopeful and bright. The reasoning is naively optimistic and the motivations almost unbelievably pure, unlike the constant choosing of lesser evils in D.Gray-man. I still do see those similarities you are talking about.
Urokodaki may not be Cross Marian (one of my favourite mentor characters) but he is still a powerful warrior slowly being crushed under the weight of tragedy and guilt. They have that same slightly haunted look. They bear their curses stoically, not letting the pain show, as warriors do.
And both stories do remind us that people don’t start out bad. Demon Slayer is much more black and white, but it is avoiding flat, unknowable evil.
Maybe that’s why this scene made me remember the Blast-Ended Skrewts that Hagrid had raised in the Harry Potter series. They were dangerous. They were ugly. They would harm anyone they could for pretty much any reason. But that was their nature. Hagrid understood that. His understand informed how he thought of them and how he treated them. Are demons that much different? Well, sure, it’s their nature to consume human flesh, but we’re starting to see with Nezuko, there are demons, and there are demons.
But I’m off track. Tanjiro proved how much better he is than I am (morally, at least) by clasping the demon’s fingers even as its body disintegrated. And he prayed that the soul’s next reincarnation would not be as a demon. We see the boy reunited with his brother, even if was only in his dying imagination.
In the space of 6 minutes, the show made me feel sorry for the demon. What did you think of that point, Irina?
I mentioned up there that for me, stories don’t manage to pull off humanizing their monsters too often. Well, this one did.
Maybe it was the juxtaposition. Tanjiro looks so much like the young Urokodaki that I got confused for a second. But then, as the flashback progressed, that young boy started to look like Tanjiro as well. Especially once he started turning and his hair got wild.
It really spelled it out for us that had Tanjiro just gotten home a few hours earlier in that first episode, this boy could have been him. He could just as easily have slipped into this existence. Doing what he could to survive, spurred on by hunger and blood lust.
But to me, the most devastating moment was seeing the young demon forgetting that he had a brother. That lost little boy, finally losing the most important part of himself. It’s a good thing I’m such a strong girl or I would be a sobbing mess right now.
And Tanjiro gave that memory back to him. He’s turning out to be quite the hero!
That was the first ending. Now we come to the second, and the first was merely a prelude. In the mists, perhaps even in his mind’s eye, Tanjiro sees many children with masks like his. Makomo was in the crowd standing around the boulder. Sabito was sitting on top of the bolder, which was still split in two. They were surrounded by mist. Freed from the demon’s clutches, their souls could now rest. Sabito was the first to leave. The others turned and walked away, one by one, until only Makomo remained. Then she, too, turned and walked away into the mist.
He’s not even a demon hunter yet, and he’s having that kind of impact on the world!
I particularly enjoyed Tanjiro’s inner monologue here. More specifically, he was saying how they would go back to Urokodaki, who they loved and how, if he had fallen there as well, he would be joining them. It was a slightly wistful line. Said without fear or even pain. A simple statement of who Tanjiro had become and how, despite everything, he had found a home again. One he could haunt.
It might sound grim, but I found it comforting.
Grim comfort is better than no comfort.
Now, a beginning. Remember how Tanjiro vowed to Giyuu Tomioka that he would find a way to turn Nezuko human again? And how Giyuu said he’d have to beat that information out of the demons? Well, killing the monstrosity still left Tanjiro with the mission to stay alive on the mountain. A mountain crammed full of demons. He took the opportunity to try to question them. He tricked one into running to some vines, but it completely ignored his questions. So did the rest of them that he encountered. He gave it a try, but no plan survives contact with the enemy, and Tanjiro learned that he’s going to have to modify his tactics. Great quote
At the end of the test, only four candidates remained. Of course, Tanjiro made it (otherwise, it’d be a pretty short series unless it turns into the Adventures of Nezuko). I suspect the other three represent the beginning of long relationships. I don’t say friendships, because one of them, Genya Shinazugawa (who I declare to be Angry Man) immediately started making demands of the two charming guides who had welcomed them to the exam. It got to the point where he physically assaulted one of them.
Irina, did you expect the guides to take some action? Like maybe vaporize him?
I actually found it creepier that they did nothing. Not even flinch. Considering the ordeal of the final selection, and the type of people drawn to a life of endless killing, I have to assume this happens a lot. I don’t know what those twins are, but I’m going to bet human is not it.
On a technical level, I really liked how her hair remained all disheveled even after he let her go.
They were just scary beings.
Fortunately, Tanjiro stepped in and told Angry that if he didn’t unhand the charming guide, Tanjiro would break his arm. And what did Angry say? “Let’s see you try it!”
So Tanjiro did.
Tanjiro’s a good guy, so he built pressure slowly until Angry realized that yes, he was about to feel both his radius and ulna snap, and that he’d probably need them given the line of work he was in. He wisely decided to unhand the charming guide.
I wonder what path led him to store up so much anger?
Another character who I think is going to very interesting is Kanao Tsuyuri. Serene and quiet, she just observed the proceedings and didn’t seem inclined to take any actions. She had a butterfly hair tie; she also seemed to attract actual butterflies. Wearing a pink kimono, you’d think she was just some random little girl, or maybe a daughter of nobility. Yet, there she was, untouched, smiling, while Tanjiro and Angry (and the other survivor who I’ll talk about in a second) were disheveled and dirty. And she’s survived the same ordeal they had.
I had to wonder, just how powerful is she?
What kind of vibe did you get from her, Irina?
I actually wrote down the exact same thing “Why is this girl pristine?”. And that smile. I don’t trust her. Maybe I’m being catty but there’s something going on here and I don’t know what it is.
Also, no matter how you look at it, dozens of children just got slaughtered. Sure, you’re glad to have survived but you shouldn’t be acting as if you were attending a pleasant Sunday afternoon picnic either. She’s going to do a heel turn, I’m calling it based on nothing.
The other survivor will shape up and be a good ally though. I’m calling that based on the OP.
I think the OP counts as evidence! Also, he seems more honest, which is a great way to introduce who might be my favorite secondary character, Zenitsu Agatsuma. He’s a skittish young man. He jumps at the slightest sound. Even standing before the two charming guides, he said “Even if I survive now, I’m gonna die in the end anyway!”
I have to respect someone who, in spite of knowing he’s going to die, in spite of being afraid of his own shadow, remains in the fight. That’s real bravery, it is!
I agree, although here they seemed to be playing it a bit like PTSD. Which would be a reasonable reaction to the circumstances. I am reserving judgement on this kid. The character design is great though. Yellow for cowardice and all that!
I have a feeling they may end up using this kid as a comedy relief which could rob him of proper development. We’ll see, though.
Remember that I mentioned cool sidekicks? Well, get this: They all get a Kasugai Crow! Yes, a Crow! I could not be more proud. It’s always nice when a series acknowledges the innate greatness of the Corvidae family.
Crows are fascinating creatures with complex and interesting behaviour patterns. Some of the smartest birds out there. Too bad they grow up to be so guarded and skittish. I bet they could be socialized into making great companions if they were raised from birth alongside humans. I’m going to assume that’s what happened here.
You are absolutely right! Circumstance drives them into anti-social behaviors. At our core — ahem, at their core — they are very social creatures!
Tanjiro didn’t know what to do with his. Angry tried to shoo his off. Kanao started petting hers; obviously, she’s a young woman of refined taste! And poor Zenitsu didn’t get a Crow. He got a sparrow instead! Not that there’s anything wrong with sparrows. They’re great little creatures! But they aren’t Crows…
This was a great touch!
We also got one of those cryptic unknown character scenes as we saw someone from the back learn of the results of the selection from what I assume is their crow. It seemed like they were a higher up in the organization, maybe even that secret leader of the demon slayers as they referred to the survivors as their children. I say they because although I think it was a man, I’m not entirely sure.
But more, much much more, interestingly. They said that there were 5 survivors. Did I dream that? Who is the 5th?
I noticed that — and am no closer to an answer. Interesting little plot thread, isn’t it?
Now we come to part of the show I didn’t really get. We see Tanjiro returning home, but he can barely walk. His head is bandaged. He’s using a walking stick. He even falls over in exhaustion. Irina, do you think he was just exhausted from the ordeal on the mountain?
I think it was a combination of that and a release of pressure. You know, when you’ve been running on high stress for a long time and it suddenly gets lifted. It takes a while to process but when you do, everything just sort falls.
That makes sense. Adrenaline eventually dissipates.
When he finally makes it home, it’s dark. He stops when the door gets kicked outward, and Nezuko walks out, pretty as you please! His exhaustion drops him to his knees when he tries to run to her. She sprints towards him.
Want to know how jumpy this show makes me? I wasn’t thinking, “Awww, touching reunion!” I was thinking, “Dang, I hope she doesn’t eat him! I hope she hasn’t already eaten Sakonji!”
I was much relieved (if still a bit jumpy) when Nezuko just hugged him. I was even more relieved when Sakonji came into sight carrying wood. I found it touching that he just dropped the whole bundle and joined in what was now a group hug. You could even see the tears behind his mask!
All of his disciples — who he considered his children — had perished. Until now. Tanjiro had come home.
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…. Dang it, I’m not as strong a girl anymore. You know, I am quite naive sometimes. I was just so happy to see Nezuko had woken up that I forgot about everything else. I would have been eaten by a demon on the first day.
And kidding aside I really did tear up when Urokodaki hugged them both. There was such a sense of relief in that moment.
Finally, we come to the last beginning that we want to talk about. Hotaru Haganezuka, who is wearing a mask that is, let’s say, unique (is he a clown tea-pot?), delivers Tanjiro’s new demon hunting sword. As he draws it, his Kasugai Crow arrives and gives him his first mission. He’s to head to a town where young women have been disappearing, and he’s to kill the demon there.
So now Tanjiro is a full-fledged demon hunter. He has his new fancy demon hunting sword. He has a Kasugai Crow as a long-distance telecommunications device. Seems like the first arc closes as we embark on Tanjiro’s new career!
What did you think of the ending, Irina?
Why is the sword black? I really want to know. Don’t you. They were acting like it means something!
If only clown tea-pot had settled down, we might have found out!
My feeling is that the show is about to settle into monster of the week territory for a few episodes. This will help organically establish the characters a bit while giving us fun acton filled little stories to chew on. We can forget their details as they won’t matter to the greater canon. I like this possibility. Just like I like training episodes in sports anime, I like the build up fighting episodes in action shonen.
But we have so many great set up questions here. A 5th survivor (unless I heard that wrong). A black sword. A small skittish boy who somehow ended up at and passed the final trial. A quiet young woman who survived a week of demon slaying without so much as a scratch. Any one of these could mark the start of a great adventure. And we haven’t even dug into the inner workings of the organization at all.
Can’t wait to see more.
A great show can bring all these things together. So far, I think we’re on the right track!
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