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Review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 23: Nezuko’s Harrumph and Tanjiro’s Quiet Dread

Welcome to the collaboration review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 23, “Hashira Meeting,” brought to you by Irina from I Drink and Watching Anime and me representing Crow’s World of Anime. Irina will be in bold this week, and I should warn you that our reviews contain spoilers. 

Irina, are you having a good week? I was happy to see the news you reported about Demon Slayer in your post, “Top 5 Anime I Saw Represented at Otakuthon(TM).” It looks like the show’s still reasonably popular among its fans. Any opening thoughts before we dive in?

It really was very nice to see other fans enjoying the show. I know the series Isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty fun. I can’t wait to see how they wrap up season 1. And of course, with last week’s cliff-hanger, I also couldn’t wait for this very episode.

Shall we dive right in? (There will be spoilers, I spoil things..)

This episode started just moments before the previous one ended. Tanjiro was restrained. Sanemi Shinazugawa had stabbed Nezuko multiple times, and he was dripping his own blood in front of her. His goal was to entice her to attack and try to feed on him so he could kill her without remorse. The drool flowing from under Nezuko’s bamboo bit didn’t look like an encouraging sign. 

Nezuko’s memories show her scenes growing up. She sees herself interacting with her family. Given what we know happened to them, it’s bittersweet. Then she sees Tanjiro standing up to Giyuu on her behalf, just after she had become a demon. She hears what we know to be the hypnotic suggestion that “All humans are your family. Protect humans.”

I think she’s internalized that message, because the angle changes and we see Nezuko’s face. It’s her human face. “I will never hurt them,” she says in her own voice, her face innocent and almost childlike.

Back in real time, she made a sound that was almost an old man’s “Harrumph!” She turned her head sharply away from Sanemi.

Were you as relieved as I was, Irina? I mean, we knew she wasn’t going to attack, but still…

Of course, Nezuko wasn’t going to attack. Are you doubting her now? Pffth, You’re no better than the Hashiras!

I have two things to say, the first is that Nezuko and Tanjiro’s mother was very beautiful. Gorgeous!

Second, I named my post last week The Voice of the Master. Having this week be the first time we hear the Voice of Nezuko was a very charming coincidence for me. I personally didn’t find her voice particularly child like. It was young and soft. Quite a pretty voice but the voice of a young woman. She sounded more mature then Shinobu (although I know that’s  a quirk).

I liked the punchline. The Master couldn’t see what had happened, so one of girls with him said, “The demon girl turned her back in disgust.”

Review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 23: Nezuko makes her decision

Nezuko made her choice — I wonder, though, if it really was her choice? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I didn’t. I don’t like when the show interprets scenes for me. I thought she turned her head back in pain because she didn’t like to see a human hurt like that. I didn’t know what to do with the information that she was disgusted. I know Nezuko isn’t disgusted by blood, she’s certainly seen a lot. That mountain had rivers of it. So, she was disgusted by the guy? The situation? Some weird smell?

I’d bet she’s disgusted by Sanemi stabbing her so many times and assuming she was a feral demon! I know that’d disgust me! 

The scene seemed to convince even the naysayers that giving Tanjiro and Nezuko a chance was a good idea. The Master, though, said something I thought was insightful and, above all else, realistic. He said that there will be those who can’t accept Nezuko. “You must prove it to them starting now. That you and Nezujo can fight as Demon Slayers.”

It almost seemed that Tanjiro threw himself into a bow without even thinking. I think the Master had earned that show of respect! Tanjiro then said something that almost gave me chills. He said, “Nezuko and I will defeat Muzan Kibutsuji.”

I mean, that’s been his goal all along, but saying it in front of the Master and the Hashiras gave it the feel of him taking hold of his destiny. The Master reasonably suggested he start with a more realistic goal, like one of the Twelve Kizuki. Mitsuri Kanroji tried hard to suppress a giggle, but Shinobu Kochou laughed. It wasn’t derisive or scornful; I almost think she found Tanjiro’s attitude endearing. How did you read it, Irina?

Pretty much the same as you. It was a nice release of tension.

Mind you, he has killed one Kizuki already. The Drum Guy. Wasn’t he one of the twelve? Am I remembering wrong?

Drum Guy had been at one time (I say, pretending to speak with authority but only after quickly rewatching the scene), but Murzan cast him out. So I think we can argue that he was as strong as one of the twelve. And if it hadn’t been for Rui’s quick thinking, he and Nezuko would have defeated a current member of the twelve. I think that counts!

Review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 23: Mitsuri at least tried not to laugh.

Mitsuri tried very hard not to laugh. She almost succeeded! I choose this screen shot to prove that yes, I can talk about characters other than Shinobu. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Shinobu then did something that allowed me, in good faith, to restore her to Most Favored Character status. She offered to take Tanjiro and Nezuko into her household while they were there. 

Wow, you really do love Shinobu. I assumed that she wanted to keep an eye on them because she does not trust Nezuko at all and wants her somewhere where she can easily eliminate her if need be.

Yes, I’m looking for excuses not to hate her. And she did try to give Tanjiro a chance to explain himself when most of the other Hashira (Giyuu notably excepted) wanted to behead him. Even though she captured and brought them there in the first place….

Details, details! 

At the sound of her of clapping, two Kakushi (her estate’s underlings) sprinted out, grabbed Tanjiro, shoved Nezuko back into her box, and sprinted off. The Master was about to start the Hashira’s meeting when Tanjiro came sprinting back and demanded to be allowed to head-butt Sanemi once for each time he stabbed Nezuko. 

Unfortunately for Tanjiro, he had interrupted the Master, and the Mist Hashira Muichirou Tokitou pummeled him with gravel until he was almost unconscious. As the terrified underlings apologized and hauled Tanjiro away, the Master said something that I thought was very interesting. He said, “Tanjiro. Give Miss Tamayo my regards.”

Had he known Tanjiro was working with the demon doctor? Irina, what did you make of that?

It was one of the more intriguing moments in the episode. The Master in general is a pretty great character. He seems too good to be true but you don’t get to be head of the Demon Slayers without some blood lust in you. And all the Hashidas are pretty cruel towards demons. I have a feeling that if he had been a gentler man, such as Tanjiro, his influence would have softened their stance.

There has to be more than meets the eye here.

What did the Master mean by asking Tanjiro to give Miss Tamayo his regards? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I hope this means we get to see Tamayo again. I miss her and Yoshi.

Me, too. I keep remembering the scene where Yoshi suggested they abandon Tanjiro and Nezuko to escape, and it shocked Tamayo so much she went monochrome.

Now we come up on what’s probably my least favorite part of the episode, because it so thoroughly dashed my hopes. The Kakushi was bringing Tanjiro to the hospital, where Zenitsu is — you probably saw this coming — bemoaning how much medicine he has to take. He makes such a ruckus that the orderly said, “Please stop shouting, will you?”

We learn that his arms and legs are shortened because the poison had nearly turned him into a spider. However, Shinobu’s medicine will eventually heal him — if he takes it at the right time, which he’s not sure he can do — hence his shouting. 

Shouting or not, Tanjiro was relieved to see him. He was amazed that Zenitsu had found the bravery to actually ascend the mountain! Leave it to Tanjiro to be considerate like that.

Yeah, it was not the best moment for Zenitsu, and after he had done all that nice developing and introspection on the mountain. He’s a real rollercoaster of a character!

If Tanjiro had been happy to see Zenitsu, he almost wept with relief to see Inosuke lying quietly in the next bed. Tanjiro apologized for not coming back as he’d promised. Inosuke, though, was very, very quiet. Zenitsu explained that his injuries involved his throat, but Tanjiro sensed it was more than that. I was astounded at how much more it was.

“I’m sorry for being so weak,” Inosuke said, eliciting shocked stares from both Tanjiro and Zenitsu. I was hoping for character development from these three, but now I’m worrying that maybe Inosuke’s confidence is shattered. How did you read it, Irina? 

Both Tanjiro and Zenitsu were astonished at Inosuke’s admission of weakness. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Well yeah. Inosuke’s ego took a devastating blow. We already knew that. That’s why he’s been completely limp since he met Giyuu. But that’s not a bad thing.

Man, that sounded evil.

I mean that a lesson in humility was the next step in Inosuke’s character development, so this seems like narrative progress. And on a practical note, he’s much easier to take this way. I kinda wish Zenitsu would get depressed too and this would be amazing!

Good point — now that Inosuke has realized he has more to learn, he’ll throw himself into training.

After what might have been my least favorite moment (okay, I exaggerated a little, but still…) came my favorite. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but it might be my favorite moment in the series so far — I’m weird with scenes like this.

Apparently, Nezuko rates her own room, (you don’t want her to eat all the patients) which is nice for her. Quieter than the infirmary, too. Tanjiro closes the curtains to block the last rays of the setting sun, and Nezuko crawls out of her carrying case. With just the two of them, Tanjiro feels like he can be open and honest. He tells her how much he hurts. He’s not complaining. He’s not yelling. He’s just sharing his pain with his sister. He tells her he needs to become stronger.

When he looks over, he sees that Nezuko has fallen asleep. Sleeping Nezuko pushes the upper theoretical limits for cuteness; I think that artists have been practicing! Tanjiro realizes she’s been sleep deprived, so he’s not in the least bit upset that she went to sleep as he was talking.

I wonder why he didn’t bring her on the bed or give her a pillow.

You know, I think he might have hurt too much. He took quite a beating with the Hashiras; and he’s had a whole day to cool down. I think he could barely move.

I have no idea how he can smile like that carrying the heavy burden that he is — whether he should be carrying it or not is a separate question. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

There are times when being able to see and understand clearly is a burden. Almost as if realizing Nezuko was asleep granted him a little extra freedom to speak his mind, Tanjiro said something that really hit me. If you have people depending on you, you probably know this feeling, and it’s one of the harder things to bear.

He said, “I’m hurting, and this is tough, but I gotta keep on fighting. I’ll be a grown man one day.” I’m thinking that he’s just blowing off steam; maybe this was going to be a little comic interlude or something. Nope.

“And then, I’ll become an old guy and die. And then, the demon Nezuko will end up all alone. That would be too lonely, wouldn’t it, Nezuko? I promise you I’ll turn you back into a human, okay?”

Just looking his smile, he might have been talking about the weather. It gave no hint that he had just spoken aloud his heaviest dread. 

What did you think of that scene, Irina?

He wants to turn his sister back to a human so that she can grow old and die. It’s sort of a staple of fiction, the horrors of immortality. You often see characters like that. Driven hollow by the fact that they lose all their lovers and friends to the passage of time. I always wonder if that’s not just something we tell ourselves to feel better.

I honestly started to wonder if turning Nezuko back was really the right thing to do. Was Tanjiro really doing all of this for Nezuko or for himself? Nobody’s asked her if she wants to turn back. Maybe he should instead be looking for a way to have demons be able to go out in sunlight and get all the nutrients they need from vegetables. Why hasn’t the notion of making demons capable of integrating human society even occurred to him?

Tanjiro was super ok with the brainwashing as well. I’m seeing a pattern here.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an extremely touching scene, but it was also completely one sided. It was about Tanjiro’s beliefs, pain and grief.

Just what is Nezuko’s opinion on being human vs. demon? I wonder if it’s thematically relevant that she was asleep during this scene? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Scenes like that elevate a show — especially if you consider that the character’s perspective is flawed. It’s the kind of scene I’ll remember years from now, even when I’ve forgotten how annoying I thought Zenitsu can be. 

But you raise a good point about Nezuko’s agency. I’ve taken the Hashira to task for aggressively judging demons simply for being demon. It seems that the sentiment isn’t always overtly hostile, but if it infects even Tanjiro, I think that speaks to how pervasive prejudice can be. Wouldn’t be amazing if the show did something with that?

The episode could have ended there and I would have been content. Instead, we switch to the Master presiding over the Hashira’s meeting. They’ve decided that demon attacks are on the rise and they need to recruit more slayers. They bemoaned the quality of the current Demon Slayer recruits, though they did seem to think Tanjiro wasn’t all bad. “He did land that flamboyant blow on you, Shinazugawa. He’s got potential,” Tengen Uzui said. Sanemi bristled, but you know what? He didn’t disagree. 

The Flame Hashira Kyoujurou Rengoku wondered if Tanjiro somehow had the ability to attract the Twelve Kizuki, since he had already met one. I wonder if it’s really Nezuko who’s the demon magnet?

We end the episode on an interesting note. The Master is alone in his room. He’s as peaceful as he usually is; his expression is just as serene. But he swears that he’ll defeat Muzan Kibutsuji if it’s the last thing he ever does. Obviously there’s some history there. Maybe Muzan caused his blindness?

There’s clearly a history between the Master and Muzan. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Irina, what’re your closing thoughts on the episode?

Much like you, I enjoyed it a lot but thought the reunion scene was very disappointing. It sort of undid a lot of the character development we had managed to achieve which was a real let down.

I will also say this feels like we’re coming to the end of a first season.

I read a post some time ago from a blogger who thought that ufotable should be concentrating on more Fate franchises and that Demon Slayer’s budget was wasted. I feel bad for that blogger. I’m thinking we’re going to be seeing way more Demon Slayer!  

Twenty three episodes down; three more to go! 

Reviews of the Other Episodes

4 thoughts on “Review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 23: Nezuko’s Harrumph and Tanjiro’s Quiet Dread

  1. Not like Nezuko chose to became a demon in the first place, plus since she stuck between the feral state and the mature state of demon, her mind basically of a toddle now. Tanjirou want to bring his sister back to how she was at the beginning of the series. As we saw, being a demon isn’t a blessing except to Muzan. Even if you can stop eating human, you are still haunted by the fact that you killed and ate many people, probably your love one were your first victim. The one that was good human before probably can’t live with that while the one that have no problem with that probably psychopath and even more danger.

    1. “The one that was good human before probably can’t live with that while the one that have no problem with that probably psychopath and even more danger.”

      That’s a good point.

      The guilt would feel terrible!

      I don’t think Nezuko has killed anyone, though — at least not on screen.

      I wonder if Tamayo did? If you know from the manga, please don’t say! I want to be surprised.

      But I think you bring up a really good point about how moral/good people would feel if they became a demon.

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