Demonic sisters and ufotable action.
Ufotable are continuing their trend of really pretty set piece anime where at times the characters don’t quite blend into the backgrounds. I have this issue with a lot of their anime where I love the backgrounds, love the character designs, but find some scenes really jarring where the characters seem totally disconnected from those backgrounds. That said, Demon Slayer has so far managed to minimise how often that happens and mostly this is a pretty gorgeous first episode, provided of course you find blood splattered snow and simple fight sequences gorgeous.
I’ve read a lot of reviews about this first episode and it seems the hype before the show started really hurt this anime as it failed to reach the high expectations place upon it. I had watched the promotional video but was a little on the fence about it so went in expecting it to be okay, and as a result really quite enjoyed this first episode. It is definitely all set-up and the main character has little to distinguish himself except perhaps the scar/burn on his head, but there’s nothing really to complain about in terms of setting up a story.
There is however the matter of the anime clearly not really trusting the audience. They go out of their way to give us multiple messages about Tanjiro’s sense of smell and while it hasn’t really done much yet I’m guessing this is going to be important given how many references they made including someone in town asking him to solve a case of who broke the plate by sniffing it. I’m mostly guessing he’s going to use this to track down the demon who killed his family, but it still felt excessively referenced within twenty minutes. The invitation to stay the night in the old guy’s house was also pretty clumsily handled as a way to introduce the idea of demons and demon slayers right before they became important to the story.
Still, I had fun with this first episode and I’m looking forward to more of this story. It might not end up paying off and maybe the clumsy handling of pivotal plot points will ultimately weigh it down, but right now it is visually impressive, the characters have a lot of potential, and the set up makes enough sense and gives a fairly clear direction for the story to travel in. As a first episode, Demon Slayer does a lot right at hopefully it manages to do something with that set-up.
Visually, Demon Slayer continues to impress and the second half of this episode we get a sequence of Tanjiro running down a mountain covered in traps that is fluid to watch and despite the darkness of the scene manages to contrast just right so that you are never left wondering what is happening on screen. It is an impressive display for a second episode and it would be lovely if this anime could keep up this standard for the entire run.
In terms of story, episode 2 is still fairly much set-up with Tanjiro figuring out how to travel with his sister when she can’t go into sunlight before encountering a demon at a temple. The following fight shows Tanjiro’s inexperience nicely while also showing off his more brazen nature when push comes to shove. That said, when it comes to ending the demon’s life Tanjiro hesitates and the old guy he has met who is the one who will probably end up training him is not impressed.
The old guy trainer cliché is in full force here but despite it not being a particularly original development, it is kind of needed. Without some drastic training you can’t imagine Tanjiro surviving all that much longer while trying to protect his demon sister. The only real hope is that maybe they’ll do something to make this particular old mentor memorable, though so far the mask wearing man has had very little in the way of presence.
Despite the episode seeming to move along at a good pace, on reflection very little actually happens and we’re left at the end of the episode barely a step further along. Still, while watching it is entertaining and doesn’t feel like it is dragging at all, and I’m so far enjoying what they are setting up so hopefully this one continues to entertain. I’ve got reasonably high hopes for this one being fairly solidly entertaining this season.
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Images from: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Dir. H Sotozaki. Ufotable. 2019.