OP: 「絆ノ奇跡」 (Kizuna no Kiseki) by Man with a Mission and Milet
「誰かの夢」 (Dareka no Yume)
The Swordsmith arc of Kimetsu no Yaiba promises to shed light on some of the remaining Hashira as Tanjiro aims to fix his sword after the events of the Entertainment District arc. But as Tanjiro learns more about his cohorts, Muzan is gathering together his remaining men to mobilize his strongest demons to help him find the Blue Spider Lily.
MUZAN’S SAKUGA FUNHOUSE
I always take umbrage with the idea that Kimetsu no Yaiba is carried by its animation because to me, the magic of its art style isn’t only in having flowy, gorgeous attack moves that can be beefed up through animation. It’s also the ability to switch between detailed fights and the most innocent, goofy minimalism of its cooldown moments.
To me, the first episode of this season is emblematic of the anime’s tightrope balance between telling Kimetsu no Yaiba’s story and trying to make Sakuga out of any situation. There’s this borderline impulse from Ufotable to make every serious scene a lush, expressive animation masterpiece, but it can look otherwise silly in some contexts. With the meeting between Muzan’s remaining moons, there is a sense of overcompensation by making the viewer’s perspective constantly shake about with soap opera camera angles to get any kind of swooshing effect to occur. It’s an admirable effort, yes, and a win for any TV anime to look as fluid as this does.
But it drowns out the events of the conversation when you have the animation trying its damndest to bug out and go wild. Like how would anyone be able to focus when Gyokko is doing contortionist shit in the background? Douma being sadistic and revolting enough to get under Muzan’s skin is difficult to register when the animation wants me to believe that Douma convinced Jennifer to cheat on Blake with his father before their destination wedding.
I admit it’s silly to complain about quality animation. It’s like complaining about being given a free chocolate cake without a holiday or birthday to celebrate. But frivolously eating the entire cake in one sitting feels a lot sillier when there isn’t a major occasion to justify pounding it all down. It’s a much less taxing arc than the Mugen Train or Entertainment District arcs, but if there are quality issues further down the road, it’d look ridiculous if they blew their wad on Douma and Akaza re-enacting their favorite nu-metal video.
To its credit, it is visually stunning to see how Muzan’s mansion was designed with the unsettling myriad of rooms, floors, and staircases. It also helps embellish Muzan’s own experimentation as he tries to find a new way to prolong his dwindling life force. With his own beakers and tubes shattering, his self-destructive rage is fascinating and reflective of his lackadaisical treatment of moons he spent too much time weeding out. Change leaves him stubborn and enraged, so rather than trying to adapt and build his forces to even his odds, he kills his own men, destroys his equipment, and allows himself to succumb to his own fits of rage.
It also gives us a gist of what the remaining moons have to offer given how they’ll begin to have significant attachments to our main characters. We’re given a deeper glimpse at Douma’s intoxicatingly infectious sociopathy and the seeds of discontent are starting to take root with Akaza. It’s amusing to see how Miyano Mamoru chews the scenery as he thoroughly disgusts his peers and revels in his homicidal trickery
But it’s Kokushibo who has the closest connection as his personal connection to the Kamados runs skin-deep. Tanjiro will come to learn of how Sumiyoshi’s past connects to Kokushibo through his bond with Yoriichi Tsugikuni. It’s still hinting at things to come, but it should be interesting to see how it unfolds.
CHILLING AT THE BUTTERFLY MANSION
On the flip side, the Butterfly Mansion scenes are a vast improvement because Kimetsu no Yaiba the slice-of-life scenes are secretly on par with the cooldown moments you get from Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen. To me, the art in the manga is at its best when the characters are reduced to cheery blobby chibis, so it’s a delight to see that the anime managed to retain the carefree aesthetic of these fun little moments.
Take Tanjiro for instance. In any battle situation, he’s just your standard hero who stands up against evil and is ruled by his impulsive rage toward his disgraceful enemies. In slice-of-life situations, however, Tanjiro takes on a wide range of emotions, ranging from prideful and stubborn to cheery and joyful. He is still ruled by his impulses, but instead of it being the impulses of a generic honorable warrior, it’s the urges he has to chow through the world’s largest Senbei, quake in fear over his swordsmith’s rage, and force his friendship onto begrudgingly accepting allies.
The animation shares the same wonderment as the manga where Tanjiro and Nezuko shrink down into gremlin blobs the moment they are asked to do anything at the Hashira mansion. Even when reading the manga, there’s a sense of serotonin that kicks in whenever I see Tanjiro gleefully conversing with the other Hashira and helpers or Nezuko give a dopey, beaming glare as she slinks from her box to other parts of the room. The hardest part about removing screencaps for this episode is mainly because the Kamado siblings are adorable when they’re just innocently or rambunctiously trying to fit in at the mansion.
It also winds up being a good medium to show off Inosuke and Zenitsu’s eccentricities. The infectious enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude of Inosuke open him up to being quite funny as he badgers Tanjiro about waking up later than he did and believes that Tanjiro falling asleep is him falling into another coma. Writing off Zenitsu as he’s thrown into a different adventure was also hilarious with the fourth wall banter between him and Aoi. It leans into such a goofy sense of humor that makes Kimetsu no Yaiba a shonen I’d be hard-pressed to write off.
THE HOT SPRINGS SEEN AROUND THE WORLD
But there was another reason why it was hard to delete screencaps of the episode, it’s because of the infamous hot springs moments. What they did with Mitsuri is far greater than merely “doing the hot springs scene justice”. Mitsuri being attractive was always a given since she’s the Love Pillar, but I completely forgot about the hot springs moment until the build-up became a friendly reminder to be prepared to have your expectations completely met.
That being said, I also appreciate Mitsuri for the kind of atmosphere she cultivates. She really leans on the older enthusiasm that is reassuring and acts as a supportive older sister to those around her. She has her own impulses, is overly affectionate, and has a wide range of emotions, but that makes her very lively and multi-faceted. Her friendliness also makes her more prone to connect with the Kamados, offering playful banter, valuable info, and unconditional support that is otherwise unheard of for the other more abrasive Hashira.
I suppose the beginning of this arc thrives on giving us a better understanding of people who felt intimidating to approach or too irritable to reason with. Genya comes off as being equally as abrasive as his brother, but Tanjiro aims to get on his level so that he can have a better way of working alongside him and learning more about why he’s been so avoidant. Likewise, this arc is the perfect opportunity for him to learn about Hotaru, the irate swordsmith who even treats his own family like a hindrance. With the final moments of the episode, we’ll also come to understand why Muichiro Tokito wants to enter the swordsmith village.