Anime Journal - Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Episode 3

This is a continuing journal of the great anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Produced by Ufotable and released in late 2019. I'm re-watching each episode, providing a synopsis, and adding my own observations. You can read the first episode coverage here. 

Episode 3: "Sabito and Makomo"

Urokadaki tells Tanjiro about the history of the demon slayers; that they fight outside of the government. He also says that demons can survive losing limbs and that they heal very quickly. "No one knows where they come from", says Urodaki as a preface to his training. 

Tanjiro trains with master Urokodaki for a full year. During this year he keeps a journal of his training while his sister, Nezuko, sleeps. Tanjiro continually runs down Mt. Sagiri dodging and fighting off traps that he can smell ahead of time. Urokodaki is hard master and frequently puts Tanjiro through grueling physical tests. He teaches Tanjiro a special form of breathing called "Total Concentration Breathing" that will enable him to fill him with power enough to challenge demons. Eventually, Urokadaki tells Tanjiro that he has taught him everything he can. 

He then takes Tanjiro higher up on Mt. Sagiri where it snows. They come to a huge boulder in a clearing. Urokodaki tells Tanjiro that if he can slice the boulder in two, he will send him to the Final Examination to become a Demon Slayer. Tanjiro despairs and tries to go over everything he has learned, but he still can't slice the boulder. 

Appearing mysteriously out of the blue, a young man in a fox mask (Subito) chides Tanjiro for whining and complaining and proceeds to beat Tanjiro with his wooden sword telling him he is weak and that he has learned nothing from Urokodaki. Then Makomo, a young girl, appears just as mysteriously and proceeds to train Tanjiro. They both refuse to answer any questions about where they came from. Eventually, Tanjiro becomes hardened and determines to challenge Subito. He moves like lightning and cleaves Subito's mask in two. Subito smiles at Tanjiro and fades away. Makomo fades away as well in a fog. When the fog clears, Tanjiro realizes his strike on Subito split the boulder in two. 


The coming-of-age training sequence is a staple of Japanese anime. Demon Slayer distills all of Tanjiro's training into one episode by having Tanjiro write a diary of his training. While this is a little clunky since he doesn't write anything else during the entire first season, it does help the episode by letting it switch from Tanjiro's perspective to the 3rd person story perspective. You see his inner struggle and concern for Nezuko while watching Urokodaki train and teach him about essentials like breathing and understanding of the strength and weakness of the sword. 

The appearance of Subito and Makomo is eerie. Their next-level training of Tanjiro is both harsh and caring at the same time. Sanjiro notices that they are weird. Makomo is especially strange to Tanjiro as she explains what "Total Concentration Breathing". These sequences are the best of the episode and leave a real feeling of strangeness. When they finally fade away when Tanjiro accomplishes the impossible (splitting the rock) you understand they are supernatural beings. 

Visually, this episode is the best so far. I love how the director uses stillness and motion to create an emotional pull in the viewer. When Tanjiro slices Subito's mask off, there is an extreme close up of Subitio's mouth which slowly smiles. Even though this is 2D animation, the effect is very powerful. Such a focus on simple gestures contrasted with strong, bold fighting, what makes Demon Slayer so special. 
May 30, 2020


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