When he was first introduced, I gave Zenitsu an especially hard time. Not as hard a time as some reviewers on here had done, but to put it plainly: I wasn’t a fan. But right away after his introductory episode, the show started to work to redeem him. So now, only a handful of episodes later I’ve become a massive fan.
Like most characters in Demon Slayer, Zenitsu is a more complex and deep character than this gimmick would leave you to believe. And his over the top reactions being the be-all and end-all to his character is well and truly swept under the rug with this; his very own episode.
Episode 17 almost entirely focusing on him, as he makes his way through the Spider Family forest in search of Nezuko, Tanjiro and pointedly not Inosuke (in that order). His horndoggedness for the demon girl and his admiration for her brother give him some level of bravery that he didn’t seem capable of doing his introduction.
Although that crumbles away when he encounters a swarm of dead-eyed, doll headed spider monsters. And being totally honest, I am fully on his side this time. I am not especially fearful of spiders or anything, but the visuals of the demon and his mutated spider army are disgustingly horrifying in this episode. It makes me realise how well executed the horror elements of this show really are.
Zenitsu then finds himself under attack from one of the spider demon family, a CG animated character that I actually don’t hate. I mean it’s obvious he’s not traditionally animated, but it doesn’t look awful. Our scaredy boy is quickly infected with a poison that’ll turn him into one of the demon spider’s minions within 30 minutes. Pretty quickly, he freaks out and proceeds to pass out, thus activating his Ultra Instinct.
At which point we get to see his origin story through flashbacks. We learn that he is a swordsman with potential and some level of skill, but it held back by staggering cowardice and an utter lack of self confidence. Taken in by a former slayer of the Thunder sword form, he is brow beaten and trained in the art, pretty much against his will.
At his core, Zenitsu is an admirable person, wanting to do right by the people who invest their time and faith into him. But he, more than most, is fully aware of his shortcomings and they really do hold him back.
Consequently, Zenitsu only ever managed to learn one of the three moves of thunder form. But as his master says, he only needs that one move if he refines it over and over, utterly and completely mastering it to perfection. And oh boy is it something in action.
It takes him a while to actually find the time to use it, but once the lightning flies, Zenitsu’s speed and precision are second to none with the following strike. I have raved and praised the visuals and animation of this show many times before. But there’s something very special about what happens on screen when Zenitsu is allowed to shine.
It expresses levels of shonen anime hype within me that I only feel very rarely when I really get invested in a show that does something great. And the more I watch this show, the more I love it. The episode ends with Zenitsu cleaving the head from the demon in spectacular fashion, but still suffering the effects of the toxin.
Steeling himself to live on, we cut away and arrive at Tanjiro and a “badly injured” Inosuke, who is far too stubborn and pig headed (wink) to back down or even allow his wounds to be bandaged. Which is bad stuff because the pair are confronted by “father”; the twelve moon demon and resident Spider Hulk of the forest.
I just need the series to make me like Inosuke as much as the rest of the cast and I’ll have a prime anime of the year contender.