Demon Slayer – Episode 19: Hinokami

I am consistently in a state of awe of how fantastic the action sequences in Demon Slayer look. I know I run the risk of sounding like a broken record, but at this point I’m past caring. The buildup, the execution and weight behind the decisive moments of battle effect me at a core level.

It’s episodes like this that remind me why I started watching anime in the first place. A hero placed up against impossible odds, given no chance of success, and only through grit, determination and a teensy amount of deus ex machina do they go and pull victory out of the bag. In this case, utterly contrary to my expectations.

This entire episode, I was expecting Giyu to show up and pull Tanjiro’s ass out of the fire at the final, most dramatic minute. Which made Tanjiro’s dramatic success all the more impactful for me, not to mention it being completely and utterly badass. I’ll be honest, all credit to Ufotable. Who went and took a manga that I personally don’t think is all that pretty to look at and turn it into one of the visual masterclasses of the year so far.

Demon Slayer - Episode 19: Hinokami

This entire episode details the battle between Tanjiro and the sinister son of the spider family; Rui. Who, it turns out is the true member of the twelve moon demons residing within the forest. He’s some warped personality who surrounds himself with fellow demons in an attempt to create some demented facsimile of a nuclear family structure.

To begin with, it seems like he is far too much for Tanjiro to handle. The previous episode ended with a cliffhanger that looked like Tanjio was going to end up bisected by his razor spider thread abilities, which he survives, at the cost of his sword. The thing that prevents Tanjro from metting a grizzly end is the sudden intervention of Nezuko.

Ironically, this act of sibling bonding is the the very thing Rui apparently desires the most, despite his utter inability to display any empathy whatsoever. Thus he decides he is going to take Nezuko for himself and toy with Tanjiro before killing him. This proves to be a mistake through, as through a reaffirmation of both their bond and an introduction of their father through flashback, the pair began to fight back.

Demon Slayer - Episode 19: Hinokami

As a protagonist, Tanjiro has proven to be exceedingly capable. He’s mature, level headed, kind and utterly dominant in combat. In my mind I had almost resigned him to an overdue defeat for the sake of establishing some power scaling and giving a sense of what Tanjiro still needs to achieve. In the end, it’s not really that kind of anime. This isn’t Deku or Naruto, who can make mistakes over and over and have their mentors clean up after them.

Tanjiro find himself in life or death situations all the time, and if he doesn’t deal with the problem, nobody is coming to bail him out. I mean, in this particular situation, there were several people around who could have showed up to bail him out. But that just makes his win here all the more surprising to me.

Demon Slayer - Episode 19: Hinokami

The victory comes from a powerful reaffirmation of the family bond forged between Tanjiro and all of his family in the past. Specifically here, we are introduced to their frail, sickly father. Despite being bed ridden most of the time, he was still able to dance to the fire god on the new year, giving Tanjrio the drive and insight to do as his father did despite death being moments away.

So we get a new power out of Tanjiro, making use of fire instead of water. Y’know, normally. I’d be kind of annoyed about this. Them pulling some new set of abilities out of absolutely nowhere, only justifying them the moment beforehand. Foreshadowing be damned.

But in this case, I can’t bring myself to be made because the sequence is so staggeringly well animated. The blend of computer generated and traditional animation has always been impressive in Demon Slayer, but here it’s especially breathtaking.

Demon Slayer - Episode 19: Hinokami

The combination of Tanjrio’s final attack, the building music and combination attack with Nezuko, who also reveals a new demon power to give her brother the final push needed to take the head of the creepy little spider demon.

I’ve been worried that Nezuko would get forgotten as the series introduced a wider supporting cast, but this was a great moment between the two that shows Tanjiro isn’t a one man show, and that together they’re far stronger than the sum of their parts. Too bad the preview title hints that my initial guess that they’d need saving might turn out to be true after all.

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