It’s the big fight of the arc. As cool as it has been seeing Tanjiro and Inosuke take down Enmu, everyone who saw the movie knew that the appearance of Akaza would be the true ending battle of this arc. And it’s just as impressive seeing it the second time.
We kick off with the train itself being kicked off its tracks. And my God Tanjiro is a good boy. He refuses to die because doing so will make the train driver who stabbed him a murderer. After the crash and Tanjiro is lying there, partially injured from being stabbed and partially drained from the fire dancing, he still begs Insokue to save the engineer when he’s unable to move himself.
Enmu, ever the dramatic diva couldn’t die without a prolonged “woe is me speech”, cursing the entire cast for their role in his defeat. It certainly makes a change from making him sympathetic at the very last minute. Although if Tanjiro was aware enough of the wriggling mass trying to claw his way towards him I’m sure he would have tearfully forgiven him.
Even if Enmu did the unforgivable and besmirched the memory of Tanjiro’s perfect family. He does fully fade away before reaching Tanjiro, but not before giving us one little nugget about the next set of bad guys on the horizon. While he was the last of the lower twelve demons, he reveals that the roster of the upper six have remained unchanged for centruies.
Each of them having enough power to defeat a Hashira in single combat. A claim we’re going to see put to the test very shortly. And then Enmu fades away into nothingness.
As Tanjiro struggles to control his breathing, a ever smiling Rengoku pops up to give him a lesson, and us a reminder of how absurd the power of breathing is in the world of Demon Slayer. Just through breathing, the master swordsmen of the Slayer Corps are able to control every aspect of their own body, right down to the individual veins.
It’s with Rengoku’s guidance that Tanjiro is able to stop his own bleeding through pure force of will. I’ll give it to this show, they gave a logical explanation for the shonen hero trope of just being able to ignore profuse bleeding. Although, unlike Zoro, I don’t think Tanjiro is going to be jumping up and swinging a sword around anytime soon.
The gang’s victory is a fleeting one. Rengoku announces that, somehow, not a single one of the 200 passengers aboard the capsized train have suffered a life-threatening injury. Which seems impossible considering how bad that crash was. Maybe Tanjiro was going to ask how the hell this was possible, but he never gets the chance. Because the subject of this episode’s title finally emerges from the shadows.
We are introduced to Akaza; the upper third demon and (I assume) the forth strongest demon in existance under Muzan himself.
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought to point this out before, but the eyes in Demon Slayer are amazing. As a general rule, eyes are one of the most important and recognisable aspects of any anime character’s design. But Demon Slayer seems to take this in a whole other level and give all of their characters very unique, expressive eyes that end up being such important parts of their characters.
Aside from the fact that not everybody actually has round eyes in this series, rather a lot of people’s irises are these 8-10 sided polygons that make them seem so much shaper than normal eyes. Rengoku, for example has these orange and red eyes that look like liquid fire, very apt given the rest of his design aesthetic.
Then you have the likes of Shinobu Kocho, who has these large gradient purple eyes that draw you in like bottomless pools. And of course you have the Twelve Moon Demons, who have eyes with Kanji inscribed into them denoting their rank for all to see. It given everyone such a unique look, on top of the great character design they already have.
I love the eyes in this series, and it kind of feels overdue for me to bring it up.
But Akaza. He shows up and starts spouting out his personal philosophy on life: That strength is everything. He is a proud martial artist and weakness of all kind disgusts him. The thing is, having become so absurdly powerful, pretty much everyone is deemed weaker than him.
His philosophy kind of reminds me of the Monster Association from One Punch Man. Especially Gouketsu and the conclusion of the Super Fight Arc. In which characters are encouraged to become monsters in order to break their limits and go beyond what they essentially deem as a handicap. Being human and stuff.
Akaza makes a very similar offer to Rengoku; not to waste his incredible strength, which will wain and falter as he grows old, and become a demon, and only get more powerful for eternity. An offer the Hashira flatly refuses. Rengoku counters that the limited time humanity spend on earth is a kind of beauty that makes their limited time on earth all the more important.
Words that are ultimnatly always going to be lost on this centuries old demon who only cares about one thing. And it’s disgusting.
And so is the fight that follows. It’s felt like it’s been a little while since the Demon Slayer animation team just full on flexed all over us, but this battle really is Demon Slayer doing what it does best. All it’s missing is a hauntingly beautiful score and a heart wrenching flashback to make it one of the best moments of the year.
As the fight goes on though, we see Akaza’s personal mantra in action. While he seems to fight with unlimited stamina and enthusiasm, his opponent reels from every blow he lands. Short of a killing, decapitation blow, Akaza just fights at his full strength continuously, rapidly regenerating from any would he suffers.
Conversely, Rengoku, while he might seem like the superior fighter, isn’t able to keep up with his opponent for ever. Taking glancing blow after glancing blow till his wounds start to slow him down and he inevitably leaves himself open for a more lethal attack himself.
The episode ends with both Tanjiro and Inosuke watching on in desperate disbelief, as Rengoku stands before his foe, exhausted, but not yet defeated.
I mean, I feel like we all know how this fight ends. I normally wouldn’t lay it on this thick, but considering the marketing around the movie made it really seem like the second series would be skipping right past it, everyone went and saw that movie. We know where this is going.
I’m getting really hyped up to see the conclusion of this arc again and then to see what follows. This continues to be some great stuff, and I’m sure I’ll tell you all again about it next week.