Kimetsu no Yaiba: Yuukaku-hen

* out-of-context spoilers *

People always say Demon Slayer is alone popular thanks to its dazzle liveliness, but I wholly disagree. When you actually sit down and watch it, you just see some generic, uninteresting shounen, and so far everyone acts like it ’ s this incredible masterpiece, so why the massive difference in opinion ? It must be the brassy liveliness, right field ? personally, I doubt it, because shows with good animation are ignored just arsenic often as shows with bad animation are propped up. The most well-animated show of last temper was Ousama Ranking, and it wasn ’ t even in the acme five most popular shows of the season here on MAL.

The most well-animated show from last Summer was Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, and conversely, it was in the top five. Spring was Vivy, and it wasn’t. And Winter was Mushoku Tensei, but it was. My point is there’s no consistency in behavior. Shows like Attack on Titan: The Final Season can have laughable CG and be defended ferociously, while shows like Overlord III can have equally laughable CG and be unanimously mocked. Obviously, the visuals have a lot to do with Demon Slayer’s ability to go viral online, but if you ask me, the real key to becoming this much of a monolithic mega-hit is its accessibility. This is not a show where the writers feel the need to diversify their exposition dumps. Even mid-battle, every character is perfectly willing to spontaneously inner-monologue any information even slightly necessary for the audience, and everyone’s motivation is so simple and straightforward, that to forget it, you would have to forget the entire existence of the character. If you’re a cynical bitch like me, it’s very easy to think, “Wow. This show must be written for retards, five-year-olds, or retarded five-year-olds.” However, I finally realized it’s not that it’s written for retards or five-year-olds. It’s written for people who literally haven’t watched the show before. Allow me to explain.

This is going to come across as extremely condescending and insincere, but one thing I genuinely really appreciate about Demon Slayer, and the deciding factor which I think makes the show so easily accessible to such a vast audience, is that it’s so shallow and superficial, it requires no commitment and no real attention to enjoy. That’s an insult packaged within a very thin compliment, I understand that, but I’m being very genuine when I say this, because season one of Demon Slayer for me was a twenty six week long nap. I mean, seriously, I slept through so much of that first season, I truly do not remember even an hour’s worth of its content. I remember pretty much all of episode one, because I go into every show with somewhat of an open mind, and this is especially true with Demon Slayer, because ufotable has earned their reputation. I know their shows will never just be total effortless dogshit, and thanks to the massive marketing initiative Aniplex launched to advertise it, I had already seen the promotional material as well. I really loved the colors and the whole Taisho-era aesthetic of the show, so I really wanted to like it. When it turned out to be totally milquetoast and boring, that attention faded very quickly, but for at least episode one, I had my brain turned on, and I therefore remember how everything starts. This is important, because with shounen manga adaptations, the inciting incident is all that really matters. By the end of chapter one, you always have your one and only goal, and this one and only goal is the backbone of the Weekly Shounen Jump formula. Find One Piece and become Pirate King, become the Fifth Hokage, find all seven Dragon Balls, find a way to turn Nezuko back into a human, etc. But that’s where my memory kinda stops, and yet the fact my memory stops in no way impedes upon my enjoyment of the show. THAT’S the key to Demon Slayer’s success.

Having watched season one in this drowsy stupor, barely sober and barely awake, I only really remember a few distinct, well-executed moments beyond episode one. I remember Tanjiro cutting the boulder in episode four; I remember Zenitsu unveiling his sleep attack in episode twelve; I remember the Blessed Rain After the Drought from episode sixteen; I remember Zenitsu going crazy in episode seventeen; I remember most of episode nineteen, as well as how they invalidated the victory in the following episode and CG water man had to come and finish off the spider guy; and I remember that one Hashira trying bait Nezuko into attacking him in one of the later episodes. But that’s not how the series actually plays out, because Demon Slayer was twenty six episodes worth of content, not just those few moments I was able to recall and describe. It had a plot, it had multiple story arcs, it had tons of dialogue I’m sure, but it was so tortuously boring, it always put me to sleep. I must also stress that I did not binge this. Every single week for twenty six weeks, I would turn on the new episode and just pass out. My soul would just exit my fucking body. When I went to go see Infinity Train, I asked these three boys who were sat near me in the theatre if we’d met Rengoku in the show before, and when they said, “no, not really,” I burst out laughing. His character development in the movie was easily among the most unoriginal, uninspired, generic shounen flashback backstories I’d ever seen, and since his whole personality was just haha lol so funny haha he said UMAI! haha xd funny meme bro haha ayy lmao haha, that by the time the end of the movie came around and he was fighting some OTHER fucking guy who we also just met and who had EVEN LESS screen time or memorable characterization, I was just cracking myself up in the theatre cackling like a psychopath screaming, “Who the fuck ARE you?!”

All of ufotable’s most talented staff came together to produce one of the most spectacular fight sequences I’d ever seen, but there was no tension, no excitement, no emotion, no engagement, no anything, because the combatants were these two shallow non-characters who I only just met and who I didn’t give half a shit about at all. The result is an unbelievable spectacle that’s only impressive for the sake of being impressive, and that’s it. THAT’S the key to Demon Slayer’s success. Despite remembering only a handful of moments from season one and sleeping through the rest, I was able to watch Infinity Train (and now The Red Light District Arc as well) without feeling confused or missing the appeal at all. THAT’S the key to Demon Slayer’s success. It’s not successful simply because it has flashy animation—those people are just haters spouting random shit to diminish the show’s achievements because they don’t like it. It’s successful because anyone in Japan, whether they’re young or old, boy or girl, man or woman, student or professional, unemployed or retired, ANYONE can turn on the TV, see a sociopolitically whitewashed, inoffensive portrayal of Taisho, the most beloved and romanticized era of Japanese history, with pretty colors and a simple story, and say, “He wants to save his sister? That’s nice.” That’s called accessibility, and it’s why Demon Slayer is so popular. It’s boring and generic? Why the hell am I talking like these are bad things? Being boring and generic is exactly what people like about it! Like I said at the beginning of this review, it’s not written for dummies. It’s written for people who literally haven’t watched the show before. It’s written so that if you’re flipping though channels and land on Fuji TV, it’ll be more effort to find something else than it would be to think, “Eh. This looks fine.” If anything, the more dumbed-down the script is, the easier it is for people to get on board.

In episode one of season two, Mini Rengoku says to Tanjiro, “But you came all this way for it, only to end up learning nothing about Hinokami Kagura or what my father called ‘Sun Breathing’,” and I seriously laughed for something like two minutes straight. The dialogue in this show is fucking negative IQ level shit. It feels like watching Alex Kurtzman’s Mummy, where the blonde lady has to keep explaining to Tom Cruise who his character is supposed to be so the Chinese theater audience has multiple opportunities to read the subtitles. This tiresome, dull-witted approach to scripting is reflected in the notoriously bad comedy as well, because there are no jokes in Demon Slayer. There is no written humor. It’s just a bunch of dopey physical comedy. Never does it setup or payoff a real, constructed joke. It’s just: “HAHA He screamed! XD” “HAHA He fell over! XD” “HAHA He made a silly face! XD” It’s such basic, bargain-bin humor that even a monkey could laugh at. It can get me to smile when it stops trying to play itself straight—like at the beginning of episode two when Tanjiro and Uzui are doing this unfunny comedy routine, and it just keeps cutting to Zenitsu going, “What the fuck are these people talking about?”—but most of the time, the childish humor is just as annoying as it’s ever been. And don’t even get me started on the inept tone. When I reach the point as an audience member where I’m watching the red-haired demon guy from Infinity Train shuttering in terror, groveling in fear, getting fiercely accosted by the main villain who looks like shota Michael Jackson, I have to take a step back and ask whether or not this is supposed to be funny. I mean, when they cast Maya Sakamoto, utilize her perfectly, but then make her embarrassingly bawl, “Tasukete, Onii-chan!” I’m not thinking, “Wow! What a dramatic character arc!” I’m thinking, “How the fuck am I even supposed to feel about this character?”

I saw someone attempting to defend the shitty writing by arguing that generic shounenshit we’ve seen a million times like villains who waste time soapboxing instead of killing the protagonists shouldn’t be criticized because, indeed, we’ve seen this trash a million times and should be accustomed to it. This is a classic example of thinking with low standards. Yes, this trope is used as a crutch for hack authors who write themselves into corners all the time, but does that make it okay? Does banality elevate something above criticism? No, of course not. It isn’t not bad because it happens all the time; it’s bad, and it’s bad every time it happens. This, of course, is only addressing the general archetypes. I haven’t even touched the seriously goofy shit yet…
>Shifting the positions of my internal organs and having immunity to poison is child’s play because…I grew up in the mountains?
>Before, I was lightning speed, but when the narrative requires it, I AM GODSPEED. (please ignore Killua rip-off)
>Nezuko burns away the demonic poison, and Tanjiro literally says “idk lol” when asked how she can do that.
>”’Score?!’ Did he say ‘score?!’ Did he turn my Blood Demon Art into a song and deflect it?!”
Yeah. Not exactly the most brilliantly written show in the universe. With a script THIS dumb, it’s no wonder ufotable relies on spectacle.

To give credit where it’s due, Demon Slayer never derails and stays true to its core themes, hackneyed as they may be. If recent best-sellers are anything to go on, you can clearly see the “Big Three” era of 700+ chapter manga is over. A fantastic adaptation which greatly elevates the source material, amazing character designs, no extensive filler, good music, cool fights—just turn your brain off, and what’s not to like, right? I’ve also seen people underrate Tanjiro as a character, labeling him a generic goodboy MC and moving on, but I think he’s actually quite distinct from typical shounen protagonists. What makes him interesting is how his conscience is handled. He accepts the fact demons were once people, and he is able to sympathize with them despite the atrocities they commit, typically in the form of high bodycounts. However, he is also resolute in his efforts to slay them, and he does not hesitate to deliver killing blows. This apparent contradiction is justified by Tanjiro’s innate respect for life: the driving, defining force behind his moral compass. This makes him relatively unique compared to most shounen protagonists, as he not only delivers killing blows frequently, but also with the knowledge he is deliberately ending an intelligent being’s life—killing “people” that have been unsalvageably corrupted. I can’t think of too many shounen protagonists who actually kill their enemies, much less one who is portrayed as a traditional hero as opposed to some edgy anti-hero. Deep character, right? Maybe, but what this boils down to in execution is: “Those lost lives will never return! They can never come back! Those made of flesh and blood can’t do what demons do. Why would you rob them? Why would you trample their lives?” There’s a solid character conceit hidden somewhere behind all that bland, platitudinous drivel, but it’s completely smothered by this Anakin Skywalker, Attack of the Clones-level writing.

The only character who overcomes the shitty writing is Uzui. Uzui is not only the first character with enough actual characterization for me to consider a character at all, but he’s also the first member of the cast to actually make me like them as a person even a little bit. I just love it when anime prominently features men written by women, because unlike the majority-male industry of manga authors who write uncharismatic, unimposing, self-insert characters, female authors are actually comfortable with having men who stand out and leave an impression. When this guy was introduced slapping some girl’s ass, taking children into Red Light Districts, selling said children into prostitution, and boasting about his harem of three beautiful wives, I could not wipe the grin off my face. Much like the pandering waifus we always see in anime written by men, it is crystal clear to me that Uzui’s painted nails and flamboyant, fujoshi-bait K-pop aesthetic is the embodiment of everything the author fetishizes in a man. To me, he just screams old, hair metal, 80s rock bands like Guns N’ Roses or Mötley Crüe who had long hair, wore make-up, and got beauty treatments at glamor salons. They all looked very feminine, and yet they had literal oceans of topless women throwing themselves at them. For all the basement-dwelling otaku who wouldn’t have the slightest idea what rock stars used to look like before the year 2000, let me just say I don’t think it’s a coincidence this guy is called the “Sound Hashira” and defeats his enemies with the power of music. Again, Uzui slapped some chick’s ass, and all the shameless girls on social media were immediately smitten, slobbering over their screens wishing they were her. No male author could manufacture that shit, and unlike the cast up until this point which has consisted entirely of cookie-cutter shounen re-skins, Uzui gives this series a much needed spark of personality.

No offense to Director Sotozaki—and, yes, I’m fully aware fans of this series probably have little to no conception of what it means for something to be “well-directed”—I have no idea why this series hasn’t been handed over to Toshiyuki Shirai yet. His episodes are always more visually interesting, and I’d be curious to see if he could improve the tortuously boring episodes filled with nothing but braindead comedy and snail-paced narrative progression, or if he only seems wildly more talented as a director because he was lucky enough to be tasked with handling the more memorable episodes. Either way, the visuals are exactly what you’d expect from Fate-fotable: Unlimited Tax Evasion Works. Whether they’re drawing a still pose, adding speed lines, shaking the frame, and spamming digital effects, or actually treating us to well-rounded, legitimately impressive animation, the audience will eat it up regardless and denounce anyone who suggests the series has less than perfect visuals as a dishonest contrarian…but people call me that anyway, so fuck it. Let’s nitpick. First of all, no matter how relentless they are with their post-processing, ufotable still can’t hide their CG. The CG ribbons aren’t as bad as the CG tentacles from Infinity Train, but still. The main digital effects worth complaining about are the Michael Bay fireworks Uzui throws around, and of course, the fire. The digital smoke effects they love using in this aren’t terrible, but no matter how good ufotable’s compositing is, no one can make that Shutterstock™ fireplace.gif look natural. I could go on, but you get the point. Demon Slayer is an impressive, beautiful show, but anyone who says it’s flawless knows nothing about animation production. This show aired an episode with fight sequences nearly outclassing its own movie on the same day Attack on Titan ended on a jpeg of a manga panel, so even I’d feel petty for nitpicking too much.

I have high standards, so even though I never had any real animosity toward Demon Slayer, I gave season one the negative score it deserved. Remember, it’s only real problem was being trite and consequentially boring to any thinking viewer, but by allowing myself to fall asleep, I didn’t torture myself with it. The result of this uncaring attitude is that all I really remembered about the show by the time Infinity Train came out was the handful of awesome highlights which actually kept me awake, so even though I’m consciously aware of its shortcomings and failures, all the memories I had of it were great. Feeling generous and not wanting to sour these good memories, I had a truly brilliant idea. To take advantage of the—how should I say this?—subcultural predilections of my fellow Americans, I bought a ticket downtown and reserved a seat at a theatre with a bar to guarantee the audience would be a lively, rowdy, urban bunch. This way, I could get shitfaced, overreact and talk shit, and still ultimately be quieter and more courteous than 99% of the hollering moviegoers sharing the cinema with my good self. A genius move, needless to say, because I had a fucking blast watching Infinity Train—easily the most fun I’ve ever had watching anime in a movie theater—and I didn’t even kill myself driving all the way home. (Don’t drink and drive, kids. I’m not a role model.) The point of the story? Demon Slayer is perfect for casuals who just want to turn their brains off and gawk at pretty colors and loud noises, or losers like me who just want an excuse to indulge in some nice, diversionary substance abuse to escape the tedium of their lives and be ever so briefly stupefied by visual excess. Decorate it as much as you want; a garden-variety shounen manga adaptation filled with nothing but one-note characters, lowbrow humor, and multi-episode, asspull-ridden fights simply is what it is, ufotable animation or not.

Thank you for reading.

Reviewer ’ s Rating :

4

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