After making it through the twisting corridors of the Tsuzumi Mansion and killing the tsuzumi drum demon, Kyogai, Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke have little time to rest before they are assigned their most challenging mission yet – to travel to Mount Natagumo and take out the group of demons residing there. A creepy forest filled with deadly spider demons is both Zenitsu’s and every arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, yet these are not the only things Tanjiro must worry about, as he is forced to protect his demonic sister Nezuko from the demon slayers who are all out for her blood. Will our heroes emerge from the forest alive, or will they fall to the powers of one of the Twelve Kizuki?
While Demon Slayer had a strong start with its first half, I recall it being this second half where the series really clicked for a lot of viewers, as the Mount Natagumo arc that we open up with here is not only a very strong part of the story but is beautifully executed by ufotable. The quality of the animation reaches its peak in the rightfully lauded Episode 19, where the studio goes all out on the CGI effects with the special attacks of both the demons and the demon slayers, as that beautiful ukiyo-e art style that they’ve conceived really comes to the fore, looking bright and lavish against the dark backdrop of the forest. The action sequences in this arc are absolutely superb, with it being very easy to feel the weight behind each attack, while there is a very threatening atmosphere presented by the spooky setting and the sometimes-horrifying designs of the spider demons that would veer the series more to horror if not for our characters’ silly antics at times.
With the show looking this good, it’s easy to get distracted by the flashy animation and forget about everything else, which would be a shame as I think this arc’s greatest strength is in how it develops its characters, whether they be human or demon.
This part of the series works fantastically for Zenitsu and Inosuke, who up until now have been very insufferable and annoying characters, yet this arc really gives them some time to shine and prove their worth. Inosuke is still the least developed of our main cast at this point, being the last to join the team, but we do get to see how beneficial he is as his sheer power can hold back even the most powerful of demons, while he has a unique ability (similar to Tanjiro’s strong sense of smell) to visualise an area by stretching out all of his senses in order to find an enemy. Zenitsu, meanwhile, gets a good chunk of backstory, which helps to flesh him out and rather justify his crybaby personality, and he also ends up in a really tense battle with one of the spider demons, a fight that shows that while he is a snivelling brat, he is still capable of performing incredible feats when he really needs to.
For the demons, we get to see that even though they do unspeakable things, most of them aren’t beyond the hope of salvation and have been forced into this life through rather tragic circumstances. We’ve already had the foundations of this theme laid out for us in the previous fight with Kyogai, but it builds on it well here with the sad tale of the spider demon family, doing a good job of allowing you to sympathise with the demons as it spins out their tragedy. This connects really well with Tanjiro and Nezuko’s situation, as while all of the other demon slayers just want them to meet their demise, Tanjiro is the only one who treats them as the humans they were, rather than just horrific monsters.
This is emphasised further as the pair attract the attention of the Hashira, the Demon Slayer Corps’ most powerful demon slayers, who want to slaughter Nezuko like the rest of the demons. Battered and bruised from the spider demon fight, Tanjiro can only watch as his sister is subjected to a trial of her own, as she must prove whose side she’s on.
This does give the show a chance to introduce us to all the Hashira (having only met a couple of them before now), as well as the head of the organisation, Kagaya Ubuyashiki. They are very much an eccentric bunch but are largely designed around a particular theme that they embody, whether that be an element like fire or water, or creatures such as snakes and insects. I like how they tie these themes in with not just their attacks but their overall appearance as well, as it gives them all a distinct look and personality, for example, we first see the snake Hashira, Iguro, in a tree, like you would find a real snake coiled around a branch, while insect Hashira, Shinobu, is a skilled chemist and manufactures poisons to use in battle.
The last few episodes here present us with a training arc, as the gang try to learn “Total Concentration Breathing, Constant”, and offer up a nice breather after all the action we’ve had so far. While most other shonen shows might have you reaching for the skip button at the mere mention of a training arc, Demon Slayer makes it worthwhile by throwing in some fun, comedic moments that bond the team together, while introducing yet more characters, as we meet Shinobu’s protégé Kanao, and the inhabitants of the Butterfly Mansion. It definitely feels like it’s trying to introduce too many characters at once here, as you don’t spend much time with them in-depth, however it at least knows which ones to focus in on when it comes to setting up for future story arcs.
The voice acting in the series continues to be pretty good across the board in both Japanese and English, with newly introduced characters coming in particularly strong. Saori Hayami provides a very whimsical and dreamy voice for Shinobu that really matches the character’s personality, for example, while Billy Kametz gets Rui’s maliciousness down pat as leader of the spider demons. There are also improvements in the dialogue, with the telegraphing of plot points that plagued the first half of the show being much less prominent here, although there’s still plenty of your typical shonen-style shouting going on.
The music in the series also continues to be very strong, with some fantastic pieces that really highlight the action scenes, although there’s no change in opening or ending from the first half of the series.
Anime Limited’s release of the second half of the series features Episodes 14 to 26 across three discs, with Japanese and English audio options and English subtitles. Both the collector’s box for this part of the series and the bonus box for both parts look really smart, while this part comes with five more art cards and a another 20-page booklet. On the discs you’ll find a variety of extras, including trailers and commercials, clean opening and ending animations, audio commentaries for Episodes 19 and 26, and a teaser for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba The Movie – Mugen Train.
Overall, the second half of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba cements the series as one of the strongest shonen shows of the past couple of years, filled with some fantastic action sequences brilliantly animated by Ufotable, while ironing out some of the issues with characters and dialogue that were present in the first half. It doesn’t quite end with a bang, as the final few episodes suffer from an overload of new characters and are more focused on setting up the next major story arc, but at this point I’m very much on board with series and looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.