The below contains spoilers for the premiere of Demon Slayer Season 2: Entertainment District Arc, which is now streaming on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
Two years after the release of the first season, and eight months after the Mugen Train movie, Demon Slayer is finally back with a new episode that brings back memorable characters, stunning animation, and a metric ton of emotion. Those expecting to jump right into the next adventure may be a bit disappointed that the premiere lacks some momentum, as despite being twice the length of a regular episode, most of it serves as an epilogue to Mugen Train, resolving the emotional loose ties of that movie before introducing a new mentor for Tanjiro and the gang.
Indeed, the first five minutes of the episode are a recap of the fight between Rengoku and Akaza in Mugen Train, resulting in the devastating loss of the fire hashira. Then the episode picks up with a strange kid whose adoptive family adores but is concerned for the strange illness that prevents him from going outside during the day. The kid is framed rather ominously, but it isn’t until Akaza bows in front of him that we see the new form of the demon Muzan. The mix of the absurdity of seeing anime Damien Thorn with the sheer terror in Akaza’s face makes for a splendid showcase of Demon Slayer’s main villain, a reminder that there is still a long road ahead before Tanjiro can become strong enough to face him.
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The episode can mostly be split in half, with the first part dealing with Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke reeling from the death of Rengoku, unable to move on, and who can blame them? After all, if even one of the Hashira can be so powerless against a demon, what chance do they have of killing all Twelve Kizuki, plus Muzan, in order to turn Nezuko back into a human? Ufotable proves to be one of the best animation studios working today, not only providing spectacular action sequences — more on that in a bit — but even in the way they animate the subtle facial expressions of our main trio and the way they try to hide their grief. Tanjiro fulfills his promise to Rengoku and visits his family home to pass on the fire hashira’s passing words to his family, as well as learn about the Dance of the Fire God. Here, the episode falls victim to infodump in a rather dull way, as Rengoku’s father, Shinjuro, starts blurting out lore at Tanjiro the moment he sees his earrings. Though the idea that Tanjiro’s father’s fire dance is actually an ancient breathing technique from which all breathing techniques originate, the way Shinjuro conveys that information to someone he believes already knows it is rather jarring.
Still, as a resolution to Rengoku’s story, this is an emotional and effective episode. Mugen Train showed the abusive childhood of the Kyojuro kids, so seeing Tanjiro providing some closure to Senjuro and some words of comfort fits right in with the show’s knack for heartbreaking backstories and making us feel for even the smallest of side characters we probably won’t see again.
Thankfully, there’s more than just tears in this episode, with plenty of visual gags and jokes providing a good balance of laughs and emotion, like the return of Tanjiro’s strongest and scariest opponent, Haganezuka the swordsmith. His return is an absolute highlight of the episode, as we get a hilarious Scooby-Doo-like chase sequence with the swordsmith trying to murder Tanjiro for breaking yet another one of his swords. It may be a throwaway gag, but the chase still has some stunning animation with more weight to it than many action-heavy shows.
So, what about the new stuff? The second half of the episode takes a small break to show Tanjiro and the others train in the four months since Rengoku’s death — it’s kind of odd seeing a shirtless, beefed-up Tanjiro. We do get one big fight sequence in the episode, and as usual, Ufotable knocks it out of the park with the energetic animation, with Tanjiro’s water-breathing technique illuminating the screen with picturesque beauty. What makes this scene most exciting, however, is that we actually get to see Tanjiro and Nezuko properly fighting together as a unit.
One common complaint of Demon Slayer Season 1 was that, despite building Nezuko as an essential character with a lot to offer, she spends the vast majority of the time hidden in a box doing nothing. This scene, though short, builds on Rengoku declaring his support for Nezuko’s Demon Slayer Corps membership, while showing how the siblings are becoming stronger together. Let’s hope this becomes a common occurrence this season.
And then, on their way back from killing the demon, we finally get a brief introduction to the actual story of the season, with the return of the most flamboyant (though Funimation seems to have changed the translation to flashy) hashira, Tengen Uzui. Now, this is a bit of a weird scene that will surely have fans debating for a while, as we see Tengen kidnapping two girls for a mission, and then slapping one of them for no reason before letting her go. In true Demon Slayer fashion, the show does make each character feel completely distinct from the rest, and Tengen is instantly a visually interesting character with a memorable personality like Rengoku. Though he’s not exactly a likable character now, the opening title sequence for the season already teases a tragic backstory for him that will surely make us fall in love with the sound hashira no matter how big a jerk he is at the moment.
Speaking of the opening, it seems that we have another banger on our hands. The visuals of the big city, the display of fireworks and street lights already paint a striking picture of the titular Entertainment District, as well as the big bad for the season. Plus, Aimer’s “Zankyou Zanka” already stands toe to toe with LiSA’s “Gurenge” with its catchy lyrics and melody.