Direly Disappointing: Kimetsu no Yaiba 1-3

Instead of doing first looks, I’ve waited for the first three episodes of my Spring 2019 anime to air. That’s so I can do reviews at intervals: at the 3 episode mark, the 6 episode mark, etc. now The ones I’ve chosen to watch are Bungou Stray Dogs, Carole and Tuesday, Fruits Basket (2019), Kimetsu no Yaiba, Ao-chan Can’t Study, One Punch Man second season, Sarazanmai, Shimetsu no Toshi (Afterlost), and whenever it airs, Shingeki no Kyojin 3 part 2. (I may drop a few of these, especially if I pick up a few more series, but I’ll at least make it to the 3 episode point.) Ok, Let’s dive right into what I thought of Kimetsu no Yaiba or Demon Slayer.

(Holy Shit!)

Story and Structure: Poor

A boy’s home and family are destroyed and killed by ogres/demons. Now the boy wants to become a demon slayer to kill those creatures. But more urgent than that is the need to save his sister, who has been infected like a zombie and turned semi-monster. As you can see, this story is extremely predictable and something that’s been done a thousand times. But I don’t give up on shows with a generic or weak plot, so long as there are characters I can connect to. Unfortunately, in this story, there really isn’t anyone like that as of episode 3.

Going into episode 2, I expected the narrative to establish some important facts about the world of Demon Slayer and/or the characters. I was satisifed by the new information about the demons and by seeing a demon. The episode launched into the beginning of Tanjiro’s training quickly enough, which tells me the pacing will be fast for this series. One thing I didn’t expect in the second episode was the humor, and to my surprise, I liked it. It didn’t feel or sound forced at all.

The third episode is extremely important and should provide a game-changer to the plot or a revelation about the world of the anime or the characters. For a short, dark shounen action series, there should be some good fighting or training scenes. If new characters are introduced, there should be time for the audience to learn their personalities. Episode 3 of Kimetsu no Yaiba did not succeed with the all-important third episode. In fact, it did practically everything wrong.

In anime, time-skips can work– for example, it worked in Attack on Titan and Shinsekai Yori— but it’s much harder to make time skips happen over the course of an episode, rather than just skipping it all. Maybe this is just a personal preference, but covering 2 years in a single episode just didn’t work. It was pathetic. I am quite disappointed. There was a significant happening, like there should be in the third episode– defeating Sabito and cutting the boulder– but it didn’t feel significant at all. The fight scenes were just not exciting, or interestingly animated. As for the characters of Sabito and Makomo, they were so one-dimensional I despised them. I don’t know if we’ll see them again, but they were given a horrible introduction.

Character development for Tanjiro and/or Nezuko would have been the very least that could have been done in this frankly painful third episode. Of course, nothing like that happened. Nezuko was asleep for the whole time. Tanjiro grew in terms of age, strength, and skill, but we learned nothing more about him as a person. This is an example of poor storytelling.

Art/Animation: Please Stop using CGI Every Other Shot

There is abundant use of CGI. Maybe not everyone can tell, but to me it sticks out in an irritating way. Sometimes the CGI is good– for example, the rendering of the bird (dove?) in a shot in early episode 1 was impressive. The shots of characters walking from a distance (or even from a very hsort way away) are usually CG. Actually, practically any scene that’s not a close-up shot of a character has the character in CG. That pisses me off. On the plus side, the CG is a bit better than in your average anime crowd shots. It’s about the quality used in Ajin.

The backgrounds and scenery really bad at some moments in the first episode– I can tell they were generated from a computer and they’re simple and basic. However, those few bad shots are made up for by the good backgrounds and aesthetics, full of amazing detail and realistic color. In late episode 1, there’s the scene where the demon slayer is monologing about demons while fighting (well, mostly dodging) the attacks of Nezuko. That action sequence was actually impressive. I hope to see more fights like that in the future.

(A fully CGI shot! Cheap!)

In episode 2, the artwork for the backgrounds improves a lot, so it’s easier to forgive the CGI… maybe… kind of. I like how scents appear to Tanjiro when he focuses, but again, I didn’t appreciate the heavy and obvious CGI in the scene where he’s running through the traps. Come on, this is Ufotable studio. It’s supposed to do better than this. Episode 3 ended up no better. Yes, it has some pretty backgrounds and scenery. The character designs are pretty cool for Sabito and Makomo. However, the animation of the training and fighting scenes didn’t impress me.

Sound: Superb Seiyuu, Songs, and Scores

Natsuki Hanae, who plays Tanjiro, was the voice of the infamous Kaneki Ken in Tokyo Ghoul. There’s no doubting he has talent, and a lot of pure vocal energy, similar to Kaiji Yuki. Man, it was so good to hear a cast of seiyuu I mostly know! Takahiro Sakurai (Giyuu) I’d know anywhere. I can’t say which roles he’s mostly known for because he’s in everything. Oh, he was Reigen in Mob Psycho. Hiro Shimono (Zenitsu) is supposed to appear later. He played Connie Springer in AOT. Plus I also love the voice of Houchuu Ootsuka, who voices Urokodaki. Note: Yuki Kaji, voice of Eren from AOT, played Sabito in episode 3.

(Urokodaki)

The instrumental music seemed really beautiful and intense, and I expect I’ll like the rest of the OST, too. The opening song is just plain awesome, easily the best of the spring shows I’ve seen so far. It’s called “Gurenge” and it’s by LiSA. I recognize the vocalist from doing a couple of songs somewhere within the Fate franchise, which isn’t surprising, since both are by Ufotable studio. (Oh, and speaking of which, whoever voiced Lancer in Fate/Zero did the voice of the demon that Nezuko and Tanjiro kill in episode 2.) The ED, “From the Edge” by FictionJunction and LiSA, was beauitful and epic, in a way, like most LiSA songs are.

Characters: Understandable but Unoriginal

The main character, Tanjiro, is very understandable and easy to empathize with. I think it helps that I have a big family, and I’d do anything to save my little sisters, even they became demons. Tanjiro is what got me through the otherwise grueling first episode. Some main characters really are weak-willed (Kaneki Ken), and some are too hateful/unstable (Eren Yeager), but in Tanjiro’s case, the “issue” is that he’s highly empathetic. He cries when thinking of how Netsuko never had her own beautiful kimono, and he even feels concerned about making demons suffer.

Being empathetic is a positive character trait and one I admire highly. So I like Tanjiro, even in episode 2 when he can’t kill the demon yet. A main character who must grow tougher in order to kill living things is far more appealing to me than a main character who starts out with very little empathy. I’m weird, so I also prefer a main character who is psychologically scarred and often troubled compared to one that’s cheery most of the time.

(How I look when I’m mad)

(End of episode 2) I’m hoping Netsuko stays a lead character, because I love characters that are half or part monster and who struggle not to hurt others around them. I empathize with this because in a metaphorical sense I’m much the same way: an unpredictable creature, trying my hardest not to emotionally hurt anyone, but easily swayed by hyperactive negative emotions.

… (End of episode 3) Given that she conventiently did nothing but sleep in a zombie-oni-coma for 2 years, and will probably reawaken now that it suits Tanjiro next episode, I am frustrated. What a waste. Episode 3 is a critical point for story and characters development alike, but Nezuko got zero attention, not even developed through flashbacks.

Ranking So Far: Average

To calculate my ranking for an anime, I give each of these five factors a number from 1 to 10: story, art, sound, characters, and personal enjoyment. Then I add them up and divide by five for the overall score (so far). For Kimetsu no Yaiba eps 1-3, story is 4/10, art is 6/10, sound is 8/10, characters are 5/10, and enjoyment was 4/10. The overall score so far is 5.4/10 which qualifies as Average or Mediocre like anything in the 5s categroy. Kimetsu no Yaiba has the lowest ranking I’ve given a spring 2019 so far, though Shoumetsu Toshi isn’t that far ahead. I’m dropping Demon Slayer because I don’t think such an average show is worth it when there are other series I could pick up that sound better. Here’s a pretty cool background to end your read. Jya, ne!

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