Wow. I haven’t had the time to go back and scrub through all of the highlights from Season 1, but I think it’s fair to say that “Layered Memories” is, at the very least, in the running for the best action choreography and animation that we’ve had throughout all of Demon Slayer. For whatever other faults the show may possess, the artists at ufotable clearly want us to be damn sure that their latest work is, pound for pound, some of the most impressive artistry that I’ve ever seen in a television anime. That alone makes “Layered Memores”—and, by extension, the entire Entertainment District Arc—worth watching.
I cannot understate how drop-dead gorgeous nearly every single frame of this episode is, and how all of that effort and care on the part of the production team works in service of making Tanjiro’s fight with Daki a true sight to behold. The camera pans around Tanjiro with confidence and clarity as he swiftly dodges, parries, and outright severs Daki’s tendrils; every blow that each opponent trades lands with weight and impact (thanks in so small part to the sound design and perfectly-timed editing). The storyboarding of the fight is expertly laid out, too, so that we always know where Daki or Tanjiro is in relation to one another, both in regards to distance and height, and the show manages this without forgetting to give the sequences moments to breathe and stretch a bit. This not only gives the fight an (almost) perfect pace, but it also gives the camera the opportunity to get in more wide shots to show off the characters’ poses and moves.
Critically, the action has a sense of dramatic weight that balances out all of the furious fighting that is going on with real stakes. It was funny, at first, when the poor grumpy local ventured out into the streets to chastise Tanjiro and Daki for causing such a ruckus, but the havoc that the transformed Daki wreaks with just a single slash of her sash is truly devastating, and one of the most out-and-out horrific slaughters that we’ve seen on Demon Slayer in some time. I also appreciated how, at least for now, the show opted to downplay the usual formula of humanizing the demons in the middle of the fight. When Tanjiro asks Daki whether there was ever anything human for her to cling on to, it’s almost as if he’s aware of the show’s usual formula, and Demon Slayer smartly keeps it vague with a few brief flashes of Daki’s tragic upbringing. I’m sure she’s suffered plenty, but she’s out of control and on the hunt now, and Tanjiro has to go past every limit he has in order to put her down.
Speaking of Tanjiro’s limits, I will say that I just can’t get behind how Demon Slayer chooses to insert “emotional” exposition into the middle of its action scenes. I’m sure plenty of folks will disagree with me, but I simply do not care about Rengoku’s deadbeat dad, and I was irritated when Demon Slayer interrupted such an amazing set piece to show me that he’s just really sorry for being a terrible father and all that. I get that it leads into Tanjiro’s moment of doubt regarding how his forehead scar is not the same symbol of a natural Fire Breather like his father’s birthmark was, but that’s one of those mechanical indulgences that shouldn’t be awkwardly crammed into some random mid-fight flashback. I know that it is a genre cliché, but just because other stories use the same tricks doesn’t excuse it from being sloppy writing.
The same thing goes for the corny dream visions of Tanjiro’s dead siblings. We don’t need them to understand that Tanjiro is pushing too far with a skill he’s barely begun to understand. The painfully empathetic animation and the excellent voice work from Natsuki Hanae communicate all of that better than any flashback or detour ever could. Also, for as much as I appreciated some of the funny faces we got in the brief cutaway to Inosuke, Uzui, and the others, I think episodes like “Layered Memories” don’t need such jarring shifts in tone. We can go without the goofy jokes for at least one week, Demon Slayer, I promise.
Those are minor flaws, though; or rather, when it comes to how Demon Slayer just isn’t very good at delivering exposition or strong character motivations, they are flaws that I have come to expect, and they don’t ruin the fun of the spectacle. Plus, the episode ends by finally letting Nezuko out of that goddamn box! Not only does she get to kick Daki’s skull into smithereens as a bonus, but our girl even bites off that silly muzzle and gets a power-up of her own. I’m not sold on how one of the visual highlights of this transformation is for Nezuko’s breasts to triple in size and start spilling out of her kimono, but I guess I’ll reserve some of my judgement to see if the show tries to play up the new body for cheap fanservice. I can roll with the idea that Nezuko would transform into a more mature and imposing form, but c’mon, y’all. The girl’s still, like, thirteen, right?
If it means that we can finally let Nezuko be a part of the damned anime for once in a blue moon, then I guess I’ll roll with whatever Demon Slayer has to do to, er, continue appealing to its target demographic, so long as we prioritize limb explosions and organ pulverizations over any attempts at leering fanservice. One thing is for sure: This episode will probably go down as one of Demon Slayer‘s finest moments, and I can’t wait to see if (and how) the series will top itself from here.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc is currently streaming on
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.