Fresh out of a several-month-long coma, Tanjiro and the gang are back for Demon Slayer’s 3rd Season, this time adapting the relatively short Swordsmith Village Arc. The new season kicks off with a double-length feature episode that is definitely needed to cover the fallout from Season 2’s epic finale. This first episode perfectly establishes the past and future whereabouts of the side characters we’ve fallen in love with, whilst teasing the intriguing backstories of characters we have yet to meet, and greatly expands the worldbuilding to expose the logistics and intricacies of maintaining a secret Demon Slaying Corps.
The first thing fans will notice in the new episode is the extreme upgrade in the graphics and animation quality. While Demon Slayer has never had ‘bad’ animation, there was nothing particularly special about the quality and style of Season 1. As the series has grown in popularity (and correspondingly in budget), the animation has grown with it. The Mugen Train Arc/Movie already greatly improved on the artistry of the 1st Season. Then the Entertainment District Arc took fight animation to new levels, with the stunning battle between Tanjiro, Tenzin, and the Upper 6 Demon(s) Daki and Gyutaro helping the show win Crunchroll’s ‘Best Animation’ award at the 2023 Anime of the Year Awards. While there are no city-destroying fights in this first episode, the 40+ minute feature opens with a beautifully intricate scene in Muzin’s Infinity Castle. The destruction of Muzin’s lab equipment, which truly highlights the cinematic quality Season 3 is aiming for, is only the cherry on top of the intricate structural design of the setting. The large remainder of the episode then refers back to the cartoonish style found in the manga, to accentuate the comedic elements of Tanjiro’s recovery and overly elaborate journey to the Swordsmith Village for a new weapon. The episode makes the right call to not overexpose viewers to the luxurious animation in the opening scene, as the animators are teasing the gorgeous action choreography and cinematography in the episodes to come.
Like the Mugen Train Arc and the Entertainment District Arc before it, the Swordsmith Village Arc will continue to flesh out the nine Hashira, this time focusing on Mitsuri - the Love Hashira - and Muichiro - the Mist Hashira. Mitsuri is introduced in a rather apt, if not objectifying, way, showing the female Demon Slayer bathing in the village's hot springs. In accordance with her title, Mitsuri is an overtly sexual, and sexualised character, who brings much-needed light-heartedness and comic relief to the series, following the stressful events of the Entertainment District Arc. The first episode also gives the hilarious reveal that, while most Demon Slayers join the Corps to avenge family and loved ones, Mitsuri has joined to fall in love with the strongest man possible, which likely explains her revealing outfit. Muichiro is given a far more ominous introduction, being shown talking to the most powerful of the Twelve Kizuki (Upper Demons), which leads to the most exciting reveal in this first episode.
During a coma dream/flashback, we see a man wearing Tanjiro's iconic green and black Kimono talking to a swordsman who looks eerily similar to the most powerful Kizuki Demon. The swordsman, whose name has not yet been revealed, also wears the same signature earrings as Tanjiro. Without spoiling future plot points, they are both significant members of Tanjiro's backstory. The swordsman shares his misery and regret towards not saving the people he loved. The man in Tanjiro's kimono then tells him that he saved their lives, and he should be happy about every life he saves. Images of this character, both in human and demon form, have flooded Instagram since Season 2 concluded, with many manga fans hotly anticipating the character's arrival. Given the character's appearance, from his matching earrings to his hair colour and similar scar, many not in the know expected him to be revealed as Tanjiro's father. However, this scene puts multiple fan theories into disarray and opens up many new possibilities for the future of the series.
One complaint Demon Slayer has frequently received is in regard to its pacing. Mimicking 90s and 00s anime like Naruto and Hajime no Ippo!, some Demon Slayer fights can stretch multiple episodes, with some commenting that they go on longer than necessary. The decision to make this first episode a double-length feature was wise. Although there are no battles in this episode, the first half of it is consumed by the scene at the Infinity Castle, with the second half of the episode following Tanjiro as he explores the Swordsmith Village. Had these been split into two episodes with a week's gap between them, the opening to Season 3 would have felt less like an intrigue-filled bang, and more like a slow-burning tease, which would have likely lost many casual fans.
The Swordsmith Village Arc promises plenty of twists and turns ahead, as well as intricately crafted action sequences that feature stunning animation, which could help this, already stellar, Shounen series reach new heights and expand its hold further on Anime pop culture.