Courtesy of Aniplex of USA

Since its premiere in 2019, “Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,” based on the manga by Koyoharu Gotouge, has become one of the most-discussed anime series in recent years. In an attempt to reach a larger audience for its first film, “Mugen Train Arc,” the anime series began by re-airing the movie into individual episodes weekly, finally leading into a new plot in the “Entertainment District Arc.”

The “Mugen Train Arc” places the protagonists: Tanjiro, Nezuko, Zenitsu, Inosuke and a member of the Hashira, Rengoku, on a train to find and eliminate the demon responsible for numerous missing passengers. In many ways, this arc dives deeper into the world of blood demon art, showcasing the appearingly limitless powers that demons can possess as they practice blood art. In an attempt to seize total control over the demon slayers before they could even face him, Enmu, a lower rank demon, places them into a dream-like trance, where the characters live out their most desired fantasies.

Though humor is a large aspect of Zenitsu and Inosuke’s dreams, Tanjiro’s trance forces him into directly confronting his grief. After the slaughter of his family, Tanjiro has never had a proper moment to address his grief as he has mainly focused on protecting his sister-turned-demon, Nezuko. In this dream, Tanjiro returns to living his normal life with his family. Attempting to escape his dream becomes a struggle of letting go of his family and accepting his grief. Tanjiro and the others ultimately prevail and kill Enmu only to face their first upper rank demon, Akaza.

In the conclusion of the “Mugen Train Arc,” audiences witness an intense battle between Rengoku and Akaza through beautiful animation that showcases Rengoku’s flame breathing technique and aura. Throughout the battle, the two seem to be equal in strength, yet Rengoku sadly succumbs to the injuries inflicted upon him. Though Rengoku dies, he doesn’t necessarily lose the battle, considering it was more so a clash of two ideals. Akaza attempts to persuade Rengoku into becoming a demon, yet Rengoku holds steady and fulfills his duty of saving all those aboard the Mugen Train while being at a disadvantage. Akaza is only able to flee due to his inhuman ability to detach and regenerate his arms, showcasing the advantage demons have over the demon slayers. The moral weight of this battle and Rengoku’s death feeds into a stronger sense of anger within Tanjiro toward the demons and pushes him into an even deeper state of grief, as he is frustrated by his inexperience and inability to fight alongside his comrade to prevent his death.

Leading into the “Entertainment District Arc,” Tanjiro and his fellow demon slayers lay undercover to scout out the situation and to uncover the identity of the demon wreaking havoc on civilians within the district. During a battle between the belt demon and Tanjiro, Nezuko awakens from her healing slumber to aid her brother, and she transforms into a stronger state and battles the belt demon on equal footing.

Throughout the series, it’s been unclear the depth to which Nezuko’s humanity has remained intact. Battling the belt demon feeds into her demon instincts, gets a hold of her innate bloodlust and awakens all that she has fought to forbid herself from becoming. This extreme situation allows her demon self to prevail over the human emotions she still retains, and she nearly attacks a human. Tanjiro stops her by singing a lullaby that their mother once did, and Nezuko regresses from her transformation and begins to sob. This is one of the main moments where Nezuko actually displays her grief, as it was previously unclear whether she has ever actually processed the loss of her family.

The inward struggle that Nezuko has gone through in the anime so far blurs the lines of the distinction between humanity and demons. In doing so, it foreshadows a possible return to her past self, which is Tanjiro’s ultimate goal for his sister.

Verdict: The new story arcs of “Demon Slayer” are delivering intense fight scenes while also pushing the boundaries of how grief is represented. These episodes alone highlight the difficult journeys that Tanjiro and Nezuko will each experience as they seek to prevail in the dark world of blood and death.