Demon Slayer season 3 is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Demon Slayer had a surprising, meteoric rise to anime superstardom. Koyoharu Gotouge's original manga was a bit of a sleeper hit, but once ufotable's anime adaptation came out, both quickly rose to become juggernauts in their medium, with the manga becoming a best-seller and the anime becoming one of the biggest shows in years — with good reason. This is quintessential shonen storytelling: a simple, uncomplicated, yet flashy story with some interesting expanding mythology, lots and lots of comedy, and of course, some stunningly beautiful action full of popping colors and striking effects.
By now it is clear that Demon Slayer has a formula. Like many shonen anime, it resets every season with an episode that both recaps what happened while slowly teasing what is to come. In its third season premiere, Demon Slayer does this, but before the table setting, we get a phenomenal opening sequence that once again brings the villains together to raise the stakes and increase tension.
Demon Slayer Season 3 Screenshots
For the first time in over 100 years an Upper Rank demon has been slain, finally turning the tables on the stalemate between the Demon Slayers and their immortal enemies, so the remaining Upper Six (well, five now) demons gather in the Infinity Castle of Muzan Kibutsuji, a standout location for the show at large. This is a beautifully designed and executed place, marked by a labyrinthian building of endless corridors and stairs that lead nowhere, a Taishō Period version of M. C. Escher's Relativity painting. It effectively captures the eclectic collection of demons that gather within. This is a highly effective scene that sets the mood for the rest of the episode, with complex camera movements and rotating walls and floors that would make Christopher Nolan salivate. Aiding in the otherworldliness of the sequence is biwa music that cuts into the score and raises the tension while also literally impacting the look of the actual set in some moments of encroaching danger.
The Infinity Castle of Muzan Kibutsuji is a standout location for the show at large.
In the first 17 minutes of this hour-long episode, the episode introduces all the Upper Rank demons, each with different and unique designs by Akira Matsushima and personalities that pop off the screen. Some of the best moments in Demon Slayer are when we get to know the backstory of the demons and see them as more than monsters, and this opening sequence does some great work in making each villain distinct and intriguing, even if they don't appear in the rest of the episode.
We also learn about their dynamics and relationships, which helps make the end goal of the show more concrete and less vague and nebulous. We essentially get both an epilogue to the big fight of last season, while also setting the stake for what is likely to be a much more dangerous story going forward, as the villains are now feeling threatened and are out for blood.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn't live up to these first minutes. The middle part is mostly just downtime and forced comic relief that undercuts the tension, but that has always been a part of Demon Slayer, for better and worse. Some of it does work, like Inosuke being worried about Tanjiro but hiding it under his feral macho behavior, but the majority of the jokes fall flat.
The last third of the episode is pure table setting, but it is effective at making us feel the danger of what is to come. It does a good job of making the stakes clear and communicating the importance of the titular swordsmith village that Tanjiro goes to in order to once again repair his sword for the entire Demon Slayer corps. Tensions are running higher than ever and there is a sense of dread across the episode, like there is something wrong and things will only get worse from here.
Interestingly, the premiere also splits the party, so if you're like me and don't like Zenitsu for his annoying personality and lackluster humor, this might be a welcome sight. Instead, Tanjiro is alone with a new group of Hashira mentors who are likely to suffer because of it. We barely see them, sadly, but it should make for some different dynamics and character development as Tanjiro gets stronger.
Demon Slayer returns for a third season premiere that is equal parts frustrating and exhilarating. After a phenomenal opening sequence featuring the villains with some stunning visuals, the hour-long premiere spends a little too much time on forced jokes and table setting rather than keeping the story moving. Still, that table setting is effective, creating a sense of dread and raising the stakes for the rest of the season.