Demon Slayer season 3 episode 6: Unstoppable force meets immovable objects
Victory is further away than it might have seemed.
Warning: Spoilers for Demon Slayer season 3 episode 6 ahead.
In the opening moments of Demon Slayer season 3 episode 6, Aren’t You Going to Become a Hashira?, victory looks close at hand for Tanjiro and co; it seemed as if between their combined efforts, and the power of Tanjiro’s new sword, they had decapitated each head of Hantengu’s emotion demons.
But this victory would have come at a price; Genya was run through on the spear of the blue-eyed sadness demon. But victory, and defeat, are further away than they might have seemed.
Each of the aspects of Hantengu slowly regenerate; and in this moment it becomes clear that there’s another demon somewhere in hiding. The original form of Hantengu — frail, cowering, afraid — is hidden somewhere in the grass, and as long as he survives, then his stronger clones will be able to keep regenerating.
Even as Tanjiro and Genya attempt to find and dispatch this fifth demon, the task proves impossible: Genya’s sword is unable to slash the tiny demon, and it breaks on contact. This tension runs throughout the episode: as unstoppable forces collide into seemingly immovable objects, one of which is Genya himself.
He’s able to survive his early-episode impaling in a similar fashion to Nezuko — who also meets with the business end of a spear in this brutal episode — and between this and his dark eyes and gnashing teeth, the question of just what Genya is lingers in the air throughout the episode.
In what might be his final moment, he thinks to himself “I can’t regenerate my head,” which means that this Demon Slayer may in fact be a demon himself. But it’s in these drawn out moments as Genya might face his fate, that we learn more about the character.
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His fraught relationship with his brother, Wind Hashira Sanemi Shinazugawa, is cast into stark relief as Genya recalls the traumas of his childhood, and the things that set him on the path towards the Demon Slayer corp. One of seven children, Genya recalls the love he had for his mother — a woman he describes as having a tiny body, but who would always protect her children from the rages of her towering, abusive husband.
One night, she’s out too late and Sanemi goes to look for her. When she returns to the family home — as a large, looming shadow seen through the wall by Genya and all his other siblings — it’s revealed that she’s a demon, and as each of the younger siblings rushes to see their mother, she tears through the house, leaving death in her wake. Only Genya and Sanemi survive. This scene is a stark reminder of just how unforgiving Demon Slayer can be, and fills present day Genya with regret over the fact that he called his brother a murderer for killing their mother.
Genya survives his encounter with Hantengu’s clones; at the last moment Tanjiro arrives to fend off the spear aimed at Genya’s neck, only for the sadness demon to launch an attack from another angle, one that Genya takes as fully as possible. Bloodied, and cut to ribbons, he stands as strong as possible before saying that “just this once” he’ll let Tanjiro have victory, almost begging him to find and decapitate the fifth villain. This moment casts Genya in a fascinating new light; protecting Tanjiro in the same way that his mother protected him, as he holds onto the idea of becoming a Hashira in order to see his brother again set things right.
It’s a shame then, that the rest of the episode can’t be as compelling as the revelations surrounding Genya. There’s a lot of time that either he or Tanjiro spend chasing around the tiny Hantengu, and other than a brief return to the scene, Tokito and Gyokko are essentially on pause. And while it wouldn’t be reasonable to have every episode return to every plot thread, Genya’s story in this episode does so much heavy lifting, that it makes each cut away from him feel a little like the air is being taken out of the episode.
There’s something cyclical about ‘Aren’t You Going to Become a Hashira?’ Whether it’s the similarities between Genya and Nezuko; those between Genya and his mother; or even the episode itself. It both begins and ends with Genya on the verge of sacrificing himself in the fight against demons, a sacrifice that takes on a new meaning based on what we’ve seen. The problem is that there are times when the episode is literally running in circles, or returning to scenes simply to remind viewers that they’re happening.
It’s frustrating because when this episode is good, it's great; it at once offers new layers of depth to Genya while also keeping the audience on their toes about whether or not he’s a demon, and how much Tanjiro can trust him. Some of the great emotional power of Demon Slayer comes from these questions — Nezuko’s relationship to the demonic has been a frequent point of both tension and empathy — as it continually asks us to redefine the kind of characters that we might think of as being monsters.
Demon Slayer season 3 is available to stream on Crunchyroll with new episodes dropping weekly.