By Koyoharu Gotouge
This week’s chapter heightens the stakes and tension in the ongoing conflict, and Gotouge is hitting readers with a doozy. Continuing off her insecurities from previous chapter, Shinobu reflects on her past and her reason to become a demon slayer in the first place. Despite her physical strength, she wanted to be able to protect those around her, so that they do not have to experience the same loss that she had to live through as a child. She also recalls the time when Tanjiro sensed that she was angry, and admits that the countless death of her loved ones has led her to feel like she is always in this emotional state. As mentioned in a previous review, it’s nice to see this other side to Shinobu as we start to understand that the positivity she emotes is in fact a guise to hide the inner turmoil that lingers within her. As things jump back to the battle in progress, Doma has survived Shinobu’s poison once again and proceeds to squeeze Shinobu to death in his arms. Doma’s monologue during this portion is quite a disturbing, crying tears of joy at Shinobu’s efforts and decides to “reward” her by making a part of himself. This leads to the biggest shocker of the chapter as Doma seemingly kills Shinobu and absorbs her into his body as Kanao races to the room.
Even after having time to reflect on this twist, it’s hard for me to narrow down my exact feelings on it. Among the Hashira, Shinobu has the biggest presence in the story with the exception of Giyu, so to see her die so early in this final battle feels a bit disappointing. That being said, it also opens up the battle to number of new possibilities, and emphasizes that Gotouge won’t be pulling any punches moving forward. Kanao goes into a fit of rage after seeing her master’s death and begins to attack Doma, but Doma is not intimidated by her presence and is merely happy to see another human to feed on. So far in the series, we haven’t seen Kanao in an actual fight, making it unclear whether she’ll be able to handle Doma on her own. Though considering how Shinobu fared in her battle, it’s clear that this won’t be an easy obstacle for her to overcome. The chapter finally ends with our focus shifting back to Zenitsu as he comes face to face with his old peer Kaigaku, who now appears to be a demon as well as the new Rank Six Kizuki.
Gotouge’s art is as fantastic as always this week, and Doma is one of the biggest highlights. Doma has been a source of some freakishly disturbing facial expressions in the last few weeks, but here it really sinks in how far gone is from humanity. The sequence of panels as we see him kill Shinobu with such an innocent expression on his face brings chills down the spine, and his quick transition to a cheerful demeanor when Kanao attacks him shows how his strength is not the only thing to be feared. Praise also has to be given to Kanao’s reaction to Shinobu’s death. Kanao has generally been presented as quite reserved, rarely expressing genuine emotion. Seeing her master die before her eyes seems to have been a tipping point for that emotional barrier, as she is fuming to finish what her master started.
With the death of Shinobu and the appearance of a new Kizuki, Demon Slayer is going in an unexpected direction, but an interesting one nonetheless. Kanao is also going to have her hands full with Doma, but I’m looking forward to finally seeing her fight in an actual battle and if she can defeat such a fierce opponent. Zenitsu is also in a tough situation as well, and one that deeply ties into his past. Given his expression in the final shot of the chapter, it clear that Zenitsu has some animosity towards Kaigaku, so I’m curious to see what happens between the two as they face off. Gotouge has once again delivered a chapter filled to the brim with intense emotions and twists, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for readers next week.