Warning: This article contains Demon Slayer spoilers.
Since it began airing in 2019, Demon Slayer has become one of the most popular anime series of all-time, faithfully adapting the manga of the same name created by Koyoharu Gotouge. While much of its popularity is centered in Japan, it’s quickly become a worldwide phenomenon and one of the highest-grossing media franchises in history.
Although the manga wrapped up in 2020, the anime is going strong; the third season of Demon Slayer finished airing just last month (and the finale crashed Crunchyroll to boot) while the fourth season – an adaptation of the Hashira Training Arc – was recently confirmed. Ufotable’s anime adaptation has been praised by fans for its art style, acting, and direction, leading it to amass a dedicated viewership.
While I’m arguably late to the party (I’d only seen a few episodes of the first season until I recently decided to binge the whole show), fans have been singing Demon Slayer‘s praises for a while now. The show is already shaping up to be a true shonen classic, complete with endearing protagonists, cool battle sequences, and enemies who are defeated by the power of friendship. While we wait for Demon Slayer‘s hiatus to end, let’s take a look at the 10 best episodes so far.
10. “Together Forever” (Season 1, Episode 10)
This episode opens with Tanjiro delivering the finishing blow during his battle with Yahaba, despite sustaining multiple life-threatening injuries in the process. Nezuko further demonstrates her seemingly inherent demon strength by keeping up with Sasumaru. This is the first time we see how Muzan’s curse affects the demons he’s created; when Sasumaru slips up and mentions him by name, she is quickly destroyed from within in a scene reminiscent of Alien.
While the fight scenes are cool, the thing that makes me enjoy this episode is the end when Netzuko embraces Tamayo and Yushiro after the battle. She’s under hypnotic suggestion to see humans as her family, but considers the two odd demons to be human. I feel like this scene really fits the tone of the show, and seeing Tamayo’s reaction to someone validating her humanity is heartwarming.
9. “A Forged Bond” (Season 1, Episode 18)
Following an episode dedicated to Zenitsu’s character development, Inosuke gets a chance to shine while the battle between Tanjiro and Rui begins. Tanjiro discovers Rui abusing his sister in the name of a “dispute between family,” and is enraged that Rui would say a bond formed out of fear and hatred was the same as being family. When we see Rui destroy another Slayer Corps member in a single stroke, we know Tanjiro is in for his biggest battle yet.
Meanwhile, Inosuke is battling the Father of the family, a giant man with a spider head. Initially unable to hurt the demon, Inosuke begins to think about ways to become stronger immediately. Then he realizes that’s his problem; thinking isn’t the way he does things. Inosuke really brute forces his way into harming the demon and even though he must be saved in the end, I like that each protagonist is different from one another.
8. “Layered Memories” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Not only do we get to see Tanjiro change up his fighting style and go berserk against Daki during this battle, we also unlock a little more lore. During the battle, Daki taunts Tanjiro and hurts innocent townspeople, spurring Tanjiro to go beyond his limits. It’s always satisfying to watch the protagonist level up during a battle with a villain out of their league and seeing Tanjiro remind Muzan’s cells of Yoriichi is fun to watch. Tanjiro almost overdoes himself here and would’ve lost his life, if not for his little sister.
I’m always happy to see Netsuko go a little berserk herself and watching Daki underestimate her, only for her to go full demon and hold her own is fun. Bonus points to this episode for Inosuke happily swimming through underground tunnels.
7. “Once We’ve Defeated the Upper Rank Demons” (Season 2, Episode 16)
This episode is a roller coaster. First, we see some Tengen backstory and learn more about his dynamic with his family and his wives, and the promise he made to them before beginning this final mission. We also see the fight with the two demons get even more serious, before a cliffhanger leaves things on a dire note.
One of the highlights of this episode is Tanjiro combining Water Breathing with Hinokami Kagura for the first time. Like nearly all of the fight animation, this is stunning to watch in the anime after first reading it in the manga. Speaking of fight animation, my favorite part of this episode is watching Inosuke and Zenitsu work together to fight Daki, and Inosuke’s joy at beheading her, is oddly endearing.
6. “A Connected Bond: Daybreak and First Light” (Season 3, Episode 11)
The finale of season three was over 50 minutes long, and worth every minute. While the Swordsmith Village arc was not a long one, it’s certainly memorable; many fans had reported feeling underwhelmed with some of the season’s earlier episodes, but this cinematic finale was a perfect way to end the arc. After battling not one but two upper-level demons, Tanjiro pulled through and defeated Upper Moon 4 after finding his true body.
While the Kazan and Tamayo scenes were great setup for the next season, the highlight of this episode is Netsuko. As the sun begins to rise, both Tanjiro and Netsuko believe she will burn in the sun and Tanjiro is unable to leave his sister in order to save the villagers. Netsuko makes the decision for her brother and chooses to sacrifice herself so that he can defeat the demon at last. While it works out in the end, it’s an emotional scene.
5. “The Mu in Muichiro” (Season 3, Episode 8)
While nearly every character in Demon Slayer has a tragic backstory, Muichiro’s was probably one of the saddest to watch. The Mist Hashira began the season as a rather cold-hearted character, and was revealed to have amnesia following something that had happened in his past.
In this episode, it’s revealed that Muichiro had a twin brother, Yuichiro, who he lived with after they lost both their parents on the same day. Yuichiro was harshly pessimistic compared to the positive Muichiro and the two frequently argued. Tragically, Muichiro loses Yuichiro in a demon attack and Muichiro loses much of his kind personality while repressing his trauma. Despite this, the Mist Hashira remembers his brother’s dying words and recognizes that kindness is his strength.
4. “Set Your Heart Ablaze” (Season 2, Episode 7)
The Mugen Train arc let us get to know Rengoku as a character, and the Flame Hashira quickly became a fan favorite. Just when it seemed like the arc was wrapping up, a new foe appears; in this episode, Rengoku steps up to battle the Upper Rank demon Akaza in order to protect his friends and the train passengers. It’s our first time seeing such a high-level fight and the battle sequences are absolutely gorgeous (I know I sound like a broken record, but they are).
Rengoku’s fighting spirit and determination to not let anyone die proves how good of a mentor he would’ve been for the younger demon slayers. Even though his flame burned out too quickly, he lit a blaze in the ones he left behind and accomplished his mission.
3. “You Must Master a Single Thing” (Season 1, Episode 17)
Up until this point, it was easy to dismiss Zenitsu as a weakling — heck, even he didn’t believe in himself. When he found himself lost in a forest surrounded by spiders with human-like features and no idea where his friends had ventured off to, things were about as bad as they could be. They soon get worse; Zenitsu realizes he was bitten by a spider and would soon turn into one himself.
We’d seen that Zenitsu was capable of destroying a demon but only when he’s scared to the point of falling unconscious; in the previous instance, it’s almost played off as a gag, albeit a very cool one. This time, we get to see some of Zenitsu’s backstory and understand why he has such low self-confidence. When Zenitsu pulls through and destroys the spider demon, it’s hard not to feel proud of him (it helps that it’s a beautifully animated scene as well).
2. “Hinokami” (Season 1, Episode 19)
“Hinokami” is generally agreed to be one of, if not, the best episodes in the entire series, and with good reason. After Netsuko jumps in front of Tanjiro in order to save his life, Rui realizes he wants a true sibling bond like theirs; he reasons forcing Netsuko to be his sister will give him the family he so desires. Neither Netsuko nor Tanjiro are willing to acquiesce so easily but they are both clearly outmatched by Rui, the first legitimate member of the 12 Kizuki we’ve met so far.
It’s common in shonen anime for protagonists to overcome a life-threatening situation through sheer willpower and determination to protect their loved ones; this fits in with that trope, but does so in one of the most beautiful and emotionally resonant ways I’ve seen in any anime. Watching Tanjiro use the breathing technique his father taught him to help him overcome Rui as well as seeing Netsuko use her Blood Art for the first time to protect her brother is absolutely some of the most stunning animation from the last decade. Episodes like this really demonstrate why Demon Slayer is so popular.
1. “I Will Never Give Up” (Season 2, Episode 17)
After being badly defeated by Gyutaro, Tanjiro wakes up to find what can only be described as a nightmare. His companions have been left for dead — Uzui and Inosuke are losing their lives to poison, Zenitsu is pinned under pieces of a building — and he’s the only one assumed to have survived the onslaught. Even though he’s facing what are probably some of the worse odds in history, Tanjiro attempts to pull through and sever Gyutaro’s neck, pushing himself way past his physical limits. There’s something to be said about the shonen trope of heroes who remain resilient even when they’re facing situations way out of their league; watching the underdog win feels all the more satisfying when it happens.
Even though Tanjiro’s fellow demon slayers’ reappearances feel kinda like deus ex machina, I don’t watch anime for a realistic time; I watch it for a good time. And this is a good time — it feels redundant to stress how beautiful the fight sequences are, but Demon Slayer is really giving movie-level animation in nearly every episode. After the previous defeat, the victory over Gyutaro and Daki feels earned, and I can’t lie that I love how Zenitsu and Inosuke were instrumental in assuring that victory. It’s really just a perfect episode.