I know I’m late to the party, but I’m just getting into Demon Slayer. The anime, which debuted back in 2019, has really picked up steam lately, most notably because of the film, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which just recently arrived stateside after coming out in Japan back in 2020 (It also dethroned the Mortal Kombat reboot, no less, at the box office). So, since I got into the show so late, I binged the entire first season and have now decided what the 10 best episodes of the series are, thus far.
You may not agree with this list. But if you’re itching to watch the series for yourself, then it’s currently streaming alongside some other anime on Netflix. In fact, the only reason that I even watched the show in the first place was because one of my students proclaimed that it’s even BETTER than Attack on Titan. And while I wouldn’t quite agree with that assessment (They’re totally different shows, after all), I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this incredible first season, and I’m greatly looking for to Season 2, which is apparently coming out THIS YEAR. But until then, here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Demon Slayer. Minor spoilers up ahead.
10. “Master Of The Mansion”, Episode 22
There is a really incredible story arc of Demon Slayer that I’ll only touch upon here, but it involves an entire demon family. This arc pushes our hero, Tanjiro Kamado, to the brink, and it challenges him to a point where even I wasn’t sure if some of the heroes would survive (and I won’t spoil if they do or not. Just watch the series). Well, this episode, “Master of the Mansion” is after that incredible arc. Tanjiro is still recovering, but he’s also been doing something that is “Against Corps Rules”, which is the episode before this one, and he’s being punished for it, so to speak. Seeing his reactions to said punishment is what makes this episode one of the best.
We are also introduced to a slew of new demon slayers in this episode. You see, in this universe, demon slayers are the only people who are keeping demons from slaughtering all of humanity. Up to this point, we’ve only seen a few of the lower ranking slayers. But in this episode, we get to see the crème de la crème of the Demon Slayer Corps., and well… they’re all really weird! It kind of reminds me of the movie Moana when we first meet Maui and he’s this really conceited goofball rather than some intimidating demigod. My favorite of the slayers is Gyoumei Himejima, who is always crying. I’m sure he probably has an interesting backstory, but for now, he’s just the slayer who cries to me.
9. “Tsuguko, Kanao Tsuyuri”, Episode 25
The first season of Demon Slayer actually has some weird pacing that some people might not like, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. What I mean is, the climax of the first season actually comes several episodes before the last episode, which leads directly into the movie, Mugen Train. In this way, the series is kind of like Castlevania, which usually climaxed on the penultimate episode, leaving the final episode of the season to tie up loose ends. This is opposed to something like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which just overstuffed the last episode, leaving very little breathing room for plot.
This episode is so great because we see the culmination of all of Tanjiro’s training. He had been injured quite badly and he’s recovering with some strange exercises. But even after being put through the ringer, we see the final results and they’re great. This episode is also the penultimate episode of the season, and by this point, we feel that Tanjiro’s ready for whatever awaits him in the movie.
8. “Final Selection”, Episode 4
This is like The Hunger Games episode, but instead of hunting each other, prospective demon slayers are left in the woods to fight for their lives against demons. It’s as intense as it sounds!
One of the absolute joys of Demon Slayer is seeing all the wildly different demons. And this is the first episode where we get to see a really hideous one. We also get to see Tanjiro use the knowledge that he learned from his teacher, Urokodaki, who has a history with one of the demons left in the forest. As I said before, intense!
7. “Muzan Kibutsuji”, Episode 7
A demon has been absconding with young women, and nobody knows how it’s been happening. But through Tanjiro’s investigating, we learn that one of the demons may have learned a thing or two from Alex Mack when it comes to turning into a liquid. And if you got that reference, I love you.
This is a really thrilling episode because we get to see Tanjiro’s water breathing techniques put to the test in a way that feels totally unique, especially since Tanjiro eventually finds himself in water, which might not be the best place to trap a water breathing demon slayer. We also get a look at the series’ main antagonist, Muzan, who straight up looks like Michael Jackson in his “Smooth Criminal” period. Hoo!
6. “You Must Master A Single Thing”, Episode 17
The blond-haired Zenitsu is the kind of character you just love to hate. It’s not that he’s a villain or anything like that. It’s just that you want to slap him silly sometimes since he’s scared of everything. However, we learn to love Zenitsu in this episode once we see his backstory, which involves an old man who will never give up on him.
This is one of the episodes that really solidified my love for the show. It took a character I was annoyed with and changed my whole perspective on him, Breaking Bad style. But instead of liking him and then disliking him, a la Walter White, I went from hating Zenitsu, to wanting to give him a big old hug. Because that’s the power of Demon Slayer.
5. “Something More Important Than Life”, Episode 13
This is another Zenitsu episode in that he protects something (or someone) that Tanjiro holds near and dear to him. The thing is, Zenitsu is protecting this something (or someone) from a new character in a boar’s mask named Inosuke. This is particularly strange since demon slayers aren’t supposed to hurt other demon slayers, but Inosuke is going to town on Zenitsu, whooping his blond-haired ass!
This is a great episode because of all the different character dynamics involved. We learn a great deal about Inosuke, Zenitsu, and Tanjiro by how they respond to each other’s wildly different personalities, which makes each character feel all the more real and interesting. I love this show!
4. “The Boar Bares Its Fangs, Zenitsu Sleeps”, Episode 12
This is the episode that precedes “Something More Important Than Life”, and it’s straight up action all the way through. Tanjiro and Zenitsu get split up in an ever-shifting mansion, while a demon lurks about, flipping the house by beating a drum on his chest.
I love this episode though because Zenitsu does something so cool that I almost tripped off the stair machine at the gym when I saw it. A hint is in the title of the episode, which you don’t fully understand until he actually pulls it off, but it’s extremely unique, even for an anime as unique as Demon Slayer.
3. “Hinokami”, Episode 19
This episode is part of that awesome family arc I mentioned earlier. Tanjiro finds himself in a forest infested with spiders, and demon slayers are acting really funny there, attacking one another and almost acting like zombies. Something is amiss, but we soon find out the cause of it all in an unsuspecting character who feels that abuse is the best path toward love. Tanjiro obviously disagrees, of course.
This episode blows me away. Tanjiro is at death’s door and he really has to dig deep to get through this one. We get an excellent flashback of his father, dancing in the snow with fire, and then we see the most explosive, bombastic moment in the entire first season where Tanjiro gives everything he’s got to reach his victory. It’s awesome.
2. “Sabito and Makomo”, Episode 3
During his training to sever a boulder in half, which is Tanjiro’s last challenge before final selection, he meets two bizarre young people wearing masks. But are they who they appear to be? The answer is no. No, they are not. But what they are exactly is what makes this episode stand so high up on this list.
I was kind of on the fence with Demon Slayer with the first two episodes, but this was the one that truly drew me in. It’s kind of like Harry Potter. I hated the first movie, and I didn’t even bother with the second one. But I wound up seeing the third movie and fell absolutely in love with the series. This episode is almost poetic in its narrative, and it’s incredibly sad, but also empowering for Tanjiro. I would say it’s the best episode in the series, but there’s one more that I would put on top for the first season.
1. “Against Corp Rules”, Episode 21
“Against Corp Rules” absolutely breaks my heart. In this episode, we get to see a demon’s backstory and why he did all the things he did throughout this harrowing arc in the forest of spiders. I don’t want to say any more about it though since that would spoil it.
Okay, I’ll say a bit more. Tanjiro is different from other demon slayers since he empathizes with them, mostly because of what he has in the box on his back. We’d see glimpses of the demons’ lives before they became demons in earlier episodes, but this is the one that truly gets in the heart and psyche of one of the demons, and it really just gets me, especially in that final shot of him before he deteriorates like so much ash. Yes, Demon Slayer is just a cartoon, but this episode made me legit tear up. It’s that good.
So, those are the 10 best episodes of Demon Slayer for the first season, but what do you think? Sound off in the poll below. And for more great shows to binge, check out our 2021 Summer TV schedule. Because outside is hot, and staying inside to watch TV in the air conditioning is pretty (wait for it) cool sometimes.