Demon Slayer season 4, episode 1 review: "Comes perilously close to the dreaded f-word – filler – at times"

GamesRadar+ Verdict

While the extra-long premiere doesn’t always make the most of its time, the opening to the Hashira Training arc provides just enough compelling story beats to keep fans coming back for more

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Demon Slayer’s fourth season, an adaptation of the Hashira Training arc from Koyoharu Gotouge’s all-conquering manga, is here. As anime series go, it’s undoubtedly one of the biggest and most hotly anticipated of the year – but does it live up to the hype?

Things start promisingly enough for the extra-long 48-minute premiere. The Wind and Serpent Hashiras undertake a rescue mission that soon morphs into an intriguing tease of what’s to come as they come oh-so-close to uncovering the entrance to Big Bad Muzan Kibutsuji’s Infinity Castle. However, their chase of a lowly threat ultimately proves fruitless as the door to the demon headquarters quite literally slams shut in their face.

As openings go, it’s exactly the sort of breathless, story-centric gambit Demon Slayer should be aiming for. It’s also an original anime scene, once again proving that animation studio Ufotable knows exactly when to stretch out or cut the source material to play to its strengths; in this case – Ufotable’s always-excellent action animation.

Unfortunately, the first five minutes is the episode’s high point. ‘To Defeat Muzan Kibutsuji’ is glacially paced, dealing mostly with Tanjiro’s post-Swordsmith Village recovery and setting up events to come.

Long-time fans will know that Demon Slayer’s arc-openers are typically slow and effectively amount to place-setting, but that sort of rhythm and predictable shape starts to wear thin after over 50 episodes.

Speaking of testing patience, your mileage may seriously vary with how much of the in-your-face humour from the likes of Inosuke and Zenitsu are crammed in here, especially with the latter missing for the bulk of last season.

Personally, I don’t find it too jarring – though the balance between the serious stylings of Tanjiro’s continuing hunt for the ones who killed his family and the goofy, wacky shenanigans of the side cast don’t always mesh as well as you might hope. 

In truth, the hot-headed Hotaru’s quick interaction with Tanjiro – gifting him a new sword emblazoned with a tribute to Rengoku’s hilt while simultaneously remonstrating with our hero – is about as effective as that blend of styles gets and it a welcome moment that helps elevate the opening episode of the Hashira Training arc.

Training day

Demon Slayer season 4 episode 2

(Image credit: ©Koyoharu Gotoge / SHUEISHA, Aniplex, ufotable)

The amount of relative downtime in the Demon Slayer season 4 premiere, though, does allow the intriguing tidbits we do get to truly shine.

The Hashira meeting, chaired by a dying Kagaya’s wife Amane, is one such moment. At once, it offers up breadcrumbs leading towards the endgame, while also kickstarting the arc by outlining plans to train the next generation of the Demon Slayer Corps in their battle against Muzan and the Twelve Kizuki. The mentions of the peculiar markings on each elite demon slayer’s face should certainly perk the ears up of manga and non-manga readers alike.

The end reveal featuring Tamayo being enlisted for a task with the Insect Hashira also creates a fresh dynamic and one that, crucially, has an eye towards moving the series forward instead of artificially extending the show’s lifespan across multiple years and seasons.

Oddly enough, that’s where my main concerns with the premiere episode lie: not within the content itself, but with what’s to come.

A cursory glance at the manga arc suggests that this is going to be a far shorter season more in line with Mugen Train. But where that had a unique location, compelling narrative, and one of the all-time great anime battles at its end, Hashira Training takes the shape more of a pit-stop on the way to the main destination rather than anything hugely worthwhile in its own right.

Demon Slayer season 4 episode 2

(Image credit: ©Koyoharu Gotoge / SHUEISHA, Aniplex, ufotable)

The montage of training in the premiere, too, almost could have been enough. How Ufotable will stretch this out into a full (or even half-length) season is anyone’s guess, but this episode (and by definition this season) comes perilously close to the dreaded f-word – filler – at times.

After a slight stumble of a season at the Swordsmith Village, the last thing Demon Slayer needs to do is stall for time and lose momentum. The shadow of the likes of peers Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man are growing longer by the day; Demon Slayer risks falling a little by the wayside if it continues to buy time before the final arc.

Despite its flaws, Demon Slayer’s return is still a welcome one. Tanjiro remains the beating heart of the series and among anime’s most likeable and affable protagonists in a medium swamped with brooding swordsmen. The sprinkling of teases are also well placed, providing just enough of a reason for lapsed fans to stick around for the rest of the Hashira Training arc.

Some questions – the pacing, the content of the arc, and how long the season will be – will be answered in due course. For now, Hashira Training kicks off the first step towards Demon Slayer’s finale in fine enough fashion.

Demon Slayer season 4 airs weekly on Crunchyroll. For more, check out the Demon Slayer season 4 release schedule and our guide on how to watch Demon Slayer in order.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.