Demon Slayer Season 4 Episode 4 Review – To Bring a Smile to One’s Face

Tanjiro's training under Mist Hashira, Tokito, turns into a laid back exercise that emphasizes happiness over hubris.

Demon Slayer Season 4 Episode 4 Tanjiro And Tokito Sword Fight
Photo: Crunchyroll

This Demon Slayer review contains spoilers.

“There are no do-overs in a fight against demons.”

Demon Slayer‘s Hashira Training Arc has been one of the anime’s most highly-anticipated seasons, which has made its subdued structure a strangely frustrating experience. It’s essential for shonen heroes to put in the work and learn how to overcome their limitations. It’s a formula that works best in small doses, rather than devoting an entire season to such prep work. In doing so, Demon Slayer’s fourth season operates like the inverse of its second and third seasons — both of which hinged on major battles that lasted for significant stretches of the season. In the case of Demon Slayer’s Swordsmith Village Arc, nearly the entire season was consumed by one huge multi-part assault. It’s smart for Demon Slayer to attempt to do something different, but this decision has opened the series up to even greater problems that run the risk of making this season feel the most inconsequential yet. 

There have never been higher stakes present in Demon Slayer, but stakes alone are not enough to keep an audience engaged. Ironically, Tokito’s speech about “no do-overs” and how you have to be your best at all times, without the luxury of second chances, is advice that Demon Slayer’s fourth season — particularly “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” — could stand to follow. Every episode needs to be the season’s best, as if it’s the series’ last. There are no do-overs.

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“To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” continues this Hashira Training Arc season’s formulaic structure where Tanjiro ping-pongs from one Hashira to the next as he attempts to learn a new lesson and improve upon his overall Demon Slayer skills. This approach could work if Tanjiro were mastering fundamental concepts in each lesson, like new breathing techniques and sword abilities, but they’ve instead been more incidental breakthroughs. Four episodes in, it’s a storytelling device that’s already drawing diminishing returns, which is even more problematic if this happens to be the season’s half-way mark. There have been fruitful reunions and touching character moments, but it still feels like the entire season could have been contained to its double-length premiere.

Each past Hashira reunion has been cathartic in its own way, but “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” stands to offer audiences the most by bringing Tanjiro back into Tokito’s orbit. Tokito was one of Demon Slayer’s standout characters in its previous Swordsmith Village Arc season and there’s an instantly affable energy to his reunion with Tanjiro. “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” emphasizes how much Tokito values Tanjiro’s company and the bright energy that he brings. Admittedly, a lot of this episode’s joy comes from the unrestrained jubilation of these two being together and how much they’re able to thrive off of one another’s positivity. There’s definitely a certain sect of Demon Slayer fans who will consider this episode to be a win, simply because it’s full of moments where Tokito beams, from ear to ear.

Tanjiro excelled through his previous Hashira training with Tengen. He struggles a little more in Tokito’s module, but this is still another scenario where he’s head of the class and leading the charge. “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” tries to crank up the sense of danger that’s present in these training episodes when Tokito suggests that sparring with real swords, rather than wooden bokken, would be a better motivator for the trainees. Tokito also consistently emphasizes the importance of having the sharpest sword, which functions as a broader allegory for how each Hashira has to be at their strongest and that even someone like Tanjiro can’t afford to be dull, even for a second. This lesson feels a little remedial, especially for those who have been in life-or-death battles against Demons. That being said, it does facilitate the sleek visual of a paper airplane getting sliced in half by an intimidating blade. It’s an effective, unique sequence that honestly feels like something from out of Kill Bill. 

“To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” creates a marginal mystery when it analyzes where Tokito goes each night and the life that he leads beyond Hashira training. Believe it or not, the answer happens to be more Hashira training, only this time for himself. Tokito routinely takes on both Sanemi and Obanai — the Wind and Serpent Hashira — which is easily the episode’s highlight and the most action-packed sequence. Demon Slayer’s focus on Sanemi and Obanai has been sparse, but they’ve still managed to become this season’s MVPs.

These two characters consistently deliver and “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” gets a lot of mileage out of how Tokito’s light-hearted energy completely contrasts with their vibes. This also teases Tanjiro’s inevitable training with these two Hashira and what lies ahead for the intrepid warrior. Demon Slayer’s signature visual spectacles haven’t been nearly as present this season. However, Sanemi and Obanai conjure really explosive displays of color that are easily the episode’s most creative and dynamic material.

On that note, the episode’s most exciting moment is when there’s actually some Demon action from Upper Rank 4 threat, Nakime, who’s seemingly replaced Hantengu after his execution last season. Demon Slayer’s Hashira Training Arc season continues to reinforce a less is more approach with its new threats. In this case, “less” translates to “barely anything” and it’d be helpful to get a little more with this villain — even if he just killed some random civilians. “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” banks on audiences being invested in the prospect of a deadly duel on the horizon while they trust this season’s decision to withhold conflict.

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The episode’s title, “To Bring A Smile to One’s Face,” is a reference to the joy that Tanjiro naturally brings to Tokito and the similarly euphoric experience that it triggers within him. Tokito longs for a strong team of fatal Demon Slayers, but what curiously puts a smile on his face is a reminder of life’s simple pleasures. This is beautifully illustrated through the episode’s climax, which isn’t some brutal battle, but rather an incredibly innocent paper airplane contest. Tokito and Tanjiro are both at their happiest during this sequence, which is incredibly sweet. Emotions are high, yet this doesn’t seem like the most productive change of pace for Tokito’s trainees. They’re liable to get slaughtered by Demons if they’re not pushed past their limits. A gentler teacher isn’t what they need right now. They won’t survive if they’re not truly challenged. It’s still nice that Tokito can have a pure, unadulterated moment of bliss if this is the calm before the storm and the Demon Slayer Corps has serious casualties in its future. Isn’t that what life is all about?

“To Bring A Smile to One’s Face” is rich in sweet character moments and powerful catharsis, but this is still ultimately an episode that stalls time in what feels like a heavily padded Demon Slayer season. It’s clear that Demon Slayer wants to spend some time with its heroes and properly build tension before it delivers on all this. However, it still feels like there are better and more efficient ways to tell this story. What are Inosuke and Zenitsu up to? Having either of them alongside Tanjiro would make such a difference and their absence opens this season up to the same shortcomings that held back the Swordsmith Village Arc. Demon Slayer has a rich cast of characters who shouldn’t feel like unnecessary afterthoughts. It’s a problem when Kasugai Crow gets more screen time than 3/4 of the main characters. Demon Slayer’s fourth season continues to march forward — it just needs to mix up its tempo and route a little more.

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3 out of 5