WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba #205.1 by Koyoharu Gotouge, John Werry and John Hunt, now available in English from Viz Media.
Rejoice Demon Slayer fans! Though the manga has ended, we still have the upcoming movie to look forward to and, now, a special one-shot, which features Rengoku before he took up the illustrious mantle of the Flame Hashira.
Few characters made as strong of an impact on fans, Tanjiro Kamado and the series' as a whole than Kyojuro Rengoku. The cheerfully enthusiastic Flame Hashira embodies everything there is to strive for within the Demon Slayer Corp. His untimely sacrifice serves as a massive turning point for Tanjiro and is often a source of inspiration for other Demon slayers.
The special one-shot chapter opens with Rengoku's father declaring he will be the last Flame Hashira, claiming that Rengoku and his younger brother, Senjuro, lack the talent to rise to the task. Left wondering if hard work and a desire to help others is overshadowed by immense skill, Rengoku sets out on his first mission. Before Rengoku leaves, he praises Senjuro's dedication to his training, which prompts the younger brother to say he aims to be just like him. Though seemingly innocuous, this statement reminds Rengoku of an old friend.
Rengoku Before Becoming the Flame Hashira
Rengoku and an unnamed Demon Slayer had finished their final selection examinations together, and each wanted to do their best by saving as many people as possible. However, even at that moment, Rengoku had a sense of foreboding that his friend would die. He wondered if that feeling of inevitable death caused his father to grow so cold towards his children, but knows that only his father has the real reason.
During Rengoku's first mission, he encounters a smug, flute-wielding Demon surrounded by Demon Slayer and civilian corpses. Among them is Rengoku's friend, who died protecting the two others that were behind him. An enraged Rengoku charges forward with a fiery swing, but the taunting Demon dodges, unleashing his ear-piercing flute and summoning two vicious wolves too. While Rengoku quickly covers his ears with both hands, the Demon revels in his presumed victory.
The Demon's flute disrupts the nervous system, confusing the body and making it difficult to move. Without a way to cover the sound of the flute's notes and swing a sword against the wolves, Rengoku seems at a stark disadvantage. While ignoring the Demon's continued boasts, Rengoku's mind focuses on what truly defines a person as he gazes at his fallen friend. As Rengoku describes it, life is a series of decisions that don't offer unlimited options or the time to make them, meaning what you choose in that instant defines who you are.
Rengoku Defeats the Flute Demon
Though seemingly on the ropes, Rengoku unleashes another combination of blazing swings that seamlessly bring down the Demon and his wolves. As the Demon disintegrates, he realizes that when Rengoku covered his ears, he hit them hard enough to rupture his eardrums. Rengoku reveals that his fallen comrades, while not entirely controlling their bodies due to the flute, used sign language to indicate the Demon's ability. In his final moments, Rengoku's friend defined himself in an instant as he instinctively sacrificed himself to protect others' lives.
Through the combined efforts of Rengoku, his friend and their other fallen comrades, they were able to save the life of one person the Demon had missed. This moment both shapes Rengoku into the Demon Slayer we see throughout the series and mirrors the future Flame Hashira's last battle, with the lesson he goes on to live by because of his friend's sacrifice imparted onto Tanjiro following Rengoku's death. Rengoku dispels any doubts or concerns over natural talent dictating a person's potential and instead finds clarity in his desire to fight to the end, always to save lives other than his own, just as his friend did.