Demon Slayer: Mugen Train: A Review


A screen capture from the movie (Credit: Ufotable animation studio)

Eleanor Shaw

Within the past several weeks, the foreign film, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, has taken the box office by storm. Originally making headlines back in late 2020 due to its success in its country of origin, Japan, becoming the highest-grossing anime movie in the nation, surpassing Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, the film has been heavily anticipated by fans of the franchise alongside curious film-goers.

Demon Slayer had its beginnings in the manga series of the same name by Koyoharu Gotouge released serially in the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. With the release of its first season throughout 2019 (available on streaming platforms such as Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu), Demon Slayer became a soaring success story. The first season was met with enthusiasm, praised for its stunning visuals and thrilling nature. As the manga came to an end in early 2020, it became the highest-grossing manga of all time, topping legendary series such as One Piece. Needless to say, when the movie was released in Japan on October 19, 2020, foreign fans excitedly waited for their turn to view the film.

Released on April 23, 2021 in the United States, the movie picks up immediately after the first season’s conclusion, adapting a portion of the manga, setting up the second season set to release later in 2021. Demon Slayer’s success was not only limited to Japan but extended into the United States. According to the online fan publication Comicbook, “[during its second weekend available in theaters] Demon Slayer KO’d Mortal Kombat to take the top spot…And now, the film’s extra bit of money has made it the third top-grossing anime film in the United States.” Considering the fact that this movie was released in the midst of a pandemic, this triumph is noteworthy in its own right.

However, it is important for those who are not familiar with Demon Slayer to know that the movie does not take its time to reestablish itself within its universe, opting to immediately rush into the action. This is reflected in an excerpt from a review of the movie published by Variety, stating that, “Director Haruo Sotozaki doesn’t deem it necessary to reintroduce the characters, nor to explain basic aspects […] Instead, the filmmakers assume a certain familiarity, getting right down to business[.]” Due to the movie’s quick pacing, it will be difficult to keep up with whatever is occurring on screen from the point of view of one who is unfamiliar with the Demon Slayer Corps and its enemies. In order to enjoy the movie in its entirety, it is vital to watch the first season of the anime (available with the aforementioned streaming services).

Speaking from the point of view of someone who is very familiar with the series in both its anime and manga forms, the movie was an exhilarating experience. There is no doubt that Ufotable, the animation studio responsible for the beauty of the series, outdid itself. With the high standards the studio set for itself within the first season, any and all expectations were met and surpassed. The battles were dynamic, leaving the audience breathless. The soundtrack was rich and swelling with excitement. While the entire movie is an experience in its own right, the latter portion of the movie is where the film excels. With some of the best fight scenes the series has produced thus far along with tear-jerking moments, the film provides a satisfying story whilst expanding upon the intrigue set up in the first season of the anime while simultaneously preparing its audience for the second season.

The film follows our protagonist Tanjirou Kamado, his sister Nezuko, and his friends Zenitsu and Inosuke face imposing threats in the form of evil demons hoping to devour the inhabitants of the train. This quartet is aided by the powerful swordsman Kyojuro Rengoku as they fight to survive whilst saving the civilians surrounding them. The movie does not work to water down its over-the-top storytelling, in which there are scenes where the primary antagonist of the story arc boasts about his evilness and how much he enjoys being evil. This fact may annoy some viewers, but there is no denying that the film is unapologetically itself and does not feel the need to take itself too seriously.

Overall, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train fulfilled its status as an adrenaline-filled, action-packed film, boasting beautiful animation alongside enticing story-telling. It is truly a treat to watch. As best stated in a review published by Den of Geek, an online fan site, “It’s a big animated action blockbuster that trades in extravagance, but every frame of Mugen Train is packed with passion…This film is such a thorough love letter to both the anime and its fans…It has much more to offer than flashy action, even if that’s the movie’s focal point.”