Kimetsu no Yaiba is an anime that began airing in September of 2019 in Japan and, for some strange reason, blew up tremendously in success. This is no understatement either, as it seemed that anime fans both old and new couldn’t get enough of it. As a testament to the franchise’s success, its movie adaptation and sequel Demon Slayer: Mugen Train broke just about every blockbuster record possible for an anime. While I watched the original series and found it OK in terms of story but phenomenal in terms of animation (thanks again, Ufotable), I still couldn’t understand why this series is as massively successful as it is. However, after finally watching the thriving film, I now have a sense of what contributed to its success, at the very least.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a direct sequel to the original TV anime series. It follows the dynamic trio Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke aboard the titular Mugen Train, where they’ve been tasked to investigate a string of murders aboard the train. There they meet the Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku, who they’re posted to assist on this mission.
The film starts off pretty uneventful as it sets up the events with all the necessary exposition. Minutes later, however, some mysterious events begin to unfold, and we get a sense of what the real threat is on this train. Through some manipulation, the villain was able to put our heroes and the other patrons aboard the train to sleep. This sleep allows them to see their heart’s desires in dream form. For Tanjiro, the film presents us with its first heartwarming scene as he’s able to see his family again and even spends some time with them.
This segment of the film really spotlight’s Tanjiro’s strength as a character who’s had to face challenges after losing his family. It’s also worth noting that this is the only time we’ve seen the full (living) Kamado family outside the manga, so watching the family’s dynamic was quite interesting.
However, in contrast to Tanjiro’s emotional deep dive, the film shows that Zenitsu and Inosuke’s dream world is quite shallow, brainless, and lacking depth. It is pretty clear that these sections of the film are used as comic relief, which was quite unfortunate. It means these characters are not nearly as important as Tanjiro, who actually has an overarching goal and motivations for his actions.
Though I will admit that I enjoyed seeing the unconventional method of how the film presents its villain. By unconventional, I mean compared to the anime series, as we’re first given a chance to see how the villain works; using desperate and vulnerable people by giving them a chance at a happier life in their dreams before preying on them. However, after the culprit is finally revealed, the film switches pace to its high octane action segment, where things start to go off the rails (both figuratively and literally).
What it Means to Be a Hashira
The second half is where Mugen Train really shines. Out of nowhere, and with little justification, a greater threat presents itself to the group mere minutes after the first. A threat only the great Flame Hashira Kyojuro Rengoku could face. The final battle was a hype-induced, well-animated conclusion. Ufotable’s talents were put to great use yet again as the animation was crisp, eye-catching, bright, and colorful. The choreography was engaging, and the soundtrack was captivating as always. As someone who always pays attention to unique character designs, I’ve always been a fan of Kimetsu no Yaiba’s characters, so I’m glad that the film also didn’t disappoint in that regard.
While the film’s conclusion was satisfying in its own way, it really gives the audience a sense of how intense the struggle and war between the two factions is and how hopeless the fight may be for the demon slayers against their immortal rivals.
Why the Hype?
All that said, it’s now time to confront the question I brought up at the start. Just why is this film as popular as it is? After finally watching it myself, I can conclude that this film was specially made for the cinema, thus resulting its blockbuster success. It starts out slow, easing the viewers into the experience but no too slow as to bore them. It then raises the tension and stakes mid-way with support from a stellar production leading up to a fantastic finish — which is a vital part of the film as it leaves the viewer with quite an impact and a great first impression.
This impression then leads to the viewer returning to relive the first experience, perhaps with a friend, thus beginning the domino effect. It also doesn’t hurt that the film already had quite a lot of hype leading up to it, thanks to the TV anime’s success. To say the film is an overall huge success is an understatement as it’s currently earned over US$477 million, ending Spirited Away’s 19-year record as the highest-grossing film in Japan in the process. While I’m not a huge loyalist of the Studio Ghibli original, it’s hard to think this film is any better than the classic. Though just because it earns more doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.
All in all, if you’re still on the fence on whether to check out Mugen Train, I advise you do so if you’re a fan of the series or Ufotable’s animation in general. I’ll admit the story isn’t anything special, but the film’s production quality is nothing if not special. Judging by the recent announcement of the second season, it’s safe to say the series will still be going strong, so now might be the perfect time to join the hype train.
Have you seen Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? What do you think of this review? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train
If you're still on the fence on whether to check out Mugen Train, I advise you do so if you're a fan of the series or Ufotable's animation in general. I'll admit the story isn't anything special, but the film's production quality is nothing if not special.
- Amazing animation
- Thrilling conclusion
- Captivating soundtrack
- Uneven storytelling