REVIEW: Demon Slayer The Movie – Mugen Train (2021)
Anime is having another mainstream moment in popular culture right now; shows like Attack in Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen and, of course, Demon Slayer are dominating many pop culture discussions, and their reach is global. It feels like this many people haven’t been so vocally excited about anime since the days of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, and it’s an exciting time to be a fan.
The new Demon Slayer film, Mugen Train, which is now the top-grossing film of all-time in Japan, has finally arrived in the United States. For fans of the series, this film continuation of the story does not disappoint. Full of brilliant animation, breathtaking fight scenes, and some real emotional weight, Mugen Train is the perfect example of why Demon Slayer is such a popular property right now.
Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train is a direct continuation of the first season of Demon Slayer, picking up as Tanjiro, Nezuko, Zenitsu, and Inosuke accept a new mission to stop a demon that has taken over 40 victims from a single train. Once aboard, they meet up with the Flame Hashira (one of the highest-ranking members of the Demon Slayer Corps) Rengoku, who has also been dispatched to take down this powerful demon.
It’s important to mention up front that those who have not seen the first season of Demon Slayer will likely be more than a little lost here. The characters, their backstories, and the wider world of the show are not recapped or explained in great detail here, so viewers unfamiliar with the show should seek it out before buying a ticket to Mugen Train. The film is fun and vibrant enough that there is definitely enjoyment to be had for those unfamiliar, but it definitely benefits from familiarity with the series.
It quickly became clear that the plot of the film is much more suited to a film adaptation than a few episodes of the series. While the plot begins a bit haphazardly and tonally disjointed—it moves from comedic sequence to intense action to goofy daydream in just a few minutes—but it quickly hones in on its central narrative. Once it does focus up, it’s a nonstop thrill ride with plenty of surprises and brilliant action sequences.
Demon Slayer is widely known for its gorgeously animated fight scenes, and the film offers up some of the most exciting and awe-inspiring clashes to date. The flames that leap off Rengoku’s sword and the lightning that surrounds Zenitsu pop off the screen, and it’s almost impossible to not be excited by these effects. Even when not giving viewers the combat that we came for, the film looks fantastic—characters look crisp and vibrant, always keeping your eyes occupied.
The film also successfully transfers the major themes and emotional potency of the series to the big screen. Tanjiro’s ongoing struggles with the murder of his family finds further depth here, Zenitsu’s infatuation with Nezuko results in more humorous moments, and Rengoku’s backstory casts his seemingly aloof nature in a whole new light. There are plenty of moments where you will find yourself cheering with excitement in one moment and then holding back tears the next.
Mugen Train also boasts an emotional score and some truly terrific sound design. There are some moments where the sound cuts out entirely that took my breath away. This film is totally immersive, and is only made more effective by being on the big screen.
Many anime movies struggle to justify being seen in theaters as opposed to just being part of their respective series (some even forgo being canon entirely), but Mugen Train works brilliantly as a film. It features incredible animation, emotional character work, and totally badass fights. For fans of the series, it is a worthy and exciting follow-up to the first season despite its early tonal issues. For those unfamiliar with Demon Slayer, it serves as a great example of why now is such an exciting time to watch anime—if you can stomach some confusion and spoilers should you pick up the show. As a fan, I found it completely engrossing, emotional, and exciting—it set my heart ablaze.
North American Theatrical Release Date: April 23, 2021
Pre-orders for the film will begin on April 26, 2021 on Apple TV, Microsoft Store, and PlayStation Store.