To live in blissful ignorance, or to face a harsh reality. This is the question directed at Tanjiro and his comrades as they embark on their mission in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train.”
The Japanese animated film was released in Japan on Oct. 16, 2020, and in American theaters on April 23, 2021. Since then, it has broken multiple box office records including the highest-grossing film in Japan and the biggest foreign language film debut in the United States. With its strong themes of family, honor, and sacrifice, the film is action-packed, humorous, thrilling, and will keep you on your toes while simultaneously taking your breath away. Fans of the series have been rightfully hyped and left theaters wanting to rewatch it for the first time again.
“Mugen Train” was directed by Haruo Sotozaki, also a big contributor to the series the film is based on “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.” The film was picked up almost immediately after the season one finale as our protagonist Tanjiro Kamada and his comrades boarded the infinity train to work alongside Kyōjurō Rengoku, a Flame Hashira and accomplished highly ranked demon slayer.
Those who are not familiar with the series but are still anime fans who enjoy engaging relationships, riveting fight scenes, and a meaningful story may still find it enjoyable. However, they may find it hard to follow along without knowing the character’s journey thus far. The film was treated as an extended episode rather than a stand-alone. So though limited flashbacks, more time was spent on further developing established characters. That said, this was made for fans of the series and it is strongly encouraged to watch season one before viewing the film.
Tanjiro, his younger sister turned demon Nezeko, and friends Inosuke and Zenitsu all bravely take on on their mission and are excited to fight alongside Rengoku. However, the Demon Enmu, a Lower One Rank who has been instilled with great power is atop the train orchestrating a plan behind the scenes to consume everyone inside, starting with killing demon slayers. By using his Blood Demon Art power to put the crew to sleep, Enmu bribes four passengers with eternal peace if they can destroy the spiritual core within their dreams so that they never wake again.
Though a majority of the film takes place within this train, viewers are transported into the minds of each character. Each of these dream worlds offers a representation of who they are and what they value. Knowing some of their personal experiences already, you can see how the events of the past season have impacted each of them.
Zenitzu dreams of a world where he and Nezuko are living happily together. Though the two only met in season one and have not even formally communicated as she is a demon, the experience shows his strong attraction towards her as he’d do whatever it takes to protect her. Though on the outside he is timid and extremely fearful of everything, while he slumbers he reveals a strong protective fortitude.
Inosuke’s dream is easily the most comical as his friends are portrayed as mice and he refers to underlings. Throughout the show and film, Inosuke has always been impulsive and does whatever he feels suit without hesitation. His dream world shows that he views himself as a leader alongside his friends. He enjoys being right and listened to and though it comes off very aggressive, he has good intentions.
Tanjiro dreams of a touching fantasy, where his family is alive and well. A world where they were never slaughtered by a demon and Nezuko, the lone survivor, was never turned into one. Emnu’s spell reinserts him so seamlessly as he lives like it never happened. Yet soon he is able to recognize that it is a dream, as his sister is missing from the narrative. It is painful to see him let go but more motivating than ever to see his strength shine through. Sacrificing himself and this perfect world to wake up and defeat the demons for his family.
Rengoku is not only a new character to the film but to the series overall as he is only introduced as a high-ranked demon slayer towards the end of season one. He has a bright fiery personality that matches his exterior and carries a consistent smile on his face. He, along with other members of the Hashira, believed Tanjiro should have been put to death for bringing along his demon sister as the demon slayer. Prior to the film, viewers of the show are aware of his great importance and high stature but in “Mugen Train” we see him in action and receive a further exploration of who he is.
The film does well in showing that Rengoku is not only a great fighter. He has incredible reflexes, speed, and strength that leave Tanjiro and friends in awe. They all immediately want to be his apprentice from the second they see his techniques. But the most remarkable thing is his confidence, strong instinct to protect everyone, and his persistence to do so. Even under Enmu’s spell, sleeping, his body unconsciously grabs the assailant right before she touches his spiritual core. He is determined from beginning to end and will not compromise what is right, even knowing the grave risk.
Rengoku’s character defines what exactly it means to be a member of the Demon Slayer Corps and the Hashira. We learn that though Rengoku was essentially rejected by his father even after accomplishing his title, his mother and younger brother motivate him to protect the innocent. He always looks forward, literally and figuratively, as he fights for what’s right no matter the cost. And till the very end, he still carries that smile.
The final fight scene is with Akaza, Upper Ranked Three and the first appearance of an Upper Ranked Demon from the Twelve Kizuki. As expected he is so strong and quick where Tanjiro and Inosuke can barely follow the fight but Rengoku is a well-matched opponent physically and mentally. Akaza repeatedly encourages him to become a demon rather than fighting to the death. Reminding him that he will die as his fist is literally through Rengoku. But Rengoku doesn’t consider it for a second.
Enmu, Lower Rank One, the main antagonist, is a good representation of demons who want nothing but to fulfill their gluttonous desires and will go to extreme lengths to satisfy themselves. He is sadistic and does not care for human life. Being a member of the Twelve Kizuki, the most powerful demons in existence, his work not only rewards him with more power from Muzan Kibutsuji, the head of the organization, but increases his advantage to feast on hundreds of humans. He justifies himself by explaining he’s doing a favor to let them die within a dream. However, he tortures them with a nightmare before he devours them.
Rengoku and Enmu best explain this world to new viewers as demon slayers protect humanity and the demons just want to consume it. However, with knowledge of the series, Nezuko who is also a demon who continues to protect humans and actively fight against other demons, will only continue to make his journey to find a cure more difficult.
The boys grieving Rengoku’s final moments is a very hard moment for fans knowing that he is not coming back after just getting to know and love his character. And it’s even harder knowing the boys will have to move forward. Tanjiro yelling at Akaza, calling him a coward, Rengoku expressing his belief in their capability right before he dies are the most pivotal moments in their journey. Inosuke, though just as emotionally struck, proclaims they have to keep going and train to prepare for what comes next.
The film has made me want to watch the whole season again as you can truly see the progression of the characters. This film set season two up almost perfectly. While viewers have gained a better understanding of this world they live in as well as the characters. there is still much to be explored. How will Rengoku’s death impact the future of the Hashira? Will Enmu’s death impact the twelve and how will Kibutsuji react? Everything in the film directly alters the narrative of season two, leaving us all with so much curiosity about what will come next.
“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train” is now playing in theaters.
by Jada Hart