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Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train Review

April 27, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Demon Slayer the Movie Mugen Train
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Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train Review  

Directed By: Haruo Sotozaki
Written By: Ufotable; From the manga Kimetsu no Yaiba created by Koyoharu Gotouge
Runtime: 117 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence and bloody images

Featuring the English Voice Talents of:

Zach Aguilar – Tanjiro Kamado
Abby Trott – Nezuko Kamado
Bryce Papenbrook – Inosuke Hashibira
Aleks Le – Zenitsu Agatsuma
Mark Whitten – Kyojuro Rengoku
Landon McDonald – Enmu / Lower Moon One
Lucien Dodge – Akaza / Upper Moon Three
Matthew Mercer – Kagaya Ubuyashiki
Kirk Thornton – Tanjuro Kamado

The long-awaited cinematic continuation of the Demon Slayer anime series has finally made its way stateside, courtesy of Funimation Films and Aniplex of America. Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train doesn’t follow the typical modus operandi of an anime film connected to an ongoing anime series based on a popular Japanese manga, usually serialized in Weekly Sh┼Źnen Jump. This is not a non-canonical, standalone filler adventure with the characters from Demon Slayer. This is the next chapter of creator Koyoharu Gotouge’s iconic series, picking things right up from where events in the series last left the characters in the 26th episode for the first season.

After the encounter with Rui on Mount Natagumo, young Demon Slayer Corps. members Tanjiro Kamado, Inosuke Hashibira and Zenitsu Agatsuma have healed from their wounds and have learned the art of Total Concentration Breathing: Constant. However, they still haven’t mastered the full breadth and width of its capabilities. At the end of the first season, they were tasked to meet up with Kyojuro Rengoku, the Flame Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps., to investigate a demon-related threat aboard the Mugen Train. Unfortunately, it appears that the Demon Slayers have fallen into a deadly trap sprung by Enmu, one of the Twelve Kizuki under the direct command of the Demon King, Muzan Kibutsuji.

Most recently, Muzan provided Enmu with more of his blood in order to hunt down the Hashira, the most elite and high-ranking members of the Demon Slayer Corps., and a boy in Hanafuda earrings, who is Tanjiro. Now, Enmu seeks to kill two birds with one stone to appear his master. Enmu’s methods are most dastardly, as he traps his victims in a beautiful dream of their hearts’ greatest desires. Even Rengoku and Tanjiro are vulnerable to his spell, and hundreds of other innocent passengers are also trapped onboard the Mugen Train.

Ufotable wisely picked a good part of the story to adapt as a cinematic installment for the anime. The Mugen Train arc is an exceptional arc to tell a more intimate story about the heroes in the next step of their journey. At this point, the main group of Tanjiro, Zentitsu, Insouke and Nezuko, along with their mission, have all been fully established. The central trio of Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke have all befriended and bonded with one another, so all the characters have a good rapport and repartee. While the Hashira have been briefly seen and introduced, Mugen Train, takes the time to examine the backstory of Rengoku. Rengoku is a formidable, yet eccentric, swordsman. Nonetheless, his competence in battle quickly impresses the heroes, who all want to be taken under Rengoku’s wing. Unfortunately, the bonding party is broken up when Enmu springs his trap and enraptures the corpsmen in beautiful dreams. For Tanjiro, the dreams are most tragic, as he’s forced to envision a life where his family survived, and he didn’t become a swordsman.

Tanjiro’s dream underscores the themes of Demon Slayer. This is a story about loss and finding the strength to move forward in the face of tragedy. The pure of heart Tanjiro has had to endure the most pain and torture of all the characters in this story. Yet, in spite of that, Tanjiro has never wavered in his goal. Tanjiro witnesses a glimpse of the life he lost. He lived a humble life in the mountains with his mother and siblings, selling charcoal. It was a quiet life, but he and his family were happy. These bittersweet moments are the emotional fabric of Demon Slayer.

What’s also interesting about Koyoharu Gotouge’s masterful storyline, is that the villains are usually just as tragic, if not more so, as the heroes. The demons of this story, while they are cruel and sadistic, have experienced great loss. They fell prey to darkness at their lowest, weakest points, and some are desperately trying to hang on to the husks of the memories of their lost humanity.

The artwork of Koyoharu Gotouge and the animation of the Demon Slayer series on the big screen make watching Demon Slayer in theaters a visual treat. Gotouge’s artwork and character designs are beautiful, and even unique among most anime and manga. The animation for Mugen Train is topnotch, and Ufotable has created visual poetry in anime form. Between the thick lines of the characters, the unique visual patterns of their clothing and even their special attacks have a look that’s reminiscent of traditional Japanese tapestries. Each character in Demon Slayer, from the leads to the minor supporting roles, all have incredibly distinct designs and silhouettes. Ufotable has truly brought Gotouge’s story to vivid life in anime form, and it only looks more stunning in the cinematic format.

The Mugen Train is the perfect setting for this story. It’s a closely confined space moving at a high speed. The heroes have almost no advantage dealing with a high-ranking demon aboard this train. The electric lights are constantly blinking on and off, signaling the imminent arrival of something sinister. The smaller place and setting provides ample opportunity to delve further into the psyches of both Tanjiro and Rengoku. While Rengoku comes off as unusually odd at first, he proves to be a fascinating character. This alliance with Rengoku turns into quite the fateful encounter for Tanjiro and his friends. The relationship that forms between Rengoku and the main group becomes especially moving and emotional. Such a narrative would not have worked as well in a more traditional setting or with additional characters present.

While many of the scenes involving Inosuke and Zenitsu involve comic relief, they too get their moments to shine in battle here. These are among some of the best scenes in Mugen Train. People who find Zenitsu obnoxious will likely still be annoyed with him here. However, those who appreciate Zenitsu will be clapping with joy by the end. Regardless, Zenitsu is clearly a favored character by the animators and Gotouge.

For the the purposes of this review, I saw the English dubbed version of the film. I’m quite fond of the English voice actors for Demon Slayer. They all capture the emotions and personalities of their characters. The necessary performance quality is there. There’s no less emotional resonance either. Performing a character such as Zenitsu looks and sounds especially difficult, and Aleks Le completely nails it. Bryce Papenbrook’s work as Inosuke Hashibira is enjoyable, since it’s a nice break from his usual type, and even Inosuke is given more of a chance to display his emotional depth. That said, Mugen Train is really Mark Whitten’s chance to shine as Rengoku as he proves to be the story’s stealth protagonist. Finally, Zach Aguilar has to carry most of the emotional and dramatic load as Tanjiro Kamado, and he’s more than capable of the task.

While the grind and wait for Season of Demon Slayer continues on, the cinematic installment of Mugen Train both satiates the desire this incredible story while whetting the appetite for more. However, considering the emotional toll this story takes, taking a breather after this is a good thing. As per usual, traditional cinematic animation in Japan is far from dead, and Demon Slayer: The Movie – Mugen Train once again proves this as an indelible fact.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
The Demon Slayer series is a modern masterpiece, and Mugen Train, as an extension and continuation of the main story, is no exception. Ufotable and director Haruo Sotozaki have picked out a good chunk of the story to present in a cinematic format. It presents the audience with a digestible, yet still wholly emotional, piece of Tanjiro Kamado's journey. This is a movie that should be seen on the big screen if given the chance. Seeing the characters and animation of Demon Slayer on the big screen proved absolutely breathtaking.