Ever since it dominated the Japanese box office in 2020, fans in the West have been clamouring to see Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. A few weeks ago, fans in the US finally got their chance and have since sent it to number one in the US box office. It was the best opening for an international non-English release since Pokémon: The First Movie.
While our UK fans will need to wait a little bit longer before they get to see Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, I wanted to look at what has gotten people so excited about this movie. What makes it work so well that it became the highest grossing film in Japanese history?
Rest easy, however: while I’ll be discussing some plot details, I won’t be spoiling anything for anyone. That is what the rest of the Internet is for.
When last we saw our heroes, Tanijiro (with Nezuko in tow), Inosuke, and Zenitsu had recovered from their most recent injuries, and had been assigned to assist Rengoku in hunting down a demon that had killed multiple demon slayers recently. The film picks up exactly where the series left off with the three boys boarding the train and getting up to speed with Rengoku.
The most unusual thing about Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is its place in continuity. Most films based on anime series take place outside of the main story, meaning they fall firmly into the realm of filler. This is to prevent fans from needing to see a whole movie in order to keep up with the plot of the series, but Demon Slayer: Mugen Train instead adapts content directly from the manga into the film, making it essential viewing before the next season drops in 2021.
The reasoning behind this unusual move is that the Mugen Train arc in the manga was too short to stretch out into a whole season of the anime but too long to only be half a season. It was a pacing nightmare, so, rather than stretch the content into thirteen episodes, they compressed it into a two-hour movie, where it feels tighter and more natural.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some pacing issues on display here. Despite its 120-minute run time, there is a lot going in Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, making the film feel longer than it actually is. The final act feels particularly tacked on and like it was meant to be the start of the next season despite being firmly related to the story here.
Most of the series’ production team were on board with this film, meaning that the art style is in keeping with the rest of Demon Slayer. There are some additional CGI animated effects on display which can be slightly distracting at moments but nothing so severe that it mars the beautiful look of the show. The water and flame effects are still brilliant and eye-catching throughout and the fight scenes are fluid, fun, and easy to follow. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train remains just as visually stunning as the first season.
There isn’t a huge amount of character development in the movie, which is surprising considering how much plot is condensed into two hours. Thankfully, Zenitsu spends most of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train asleep, keeping him in his most useful and least annoying state for as long as possible. We learn a lot of about Flame Hashira Rengoku’s backstory and what drives him, but nothing that ends up being consequential to the rest of the film.
Demon Slayer was one of anime’s biggest hits in 2019 and 2020, so its not surprising that the film has done so well. With plenty of action and some fun fight sequences, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a must-see for fans of the series ahead of season two’s release later this year.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train will be hitting cinemas on May 26th in the UK. Check out the official website for more information and ticket reminders.
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