“Set Your Heart Ablaze!” says the cinematic continuation of the groundbreaking anime, ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba’. The return of the kind-hearted Tanjiro, the strong-headed Inosuke and the horrified Zenitsu sees them heading on a new adventure aboard a very unlucky train. ‘Mugen Train’ premiered in theatres in Japan all the way back in October, nearly a year ago. Since then it has broken record after record, becoming the highest-grossing movie of 2020 and the highest-grossing anime and Japanese movie of all time with a shattering $503 million in its belt. Keep in mind that this was an R-rated anime movie that was released during a pandemic beating out every Hollywood blockbuster of the same year. Audiences fell in love all over again with these characters and the story’s values and it couldn’t have come at a better time. While ‘Demon Slayer’ may be set in a highly stylized, fictional world, its message is as sophisticated as it is universal.
major spoilers for ‘Demon Slayer: Season 1′ and ‘Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train’ are featured in this review.
Despite the never-ending supply of exciting Shonen content, it is all essentially the same concept reworked to fit a new narrative. An outsider who views the world differently (or is simply a kind, decent human) will suffer from some form of tragedy leaving them with the desire to achieve an impossible dream which they will achieve by the end of the series. While ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba’ does indeed feature some of the most crucial Shonen characteristics, it tweaks just enough to stand out and feel like a breath of fresh air. For example, our protagonist Tanjiro is a kid who is aiming to become a powerful demon slayer, strong enough not for his own satisfaction and desire but rather to find a cure for his half-human, half-demon sister, Nezuko. Family is at the core of this show whether it’s blood-related or chosen. The values of the show relate heavily to Japan’s cultural importance on family. While It may be traditional in setting, the themes are still incredibly relevant as proven by the insane amount of people this story has touched. Considering how ingrained family is into Japan’s culture, it is no wonder why ‘Demon Slayer’ became such a pop-culture phenomenon.
‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train’ is an emotionally resonant spectacle that enforces resilience through heart-shattering, character-driven action. This is a movie that looks at every character in its cast and celebrates them. There is such a palpable sense of respect coming from the movie itself towards its characters and it’s mainly because of the situations chosen to bring out the utmost potential whether it’s character development or an unforgettable action sequence. Every character gets their shining moment. That being said, the clear protagonists are Tanjiro and Rengoku who are the heart and soul of this movie. Tanjiro doesn’t necessarily go through an arc but this movie does bring out a lot of depth from him. Having him stuck in ignorant bliss as he has dinner with his deceased family was truly painful to watch. Seeing a protagonist admit how much they wish they didn’t even lay hands on a sword and how they should be at home doing something ordinary felt so relatable, honestly. Especially considering where we are now in the world, the “what ifs” never seem to stop haunting us. This movie also exhibits Tanjiro’s heart on its sleeve. Seeing him break down at the end and turning Rengoku’s fate into a silver lining was such a bittersweet moment. Natsuki Hanae’s performance was really something to behold in this movie.
The theme of resilience doesn’t stop with Tanjiro, in fact, it’s arguably even more important to Rengoku’s character who fights till the bitter end with the same conviction and determination. The decision to kill Rengoku could have definitely hurt the story because of how bold a move it is. The execution has to feel earned and satisfactory. The audience needs to feel like they got to see this character reach their highest high before they go and they absolutely nailed it with Rengoku. Unlike the similar, although failed attempt with Mirio in ‘My Hero Academia’, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of media pay tribute to one of its characters with such respect and admiration. Rengoku’s farewell was executed masterfully. The increasingly heartbreaking demands he lists before he dies was nothing short of a tear-jerking moment. It’s really the small details that make such a big impact like how he wishes his father to take care of himself despite him neglecting his efforts. The fact that he remembers how important Nezuko is to Tanjiro and uses his final breaths to accept her as a demon slayer and to help Tanjiro on his journey is so indescribably pure. The way they bring it back to his mother whom he sees for one last time as she tells him how proud he made her, getting that closure right before going. It’s honestly making me emotional just writing about it. Rengoku was truly done justice!
It also goes without saying that this movie genuinely looks incredible. Ufotable delivers a true spectacle of a movie with tons of personality, style and an inviting, epic scope. The characters leap from the small screen onto the silver screen in stunning fashion. Unlike most Shonen features, ‘Mugen Train’ carried an actual cinematic flair throughout the entire runtime. The atmosphere of the Mugen train in the first act was equally as captivating as it was eerie. The legitimate insanity that is present in the third act wouldn’t have been as successful had it not been for the animation which truly works wonders. I couldn’t imagine seeing it on the big screen. Everything from the colour scheme of each character and the memorable lines to the fight choreography resulted in an edge-of-your-seat sequence which actually left me speechless. The power of animation is nothing short of magical and it makes me so happy to see adult animation thrive to such success. This is really one for the books, it’s literally historic and we’re living in an age where any future anime movie can break the current record. There couldn’t be a better time to be an anime fan.
Overall, ‘Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train’ was a goddamn blast. It just packs punch after punch, both physical and emotional and it hits them all perfectly. It’s emotionally impactful and it never relies on the insanely cool animation to carry the fights because of how much it got us to care about these characters. As far as Shonen movies go, this is definitely top tier material.
‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train’ is now available to purchase.