Demon Slayer: Mugen Train Review

Spoilers ahead

The Demon Slayer anime was a massive success in 2019 so it’s no surprise that the follow-up movie Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, obliterated countless box office records to quickly become the highest-grossing anime film of all time. While it has an endearing main cast and an interesting story, it’s the animation from ufotable that separates it from other shounen with fantastic fight scenes and striking visuals. Picking off where the first season of the anime ended, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train sees Tanjiro, Nezuko, Inosuke, and Zenitsu board a train to help the Flame Hashira Rengoku search and hunt down demons. Although it maintains the lighthearted tone and comedic relief found in the original anime series, the movie also goes in a much darker direction.

It’s fairly obvious from the beginning that Demon Slayer: Mugen Train will center largely on Tanjiro and Rengoku but even though the plot is predictable, it remains engaging thanks to its emotional depth and exhilarating action scenes. A central plotline revolves around the characters being sent to a dream world where they’re reunited with family members or live out their greatest fantasies. For Tanjiro, it’s obvious that he’s reunited with his dead family and a non-demon Nezuko but the way he processes his grief and regret is utterly heartbreaking. The original Demon Slayer went through the Kamado family massacre in a single episode before thrusting Tanjiro into his training as a demon slayer. To the viewers, it wasn’t much more than a tragic backstory to set up the plotline for the anime but it’s easy to forget that Tanjiro’s perception is far different. Grappling with feelings of regret and survivor’s guilt, it’s clear that he’s never gotten over their deaths and still blames himself for not being there that day. Those feelings manifest in his dream world and the way he comes to terms with them is beautifully executed.

While the original Demon Slayer anime was a fun ride, the stakes weren’t high enough to feel like Tanjiro was ever in danger. During the first season, most of the demons are pushovers and while Tanjiro struggles in the earlier episodes, there’s never any fear from the audience. In that sense, it’s fitting that the movie centered around a Hashira, the most powerful fighters in the Demon Slayer Corps, is also the first time Tanjiro and friends feel completely powerless against a foe. The majority of the movie feels like the first season and even the main villain in Demon Slayer: Mugen Train doesn’t do much to instill a sense of doubt. Towards the end, however, the first upper rank of the Twelve Kizuki was introduced and the sheer difference in strength was made abundantly clear for Tanjiro’s group. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train does a fantastic job of raising the stakes for the upcoming second season and it’s the tonal shift from the anime that makes it such an exciting ride.

There are a few parts where Demon Slayer: Mugen Train falls short and it’s primarily a result of fitting the entire arc into a two-hour movie. Although the movie centers around Rengoku heavily, it often feels like there’s missing context surrounding his character. Anime-only watchers have encountered Rengoku briefly during the series but there’s little explanation for why Tanjiro’s being sent to work with him and what happened immediately after the final anime episode. The other consequence of this is that Rengoku’s character feels underdeveloped given the limited screentime given to exploring his past. That’s not to say Rengoku’s arc in the movie wasn’t executed well but the most emotional scenes in the movie would’ve had far more impact if there was a little more detail in his backstory. While the storyline serves to showcase Tanjiro’s continued growth, it’s clear that Rengoku is the star of the show and it’s disappointing that his character wasn’t explored with more depth. Supposedly, the second season of Demon Slayer will also include the Mugen Train arc with a little more detail but unfortunately, the movie feels like it’s missing some crucial components with its pacing. At the same time though, while Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’s storyline could be a little tight, it also does an exceptional job of tugging at heartstrings and exploring the mental state of its characters.

Just like the original anime series, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’s biggest draw is the animation from ufotable. The gorgeous Taisho-era aesthetics combined with the fluidity of battle sequences are stunning as always. The breathing techniques from Tanjiro and Rengoku are a feast for the eyes as the blue waves come crashing down together with the ignition of a fiery blaze. There are some moments of comparative weakness to the show and this is apparent during the CGI scenes of the train demon. The more realistic take on the tentacles looks a little strange against the colorful backdrops but nevertheless, the movie still remains immersive throughout. The OST is phenomenal as well but it’s the sound design that really stands out compared to the anime series. During the most intense moments of battle, the music would all but disappear leaving the audience at the edge of their seats. The final ED by LiSA during the credits is the perfect way to cap off the emotional climax of the final 30 minutes with its haunting lyrics. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train takes the best elements of the original anime into overdrive during the two-hour runtime and while it doesn’t always feel complete, it’s a thrilling ride that’ll leave you in tears by the time the credits roll.


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I turned my incoherent ramblings on music, anime, and video games into an entire blog.

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