Demon Slayer was the big hit a two years ago, with gorgeous Ufotable animation and a decent Shonen story to boot but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this film’s success! Collecting accolades like the biggest Japanese box office success EVER and the very top film of 2020 worldwide (okay, that one isn’t as impressive given the whole pandemic thing, but still!) is this film THAT good? Well, no, I’m sure what could be, but I will say that it is a good watch, being an adaptation of a manga arc rather than a spin-off like other Shonen films adds to it, certainly. Let’s take a closer look!
Tanjiro, Nezuko, Zenitsu, and Inosuke board a train to assist the Flame Hashira Kyojuro Rengoku in his mission to hunt for a demon that has killed many Demon Slayers. Soon after boarding, all of them are enchanted and fall into a deep sleep. Enmu, Lower Rank One of the Twelve Kizuki, instructs four passengers, all suffering from severe insomnia, to enter the Demon Slayers’ dreams and destroy their spiritual cores so that they can’t wake up again. In exchange, Enmu will allow them a peaceful sleep…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
…. Ufotable, you’ve done it again!
Shall I just get it out of the way? The animation is, of course, stunning, with fluid movement, bright colours and generally great action when it comes to it. There are a few ropey uses of CG but it doesn’t detract too much and I’m sure the final fight must have been a sight to behold in the cinema.
The story is fine too. Enmu, who we saw get reborn at the end of the TV series, has the power to put people to sleep as well as allow others to enter their dreams so when our lead quartet of Tanjiro, his demon-converted sister Nezuko, cowardly Zenitsu and boar-masked hothead Inosuke join up with top-ranked Demon Slayer Rengoku they’re all soon put to sleep (apart from Nezuko), each dreaming something pleasant so they don’t notice Enmu placing child assassins into their dreams to destroy their “spiritual cores”. Tanjiro dreams of all the family he lost, but his spirit is so kind and pleasant that the assassin can’t bring himself to kill him… damn, that’s a pure hearted protagonist right there! Nezuko eventually helps Tanjiro wake, with Rengoku and Inosuke soon following, and Zenitsu doing his whole unconscious bad-ass thing later on.
Ah, it wouldn’t be modern Shonen without some weird eyes, seemingly…
Rengoku helps keep the passengers alive while Tanjiro and Inosuke take on Enmu, who fuses himself with the entire train, making it extremely difficult to cut his head off, not to mention he keeps putting Tanjiro to sleep, our hero only waking himself up by slashing his own neck in the dream. Our duo manage to slice his “neck” and the train / demon derails, but nobody is hurt (apart from Tanjuro, who has to use the whole “total concentration breathing” to stay alive, which he does with Rengoku’s help).
This is where the story takes an unexpected twist (if you haven’t read the manga…) as the “Upper Moon Three” of the Twelve Kizuki, Akaza, arrives and attacks. Rengoku takes up the challenge and the two have at it in a budget-busting spectacle of a fight, with the Demon Slayer ending up fatally wounded but nearly winning by keeping the vampiric demon out as the sun rose. Tanjiro calls Akaza a coward as he runs into the shadows and then begins crying uncontrollably over the kind man he in reality just met, but hey-ho. He was a nice fellow! We see other Demon Slayers react to the news of Rengoku’s death before heading into the credits…
Tanjiro’s peaceful dream sequence …. …. … Turned into a nightmare.
There isn’t a lot of negativity here, the film adapts a manga arc with obviously close to zero filler (unless you watch the TV anime episodic version!) and so it doesn’t even have that “It was fun but it had no impact on the story” sense to it like most films of this ilk. That being said if this was a created-from-the-ground-up story you’d imagine popular character Nezuko would’ve had more to do, but there you go. I’m happy with a canon story chunk instead.
I will also reinforce that there are some dodgy CG moments, mostly Enmu’s weird train… tentacles? Which is a shame but they were thankfully no noticeable CG in the main fight between Rengoku and Akaza…
The Flame Hashira lives up to his name! Well, the flame part anyway, not 100% sure I know what Hashira means…
Much like the TV series that came before it, Demon Slayer: Kimitsu no Yaiba The Movie – Mugen Train is far too long of a title, but otherwise a great way to spend two hours. Some legitimate story development due to it being a canon arc adaptation, some more light-hearted moments and dramatic moments to blend with the action, and yes, more jaw-dropping Ufotable fight scenes, especially the big final battle. I don’t know if it’s “biggest Japanese box office ever” good, but it’s definitely good!