Demon Slayer The Movie – Mugen Train: Review

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train

Some of the biggest movie news all of last year slipped right in at the end without much fuss or fanfare, and for good reason, the world was dealing with more significant problems. However, now the west is finding out exactly what that news was. Japan has a new highest-grossing film of all time, knocking off cultural juggernaut and near-unanimously praised masterpiece Spirited Away. So, what knocked off such a beloved film from top place? A TV anime tie in film by the name of “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train”, and I’m delighted to report that it’s faced paced thrilling entertainment well worthy of the loving fans it was made for. 

As is the case with every tie in film of this nature, anyone who hasn’t seen the hugely popular series will initially be thrown in the deep end, which was the case for me. And yes, there’s a delirium to overcome, but generally, the film explains itself rather well, at least enough to get to grips. We drop in on a group of four hero’s composed of the central character Tanjiro (Natsuki Hanae), his demon sister Nezuko (Akari Kitō), his friend, the perpetually mortified Zenitsu (Hiro Shimono), and Tanjiro’s comical rival Inosuke (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), who is depicted exclusively wearing a boar mask. The gang are boarding the Mugen train to greet Kyōjurō Rengoku (Satoshi Hino), a master of fire in the art of demon-slaying. He is there to investigate strange disappearances that can only be the work of demons, and as such, events are set in motion to ensure the train gets to its destination safely. 

Perhaps this films biggest achievement, outside of its staggeringly beautiful animation, is how the narrative tricks you into caring for someone you’ve just met. Of course, this is what every good original screenplay does, but this isn’t quite the same. Here we meet Rengoku halfway through a larger story, and surrounding him are characters with 26 episodes of depth and backstory, yet he remains endearing. Obnoxious at the start and brilliantly heroic by the end, Rengoku’s arc is pitch-perfect throughout Mugen Train, and he is the beating heart of why this film works. 

The runtime is also a surprise success. When I read I was going to spend 2 hours with Mugen Train, I almost audibly groaned. Other films in this vein tend to hang around for a pleasant 90 minutes, maybe 100, like any recent Dragon Ball Super picture. Demon Slayer has no interest in that. Instead, it takes a shot of adrenaline and manages all 2 hours of near-constant thrill, from hellish dream sequences to brutal beheadings, Mugen Train pulls no punches, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Director Haruo Sotozaki came to this project knowing precisely what it had to be; an orchestral arrangement of anime gore conducted by hero’s worth rooting for. 

Yes, this comes with drawbacks. The main villain, Enmu (Hirakawa Daisuke), is campy and hardly inspires any real sense of danger; he also finds himself in the shadow of a figure who appears later in the film. Furthermore, not every character is utilised adequately, with Zenitsu literally only being along for the ride and Nezuko only popping up here and there. While that is a shame, the sheer pace of the action justifies it, and fans of those characters will still have a couple of scenes they can gleefully enjoy. 

Overall, don’t come into this film desperately seeking answers about how anything could better Spirited Away’s box office, Mugen Train isn’t a Ghibli film; you won’t find anything but a bad taste in your mouth. Instead, see Mugen Train if you want a dose of raw thrill, wonderfully brought to life by state-of-the-art animation.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train is in theatres now in North America and Australia, and will release in the UK May 26

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Mark is an Australian who likes movies, a lot. Now he studies and writes about them. Will watch anything Scorsese has ever touched.