Impactful Once You’re On Board
Current cinema offering Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train is more readily pronounced, Demon Slayer: Infinity Train. Once you’re past the title or if you’re already on board with the series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Killing Blade) streamable on Netflix, you’re in for an adventure of demonic proportions.
Visually, it’s full of colour, energy and imagination. As well as surprisingly packed with sensitivity. Sent to combat seemingly unstoppable forces, young slayers are compelled to face their own ineffectiveness against greater foes.
The main narrative focuses on demon Enmu’s attack on train passengers, casting them into a bottomless dream-filled sleep. With reports of trouble on the line, our slayers are sent along with a higher level ‘Hashira’ combatant named Rengoku. They too succumb and we get a look at each hero’s internal battle.
If the movie feels a bit like an extended – perhaps 3–5-episode – arc of the series, you’re not wrong. For fans, it picks up exactly where season one leaves off. Surprisingly so. And that’s because it was originally series content re-positioned into a movie release.
But it feels like they missed a trick, not anticipating that the uninitiated may haphazardly trip into a cinema here or there around the globe. Or maybe they had no idea it would go so far.
The presumption that viewers are fans of the anime is clear. But at one point it was the highest-grossing film of 2021. Could all those viewers be fans? Or hordes of kids seeking cinema fun post restriction easing? For my party of three, one-third hadn’t seen the anime and had questions, even after a thorough synopsis. A tiny slice of backstory would not have gone amiss over the two-hour run time.
Generally, the Mugen Train narrative is gripping and feels grander than the series installments. You might say it’s screen size but the tale had greater emotional impact, at least for the two leads.
The first two-thirds feel like one storyline with the last piece not stitched through enough to make a clear link. Both are interesting delving into ‘inner’ demons but just lacking that connection between them.
The D-ring is the protagonist Rengoku who, in the first piece, battles with his family history and sense of self. In the second, he tackles the frustrations of being a fragile human who can’t simply regenerate demon-style. Both of these themes resonate primaevally and make the film.
Newbie Tanjiro does his bit for the cause but also keeps an eye toward his senior, absorbing the exasperation by proxy. It handsomely taps into that global feeling of WTH so many of us have been stumbling over the very long past year.
What was interesting to see however, is the connection reflecting their disciplines. Renguko uses a flame technique and seems driven by core-level anger. Tanjiro practices a water technique and produces gut-wrenching sobs when the stress gets him.
Far and away, the best bits are the delves into the personal that make the action all the richer. In the series, apart from lead Tanjiro, most of the main characters don’t get that treatment. So, it serves to grip attention, particularly as Rengoku was a side role in season one.
While the series was decent, it wasn’t a favourite. Unlike clear winners in the character development stakes like Tokyo Ghoul, Violet Evergarden and Code Geass it didn’t have enough of a dig into the human side of the story – the deeply ingrained motivations and capacity for growth.
Without it, once Tanjiro and pals start fighting demons, each new episode feels a bit like another day at the office, slicing a new horrible and deserving foe. The headline would be something like ‘nice kids work hard and get horrible jobs.’
If you spot the girl in the box, she’s got the most thankless role of them all. Poor Nezuko doesn’t get nearly the credit or screen time she should. It’s pleasing that she gets a little acknowledgement for fighting on the right side, even if indirectly.
But as Tanjiro’s sister and a demon resisting her nature and fighting to return to her former self, there’s a full sweep of story yet to be told. As there’s a call for a Season 2, maybe she’ll get her due yet.
The other little piece that’s missing is the fabulous end credit scene. This typically explains something about the episode relevant to the Taisho era period (1912-1926).
These little revelations are sometimes silly but often compelling and worth the wait. Obviously not key, but as precedent had been set, fans agree that it left a little blank space. The demon is often in the detail, isn’t it?
Beautifully rendered, Mugen Train is a picture with a lot of heart. As a tale of young warriors fighting untold evils and feeling the frustration of inexperience, while at the same time balancing values and beliefs, it’s a great illustration of how we’d all like to take a swing sometimes. The movie feels much richer than the series, but you need the series to know what’s happening in the movie. In short, they go together like Tanjiro and Nezuko.
The Review Geek says: do your homework first to cue the enjoyment.
*As of this posting you can still catch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train in cinemas. Keen to or already seen it? Share your thoughts here.