“Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” is an anime triumph

WSS staffer Sam Westergaard ’21 reviews “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train.”

Rengoku+steals+the+show+in+Demon+Slayer%3A+Mugen+Train

Ufotable

Rengoku steals the show in “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train”

Back in 2019, “Demon Slayer” season 1 was released and received praise by the anime community, even going on to win Best Anime of 2019. A year later, “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” was released in Japanese theaters. The movie has become the highest-grossing film in Japan, beating “Spirited Away.” Finally, in 2021, “Mugen Train” made its way to American cinemas. Anime fans have been singing the film’s praises, needless to say, I happen to be one of those fans. “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” is one of the best anime films I’ve seen. 

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’ is one of the best anime films I’ve seen. ”

— Sam Westergaard '21

Before I continue I feel it’s important to provide my thoughts on the series, considering the film immediately follows it. Most fans say the series is good but is “carried by the animation.” When I started the first season of “Demon Slayer,” I sort of agreed and found the animation gorgeous with the story just being solid. However, when I got to the Natagumo Mountain arc, I was incredibly engrossed in the overarching plot. With this arc, the characters, especially Tanjiro (Natsuki Hanae), Nezuko (Akari Kito), and Zenitsu (Hiro Shimono) became more fleshed out and quite well written. In short, I feel there is more to Demon Slayer than meets the eye, literally. Now on my thoughts on the film itself:

*Note: There will be spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned*

The film centers around Tanjiro and his gang meeting up with the powerful flame hashira, Rengoku (Satoshi Hino) to exterminate a demon who is killing passengers aboard a train. As I previously mentioned, Demon Slayer is constantly praised for its stunning animation, and Mugen Train is no exception. Although, some of the demon goop on the train looked a bit off and chunky. With that nitpick aside, I have to talk about the scene with the best animation, that being the battle between Rengoku and Akaza (Akira Ishida). Both Rengoku and Akaza’s movements are so smooth and the directing is the cherry on top. Rengoku’s flame breathing is eye candy with his flames flowing off his sword in beautiful style. Essentially the animation is on point. 

Tanjiro in “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” (Ufotable)

While the animation is great, it’s not at the expense of the story. I feel the story, and characters are excellent, with Tanjiro and Rengoku having the best character arcs. Tanjiro is probably my favorite Demon Slayer character, and the film features many character-defining moments. In one battle he saves a bystander from a demon; however, said bystander betrays him. But Tanjiro still tries to keep him safe from the demon. This shows that no matter who, Tanjiro is willing to help anyone. Any other main character would’ve been mad and left the bystander behind for betraying them, yet Tanjiro sees the value of everyone’s life. In another scene, Tanjiro is trapped in a dream, and he is able to quickly put together how to escape. This is another example of how he is different, he thinks quickly on his feet. Of course, we’ve seen this type of kind-hearted anime protagonist, and most of the time they are dumb or bumbling. But what makes Tanjiro stand out is his good heart and intelligence. He is considerate of all, while also being smart and calculating.

While Tanjiro is my favorite character, he’s not the MVP of the film. That goes to Rengoku. The film does a good job of making you love this guy. He kicks demon butt, while also fulfilling his duty with a smile on his face. But at his center, he’s simply trying to make his parents proud while also being an example for his younger brother. He’s quite a relatable character who you really feel for. He and Tanjiro have an interesting relationship. He sees Rengoku as an inspirational figure. Tanjiro has had a teacher but never really someone he looks up to. Which makes it all the more devastating when he is killed. Rengoku is killed during his battle with Akaza. But in the end, he fulfills his duty and keeps all the passengers on board the train safe. Both times I watched the film, I saw the subbed version and I’m glad I did. Rengoku’s voice actor, Satoshi Hino does a great job as the flame hashira. He brings a lot of emotion and grandeur to the character. Whether he’s having a heartfelt moment with Tanjiro or battling a demon, Satoshi gives it his all, much like the character he plays.

I’ve heard some fans complain that the first half of the film is rather dull, but I think it’s rather important for the structure of the story as well as the characters. The film starts with the demon slayers boarding the train and battling some demons. Once that’s completed, the group falls into a deep sleep and they are trapped in their own personal paradises, thanks to a demon named Enmu (Daisuke Hirakawa). Once the characters awaken, it’s back to the action. This part is important for the structure of the film due to it slowing down after some demon-slaying. It’s important for a film to pace itself and slow down so we get to understand who our characters are and what they want. What better way to show what our heroes desire than a dreamland full of happiness. We see their ideal world, and what they all want in life. I think the best example of this is Tanjiro. In his dream his family is alive and well; however, he has to decide whether he wants to live his perfect life or return to the real world and save Nezuko. Obviously, he chooses the latter. This is yet another reason Tanjiro is the best, his loyalty to his sister is so strong. He’d rather help her than live in a world filled with joy. Like I said this half of the movie is important, and I feel it shouldn’t be written off as boring. 

The movie not only blew me away but also made me love the anime so much more. Every aspect of the series is enhanced tenfold. The characters and story are superb, with both having an added layer of depth. Do I even need to mention the animation? It’s undeniably dazzling. With all that said Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, is one heck of a ride and has me super hyped for season 2!