Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train has made the bold (but expected) leap into theatres with huge critical and commercial success. We decided to join the crowd to see what the fuss is all about.
In Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, Tanjiro and Nezuko are joined by Zenitsu and Inosuke to investigate a series of missing people (including Demon Slayers) from the Mugen Train. There they meet Kyojuro Rengoku, a flame hashira, who rather enthusiastically takes them all in as apprentices on their journey.
Part-way through the journey the team finds themselves under the spell of a demon. Under the trance they need to work completely isolated from each other to break the spell before the truth behind the Mugen Train and it’s mysterious owner comes to light, before climaxing an an amazing hyperbolic showdown of awesomeness.
There’s a lot that happens amongst these broader arcs, but in the interest of keeping spoilers to a minimum we won’t delve too much deeper into the mechanics. What we can go into is what this movie does so well.
Demon Slayer shouldn’t need an introduction given its popularity – we’ve reviewed the first collection already – but the series’ huge following made it a theatrical guarantee. Aside from rabid fandom, there’s a lot here that explains why it’s been so popular.
In terms of the story, what really stands out in Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is its commitment to an arc that will impact and influence the bigger narrative at play here. Unlike movies added to other popular series’ like Dragon Ball Z (reviewed here, here and here!), Sailor Moon (here, here and here!), Rurouni Kenshin or One Piece, it was incredibly refreshing to sit down and enjoy watching a movie that had the confidence and permission to go beyond 2 hours of inconsequential escapism.
For big fans of the series there were substantial nods to what’s happened and what’s to come, but even so it was still very accessible even if you’re new to the series.
Case in point, I was running short on time and only had the chance to cram in 5 episodes via AnimeLab before checking out the movie. But between those first few episodes and a great recap, there were no issues keeping up with the story and enjoying the ride. AI co-founder Inferno is all up to date though so he helped fill in the gaps after the film over a tasty bowl of ramen from the recently opened Kazumi Ramen (which fellow Adelaide people should visit – it was amazing!).
From his perspective, the deeper you are with Demon Slayer proper, the more you’ll get out of this.
The production has some incredible polish despite a little CG coming off a bit wooden, though this is more a reflection of my preference for hand drawn anime despite the fact it actually worked really well in the aesthetic (it was thankfully a far cry from the Golden Age Trilogy for Berserk which went beyond environmental CG and threw in some PlayStation 3-like character models into the mix).
But that slight gripe aside, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is an absolutely sumptuous movie. Line work is gorgeous, the colour palette is incredibly broad and the fighting sequences are breathtaking, especially the grand finale before the credits roll in.
As an action anime, it really does an excellent job and enjoying it on the big screen was something else. Kudos to Madman and our local cinema too as they kept it in Japanese with English subtitles!
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train has also made headlines for its success at the box office. In Japan it has officially overtaken Spirited Away as the highest grossing theatrical film of all time which held the domestic box office record since 2001, something Miyazaki seems quite nonplussed about, and locally it topped the Australian and New Zealand box office for the launch weekend which was an impressive feat.
It’s an amazing showing for anime locally – aside from Akira and a few arthouse screenings it wasn’t until the early 2000s that we saw anime start to leap to the cinema, starting with Princess Mononoke in July 2001 which opened up the possibility for selected theatrical releases for other Ghibli films in its wake. More recently we’ve had Dragon Ball Z and other popular TV series’ theatrical adaptations hitting the big screen, but to see an anime sell out cinemas and charting with this kind of commercial success is unbelievably impressive.
While I don’t think it’s a better movie than Spirited Away, I’m certainly in no way offended that it’s being celebrated and embraced by movie goers around the world. I also love the fact that Miyazaki hasn’t been provoked in any way from people egging on a grumpy response.
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is tremendously hyperbolic and a perfect accompaniment to the excellent TV series – it’s not every day anime fans can take part in such a huge wave of global fandom in theatres and I would highly recommend you check it out if you’re able to during its current run.
The author attended the screening courtesy of Madman Entertainment for the purpose of this review.