Walking into this review, I have to admit a lot of bias to the film itself. Having been fully vaccinated for almost three weeks now as of writing this, I finally made a trip to the movie theater to see a film of all things. Wild, right? Yes, Mugen Train was the first film that I watched after a year and some change after being away from a movie theater. It was only a theater filled with five people in total, but I was there and it was fun. It’s so cool to see something on a huge screen and a sound system that beats anything attached to it. That excitement and energy is what colored the experience for me in a more positive direction than usual. I think that’s ok though. The viewing experience is a part of the overall experience in general.
Ummm, I am going to spoil somethings because I am excited about it.
Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train takes place exactly where you think it does. Yeah, after the end of the first season. Immediately after Tanjiro was brought in front of the Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps and immediately after he, Nezuko on his back, Inosuke, and Zenitsu healed and made themselves a bit stronger during their stay at the mansion. It is a sequel film, which is very rare. This is a new concept for shonen anime films and anime films in general, honestly. Made in Abyss: Dawn of Deep Soul was also a sequel film and so was Dragon Ball Super: Brolly. Those are the only other two that I can think of. This means that everything that happens in this film advances the story for the already announced second season. Don’t miss it.
So, what happens in the film? Well, a lot of good shonen fun to be short. Not a lot of shonen battle series have taken place on trains besides JoJo, so here we go. It’s a very compressed setting, so Demon Slayer plays with it a bit. First, Tanjiro, Inosuke, and Zenitsu with their leader/master/superior Rengoku are put to sleep while the demon sends children to send their dream cores to injure or kill them. Good thing Nezuko is there to save Tanjiro. So pretty much, this is a dream sequence where you see idealized visions of their worlds until they break away from them, defeat the children, and Tanjiro fights the demon on top of the train. As one would expect, it eventually leads to the demon being the train which involves everyone working together to save the world.
This is where the film becomes a bit more metal and harder core. That demon has the power of putting slayers to sleep, so Tanjiro continually kills himself in his sleep to keep fighting the demon. Originally, that meant killing himself during his positive dream, but eventually the dreams become negative and much more metal. The denying of false realities is a major theme of this story at this moment. With Rengoku’s leadership and abilities, the train is derailed but everyone is saved. Of course, that moment when Rengoku has to fight a higher-class demon where the strength and weaknesses of humanity are put under a microscope as he loses his life saving over 200 people. It’s very powerful stuff and awww.
The strength of this story, besides the obvious power of Ufotable running on all cylinders on a movie budget/time frame, are the simple but powerful character beats. One major positive is Zenitsu doesn’t have as much time to be annoying in this film. That means Inosuke gets more focused and we see how fantastic his instincts are when he plans on defeating the train in the beginning and sees everyone else as his assistants and it’s so good. Inosuke is just so good. Tanjiro is still the nice, safe guy keep everything afloat with his hunt for revenge and it’s good. The real power house of this story is Rengoku despite the short amount of time he was on screen. He enters the show as a goofy guy, but then he shows how powerful he is, how honest he is, how he can take leadership in moments of trauma, and defend people when there are weaker people who cannot defend themselves. Not deep, but solid enough for good shonen battle story telling.
In essence, the time frame is a bit of a weakness of the movie. I mean, it is very well put together but I wanted to spend more time with Rengoku. There are so much interesting things in his back story and his ideas that make him so much interesting. Especially regarding his father dropping out of the Hashira and not wanting to think Rengoku did anything by joining him while his mother leading his ideals. What am I supposed to say? I want more. There is also the fact that the film itself feels a little disjointed because it is a whole arc of a story in one, two-hour package. It could have ended after the battle for the train and it landing on one side fine, so the powerful demon showing up at the end is a little bit “and it keeps going”. Adding another twenty minutes to half an hour to provide some more connecting tissue between the two moments or at least flesh out Rengoku more would have been nice. This is nitpicking though.
So, I am going to give Mugen Train a good rating. It’s not deep, but it’s a fun and emotional experience. I do not think that I have to make any sort of statement towards Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Trains visuals because it’s Ufotable. You know it’s going to look great. The story telling is a good vehicle to see these characters doing awesome demon slayer capabilities and moves in some of the cleanest visuals possible. The story is fun and interesting with characters that one can like. Oh, Zenitsu is there too. There is something about classic shonen battle storytelling that can be so entertaining sometimes and Demon Slayer knows how to play with those aspects very well. One of the most visual interesting films to watch at a movie theater. Yay, I did that! I’m still surprised that I was able to do that because the movie theaters around me are finally open. Somewhat.