I remember the first time I watched the first 26 episodes of “Demon Slayer”, I thought, “What an interesting and fun series I can’t wait until they start it up again!”
That was in 2019. Two years ago.
I’ve been waiting eagerly for the next episodes to arrive, and being as lazy as I am, have not attempted to read the manga. But when I heard about “Mugen Train,” I thought, “Wait, usually the movies are just sort of spin-offs, not really enhancing the ongoing story – I’ve seen my fair share of Narutos, My Hero Academias, and Pokemons.”
Well, that’s not the case here.
As a quick refresher of the series, it mainly focuses on three demon slayers and a demon: the cowardly womanizer, Zenitsu; the boar-head wearing, stabby-person, Inosuke; the sister-turned-demon, Nezuko; and Tanjiro, the protagonist and all-around good guy. Tanjiro is trying to rise in the ranks of the demon slayers in order to turn his sister back into a human. There is great action and fights that can rival even the most popular of shonen, but this one really shines, exploring the human condition and what makes a person human. Plus, the characters are interesting and the series has this underlying seriousness that I’m not used to in other Shonen Jump serieses.
In the final episode, Tanjiro, Nezuko, Inosuke and Zenitsu are all called to the Mugen Train to meet up with a Hashira – Rengoku (think of a Hashira as the top-dog in the demon slaying world) to find out why people are disappearing on a train.
This is where the movie starts.
The film uses the same characters and voice actors as the series. It does a great job of pacing, with this two-hour movie covering what would have been a ten-episode arc. Little down time and a constantly moving story keeps everything flowing. Yet it still takes the time to explain the story so far so a person who has never seen the series could keep up.
From my impressions, the movie is an essential part of the story.
It continues to develop all the major characters. You yearn for Tanjiro’s success, laugh at Zenitsu, shake your head at Inosuke and marvel at the power and skill of Rengoku. It gives you a little more knowledge of the histories and even what lays deep inside their soul.
The story throws in some curveballs in tone throughout. The humor is still there, but it adds some darkness and fear touching on cosmic horror. It’s the spookiest the series has been since the early episodes. It gets a little trippy and keeps you glued to the edge of your seat.
The action is pitch perfect with a couple jaw-dropping moments. Rengoku is fierce and fast, showing no mercy and never blinking. His scenes are by far the highlights of the film. Don’t get me wrong – the others all hold their own, but Rengoku is just that much… more. It’s like watching an early episode of “Dragon Ball Z,” where everyone is struggling, but making their way. Now, go and grab one of those characters from later in DBZ and toss them into those early episodes. No more struggling. That’s what his fight scenes feel like. Intense and awe inspiring.
The animation is still beautiful, with the continuation of the faux-watercolor style when breathing techniques are used. The animation of the characters are as crisp, if not better than the series. It does make use of 3D rendering, which always seems off putting for me, but this movie made it work.
Towards the end it does seem to get a little too shonen-y for me with a lot of screaming. It really forces its message to you repeatedly in a short time and, I found myself wanting a few scenes to end earlier than they did.
As a fan of the series, does it seem necessary? It does. Will it be necessary? Probably, but I’m not sure without knowing where the series is going. Will it make me want to read the manga? Possibly. The amount of time that I have been waiting for the next arc, which I’m hearing is coming this year, has been long, but maybe I can keep being lazy and wait on it. Should fans watch it? Heckin’ yes.