Review: ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train,’ an anime fantasy adventure from Japan

May 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Tanjiro Kamado in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no YaibaThe Movie: Mugen Train” (Image by Koyoharu Gotoge/SHUEISHA/Aniplex/Ufotable) 

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train”

Directed by Haruo Sotozaki

Available in the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) or in a dubbed English-language version.

Culture Representation: Taking place in early 1900s Japan, the animation film “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” features Japanese characters involved in adventures in demon slaying.

Culture Clash: During a train ride, a master demon slayer and four of his assistants fight a demon.

Culture Audience: Aside from the obvious target audience of people who are fans of the “Demon Slayer” TV series, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in anime or any animated films that have engaging fantasy adventure stories with graphic fight scenes.

Enmu in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” (Image by Koyoharu Gotoge/SHUEISHA/Aniplex/Ufotable)

The animated film “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” (based on the popular “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” anime TV series and comic book series) has broken records to become to highest-grossing movie of all time in Japan and the top-grossing movie worldwide of 2020. Since its release in Asia in October 2020, the movie has since become a chart-topping hit. And in 2021, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” became a hit in several places outside of Asia, including the United States, several countries in Europe and in South America.

Is this movie worth all the hype? Mostly yes, but the movie is best enjoyed by people who are inclined to like anime that have more adult-oriented violence than a typical anime film. The movie (directed by Haruo Sotozaki) has some eye-popping visuals that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible. And the story is an immersive experience should please fans of animated stories that blend fantasy adventures with some horror elements.

Where the movie falls a little short is in how it introduces the characters. If people don’t know anything about these characters before seeing the movie, the backstories might be a little rushed for newcomers to process everything as easily as people who are already familiar with these characters. Anyone going into this movie with no knowledge of the “Demon Slayer” canon might find themselves at times lost and occasionally bored by the film.

However, that doesn’t mean that “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” is difficult to understand. Anime production company Ufotable is credited with writing the screenplay, based on a story by Koyoharu Gotoge. The movie’s plot continues with the central theme of the franchise: Red-haired and courageous teenage boy Tanjirō Kamado (the protagonist) and his two male friends: blonde and fearful Zenitsu Agatsuma and impulsive hothead Inosuke Hashibira (who wears a boar’s head mask to hide his delicate-looking face) have teamed up with a young adult Flame Hashira warrior named Kyōjurō Rengoku to slay demons.

Tanjirō, who is the franchise’s main protagonist, has a tragedy which is feuling his motivations to find and kill demons: His parents and three brothers were slaughtered by demons, while his younger sister Nezuko Kamado was turned into a demon. Tanjirō keeps Nezuko hidden, usually in a knapsack that he has with him. However, Nezuko has not turned into a completely evil demon, because she is known to help Tanjirō and his friends when they need it.

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” begins with Tanjirō, Zenitsu and Hashibira boarding a train. The three pals meet up with Kyōjurō on the train, where he’s having a meal. During the beginning of the movie, there’s a running joke in that Kyōjurō keeps saying, “Tasty!” while he’s eating.

The main demon in the story is Enmu, Lower Rank One of the Twelve Kizuki, who finds four young passengers who have insomnia and orders them to enter the demon slayers’ dreams. The rest of the movie has a fever-dream quality where the demon slayers slip in and out of consciousness to fight Enmu and other demons.

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” doesn’t hold back on blood and gore. The movie dosn’t really start to pick up steam until the haflway mark. And from there, it’s an adrenaline-pumping ride as Enmu literally takes over the train in a way that won’t be revealed in this review. The visuals can be stunning, but not anything extraordinary. However, there are some genuinely creepy images in the movie, such as Enmu’s hand, which has a mind of its own.

Most viewers of this movie are watching for the fight scenes. And the movie should meet or surpass expetations. It should come as no surprise that Tanjirō and Enmu have a big showdown (it’s one of the highlights of the film), some of which takes place on top of the train. Kyōjurō also has climactic scene that’s an epic battle.

Because this movie is dubbed in several different languages (and also available in Japanese with subtitles), several voice actors portray the same characters. In the Japanese-language version, the voice actors are Natsuki Hanae asTanjirō Kamado; Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Inosuke Hashibira; Satoshi Hino as Kyōjurō Rengoku; Akari Kitō as Nezuko Kamado; and Daisuke Hirakawa as Enmu/Lower Moon One. In the English-language version, the voice actors are Zach Aguilar asTanjirō Kamado; Bryce Papenbrook as Inosuke Hashibira; Aleks Le as Kyōjurō Rengoku; Abby Trott as Nezuko Kamado; and Landon McDonald as Enmu/Lower Moon One.

The acting and dialogue in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” are what viewers might expect from an anime film. The biggest appeal that the movie has is how it hooks people into this world (there are flashbacks to give the characters backstories) and gives viewers many reasons to root for the heroic characters. These demon slayers are far from perfect, and that’s why people of all ages can relate them any or all of them in some way.

This movie also doesn’t gloss over the tragedy and trauma of murders. Tanjirō has flashback scenes with his family members when they were alive, and it gives emotional delpth to the tremendous loss that he has suffered. Tanjirō has solidarity and acceptance in his new family of demon slayers, but viewers will also sense that he will be forever haunted by the tragic murders of his biological family members. And just like any good story, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” leaves audiences wanting more at the end.

Aniplex of America and Funimation released “Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train” in U.S. cinemas on April 23, 2021. The movie’s digital and VOD release date is June 22, 2021. The movie was released in Japan in 2020.