Set your heart ablaze.
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train, igniting in North American theaters after breaking all-time box office records in Japan, delivers the high level of animation, exciting and perilous storylines, and above all, heart, expected from the franchise as it progresses the storyline through a new arc and encounters with more threatening enemies.
The first season of Demon Slayer concluded with the main trio (Tanjirou, Zenitsu, and Inosuke) and Nezuko sent to the Mugen to assist the flame hashira, Kyojuro, in disposing of demons aboard the train. The movie picks up from there as the demon slayers face Enmu, a demon with expertise in putting humans to slumber and the strongest of the lower kizuki, while protecting passengers, some intent on hurting them, but there’s far more to this story than just another battle. It’s more importantly about character development by way of the fights, especially those involving Kyojuro, a character whom the audience has spent minimal time with thus far.
Kyojuro’s character and his actions are critical not only for this film, but for the franchise. Much like any other shonen series that introduces a team of highly-powered characters who at first seem more like enemies than allies (see Bleach), the hashira must earn the audience’s good will; Mugen Train is the first full opportunity for as much. But further, Kyojuro’s backstory combined with his determination, actions, and words, which had thus far in the series seemed rather senseless, stand in place for all the hashira and the entire demon slayer corps. More personally, Kyojuro injects an overwhelming amount of emotion and goodwill in a franchise already filled with warmth. He is a special character, and this is a special arc.
The writing, thus, justifies a film that is required viewing for those who have watched the series and plan to continue with the upcoming season. The other big budget elements, including the beautifully animated fights, are almost extras—and not always welcome. The music is sometimes too bombastic, while the CGI bounces back and forth between typical anime awful when shown at a standstill to becoming quite compelling, reverberating with a sense of danger and evil when in movement. For this fan of Ufotable, however, the animated sequences that stood out most were near the beginning, as the studio delivers on its exceptional expertise in animating landscapes and of making the best use of dimly lighted sequences.
All that begs the question: Was it worth it for this arc to be made into a film rather than into six episodes of anime? The answer is yes, and the reason is found in the character at the heart of the film.
Near the end, Kyojuro speaks wisdom and advice to Tanjirou and Inosuke, and included therein is the phrase, “set your hearts ablaze.” Of all the things moviegoers enjoy from theatrical experiences—massive screens, loud audio, the often higher-budgeted sequences—in Demon Slayer The Movie, it’s none of those particulars that makes the movie worth viewing. What does, though, is an aspect that pulsates loudly and powerfully in a way best experienced in front the big screen, in a darkened theater, among the spaced-out crowds filled by emotionally-involved fans, of a character who has set his heart ablaze out of love so vividly and courageously that it doesn’t matter that he’s animated or that this movie is fictional. His passion and kindness is so great, that we are swept up in it, and our hearts, too, are set ablaze.
Life, in a sense, is about the moments that do that to us, that may impact us to become more and more who we could be, who we were meant to be. Demon Slayer The Movie is the rare anime film that will not only touch you—it is an experience that will ignite your heart and set your soul afire.
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train is distributed by Funimation. All images are courtesy of Funimation.