I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the theater to see Mugen Train. I had only watched around 12 or 13 episodes of the first season of Demon Slayer, so I hadn’t even got to the episodes which introduce the hashira, and thus didn’t even know who Kyojuro Rengoku was. I would have preferred to finish season one, but I was invited by a friend to watch it in theaters and I didn’t have enough free time to finish (It wouldn’t be the first time I go into an anime movie with not much context, and with all the hype surrounding this release, I wanted to see if it would impress me).
Well, I certainly was impressed! Twwk gave a more concise review, so I won’t go into lengthy points as to why I liked the film or what the plot was about, except for what this article has to discuss. The film was fantastic, as it certainly knew what the fans wanted and how to take us for a ride on the Mugen Train. At first, I thought, how can an anime film pull off an entire two hours on just a train? The producers were wise to have parts of the movie be about flashbacks, scenes in the minds of the heroes, and finally, the unexpected battle with Akaza, so it didn’t feel slow at all.
*Spoilers begin from here, especially about the ending*
Before the final fight began, I really thought that Enmu’s death was the end of the movie, until I saw those two red eyes in the distance after the train was wrecked. Akaza introduces himself by almost killing Tanjiro! Kyojuro saves him by blocking the attack, and a discourse ensues about how the hashira, Kyojuro, should become a demon so he can become stronger.
Kyojuro quickly refuses and tells Akaza he will protect everyone from him and not let anyone die. The battle begins, and what a scene it was! The animation, sounds, music, and dialogue were some of the best I have seen in the decades I’ve been watching anime.
Akaza was extremely insistent on Kyojuro becoming a demon, which as he explained would allow the harshira to train for years and years, surpassing the limitations of being human that come with aging and death. He was offering him immortality, a chance to become more powerful than he ever could since one day, as with all humans, Kyojuro’s strength would fail him and he would pass his prime.
Kyojuro constantly rebuffed Akaza, explaining that it is the beauty of being human to live and die. His passion for describing that reminded me of a verse mentioned by the king of Israel, David.
12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Our days on Earth are numbered, and we will not be here forever. Sometimes it feels that way, especially when we’re young, but one day our lives will end and we will stand before God and give an account. Kyojuro, though he wasn’t referencing a Christian worldview, understood that our lives are frail and that the stages of life we go through are something to cherish, not abandon in pursuit of power.
Akaza didn’t understand why he would give up the opportunity, just like the devil would tempt Christ when He was in the desert. Satan offered Him the kingdoms of the world if He would just worship him. Simple enough, right? Offer your loyalty but you gain the entire world? Not that bad of a deal, except that Satan will keep your soul when your hourglass of time on this planet runs out. Christ knew better, and refuted him by saying:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
The hashira chose the harder but correct path. He would rather die fighting and defending others than give his life to what he has always exterminated. Sadly, he loses the fight from a fatal wound during the battle but as Akaza ran from the rising sunlight, Tanjiro chases him and even threw his sword at him.
Even though it impaled him, Akaza keeps running while Tanjiro shouted angrily at him, “Don’t forget that the Demon Slayer Corps is always fighting demons in the dead of night where you have the advantage! You’re a coward! Rengoku is stronger than you ever hoped to be. Much stronger! You didn’t win against him. He fought till the very end so no one will die. You are the one who lost, Rengoku is the true victor!”
Rengoku heard Tanjirou’s passionate cry and shared his last words to him and what he would like him to tell his family. His death seemed so real, so honest. No technique could heal him, even though he was one of the highest-ranking Demon Slayer Corps captains. It was over, he knew it, and he still managed to encourage Tanjiro and push him and his friends to continue down their journey of growth and toward becoming hashira themselves. He believed in them, even in his final moments.
Even though Rengoku did die, so technically he did not win the battle, Tanjiro knew that their mission was accomplished which was to protect everyone on the train. Sometimes it seems like the battle is lost in certain situations in our lives, whether it’s an actual loss of life, not getting a job that you really wanted, rejection or loss of a relationship, giving into an addiction, saying the wrong words to someone at the wrong time, or some other regret or difficult issue.
Life is full of these “losses,” and the more you live, the more of them you will go through in one form or another. I have had to deal with quite a few of these, like being cheated on by my first girlfriend many years ago, arguments with my mother who to this day I still have a difficult relationship with, not getting my yearly contract renewed at a job, car leaving me stranded in the middle of the street, not having enough money to achieve certain goals in life earlier than I wanted, and losing friends because I gave my life to Christ and they wanted nothing to do with God. I can go on and on, but my point is, just like Tanjiro, I am not giving up just because I have had losses in my life.
God gives us the strength to get through the pain in life. If you think that life looks like Instagram pictures, all filtered and beautiful, then you are in for a dose of reality sooner if not later. Christ never promised everything would be easy—far from it—but He did promise He would be with us through it all, through the fire and pain.
I leave you with words penned by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians. He shared with them about a thorn in his flesh that God would not remove, though He asked several times. This was God’s reply:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.