Thursday, April 22nd, I was finally able to go and see Mugen Train. It’s been a long time coming since the movie had already been out in Japan since October 16th, 2020 and was delayed in the United States due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. I was well aware that the Demon Slayer movie was shattering box offices in Japan for anime movies, and with the phenomenal first season of the anime being critically acclaimed, you can bet I went in with some high expectations. Did it deliver? Well, that’s what you’re here to find out.
Refreshingly, Mugen Train actually begins at the exact spot that the first season of Demon Slayer‘s anime ends. This means that a seamless transition occurs that doesn’t require explanations, backstory, or character interactions to catch us up on why the characters are where they are; though we do get dialogue to serve as a reminder.
As we were previously informed, our quartet of protagonists (Tanjiro, Nezuko, Inosuke, and Zenitsu) are tasked with assisting an Hashira in investigating the mysterious occurrences caused by demons on the train they have boarded. The entire plot of Mugen Train advances the story forward in a way that is sensible; it gives us continuation of the opposition’s side and a new glance at their power, shows the disparity of strength between our current protagonists and one of the strongest in the Demon Slayer Corps (again), and allows us to better understand exactly what we have to look forward to in the future.
One of the biggest issues that I have with Mugen Train is the character development…there really isn’t any for anyone except Tanjiro. We got to see Rengoku’s personality and understand who he was, but he’d already established what his life’s goal was and that played out within the movie. Zenitsu and Inosuke did not get anything new added to their personality, we got the same girl-crazy and “acting on instinct” antics that we are used to. These two not having any progression whatsoever disappointed me and was one of the reasons this movie felt less than what I’d hoped it would be.
Tanjiro we got to see deep within his soul, see that on some level he blamed himself for the death of his family by being away at that time (even though more-than-likely he would have died as well). That he understood that he could never get his family back, and that they would never blame him for their deaths despite what he could think is partially his fault. These realizations on the part of Tanjiro help to strengthen his resolve and to heal any lingering wounds.
The end of the movie gives all protagonists a reason to continue to train harder, but this is something that was already a given considering the circumstances which lead up to Mugen Train. We got to see Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke learn “Total Concentration Breathing Constant” and the struggles surrounding learning such a hard, yet necessary technique. However, I believe the climax of the movie shows our heroes just how much they need to improve if they are to defeat Muzan and bring an end to demon tyranny over humanity.
The villains of Mugen Train were not very intriguing and this is the main reason that the movie seemed to falter to a degree. The ability of Enmu, the demon who took blood from Muzan (the only lower moon who survived the wipeout in the anime) had a rather passive ability that did not make for a very entertaining battle. While Enmu’s Demon Blood Art is good for plot and character development, that was only really used for Tanjiro and to give a backstory to our Hashira. Zenitsu and Inosuke’s states were more funny than anything else, and the ensuing battle after everyone freed themselves was less dynamic than I would’ve liked.
The fighting within Mugen Train is rather mediocre, nothing really ensnaring as far as techniques or how engagements are handled. The battles within this movie seem less impactful than the first season of Demon Slayer‘s anime, which disappointed me a little bit. However, one of the things that did stand out, that was not emphasized enough, was the way Tanjiro had to escape the state he was constantly placed in during the battle with the lower moon.
Having to suicide repeatedly in order to free himself from the dreams he was imprisoned in should have taken a massive psychological toll. The scene in which Tanjiro had to repeatedly cut his own neck over-and-over again was one of the most jarring scenes within Mugen Train, yet I think greater emphasis should have been placed on it. We seen it get to our protagonist to the point he was about to do it in the real world, only to be saved by Inosuke who stopped him from doing so; though I feel that instance should have been more dramatic with the blade even possibly drawing a bit of blood before it was stopped.
The final scene of Tanjiro and Inosuke vs (Lower Moon) was a massive let down, as the confrontational did not seem interesting enough despite the camera angles used and ambience provided by the music. Again, I feel that the final fight of the anime’s first season does what Mugen Train attempted to do, but to a better effect. The fight involved all character’s doing what they needed to do, it showed the power of the Hashira compared to our protagonists despite their growth, and if the fight with the Upper Moon could have been tacked on at some point, we’d see how strong the enemy truly is and how far they must go.
Mugen Train was a movie I had been incredibly hyped to watch considering its box office shattering records in Japan, the brilliance of the Demon Slayer anime’s first season, and the positive reception from those I knew who had seen the movie overseas. The movie did deliver on being good with heartwrenching moments, character development for Tanjiro, and a glimpse at the strength of the antagonists our heroes will have to overcome in the future. However, it did fall flat on showcasing deeper meanings to Zenitsu and Inosuke, provided a lackluster fight with the (lower moon) that I feel could have been done better, and did not put into focus the main technique the last few episodes of the anime was so hellbent on teaching our protagonists.
As a first movie for Demon Slayer, I will say that it delivers what a fan might expect while continuing the story. While I do not think it is nearly as great as everyone seems to believe it is, Mugen Train is not a bad movie in the leas tbit and satisfies that itch left behind by the first season of the anime ending. So, was it worth the wait? That all depends on your view, but I do not think anyone who’s a fan of the anime would truly be disappointed by the movie, even if they feel it lacks in some areas.
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