Review of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train

STAFF WRITER Jonathan Bender

On April 23 Demon Slayer: Mugen Train released in the United States. The film received a series of notable achievements such as the highest grossing movie in Japan and the highest grossing Japanese film released globally according to Vanity Fair. 

The movie continues the Demon Slayer series with a small section of the plot being adapted to film before the release of the second season in late 2021 according to the official Twitter of the show.

Before the review, a few things need to be prefaced. First, the movie is rated R so if you are under the age of 17 parental supervision is required. Second, this review is meant to be spoiler free with more general or vague critiques and comments. With this out of the way, let’s begin.

Following the end of Demon Slayer’s season 1, the film starts immediately where the show left off with the main characters Tanjiro, Inosuke and Zenitsu boarding the train to meet with Kyojuro Rengoku to fulfill their mission assignment. From this point the characters give exposition before the movie transitions to a meaningful plot.

The first major accomplishment of the film is its art style. The animation and designs use a cartoon style which takes themes from Japanese art design, such as flowing brush strokes with tapering ends and thicker lines, along with vibrant colors filling in gaps. No part of the scene being viewed seems empty or boring at any time which keeps the watcher engaged.

Demon Slayer’s music is another major attraction. The diverse soundtrack sets the theme at many points. One example is at the start where light and cheerful strings excite a sense of adventure or when the climax starts, an electric guitar riff plays which drives a chill down your spine. For any emotion or atmosphere presented, a part of the soundtrack amplifies the effect. And lastly for music, the ending theme is nothing to scoff at. 

Homura by Japanese singer Lisa provides a satisfying conclusion to the film with its rising action climaxing with a strong vocal section amplified with drums and guitar which slowly fades out to the ending screen.

A last comment for the movie is its enhancement of and accuracy to the source material. After reading the entire manga from which it is sourced, I can confirm that many scenes are followed accurately and even enhanced beyond what simple drawings can show. The excellent animation and art turns a simple one-panel scene from the manga into a minute-long animation which blew me away. The developers of the film had passion for the content as seen with the level of detail and work put into each and every scene to match or even exceed the source material.

Even with so many things to compliment the film about, it has a few faults which must be addressed, one of which being the story setup as a whole. Demon Slayer follows the “Shounen” or “young boy” genre for Japanese stories which generally follows a young boy on a quest in an action setting. Demon Slayer follows this format well but also falls into many cliches. 

One example of this is that the villains generally feel flat and underdeveloped. The main threats don’t seem to have moral qualms or problems. They are only evil and it is never really explained why which feels disingenuous. 

This then continues into the “monster of the week” format where a new villain or challenge presents itself, but it follows an oversaturated character archetype or has little development or real stakes to keep the reader invested which may lead to a consumer dropping the story.

One last criticism is in regards to the pacing. After about 20 minutes of recap from the show, exposition and story progression, the viewer is met with about 25 minutes of content which doesn’t serve to drive the movie forward. The awkward flow here can seriously damage the enjoyment as no plot development occurs, and no action occurs. After this, the movie once again picks up with plot development but this gap is jarring to the experience as a whole.

So the question remains, should you watch Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? If you watched the first season of the show and plan on continuing, yes you absolutely should, especially if you intend on watching the second season. If you haven’t seen the show you most likely shouldn’t watch the movie as you will be lost in the plot. Instead I recommend that you watch the main series first before watching the film. I see no reason to skip the film if you are able to watch it.