Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train finally released in Malaysia exclusively for GSC, and I decided to watch and review it.
As Japan’s best-selling film of all time, it is undeniable that there is a level of expectation to be had before watching it. Did it live up to its glory, or is Mugen Train just another hype train? This spoiler-free review will help you determine if the film is worth your time.
Mugen Train is a canon film that takes place directly after season 1 of Demon Slayer concluded. As a result, you have to watch the Demon Slayer anime or at least read the manga to have an understanding of Mugen Train‘s plot. If you have not watched Demon Slayer, you can do so on Netflix.
Initially, when I heard that the Mugen Train arc will be condensed into a single movie, I was worried. However, the film’s plot and pacing were impeccable. The story flowed very organically and does not feel rushed at all.
Structurally, the film’s narrative stretches across three clear and distinct acts. The first act eases audiences into the film, setting up Kyojuro Rengoku’s backstory. It also sheds a bit of light on Tanjiro’s relationship with his family which is really heartwarming. In addition, Zenitsu and Inosuke also provided welcome moments of comic relief which helped to balance the growing emotional tension within the first act. Overall, the first act is a well-paced vehicle that focuses more on setting up important plot points that will drive the action in the second and third acts.
In the second act, Enmu, Lower Rank 1 of the Twelve Kizuki takes centre stage. The entirety of the second and third acts is mostly just action and fight scenes. However, the fights never feel too drawn out and are well-edited so that audiences can breathe in between hectic fights.
My complaint with the plot is its third act. This is where we meet Akaza who engages Rengoku for the film’s climactic fight. However, the movie never really does explain where or why Akaza appeared. He just shows up unannounced out of nowhere, without any introduction or set up. While this will probably be explained in Demon Slayer season 2 or beyond, as it stands, Akaza’s appearance is really a “what the hell?” moment that is not well executed.
Other than that, the film’s story is tightly written, interlaced with great fight scenes, comedic moments and emotional buildup that pays off really well in the end.
As I ponder on what to include in my review, the animation featured in the Demon Slayer movie is a no-brainer. Without a doubt, this is the film’s strongest point. Once again, Ufotable lived up to its moniker “unlimited budget works” with just how immaculate the animation is throughout the film.
Special effects are simply stunning—the water animations whenever Tanjiro executes a move are fluid and magnetic to the viewers’ eyes. Likewise, while Zenitsu does not share as much screen time in fights, the animation for his lightning is quick, but projects immense weight and power.
However, the star of the animation is undoubtedly Rengoku. Ufotable handled the Flame Pillar’s attacks phenomenally. The licking of flames when they appear and how smoothly they disappear is a visual fiesta every single time Rengoku brandishes his sword. The reds and yellows of the flames stand out marvellously in the brown background of the train and in the dark of the night.
Furthermore, the 3D elements of camerawork and special effects are virtually indistinguishable from the 2D animation. In parts of the fights, the silky-smooth movements of the characters over a 3D-plane really help to add scale and fluidity to fights. Aesthetically, the animation of Mugen Train has definitely some of the best animation in anime to date.
There is a notable improvement in terms of sound when compared to the anime. The cinema’s surround sound system really immersed me into the visual experience on screen more than the anime did. For example, the crisp audio of Zenitsu zapping from one end of the screen to another as he performs his attack is breathtaking. Many of the other sound effects of slashing and burning made wonderful use of surround sound.
Sound effects aside, music is another incredible facet of the viewing experience. While LiSA’s performance of Homura is the film’s most well-known track, many of the other tracks did a marvellous job. In particular, the metallic riff of the electric guitar during Akaza’s theme helped give the demon an incredibly foreboding presence. There was also a beautifully haunting piano tune that played when Tanjiro was alone. This is my personal favourite track of the movie, despite how short it was.
The voice acting in the film was also incredible. As a movie with a lot of emotional segments, Tanjiro’s voice actor, Natsuki Hanae, really brought out the desperation and emotion. However, the standout voice to me was Daisuke Hirakawa, the voice behind Enmu. Hirakawa absolutely nailed the performance, giving off an incredibly creepy and at times, goosebump-inducing vibe as Enmu.
Expectations and Cliches
Time for the review to address the elephant in the room, or in this case, in the Demon Slayer movie. As a shounen anime, Demon Slayer uses many of the tropes apparent in the genre. For example, a spectator of a fight going “they’re moving too fast for me to keep up!” Thus, the film, despite its brilliance in setting up plot points for huge emotional payoff, is by no means a literary masterpiece.
However, despite subscribing to shounen tropes, the movie does a splendid job of challenging the viewer’s expectations. In many of the fights, while I already anticipated a certain result to happen, I ended up pleasantly surprised by the movie taking a different direction. In several tense moments, I found myself stunned by the remarkable and commendable actions of some of the characters. While you might already be spoiled or can guess what happens in the film, the movie does a good job at keeping viewers on their toes, especially in subverting expectations during fights.
Demon Slayer is one of the hottest anime franchises of recent times. Thus, it is understandable that some people might steer away from the film simply because of hype. Personally, while I do feel that the hype can be a bit too much, the Demon Slayer movie is undoubtedly one of the best movies to watch in cinemas right now.
Honestly, is Mugen Train better than Spirited Away, the Studio Ghibli anime that it dethroned? I would disagree. The latter is a better written, more compelling and magical tale. However, as an action film and shounen anime movie, Demon Slayer has set the standard of what an anime movie should be like.
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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train
An emotional and action-packed visual treat that sets the standard for all shounen anime films.
- Well adapted and condensed story arc with excellent pacing
- Jaw-dropping animation and visuals
- Incredible music, sound effect and vocal performances
- Fights can get unpredictable and really drive the movie forward
- Akaza's introduction is too sudden and not set up at all
- Somewhat falls into shounen troupes
A viewing experience to remember