Note: The first section of this article does not include spoilers for Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train. A warning will be displayed before any spoilers are mentioned, so rest assured that you can read this article even if you haven’t watched it yet!
Fantasy anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has taken not only Japan, but the entire world by storm. On October 16, 2020, a sequel, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train, was released in Japan. In just 10 days, it earned over 100 billion yen in box office revenues, the fastest movie to have ever done so in Japan, and the two month mark saw it go past a whopping 300 million yen. If that wasn’t enough, it even overtook Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, previously the highest-grossing film in Japanese history – yet another record set at blazing speeds!
Along with this wave of popularity, manga volumes and general KnY merchandise has been selling out everywhere. Regardless of age and gender, the franchise has truly attracted passionate fans far and wide.
Penned by a TOM Staff member and true KnY fan who’s gone to see Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train an unbelievable 16 times, this article will introduce nine of its highlights – in other words, nine reasons to go and watch it when it’s available where you are. Get ready to engage in some Total Concentration Reading!
First, let’s talk about the background behind Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train. The original manga, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, tells the story of Tanjiro Kamado, a boy who embarks on a quest to heal his sister Nezuko, who has been transformed into a demon. During this journey, he and his companions must face intense battles against evil demons.
Mugen Train covers the 7th and 8th volumes of the manga. In terms of the TV anime series, the movie follows on from the story of the 26th and last episode, “New Mission.” If you haven’t seen the TV anime yet, I recommend watching it first.
For some quick information on the plot, setting, and key vocab, check out our guide to Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba!
Now, watch closely… and pay attention to these highlights!
1. Unbelievably Beautiful Visuals
When it first came out, the TV anime’s stunning animation and breathtaking battle scenes went viral. Of course, these high standards were maintained in the movie as well. Seeing those amazing battle scenes on the big screen was particularly overwhelming! The sheer speed made me feel like I was running through the screen with Tanjiro and the others, while the ominous figures of their enemies, the demons, had me shivering…
From the first scene of the advancing Mugen Train to the credits, you can dive right into the world of KnY through the spectacular animation. And it’s not just the battle scenes – charming country landscapes, the train’s striking interior, snowy mountains, the Rengoku family’s traditional Japanese house… There’s just so much to enjoy in this amazing movie, produced by ufotable, a studio whose animation of katana and Japanese architechture has been well received in anime like Touken Ranbu and much more. Be sure to look out for the backgrounds, too! Here’s a tip: each of the fusuma, or sliding doors, have especially elaborate designs.
2. The Flame Hashira: The One and Only Kyojuro Rengoku
One thing I want – or actually, need you to pay attention to is the second protagonist of Mugen Train: Kyojuro Rengoku, the Demon Slayer Corps’ Flame Hashira. Many people may have been surprised at Kyojuro’s first appearance in the anime series – the moment he lays eyes upon Nezuko, already a demon, and Tanjiro, who brought her, he orders that she be decapitated. This paints him as quite an unreasonable person who won’t even stop for an explanation first, but we go on to learn so much more about him. A son of the Rengoku family and its historic Fire Hashira lineage, we see his gentle soul, strength, and unwavering heart and convictions, as well as the loneliness that follows a man of his nature. All of this is sure to draw you to him as a character.
At the beginning of Episode 24 of the anime series, Kyojuro is seen talking with Shinobu Kocho (the Insect Hashira) about his upcoming mission on the Mugen Train. He didn’t receive any battle scenes during the series, so the movie is the first time we actually get to see him and his Flame Breathing techniques in action. The flames that roar through the train, his unbelievably swift reactions, the movement of his cape, his intense red eyes that seem to see through all…
Everything. Is. Way. Too. Cool.
Seriously, everything about him is just so cool… How am I meant to deal with this… (I mean, I don’t have to.) The moment he began his Flame Breathing First Form: Shiranui, I realized, “Oh, I’ve pretty much spent nothing on this movie… This is already worth the ticket…”
From his sword techniques to his mere presence and words, every part of Rengoku Kyojuro is priceless. Honestly, this movie leaves you no time to even blink. Everything is something to look out for. I don’t want you to let even a tenth of a second escape your attention, so be sure to use plenty of eye drops before it starts
3. The Mugen Train and its Real-Life Origins
Let’s take a look at a certain train otaku favorite in Japan, SL Hitoyoshi, which features an 8620 Class steam locomotive. Commonly known as “hachiroku” (meaning “86”), it’s none other than the locomotive that inspired the appearance of the Mugen Train! From the beginning of the movie, we get plenty of glimpses at Japan in the Taisho Era (1912-1926), from the design of the station and passenger cars to the fashion of the passengers themselves. Through the animation, we also experience its sheer speed, as well as the actual sensation of being swayed as we ride in the heavy carriages. It’s downright awesome!
Here in Japan, we actually got to see a collaboration between SL Hitoyoshi and KnY, where the locomotive was transformed into a real-life Mugen Train for a limited run. Naturally, it was so popular that it was practically impossible to get your hands on tickets. (Yup, I didn’t manage to snag any either…) It quickly became a viral topic on social media, with people excited to see a “real-life Mugen Train” even in photos and videos.
4. Tanjiro’s Feelings For His Family
KNYA’s story begins with a powerful theme: family. We also see its importance in the movie, which beautifully illustrates Tanjiro’s feelings for his family. He’s already lost so many people important to him, but no matter how much he wants to return to those happy days, there’s no going back – he’ll never be able to see his loved ones again. This movie’s depiction of Tanjiro’s family, entangled in memories both happy and sad, but never to be restored, will have your eyes streaming with tears.
5. And Of Course, the Funny Scenes!
Another great element that we get to see again are the hilarious moments between Inosuke and Zenitsu! You’ll also find yourself chuckling at Rengoku as he scarfs down his ekiben (bento lunches bought at train stations). Another heads up – at first Zenitsu’s dream sequence will probably just seem funny, but if you pay attention to where it’s set, that smile might turn into tears… (This is especially aimed at anyone who’s already read the manga up to the Mugen Train arc – I want you to think long and hard about where he is in that dream!)
From here, I’ll be introducing specific details about the movie, so please stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers.
Alright! Let’s keep going with more highlights, including actual scenes from the movie!
6. An Unprecedented Battle of Intellect
Tanjiro’s new foe, and the demon controlling the Mugen Train is Enmu, Lower Rank One in the Twelve Kizuki. Before the events of the movie, Muzan himself took a liking to Enmu and gifted him with Muzan’s blood. Having gained power with this infusion, Enmu decides to enlist the help of humans – or rather, use them as a means for his plan. Thus, the lives of Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke, Nezuko, and their mission companion, Rengoku, as well as the train’s many regular passengers, are Enmu’s next targets.
His gentle and calm manner of speaking and friendly smile prove to make him an even more sinister character. Carrying out his plan with meticulous care, Enmu attempts to put Tanjiro and the other humans to sleep forever through his Blood Demon Art, a style of attack that they’ve never faced before. How will Tanjiro and his fellow Demon Slayers wake themselves up from Enmu’s eternal dreams?
7. The Sudden Appearance of Upper Rank Three, Akaza
The last part of the movie takes a huge turn with the sudden appearance of Akaza (Upper Rank Three) and his fierce battle against Rengoku. Just before dawn, Tanjiro and the others finally get the chance to breathe a sigh of relief, having defeated Enmu and checked that the passengers are safe. But this only lasts for a moment, with the Demon Slayers gathered facing the dreaded Upper Rank Three for the first time.
The sudden roaring sound signals the appearance of something… but then dies down, leaving an eerie silence. Then, a pair of eyes glisten in the darkness. This frightening sense of anticipation crosses the screen to weigh down on you, causing you to instinctively clench your fists in suspense…
Despite Akaza being a favorite among KnY’s many demons, we didn’t get any information on his voice actor, or even still images until the movie’s official release. As a result, fans speculated that the movie might only cover Enmu’s arc and stop before showing Akaza, or that the anime series would continue with his story. However, the movie’s premiere date came and the cat was finally let out of the bag. We now know that Akaza’s voice actor is Akira Ishida, famous for roles like Kaworu Nagisa in Neon Genesis Evangelion! This casting was a huge yet welcome surprise for fans. If you’re watching the movie with Japanese audio, be sure to soak up every moment of Akaza’s malevolence, madness and despair through Ishida’s formidable voice acting!
One more highlight is the overwhelming energy of Rengoku and Akaza in their battle scenes, yet another part where you can’t afford to blink. If IMAX screenings are available near you, take advantage of them and experience the fight’s sheer power at full volume. It goes without saying that you can still experience plenty at normal theaters, but I urge you to go and feel the huge impact behind each and every hit at IMAX volume levels! The depiction of the snowflake patterns in Akaza’s Technique Deployment ability is also a highlight.
In the original manga’s 18th volume, we learn about Akaza’s past. Despite being a ruthless demon with numerous victims, the sorrows of his life as a human capture the pity of readers. Personally, he’s one of my favorite characters. After watching the movie, I also recommend going right to the rest of the manga to continue the story!
8. Tears of Frustration
At the end of the battle, Tanjiro and his companions are overwhelmed by the realization that they are still too weak, no matter how much work they put in or how hard they train. Sneering down with their seemingly infinite power are the demons. Haunted by the thought that they couldn’t do anything, that they had to be protected by others, the young humans have faced frustration, sadness, and uncontrollable tears. For the sake of their slain family members and beloved people they still had to protect, they’ve trained over and over, fought to survive the Final Selection, narrowly escaped death every night, and made huge progress. Yet their power was still nowhere near enough. And now, the man they had followed has fallen victim to their enemies. No matter how many times you watch the movie, this realization will tear your heart to shreds.
In the face of such a tragedy, Inosuke offers some words that are deeply touching. His upbringing among wild boars may have given him less experience with other people, but we can see that he’s grown yet again as a human.
9. Rengoku’s Explosive Battle Through Life
Fans who have already read the manga will know what I’m talking about. In any case, I won’t elaborate too much, but I urge you to burn his battles and his way of life into your mind – why he risks his life in battle, why he tries to protect humans. His crystal-clear beliefs and promises will also give you an insight into the loneliness he must bear.
Protect the weak. Respect one’s duty and values.
In what light will you see these warriors and hear their words as they fight to protect others? If you have the chance, please find out on the big screen. Finally, let me leave you with these words: “Keep your heart burning!” (And don’t forget a handkerchief!)
This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article with text and illustrations by HER.
Need some more quality time with the KnY crew? Bring them home with these adorable figures!