Demon Slayer-Kimetsu no Yaiba-The Movie: Mugen Train finds four young demon slayers being sent on a mission where there are human disappearances, thought to be caused by a demon. There they meet a fellow demon slayer who is of the highest rank. While on the train they discover that it is a sleep demon wreaking havoc on the train.
If you haven’t seen the first season of Demon Slayer, you might be a bit lost with this plot. Although the film does take some time to give the main players in the film motivation, it is only a brief scene or two. This is very much an in-canon film and a continuation of the finale of the last episode of season one.
The fighting animation is brilliant, very rarely has fighting animation looked this good previously. Having said that though, a lot of the animation is quite basic for static scenes or monologue scenes. This film is very much in the anime style, by which I mean there are these fantastically animated fight scenes with gorgeous use of colours. Then there are also goofy moments where the animation changes to a more exaggerated style, often a cutesy chibi style, or a very basic design like two dots and a line for a facial expression.
The goofiness is in the show though so it isn’t completely out of left field for Demon Slayer, the only issue is, the cheap feel of the goofiness is enhanced when contrasted against the high quality animation of the fighting. There is a pivotal moment towards the end of the film, a powerful and emotional moment and then like a runaway train, the goofiness crashes into the scene and absolutely detracts from the moment.
The biggest issue with this film is that it does feel like 10 anime episodes edited together to make a big budget movie. The story structure is absolutely horrendous, it is very much a case of the story developing needlessly more and more grandiose. In the style of a child reciting the plot of a film – “This happened, then this happened, oh and then this happened”. It all has a very flimsy connection to the overall story which makes a previous scene that was important, feel meaningless. The constant need for this film to keep one upping the danger and excitement becomes tiresome quickly, because if the last fight didn’t really matter, why should the audience connect with the next fight?
In the show, the four friends are shown as capable if flawed fighters, however in the film their powers have been crippled. Previously the main character, Tanjiro, has been shown as a powerful fighter who can overcome the odds and win no matter the cost. Part way through the film however, he is useless. This goes for all the four main characters, they just aren’t portrayed as the main characters past a certain point. This is what caused a huge disconnect from a viewer of the series, to watch the film to see their favourite character in a lessened state.
The voice acting is solid all around, though almost every demon having a soft whisper of menace in their voice becomes repetitive. The dialogue has always been the weakest part of Demon Slayer, and though the budget for Mugen Train has been raised considerably, they decided the writers that they currently have are sufficient.
Overall, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a mess of a film story wise, but god damn, the action scenes are gorgeous. If you are a fan of the show then no doubt you will watch this, but if you aren’t a fan of the show, this is absolutely not a good starting point. It was enjoyable but overly bloated, reaching a near 2 hour run time, much of which felt like standard anime filler. This is certainly in the upper echelon of movies developed from anime shows but that is not a terribly high bar for quality.