Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train
(voices) Natsuki Hanae, Yoshisugu Matsuoka, Satoshi Hino, Daisuke Hirakawa
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
The characters are fun, the action is exciting, the horror is both profound and profoundly gross…
Anime films of this nature have an immediate barrier to entry: an audience’s potential unfamiliarity with the franchise. As this is not only the cinematic continuation of a 26-episode series, but has also become the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time (knocking the classic Spirited Away off the throne in the process), it could end up drawing animation junkies in who might not entirely know what they’re getting themselves into. Will newbies understand how breathing techniques are meant to make someone summon flame tigers and water dragons, or what that guy is doing running around with a boar’s mask on his head?
Fortunately, while it may not be the most beginner-friendly feature out there, it does well enough at getting the audience up to speed regardless.
Set in a world of demons and Demon Hunters, the film follows brave Tanjiro, sheepish Zenitsu, and the aforementioned boar-mask berserker Inosuke, as they board a train regularly beset by demons. The voice acting is great across the board, from Natsuki Hanae’s tragic strength as Tanjiro, Yoshisugu Matsuoka imbuing Inosuke with a relentless bestial spirit, Satoshi Hino as veteran Demon Hunter Rengoku – memetic from his first word, and Daisuke Hirakawa as the main demon Enmu is spine-chilling in his delivery.
And all those voices are backed up by spectacular presentation, courtesy of animation studio Ufotable, who not only worked on the original series, but more adventurous anime-heads may recognise their work on the Junji Ito nightmare Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack. They bring a similar sense of visceral terror to the proceedings here, from the copious amounts of blood (and the gleefully energetic fight scenes that spill them) to the grotesque visualisation of Enmu’s powers, turning an ordinary train into the realm of an eldritch incubus.
All that, while still engaging in more traditional Shonen hyperactivity, where it seems like everyone has their quirk settings stuck on 11 and will randomly break out into dialogue seemingly designed to be repeated in Internet forums worldwide. With that in mind, the film’s juggling of tones is rather impressive, shifting quickly from confronting psychological territory to light-hearted banter at the drop of a hat… yet without that hat dropping on the floor in the process.
It may not be the most open to newcomers, and its final act can feel like a sudden track switch into a completely different story, but it serves as a decent introduction into the world of Demon Slayer.
The characters are fun, the action is exciting, the horror is both profound and profoundly gross, and within its main demographic, it harkens back to the days when Bleach was in its youthful prime and Fullmetal Alchemist could be incredibly silly and heartbreaking all at once. It’s not the smoothest ride, but still one worth taking, no matter where you get on from.
Photos: ©Koyoharu Gotoge / SHUEISHA, Aniplex, ufotable