Kimetsu no Yaiba – Mugen Train: Review

tanjiro snow winter day demon slayer

Artist credits -Twitter: @tarokunnnn and @_tamomoko

With the end of season one of the anime, Kimetsu no Yaiba rolled in with the highly anticipated move “Mugen Train” or “Mugen Reshaa-hen” in japanese. 

As the anime ended on a very interesting note that played directly into the movie, leaving all viewers on their toes, and the announcement of the new season on the go, let us walk together through the infinite rows of the “Mugen Train” before the story continues.

Being released in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kimetsu no Yaiba movie made it into the cinemas in japan on the 16th of October 2020 and internationally over the rest of 2020 and into the middle of 2021. Being highly anticipated and watched all over the globe, popularity rose extremely as it grossed over 503 million dollars and making it the highest grossing film of 2020.

After setting numerous records and claiming many awards, it has become the highest grossing anime and japanese film of all time.

Plot:

With the rumble of the train on the steel tracks, Tanjiro together with Nezuko, Inosuke and Zenitsu board to aid the Flame Hashira Rengoku. 

If you remember from the last episode of the anime, our protagonists crows (and sparrow) are called to embark on a new mission in which a demon supposedly has taken 40 humans captive. As Inosuke and Tanjiro bask in the presence of the sight of their first ever train, chaos ensues as they are chased by the authorities and quickly jump onto the train.

The story continues in the movie, as we see our quartett settle into their seats and they meet Rengoku again, as he happily munches on some bento. Starting off the movie with a hopeful and fun note that switches quickly, when all inhabitants of the train get their tickets stamped. Not long afterwards, the foretold demons attack their wagon and Rengoku steps in to slash them with a display of his immense power.

Upon his win, Tanjiro, Inosuke and Zenitsu are positively overwhelmed by the hashira’s strength and crowd around him to become his apprentice as they chant for their ‘big brother’. All seems well, until the slightly uncharacteristic behaviour of the three bleeds into the foreground and we realise it’s all just Rengoku’s dream.

Suddenly, our heroes have all fallen asleep and fall deeper into a peaceful dreamland each second.

Each and everyone of them dreams of something they desire, which turns out to be a ploy from the lower rank one called Enmu, who puts a spell on all passengers. He instructs four severely sleep-deprived passengers to each take care of one of our protagonists as he stands on top of the train.

As everyone dreams of something peaceful and nice like we see with Zenitsu who finally captured Nezuko’s heart or Inosuke who weirdly hopes to have a cave exploration while he orders Tanjiro and Zenitsu around. We continue to follow the point of view of Tanjiro, whose dream brings us back to the snowy fields of his home village.

He recognized his home and can’t believe his own eyes as his beloved family is right in front of him, happy that he has come back. Out of pure guilt he apologizes to them immediately for leaving them to die until he slowly but surely forgets they died in the first place.

Confused, but not able to quite remember why it feels weird for him to see his sibling again, he gets accustomed to his old lifestyle and even sees his mother again. Happier than ever, and believing everything bad before was just a dream, he goes back to his duties as the older brother.

Meanwhile, we find out that the four passengers instructed by Enmu are linked to the same dreams as the demon slayers to delve deep into their subconscious and destroy what is called their ‘spiritual cores’ which will make them unable to ever wake up again.

Tanjiro is back in his old lifestyle and feels better than ever, although flashes of his current life appear suddenly. Just as he catches onto the ruse by being reminded that he was on a train by none other than himself, he finds the old human Nezuko in front of him who greets him.

Tanjiro knows it is his right to live like this forever, but he also knows that this is merely a dream and he begrudgingly leaves his family behind. He finds out through the ghostly figure of his father, that he has to commit suicide to leave the dream, and surely as he slashes his neck he awakes on the rumbling train.

Everyone else except Nezuko is awake, and after severing the ties between the four passengers and their friends, Tanjiro knocks out the desperate children who finally want a peaceful night’s sleep as well.

After searching for the source of the demon scent that is now all over the train, Tanjiro encounters Enmu and promptly starts to fight him and even manages to sever his head after using suicide to break out of the lower One’s spell. We find out after that Enmu is not that easily defeated, but his true body is the train as he fused with it. 

Starting to try and attack the passengers to consume them, Zenitsu, Nezuko and Rengoku divide the wagons between each other and protect the passengers while Inosuke and Tanjiro search for Enmu’s ‘real neck’. 

In fighting Enmu, he is put under the hypnotic sleeping spell again and again, each time thrown into one dream after the other. To the point where Enmu makes Tanjiros father say horrible things to him. But our hero is sure that his family would never say such things, and continues to kill himself repeatedly in the blink of an eye to keep fighting.

Together with Inosuke, they actually locate the neckbone in the front of the train and with all their efforts combined kill the lower One with a last blow.

All seems well, but the fight isn’t over yet.

After rescuing the hostages and reconvening with Rengoku, another one of the twelve Kizuki appears: Akaza, the upper moon three.

He attacks the demon slayers and starts to talk and provoke Rengoku himself, as he asks him to become a demon. Displeased by his values, Rengoku states multiple times that he cherishes the human life and how death gives it meaning, and promptly starts to fight Akaza.

Akaza’s strength is immense, as the injured Tanjiro and Inosuke cannot even clearly see them moving. The fight is intense, and has Rengoku going at his utmost limit of power to try and destroy the demon in front of him. 

After a long stretch of tension filled moments, and some immense willpower that has been exuded by the flame hashira, finally sun breaks.

Akaza panics, as he is trapped by Rengoku’s last strength but somehow still makes it into the forest to flee. To which Tanjiro starts screaming behind, shaming him for his cowardly behaviour and declaring that Rengoku has won in tears. Saying that even though Rengoku has the disadvantage of not being able to regenerate and having a less durable body, he fought Akaza head on.

The entire fight builds into Rengoku on his knees, asking Tanjiro to listen to his last words.

He explains that his father had documents of the preceding flame hashira, and tells him what he should tell his family after he has died. Before he takes his last breath, he encourages him and says that he believes in his sister although she is a demon, and instructs him to always hold his head up high.

As he sees an apparition of his mother, he dies peacefully with a smile on his face and leaves the weeping demon slayer corps behind. As the other hashira are informed, they all mourn his death

Now that we’ve all relived this tragic turn of events, let us all dive into the form and setting of this movie, shall we?

Animation and Setting:

Kimetsu no Yaiba has been notorious for its incredibly gorgeous artstyle. Especially the breathing techniques and the landscapes are beautifully sculpted and leave no place for imagination. 

Aside from the anime’s specialties with Tanjiro’s water techniques and Zenitsu’s thunderclaps we have a new focus on the one and only flame hashira’s abilities. In the movie, we see truly what Rengoku is capable of, and the flames that lick at his majestic sword are truly a sight to behold. 

The landscapes may be nothing new unto themselves, but the fog that lifts from Tanjiro’s hometown, as well as the scene in which his current self wakes him up from the dream in crystal clear water is another artistic masterpiece that leaves the viewer mesmerized with its beauty.

There is some CGI embedded into the scenes with Enmu in which he fuses with the train, that might look a little uncomfortable at first when compared to the traditional style animation of Kimetsu no Yaiba, but quickly perfectly melds into the scenery as the ‘disgusting’ slime atrocity that is Enmu’s body. 

There are scenes in which colours suddenly and drastically change into a contrast rich ‘black and white’ display with the accent colour red that shows blood, that really set themselves apart from the usually very colourful art style.

There is a mixture of the known and the new, and the Mugen-Train movie blends them all perfectly together to truly leave a great cinematic experience. 

There are small details such as the flickering light in the train and the ongoing sound of the train tracks that encapsulate the steampunk vibe that the movie shows us. With the ‘new era’ of modern transport and the protagonists that come from more rural places, it’s a fully new experience for the viewer and the characters as well. 

The sun rising in those last emotional moments as Akaza tried to get away shows us a beautiful gradient that isn’t even the focus of the scene, but still steals the show with its glory. Even the blood seeping through Rengoku’s robes as he is close to death has a disturbing beauty to it, and the camerawork again brings us closer to the characters.

With the quick shifts between perspectives and some 360 shots of for example Tanjiro in the water, bring a dynamic that only fuels the quick and action-filled movie that doesn’t let up with its plot twists until it’s over.

Characters and Development:

All characters have gone through some very taxing and emotional moments in this movie.

Especially Tanjiro and Rengoku have built a very close relationship in that small amount of time, working together and having that signature senpai/kohai relationship.

Since we see a lot from Tanjiro’s perspective, it is just as interesting to see the development other characters have made.

Inosuke for example has not only learned to use his sharp instincts to the advantage of his comrades, but as he fights together with Tanjiro against Enmu his communication is seen to be a lot better. He works together with his peer and makes sure that Tanjiro is okay, as he fears for his safety.

This behaviour is very new for the wild character that he is, and it’s even more emotional to see how in touch with his feelings he is after Regoku’s death. After all of the hard fighting, he screams at Tanjiro and Zenitsu not to cry thoughtlessly but to move on, as he sheds his own tears.

We also find that Zenitsu’s protective instinct kicks in harder than before as he has to help Nezuko, which is something we’ve seen before but still a beautiful sight. His anxiousness is obviously still there, but one can’t deny his reliability when it comes to the sake of innocent passengers and the people he loves.

Tanjiro’s struggle with survivors’ guilt and ‘leaving family behind’, is nothing new but it still showed us his kind heart and noble character again as he has to make the soul crushing decision to leave his family. Because he could definitely have stayed in the bliss of a false dream, but he made the right decision to fight. It is a more vulnerable side that truly brought some dimension into his character.

In the end, we see that Rengoku has left a gnawing impact behind, as all three of the demon slayers cry over his death. This will be another trial that our heroes have to overcome to become stronger, which is just another frustrating step they have to take.

As much as it may hurt for us all, Rengoku’s death is a step in Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke’s path to reach their goals.

To sum it all up, “Mugen Reshaa-hen” is a movie that truly is a very unique experience. From the setting and animation to the heart wrenching plot it stays in your heart if you let it. From happy to sad to action-filled and bitter-sweet, this movie is rightfully in many top lists.

Now at the end of the movie, we’re left again with the horrible feeling of wanting to know “what happens next?”, but do not fear! As mentioned before, season two is already on its way. The first episode being released on the 10th of october and more to follow, the second to seventh episode will be a recap of the movie with some added bonus scenes.

Until then, let us all set our hearts ablaze!

-Nissa

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