Anime Review: Kimetsu no Yaiba (Movie) – Mugen Ressha-hen (2020)

TL;DR – all aboard the demon train! Who will perish and who will survive?

Review (warning: spoilers)

First things first. If you have not seen Kimetsu no Yaiba (Season 1) then you need to watch that before watching Kimetsu no Yaiba (Movie): Mugen Ressha-hen. The assumption is if you’re watching the movie then you’ve already seen the first 26 episodes in season one. Otherwise, you’ll spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out what the hell is going on in this movie.

Likewise, this review will make the same assumption. Feel free to check out my review of season one here if you’re after background information and the origins of Demon Slayer.

Our story starts with reports coming in of demon activity aboard the ‘Mugen Ressha-hen’ (translates to ‘Infinity Train’). Passengers have gone missing, and after demon slayers are sent to investigate and they too disappear, the Demon Slayer Corps decide they need to bring in the heavy hitters.

The upper echelon elite of the Corps are known as ‘Hashira’ (translates to ‘pillars’), and we are introduced to Kyojuro Rengoku, the Flame Pillar, who is sent to deal with whatever is happening. Joining him are our intrepid main group of budding demon slayers:

  • Tanjiro Kamado – the main character seeking to find a cure for his younger sister and defeat Muzan Kibutsujji (the demon leader) from killing more humans after he discovers his entire family slaughtered by a demon in season one.
  • Nezuko Kamado – Tanjiro’s demon blood-infected younger sister who is the only survivor of his family’s massacre.
  • Inosuke Hashibira – the boar-mask wearing, dual sword wielding, unusually feminine looking (under the mask) warrior seeking to be the greatest demon slayer ever.
  • Zenitsu Agatsuma – a cowardly, often inept, demon slayer who is obsessed with pretty girls and has an especially unhealthy infatuation for Nezuko (this is understandable, however, because Nezuko is very cute unless she goes all Hulk mode…)

It should be said from the outset that all the pillars are different. Not only their powers but their personalities, motives, and quirks all range dramatically, and not all pillars are like-able. Some are cold, stand-offish, and selfish.

This is not the case for Kyojuro who with flaming gold and red hair, wide eyed exuberance, and easy smile makes him the admiration and envy of our young group of budding demon slayers. His skills are literally combustible. Not only is he so hot he’s cool (see what I did there?) but he has an optimism and compassion that can be absent from other pillars. His mother instilled a deep responsibility to protect the weak. This responsibility is something that both Tanjiro and Kyojuro share and connects them by movie’s end. Every life is precious.

This is in contrast to some of the other pillars who see killing demons as the highest priority and saving lives as secondary. If a human life needs to be sacrificed in order to slay the demon then so be it.

With Kyojuro by their side, Tanjiro and the others are optimistic that they’ll solve the mystery and prevent any more disappearances aboard the Infinity Train. Their investigation leads to a confrontation with the demon named Enmu.

Within the demon ranks there are an elite group called the Twelve Moons (six upper demons and six lower demons). They are considered the twelve most powerful demons just below Muzan their leader. Enmu holds the position of lower rank one meaning he is the highest of the six lower ranks and closest to becoming an upper rank demon.

Enmu’s power is the ability to manipulate people’s dreams by going into them, twisting what the person sees and killing them. He revels in the pain and misery of others and sees human hearts as fragile playthings waiting to be crushed. But his powers don’t stop there, not only can he have hundreds of humans under his control, Enmu has fused with the Infinity Train and transformed his body into the locomotive so his weaknesses are hidden somewhere within the train structure. In other words, the entire Infinity Train is the demon Enmu, and he can morph parts of the train into a tentacled monstrous nightmare.

The initial third of the movie is seeing Enmu’s power at work unbeknownst to our band of demon slayers. All are put into slumber, and we enter their hopes and dreams and fears and nightmares. Enmu’s goal is to destroy each of the demon slayers’ spirit core. Under his control are a bunch of human children who he orders into the demon slayers’ dreams to locate the spirit core and smash it. Turns out the spirit cores of each demon slayer are not so easily disposed of, and it’s a wonderful insight into how each spirit core reflects the person.

For example, Kyojuro’s spirit core is surrounded by a land of fire, his heart aflame with intense purpose that prevents access. By contrast, inside Tanjiro, his own little spirits guide the child to his spirit core which is surrounded by a beautiful sea. There are no defences surrounding the core, and the child is stunned that the spirits have actively helped her in locating it. The purity and innocence of Tanjiro’s spirit moves the child to tears and she can’t bring herself to destroy it.

The middle third of the movie has our demon slayers awakened and the revelation that the entire train is demonic. They then go about trying to save the passengers inside while trying to locate Enmu’s weak point.

The best scene in this part of the film is when Nezuko is unleashed and starts attacking the tentacles inside one of the carriages to protect the sleeping passengers. At one point, the tentacles overcome her and it looks like she will be crushed. The sound track introduces this drum beat that slowly gets louder and Zenitsu arrives on the scene. Zenitsu is a hilarious character when awake as he appears to have no fighting skills whatsoever, but when Zenitsu falls asleep, his true skill awakens and he becomes “too-cool-for-school”. His attack involves lightning and the sound track combined with the animation sequence where he saves Nezuko is truly adrenaline pumping.

The battle between the demon slayers and Enmu is epic, and it takes the combined efforts of Tanjiro and Inosuke to defeat the lower rank demon. When finally they slay Enmu, the Infinity Train gets derailed in the process. I found myself as exhausted as the characters were on the screen. But just when you think it’s all over, another demon arrives.

Akaza holds the position of upper rank three and uses martial arts to defeat demon slayers and has regeneration abilities to heal injuries almost instantly. He shows contempt for anyone he perceives as weaker than him and offers those who he sees as his equal the chance of becoming a demon.

Kimetsu no Yaiba (Movie): Mugen Ressha-hen turns out to be less about Enmu and more about Akaza as we get to see for the first time in the series a Hashira/Pillar battle it out with an Upper Rank demon. It’s this secondary battle that elevates the film above other anime films.

At the end of season one, we learn from Muzan that no lower rank demon has ever defeated a Hashira (and as a result the lower six has been a bit of a revolving door for Muzan) and it has only ever been the upper rank demons that have killed a Pillar (and the upper rank demons have remained unchanged).

With this in mind, I was on the edge of my seat because I had no idea who would come out the victor. If epic was the word used to describe the battle between Enmu and Tanjiro and Inosuke, then the battle between Akaza and Kyojuro was colossally Homeric.

As stated above, Kyojuro is one of the pillars that you are drawn to because of his affable personality, and he is not afraid to show his human decency unlike some of the other pillars who exude an impression that they are above humans. He would make the perfect teacher for Tanjiro and his fellow demon slayers, it is truly devastating when Akaza fatally wounds him.

The gut-wrenching fountain of tears that pours forth from Tanjiro and company is both comical and tearful (and you won’t know whether to cry or laugh yourself… you might as well do both), and Tanjiro’s anger at Akaza for fleeing the fight after Kyojuro is slain is a flag that their next confrontation will be earth shattering.

All’s well that ends well. NOT!

When I took my boys to go see this movie, at the end, my eldest son said, “They did my boy (i.e. Kyojuro) wrong dad, they did my boy wrong.”

I couldn’t agree more.

10 out of 10

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