When I heard Demon Slayer Season 2 was going to be split into two cours and the first one would be a retelling of the Mugen Train Arc I was disappointed. It feels lazy. It’s also unnecessary. Why waste the first seven episodes? Sure maybe some fans haven’t seen the movie, but release the film on the streaming services if you want fans to see it. For those that don’t know a “cour” is, it’s an “essentially one production block of episodes that may or may not have a break in between it and the next block.” Anyway, the first cour is called, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Mugen Train Arc. The first episode is brand new and focuses on Kyojuro Rengoku hunt for a demon prior to boarding the Mugen train.
The first episode adds greater context for the Mugen Train Arc. Rengoku is altered to a demon attacking people at night. In Demon Slayer most of the people are ignorant of the existence of demons. This means society doesn’t respond to demons at all, instead people assume that people just disappear. It’s convenient to the plot as well. If humans avoid demons, then there might not be much conflict in the series. However, in this episode the people are aware of the demon presence. Fuku is the exception at first. She doesn’t believe demon exists even though her grandmother does. Rengoku buys all of Fuku’s bento and pretends to be a salesmen to get close to the Mugen train. In the maintenance station, he finally encounters the demon.
Referred to as the “Slasher,” the demon is bald and gray with a body covered in blue tattoos. When he uses his Blood Demon Art these tattoos glow. The Slasher has sharp dark blue nails and moves quickly due to his Demon Art. The Slasher claims that he’s “the fastest demon,” and taunts Rengoku as he holds a boy hostage. Rengoku warns him not to get too cocky. Before the Slasher can harm the boy further, Rengoku rushes forward and cuts off both of the demons hands. The Slasher flees, as Rengoku treats the boy. Once the demon detects the scent of Fuku and her grandmother, he uses his Demon Art to give chase.
Echo’s of Shinjuro Rengoku
Leaving the boy in the care of other demon slayers, Rengoku follows Slayer using his Total Concentration Breathing. With the headstart, Slasher terrorizes Fuku and her grandmother before Rengoku appears. The arrogant demon challenges Rengoku’s speed. Rengoku turns out to be faster and quickly decapitates Slasher with his Flame Breathing, First Form: Unknowing Fire. Watching from behind, Fuku’s grandmother is reminded of the moment when Shinjuro Rengoku saved her and Fuku’s mother. She initially mistakes Rengoku for his father, as the latter has the same clothing and mannerisms his father does.
It’s a moment that reminds us that each demon is a threat to innocent people. This series epic fights with demon can focus to much on the action. We should remember that the Demon Corps have a noble cause and they have profound effects on the lives of humans. I remain disappointed in the retelling of the Mugen Arc, but appreciate the new episode. Demon Slayer Season 2 Episode 1 perfectly blends in with the movie already covered. I not an impressive episode but one that adds to the arc.
The Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba manga was first published in Weekly Shonen Jump from February 2016 until May 2020. The series was written and illustrated by Koyoharu Gotoge. Demon Slayer tells the tragic story of Tanjiro Kamado and his sister Nezuko, who become orphans after their family is massacred by a demon. Nezuko herself is turned into a demon. Driven to return his sister to normal, Tanjiro embarks on a journey to find a cure. The series became a hit especially after the anime adaptation in 2019. As of December 2020, the manga had over 120 million copies circulation and surpassed One Piece as the highest-selling manga of 2019 and has gone on to sell over 82 million copies in 2020.
Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie – Mugen Train is the first film from the series. A direct sequel from the anime series, the film retells the Mugen Train arc. In the anime, Enmu was given Muzan’s blood after the demon leader disbanded (and killed) the lower Twelve Kizuki. Meanwhile, Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke are sent to join the Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku. The Hashira is investigating disappearances on the Infinity Train. Enmu is the cause of these disappearances. Enmu’s demon ability is dream manipulation. He can enter and control someone’s dream, it’s possible to kill them if he can destroy their “Spiritual Core.” Zenitsu, Tanjiro, Kyojuro, and Inosuke all get trapped in vivid dreams. Tanjiro dreams of his family, Zenitsu dreams of dating Nezuko, Inosuke dreams of being a “cave explorer” with Tanjiro, Nezuko, and Zenitsu as animal helpers, and finally, Kyojuro dreams of his family, particularly his father and brother.
Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie – Mugen Train has the task of humanizing Kyojuro. At this point in the series we only just meet him. It’s important to make us care about him, especially considering how this movie ends. His father, Shinjuro Rengoku, was the previous Flame Hashira. Shinjuro seems nihilistic, responding to Kyojuro’s announcement that he became a Hashira, with “it was pointless.” It unclear what made Shinjuro this way but it’s obvious that Kyojuro wants his approval. As the four children enter the dreams and locate the spiritual core’s they’re attacked by Kyojuro, Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke. After everyone awakens, Tanjiro heads to the roof of the train to face Enmu. Tanjiro attempts to cut Enmu’s head off, but the demon keeps putting him to sleep. However, Tanjiro can wake up almost instantly each time.
Eventually, Tanjiro decapitates Enmu using Water Breathing 10th Form: Constant Flux. However, Enmu is still alive because he’s merged with the train. The concept of a demon changing its form and therefore its anatomy is interesting. I wonder if the series will explore this further or if this is a one-off. However, the following fight between the demon slayers and Enmu wasn’t interesting. The use of CGI was distracting and I found the repetitive hacking of Enmu computer-generated flesh boring. Only when Inosuke and Tanjiro worked together to defeat Enmu did it become enjoyable. After the train crashes the most exciting fight begins. After Kyojuro teaches Tanjiro to stop his internal bleeding, something lands behind them creating a dust cloud.
Upper Rank 3 Akaza verses Kyojuro
It’s revealed that the Upper Rank 3, Akaza was the cause. He instantly tries to attack Tanjiro, however, Kyojuro uses Flame Breathing: Second Form – Rising Scorching Sun, splitting Akaza’s arm in half. The demon attempts to recruit Kyojuro, asking him to become a demon. Kyojuro refuses and Akaza attacks with his Blood Demon Art: Technique Development – Destructive Death – Compass Needle. Akaza and Kyojuro move so fast that Tanjiro can’t follow them. Throughout the battle, it becomes clear that demons have a natural advantage over humans in battle. No matter how much damage Kyojuro delivers to Akaza, the demon simply heals and does so quickly. It’s still possible to win but it must be done quickly. Until Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie – Mugen Train, those of us that only watch the anime was told that Hashira’s and Upper-Level Demons are at another level.
Akaza and Kyojuro’s fight is a good display of the difference between the lower demon’s like Enmu and lower slayer’s like Tanjiro. Furthermore, the Upper Six can fight recklessly since the loss of limbs isn’t a concern, whereas, Demon Slayers much pace themselves, be disciplined, skilled, and cautious. Akaza and Inosuke note that Kyojuro’s form is flawless. When the fight reaches its climax, Kyojuro uses his Flame Breathing: Ninth Form – Rengoku verses Akaza’s Destructive Death: Annihilation Type. Kyojuro wounded both externally and internally is at his limit. After the dust clears, it’s revealed that Akaza has stuck his arm through the chest of Kyojuro. Undaunted, Kyojuro swings his sword into Akaza’s neck, Akaza tries to punch him but Kyojuro grabs his forearm. Akaza can’t break free and the sun begins to rise. After the blade digs deeper into Akaza’s neck he finally pulls free tearing his limbs off. He flees into the forest, as Tanjiro calls him a coward.
Demon Slayer is about heart
Anime movies are often non-canon, creating lore that doesn’t impact the main series. In a lot of ways, this allows for more creative freedom. However, because Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie – Mugen Train is adapted from an arc in the main story it has an impact on the story. This movie feels more “real.” This movie’s central themes focus on the “beauty of being human,” and “the sorrow of death.” Kyojuro argues for humanity’s value. He says that “growing old and dying” is beautiful and humans are only “loveable and precious” because of this. He notes that the strength in humans isn’t based on the body. The film opens with Ubeyashiki and his wife, Amane walking through a graveyard for demon slayers. He laments all the death and hopes that it will end with the next generation.
It’s a foreshadowing of Kyojuro Rengoku’s death. I expect that Demon Slayer is going to kill off more of the “good” guys, Tanjiro and Nezuko might be safe but I’m not sure anyone else will be. What has set Demon Slayer apart from other shonen series has been the emotional maturity of Tanjiro Kamado. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect others, however, unlike other shounen protagonists, he does pursue power for power’s sake. Tanjiro’s heartbreak at the end was probably the most impactful part of the film, he barely knew Kyojuro but was devasted as he knew him for years. Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie – Mugen Train tells a story that emphasizes that it’s not strength that matters, it’s the heart.