Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train release date: 26 May 2021
Whether you know your animé or not, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is a big deal. How big? Well, it’s officially Japan’s highest-grossing film of all time. So, what’s all the fuss about? From the Demon Slayer movie cinema release date to backstory, character bios and what makes this a big-screen must-see, we have everything you need to get up to speed. All aboard!
Demon Slayer the movie: Mugen Train is a bona fide phenomenon: a record-breaking Manga (Japanese comic-book or graphic novel) by Koyoharu Gotoge that became a spectacular animé (Japanese animated series) and that has now transitioned to the cinema for a big-screen adventure leading on from the end of season one.
Visually jaw-dropping and very, very entertaining, the Demon Slayer movie doesn’t require a PhD in animé for you to have a blast. That being said, having a little backstory and some brief character bios under your belt will add so much to your cinema visit. So, let’s do this.
The Demon Slayer manga, movie and animé are set in Japan during the Taishõ era (1912-1926). This is the period during which Japan was taking its first steps away from feudal rule and towards the modern era. Think traditional Japanese clothing, bladed weapons etc. but with a flavour of modernity (like the movie’s steam train).
Yes… and no. As is often the case with animé and manga, Demon Slayer is set in a tweaked version of the real world. The major ‘tweak’ in this scenario is that everyone lives in a Japan in which humans are regularly preyed upon by flesh-eating demons.
No. At least not the scarlet stereotype we’re used to in the West. Japanese mythology is awash with a variety of demons – each with its own look, methods and stomping grounds. This has given Demon Slayer’s makers free rein to create a wildly inventive rogue’s gallery of grotesque and characterful baddies.
In the world of Demon Slayer, demons grow stronger the more humans they eat and can heal themselves, even regenerating limbs. In time they can also develop supernatural skills called Blood Demon Arts – anything from shapeshifting to illusion casting or splitting off parts of their bodies like fleshy drones. However, sunlight kills them, vampire-style, so they only attack at night.
Demons are formidable but humans do have a way of fighting back: the Demon Slaying Corps – a group of highly trained warriors, armed with specially forged swords that are the only weapons that can decapitate demons permanently. And, there’s more good news: Demon Slayers can learn performance-enhancing and healing Breathing Styles (Water, Breath, Thunder, Fire Breathing and so on). Cue LOTS of gorgeously animated special attacks that positively pop on a cinema screen.
That’s because, at its heart, Dragon Slayer is the story of one particular member of the Corps: a young and pure-hearted former charcoal seller called Tanjiro Kamado. Talking of which, why don’t we introduce the main characters in Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train?
Here’s who you need to know in the world of the Demon Slayer movie.
Tanjiro is the demon slayer of the title and its main protagonist. His family was massacred by a demon in the opening episode of the animé, and while his sister Nezuko survived the attack, she was cursed to become a demon herself. Miraculously, she was able to retain some of her humanity. After a brush with a demon slayer (Giyu Tomioka), Tanjiro resolved to train to become a slayer himself and to seek a cure for Nezuko. He has a very hard head (great for headbutts), and an amazingly keen sense of smell (great for sniffing out danger).
Tanjiro’s sis is, for now at least, cursed to be a demon. She has a bamboo bit in her mouth (just in case her demonic appetite for human flesh comes to the fore), but for the most part, she holds onto the capacity for human thought and emotion. As such she’s very protective of her older brother and will often attack other demons to protect him and his fellow slayers.
As a young boy, Inosuke’s mum was murdered by a demon, after which he was raised by wild boars. For real. As such, fully grown now, he’s a bit rough around the edges. Impulsive, ferocious, bare-chested and wielding two fearsome-looking serrated swords, Inosuke wears a boar’s head as a mask to complete his distinctive look. His lack of self-control can be hilarious, but don’t underestimate him; he’s a highly skilled young demon slayer and a great ally and friend of Tanjiro’s.
A self-confessed coward, Zenitsu only trained to become a demon slayer to pay off his debts. He graduated around the same time as Tanjiro and has tagged along with him for a while now (in part because he has a giant crush on Nezuko). Paralysed by fear, Zenitsu fights best when unconscious or asleep, but despite his persistent feelings of inadequacy, he’s actually a natural talent when it comes to demon-slaying.
Unlike Tanjiro and his mates, Kyojuro is a senior demon slayer (or Hashira). His Fire Breathing style is contrasted by his unflappable nature and quiet confidence. He appeared briefly in the Demon Slayer animé but in Mugen Train he takes centre stage – leading Tanjiro, Nezuko, Inosuke and Zenitsu as they hunt down demons on a train.
Junior demon slayers, Tanjiro, Inosuke and Zenitsu (plus Tanjiro’s demon sister, Nezuko) board a night train steaming through the Japanese countryside. They’re there to assist senior demon slayer Kyojuro Rengoku in tracking down and killing a powerful demon that’s been slaughtering passengers and demon slayers unseen for some time.
But, as the journey goes on, it becomes clear that our heroes won’t survive, let alone emerge victorious until they can escape elaborate fantasies the demon has conjured to keep them docile until it’s too late…
Japanese animation studio Ufotable’s work on Demon Slayer has been top-notch from episode one of the animé, and the creative team has pulled out all the stops for the movie. Blending traditional animation with just the right amount of CG, Mugen Train is a gleeful gob-smack of a visual treat and never more so than when Tanjiro and his fellow demon slayers let their elemental special moves loose.
If you’re new to animé you’re going to love the sheer escapism it delivers. Combat is OTT, feelings run high, villains are scenery-chewing super hams and animation styles can change in an instant to enhance the vibe on screen. Basically, if it serves the story, anything goes. It can take a little time to acclimatise to but give in to the glorious wall of sensation that is animé and you’ll have the time of your life.
Imagine a street battle between a 90-piece orchestra and an army of early 2000s punk rock bands plus one ethereally voiced angel. Now imagine being immersed in the energising results courtesy of ODEON’s state-of-the-art surround sound while a razor-mouthed demon with impeccable boyband hair unleashes a world of hurt on our heroes on a massive screen. You’re welcome.
The Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train cinema release date is 26 May 2021.
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