Demon Slayer: The Year's Must-See Anime Movie
4/13/2021 • 4 min read
In the last few years, the Japanese manga "Kimetsu no Yaiba," aka "Demon Slayer," has become one of the most popular series in Japan, thanks to a staggeringly popular anime series adaptation. In 2020, a sequel to the anime, DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE: MUGEN TRAIN, became not only the most successful anime movie ever released in Japan but the most successful movie in the country's history, period. (It topped the grosses from James Cameron's TITANIC, and from the previous number one movie, Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY.)
Now the R-rated DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE is coming to the United States! Cinemark will debut both English-dubbed and English-subtitled versions on April 23. It's an unmissable event for anime fans and has the potential to become the sort of crossover hit which only comes around once a decade. It's got action, horror, drama, comedy, and a story that slips in and out of dreams. Here's why DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE is the biggest anime movie of the year.
The Appeal of Demon Slayer
The anime series closely follows and even improves upon the original manga, which ran from 2016 to 2020. The anime features a large cast of characters all of whom fall on one side of a long battle between humans and demons. It's a bloody struggle, which gives the series its mature edge.
More importantly, the anime features detailed characterizations and beautifully produced animation which explode into finely crafted fight scenes that can be stunning in their clarity and ferocity. DEMON SLAYER is primarily realized via traditional animation, but computer-generated images are woven into action scenes in a way that makes the battles as sharp and fast as the characters they depict.
However wild and over the top the fights get, they're always exceptionally easy to follow, thanks to a clear storytelling approach that takes advantage of many different visual styles to depict each character's personality and training.
What Is Demon Slayer About?
The story begins in the Taisho Period in Japan, around the days of World War I. It is focused on the experience of the dutiful young Tanjiro Kamado, whose family is killed while he is off in town selling his wares. Only his sister Nezuko Kamado survives, but she is hardly unharmed — the culprit in the massacre is a demon, and the encounter has transformed Nezuko into a demon as well.
Tanjiro begins the story not truly knowing that demons exist, and is soon protecting Nezuko (above) as he seeks to restore her humanity, even as he trains to slay the demon that destroyed his family. The "Mugen Train" story arc, which forms the basis for the movie, is one of several turning points in the tale.
Where Does the Mugen Train Story Fit In?
The manga upon which DEMON SLAYER is based features 205 chapters which comprise eleven major story arcs. The first season of the "Demon Slayer" anime series adapted the first six arcs, and the Mugen Train story is the seventh. That makes DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE a direct sequel to the first anime season, and with the forthcoming second season, the anime efforts will ultimately offer a full adaptation of the manga. Or so we expect, anyway.
Where the Demon Slayer Series Left Off
(Note that some spoilers follow for the end of the first season of the "Demon Slayer" anime series.)
Following two years of training and a brutal — and often fatal — seven-day "Final Selection," Tanjiro Kamado became a demon slayer. He soon forged friendships with the warriors Zenitsu and Inosuke. As she clings to humanity, Tanjiro carries his sister Nezuko in a box on his pack, protecting her from the sun, which destroys demons, and from the suspicions of other demon slayers.
Following his first missions, Tanjiro's protection of Nezuko caused conflict with an upper echelon of demon slayers. As that conflict is resolved, Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke recuperate from wounds sustained in battle and undergo further training to expand their capabilities.
Meanwhile, parallel strife erupts within the upper ranks of the demons, leading the demon Enmu to be charged with killing Tanjiro. The young demon slayers seek out Kyojuro, an elite slayer, who may be able to lead Tanjiro to secrets from the young man's family history.
Can New Viewers Enjoy the Movie on its Own?
Since DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE picks up halfway through the grand structure of the story, there's reason to ask how friendly the DEMON SLAYER movie is to viewers who haven't seen the anime. Fortunately, this is a nicely contained story arc that primarily takes place in one location, with a core set of characters. Some of the character development certainly depends on what has gone before, but the story itself is a straightforward battle between good and evil that can turn new audiences into instant fans.
DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE: MUGEN TRAIN opens on April 23.
All images courtesy of Funimation.