I was expecting something like this to happen, and it did. While the Mugen Train movie smashed records, it was safe to assume that in preparation for the official second season, they would take the time to re-air the movie, edited out into a seven episode run. Sure enough that was what happened, but the question remains. Is it any good? Well let’s take a dive into the Mugen Train Arc and find out!
If you recall my thoughts on the movie, I was very lukewarm about it. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away. I’ve long been a proponent of the ‘Ufotable Bump,’ and how it has elevated Demon Slayer, a good, but overall not very special series, into mainstream attention. I also believe that the movies success is only possible because the COVID crisis all but crippled the movie industry. That isn’t to make fault on what works, but only to give context. It’s a good movie, but it also walked in with a massive handicap.
So I was surprised, very much so, that after sitting down and re-watching the movie as a proper fleshed out series, I enjoyed it far more. Much of that was due to adjusted expectations, I knew what it was going in, and didn’t walk in with the massive amount of hype people had thrown at it. With that in place, I was able to enjoy what was movie was, and what it wasn’t. Furthermore seeing the story played out as episodes, something I always think was the intention, made things far more easier to digest. Since we live in a post-filler world, some story arcs aren’t just able to translate into anime, and there seems to be little interest in adapting something that can’t be either a 12 or 25 episode series. Watching the Mugen Train Arc now, it feels very much like an OVA in the views of say, Stardust Memory. Short, to the point, but focused on story.
The story itself is changed very little. Aside from a few extended scenes, many of which I didn’t notice. The biggest change is the addition of an anime-only first episode that lets Flame Hashira Rengoku have his moment in the spotlight. It does a lot to help endear the character and make his death, while still treated with far more seriousness than it deserves, hit a lot more. He is a good character and a good man, trying to do what is right in this world. His almost victory over the Upper Moon is still a nail biter, and his final moments with Tanjiro will no doubt be a cornerstone moment for many shonen fans this generation. That all said, my criticism of the arc still stand. The addition of Akaza feels very out of nowhere and completely one ups Enmu who was already a good enough villain. I was hoping that the anime would add a scene explaining his presence beforehand, but alas there isn’t, and it still grates me. The amount of crying at the end is still grating, and the dream sequence, while edited better in episode format, still feels long in the tooth.
But regardless, I enjoyed my time with the Mugen Train Arc, far more the second time than I did the first. Demon Slayer is a good, often great shonen series that remains ungodly lucky to have the studio it has animating it. There are good characters, excellent action, touching moments, and everything on display is polished to mirror shine. It will be interesting to see if this or the film remains the go-to version to watch for fans. Both work, so it will be up to the viewer. If you are a fan of the series, you probably already watched this and if you haven’t, well one more re-watch won’t hurt.