Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train Hits American Theaters


(Originally written 4/25/21)

If you look at this week’s top 5 movies at the box office, you see the familiar assortment of Warner, Disney, and Universal. But included with these perennial big budget blockbuster giants is Funimation. The anime publishing firm isn’t exactly the first name in big screen success, but Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, is already the most valuable domestic movie ever in Japan, and it’s now hitting US theaters.

It may not be this weekend’s top earner, that honor goes to Warner Bros’ Mortal Kombat, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train has grossed nearly 20 million dollars in its first few days in theaters, a respectable number even without the pandemic keeping moviegoers home and movie theaters shuttered. What makes that figure truly impressive is that Demon Slayer only played in about half the number of theaters compared to its rivals from Warner, and only fell short of the top slot by less than 3 million dollars.

Demon Slayer was hugely popular as an anime and manga series in both countries. This movie is the latest arc of Tanjiro’s adventures, as he and his friends take on a new threat aboard a train. The trip to the big screen allows the fantastic music and art of the series to play out on a scale it truly deserves. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train is a movie you want to see in theaters, Imax even if it’s available. The audiovisual experience alone is more than worth the time, money, and exposure risk. 

The plot and writing are probably the weakest link for the movie, though calling them weak probably wouldn’t be fair. As expected for an action shounen series, the writing and dialogue feel like a catalyst to push the main characters to grow, and string together a series of visually stunning fight and action sequences. There are moments where advances in the plot seem to come very literally out of nowhere, which adds to this sense that the plot may be more of an afterthought. Altogether the story seems to hold water, and falls in line with the quality of the series at large. This is important, as the film is based on an arc in the main manga, not a side plot, making it a requirement for seeing the second season of the show, which is set to release later this year.

Is the striking success of Demon Slayer here in the states a harbinger of the gradual acceptance of anime in the American mainstream, or does it just speak to the dedication of anime fans to brave the global pandemic to experience the movie in all its big screen glory? The complications of the ongoing global pandemic prevent any real conclusion here. That said, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train’s success at the box office this week would put it in the top ten of a pre-pandemic late April chart, so it more than earns its accolades. Hopefully, the film’s achievement will have a positive influence on future anime releases. 

Catch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train in select theaters starting April 23rd, and look out for the second season of the anime, set to release in late 2021.


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