Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To The Hashira Training

The popular anime franchise Demon Slayer exploded onto American theater screens in 2020 with Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train. It’s an unwieldy title, not that it mattered to the fans who drove the film to a $49.5 million domestic gross. Strong box office business made it the second highest-grossing anime feature ever released in the U.S., behind 1999’s Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back. I vividly recall the day I screened Mugen Train, knowing nothing about the Demon Slayer series and being captivated by the beautifully sinister animation and creative story beats. The follow-up, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Hashira Training, carries on those qualities.

The movie is essentially two chapters of the saga mashed together. Episode 11 of the Swordsmith Village Arc finds hero Tanjiro having his final confrontation with Hantengu, the demon who slaughtered his family and left sister Nezuko transformed into a demon herself. That’s followed by Episode 1 of the Hashira Training Arc, which finds Nezuko targeted by a different enemy after developing a much-desired power. It sets the stage for where Demon Slayer will go in the future.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, none of that will make the least bit of sense. Having a basic familiarity with the property certainly helps, especially since the structure here is inverted. The movie begins with an exciting, action-packed climax and ends with an exposition-heavy introduction to the next phase of Demon Slayer. Newcomers are guaranteed to be thrown off by that. Veterans will find it tantalizing.

As with Mugen Train, the storytelling is sophisticated. Tanjiro has to face a difficult dilemma in the opening minutes: Should he save Nezuko or protect an entire village? The character experiences a full range of emotions as he grapples with – and eventually makes – his choice. Duty and loyalty of that nature are two of the major themes explored by the plot. To the Hashira Training ends with an alluring cliffhanger that suggests the overall saga is heading into complex places.

Visually, the movie is spectacular to look at. Character design and strategic use of color help to set the mood. Action sequences, meanwhile, are vibrant and violent, with exquisitely animated gore. It’s easy to see why Demon Slayer is a favorite anime among horror buffs, as it understands how to present acts of brutality in a stylishly jarring fashion. A decapitation scene is particularly effective. Even when there’s no bloodshed taking place, the detail of the animation is pleasing to take in.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Hashira Training continues to further the idea that animation can and should be used to tell mature stories. This is a strong continuation of Tanjiro’s adventure that prepares viewers to go in a thrilling new direction.

out of four

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To the Hashira Training is rated R for violence and bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan