To release a film in cinemas in the middle of a pandemic is to take a bold leap of faith. We are, after all, living in the Netflix era, where many studios are opting to take their films straight to online streaming platforms rather than showing them in cinemas first. Japan likes to do things traditionally, so it didn’t come out as left-field when animation studio Ufotable went ahead with releasing the Demon Slayer movie in local cinemas last October.
What was surprising, however, was that the full-length anime went on to shatter box office records in Japan as well as overseas. ‘Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’ surpassed ‘Titanic’ and ‘Spirited Away’ to become Japan’s highest grossing film of all time and – just this weekend – became the highest-grossing opening out of any foreign language film released in the US.
The adulation for the film is palpable, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hype if you’re not clued in on the Demon Slayer franchise. Here’s everything newcomers should know about the hit anime as well as why it's worth watching.
It’s not a standalone film
This film, ‘Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’, is an immediate sequel to the most recent episode of the Demon Slayer anime series. Because it’s not a standalone film, it helps to familiarise yourself with the series before jumping straight into this full-length feature.
The anime is adapted from a shounen manga
Created by manga artist Koyoharu Gotouge, ‘Demon Slayer’ was published as serialised issues in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump from February 2016. As a shounen manga, ‘Demon Slayer’ was written for a targeted male audience of 12 to 18 year olds.
While the manga series ended in May 2020, only one season of the anime adaptation (aired April-September 2019) has been released so far. A second season is expected to premiere sometime in 2021.
It’s a story about – you guessed it – slaying demons
The story, set in Taisho-era Japan (1912-1926), follows the journey of Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy whose family was slaughtered by demons. Tanjiro’s younger sister, Nezuko, was also attacked and became a demon herself, though she survived with some of her humanity intact. In an effort to avenge his family and find a cure for his sister’s curse, Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayer Corps.
The movie is R-rated in North America
With swords come bloodshed, and in no modest quantity when it comes to ‘Demon Slayer’. In Japan, the movie is deemed PG enough for the shounen age group of 12 through 18 year olds, but it didn’t receive the same treatment abroad. Evidently, even animated decapitations of demons as well as the depiction of general violence have led the film to be deemed inappropriate for viewers under 17 years old in North America.
Despite its gory content, however, the fight scenes are visually stunning and demonstrate a creative depth that has set the series as well as the film apart from other anime of its kind.
It will soon be out on DVD and Blu-ray
‘Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’ is now showing in cinemas across North America, but don’t worry if it's not screening in your region. The film is set for digital release on Apple TV and Amazon in North America from June 22, as well as on DVD and Blue-ray in Japan from June 16. At least the latter, physical formats will have English-subtitles.
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