Movies

All Your Questions About Demon Slayer, Japan’s Highest-Grossing Movie Ever, Answered

Will it make sense if I don’t watch the show? And what is a “Mugen Train”?

a man with yellow and red hair looks straight ahead
Funimation

Even if anime isn’t your thing, you may have heard of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. The film, a continuation of the hit TV series, recently surpassed Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away both as the highest-grossing anime movie in the world and the highest-grossing movie ever in Japan. The first season of the show has been available on Netflix for a couple of months, but the movie, after being released in Japan in October of last year, is only this weekend becoming available to watch in the United States.

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If you’re thinking of watching the movie but haven’t watched the series, or just want to know what the hype is all about, we attempt to answer all of your questions below.

OK, so, what is Demon Slayer: Mugen Train?

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Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a movie that directly follows the events of the first season of the Demon Slayer show, picking up pretty much exactly where the series leaves off. A new dem—

No, I mean, what is “Mugen Train”?

Oh! Well, the whole movie takes place on a train, and that train is the Mugen Train.

So Mugen is just, like, the name of the train?

Pretty much. Though mugen in Japanese also means “infinite,” and the movie’s title is sometimes also translated as Demon Slayer: Infinity Train.

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Is there anything special about it? Is it an an endless train?!

It becomes special, but it starts out as a relatively normal train.

Got it. Is the movie good?

Yes! Mugen Train boasts the gorgeous and inventive animation that made the series such a breath of fresh air, and also introduces an unforgettable new character. That said, it’s less a movie and more an extended episode of the series. All the usual beats of an episode are there. A new villain is introduced, there’s some struggle, and then, no spoilers, but you know. It just doesn’t quite stand on its own as a movie—it feels a little thin, as is perhaps inevitable for a story that’s ultimately a little sliver of a larger story. This is where Spirited Away has the advantage, as it’s a full, coherent tale rather than just a peek at one.

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Can I watch it without having seen the TV series?

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Enjoying the movie is heavily dependent on already having some context for what’s going on. Though the movie does a good job of introducing most of the series’ main characters, a few aren’t really introduced at all, making it hard to cotton onto what’s happening if you’re totally new to the series. Who are all of the people who show up at the end? What are the ranks they’re talking about? Why is Nezuko the way she is? Why is Tanjiro slaying demons, anyway? There’s almost no slowing down to explain.

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So if I haven’t watched the show, am I better off staying home and watching the show on Netflix? Or would it be fun to jump straight into the movie anyway?

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Watch the show on Netflix. It’s 26 half-hour episodes, which isn’t too much of a hassle as far as catching up goes. It’ll still be pretty fun if you jump straight into the movie, but it’s going to be a bit confusing.

Let’s say I want to ignore your advice.

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Okaaay.

Can you fill me in on what I need to know?

Fine. Tanjiro, the boy with the reddish-purple hair, is the last surviving member of his family, who were all killed by demons. One of his sisters, Nezuko, was actually turned into a demon, but has managed to overcome her demonic instincts and how helps Tanjiro fight other demons. Most of the time, Tanjiro carries her around in a box on his back, as demons in this universe will turn to ash when they’re exposed to sunlight. (Demons can only otherwise be killed by decapitation or when injected with a poison developed from wisteria flowers.) Tanjiro has been recruited as part of the Demon Slayer Corps, a group of, yes, demon slayers, all of whom practice different forms of “breathing” with their swordplay which manifest basically as superpowers. The leaders of the Corps are called “Hashira.” The demons also boast their own hierarchy, with a group of “Upper Rank” demons posing the greatest threat to the Demon Slayers; they grow stronger the more lives they take, as well as by receiving blood from the strongest demon. That demon is named Muzan, and is responsible for slaughtering Tanjiro’s family. Now Tanjiro is headed to the Mugen Train to assist the Flame Hashira in investigating a series of disappearances. I think that’s all you really need to know.

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So it’s in theaters now, is that right?

Yes! It’s currently in nationwide release.

What if I’m not ready to go back to theaters? Is it coming to streaming?

It’ll be available on digital platforms on June 22!

Is this the end of the franchise?

Nope! The second season is reportedly set to premiere later this year, so there’s plenty more Demon Slayer to come. Come on, just watch it! It’s good!

A message from Slate culture editor Forrest Wickman: In my decade at Slate, I’ve worked on everything from investigating how wearing your backpack with two straps became cooler than wearing it with one strap to adapting The Great Gatsby as a video game to inventing a highly scientific systemic for determining whether new movies are too scary for you. The support of Slate Plus members has allowed us to continue to do the kind of ambitious, irreverent, and service-y cultural coverage you won’t find anywhere else. Thank you! 

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