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Movie Review: “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training”

By Bob Garver

Movie Review: “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training”

            Prior to “Hashira Training,” my exposure to the “Demon Slayer” anime series was limited to the 2020 film “Mugen Train.” Well, that and all the cosplayers I see every day dressed up in the green-and-black checkered pattern of main character Tanjiro (Natsuki Hanae), but “Mugen Train” was the only media. It should be noted, therefore, that I am not the target audience for this movie. The target audience is people that are already familiar with “Demon Slayer” lore, especially Season Three of the television show. I was largely lost having only seen “Mugen Train,” and I can’t imagine the difficulty of getting into the series based on this movie alone.

            My understanding is that this movie is both the ending of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four. It’s like watching two episodes back-to-back, as opposed to “Mugen Train,” which was its own feature between Seasons Two and Three. A recap montage is shown before the action gets underway, including clips from “Mugen Train,” but I didn’t find it very helpful, except to remind me that Tanjiro’s family was killed by demons, save for himself and his sister Nezuko (Akari Kito). Nezuko was turned into a demon and now has to go through life being gagged at all times so she can’t feed on human flesh. Tanjiro’s mission in life is now to protect people, rid the world of demons, and try to find a way to turn Nezuko human again. At some point he found a village to protect and joined up with some veteran demon slayers, but I couldn’t keep the new characters straight.

            The action begins at the tail end of a battle between demon Hantengu (Toshio Furukawa/Koichi Yamadera) and Tanjiro and his fellow Slayers, as they protect a village where everyone wears silly masks. Tanjiro is the only one of the good guys not sidelined. He cuts off Hantengu’s arms, but tis but a scratch. He cuts off his head, but it’s just a flesh wound. Maybe if he can destroy his heart, he’ll call it a draw. Surprisingly, Hantengu is closing in on some innocent villagers he can kill, which will restore his powers. I don’t know how he plans to kill the villagers without arms or a head, but apparently it’s a very urgent matter for Tanjiro. But day is breaking, Nezuko is outside, and as a demon, she’ll likely die if Tanjiro doesn’t shield her from the sun. He has an impossible decision to make.

            Following the battle and its aftermath, we’re introduced to new villain Muzan (Toshihiko Seki), a demon who has waited a thousand years to strike. Recent developments mean that it is finally his time. The Hashira, a conglomerate of the best Demon Slayers, meet to discuss the impending attack. They agree they need an army. Leader Gyomei (Tomokazu Sugita) organizes a program where prospective Slayers can receive accelerated training under the Hashira. And… that’s it. We see early stages of the training where recruits are put through the wringer, but the episode/movie ends before anything can come of it. Also in this segment, two popular characters from “Mugen Train” return for unimpactful cameos, seemingly just to remind viewers that they’re still in play.

            “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba: To the Hashira Training” boasts exciting action and characters that would probably be interesting if I could wrap my head around them the way a snake wraps itself around one of their heads. But this movie isn’t for newcomers to “Demon Slayer” or people with minimal exposure like myself. Fans will probably find much of value here, but the film was never able to capture my interest in a way that even “Mugen Train” could.

Grade: C- (but take that with a grain of salt)

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training” is rated R for violence and bloody images. Its running time is 104 minutes.

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NOTE: This Japanese film is available in both “subbed” and “dubbed” versions. This review is based on the “subbed” version - Japanese spoken with English subtitles.



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