‘Demon Slayer: Mugen Train’: Why is this movie is ruling the U.S. box office?
The bizarre anything-goes narrative of the year 2021 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Who would’ve thought an anime feature film spun off a niche TV series would climb to the top of the box office charts . . . on its second weekend of release? And yet that’s exactly what Demon Slayer: Mugen Train just did, knocking Mortal Kombat off the number one spot in the process.
(Insert your fatality joke of choice here.)
What’s the deal with Demon Slayer: Mugen Train anyway? What is it about, and how is it more appealing to moviegoers than the third film adaptation of a gory video game franchise? Of course, if you’re a fan of the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu TV show, you’re probably rolling your eyes at everyone’s disbelief over this development. But be patient! Let the rest of us catch up.
The saga of Demon Slayer actually started as a Japanese manga. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba was written & illustrated by Koyoharu Gotouge, and it had a healthy run from February 2016 to May 2020. The whole thing has been collected over twenty-three individual volumes, in case you’re looking for a new addition to your reading list.
Demon Slayer follows the story of Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy determined to become a demon slayer after his family is slaughtered and his younger sister Nezuko is turned into a demon. Tanjiro’s best-selling adventures were adapted into a twenty-six-episode anime series, which aired in 2019, from April to September. The show received such critical acclaim that a follow-up movie was planned.
Enter Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, a feature film sequel to the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu TV show. We’re just getting into it here in America, but the movie opened in Japan back in October 2020, becoming an instant box office & critical triumph. In fact, it has become the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, and its success even prompted the country to submit it for Academy Awards consideration.
Having conquered Japan, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train jumped across a few ponds to take on the U.S. The movie opened on the same weekend as the new Mortal Kombat adaptation, and landed second in box office rankings. The following week, however, Tanjiro & his friends won the rematch against Raiden & his gang, taking the box office top spot. That’s what happens when you don’t put Johnny Cage in your MK movie.
It’s unusual for a movie to climb up the box office charts after its opening weekend, since its returns will usually diminish every week after that, and every week will also bring new releases with fresh new box office takings. But the exhibition industry is in a weird twilight zone right now, so there weren’t any new movies to compete against Demon Slayer: Mugen Train in its second week. And Mortal Kombat has split its audience by also being available on HBO Max.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, on the other hand, is only available in movie theaters, and has a passionate following that’s eager to support the film’s theatrical run. It’s hard to tell how the movie would’ve done in a “regular” year (will that ever be a thing anymore?), but its 2021 release was certainly an example of a perfect storm of circumstances.
Tanjiro’s story doesn’t end with Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. A second season of the anime series is scheduled to premiere later this year. Titled Kimetsu no Yaiba – Yūkaku-hen, the show will pick up where Mugen Train leaves off, and will feature the cast from the first season once again.
Meanwhile, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train prepares to face off against a couple of newcomers this weekend: the comedy Here Today, directed by Billy Crystal, and the newest Guy Ritchie flick, Wrath of Man. Can Tanjiro prevail over Crystal & Ritchie’s combined forces? We don’t know yet, but we are dying to watch that fight take place. It’ll probably be gory, funny, and feature lots of slow-mo.
Have you watched Demon Slayer: Mugen Train yet? Let us know in the comments!