OP: Akeboshi 「明け星」by LiSA
「深い眠り」 (Fukai Nemuri)
As the material starts shifting towards what’s featured in the film, Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Ressha-hen’s second episode sets up the main conflict of the movie. In TV format, however, it makes it all the more interesting to see how they handle the tonal shift once Enmu’s plans are underway.
WITH A HEAVY HEART
I love how hard the story hits like a brick once you’re made to realize how far south the situation has gotten on the Mugen Train. Tanjiro’s initial interactions with Rengoku and Zenitsu discouraging Inosuke from dangling out of the passenger windows is funny enough, but as soon as the conductor comes around to punch everyone’s tickets, we’re immediately shifted into a much heavier atmosphere.
The bleak appearance of the train’s occupants was bad enough, but nothing about what happens afterward feels right. Rengoku slays a random demon that feels completely unrelated to the actual issues that are plaguing the Mugen Train.
While it was funny to see Inosuke freak out on the train and Rengoku pound down tray after tray of food, Tanjiro and his friends celebrating Rengoku’s awesomeness has an unsettling air to it. As if it’s like a disarmingly cheery part of one of Freddy Kreuger’s nightmares or one of Pennywise’s illusions before he pulls out a human limb. And then, right when you start to feel that something is wrong, it immediately cuts to the demon slayers fast asleep as they’re plagued by Enmu’s abilities.
MALEVOLENCE AND COMPASSION
This is also a perfect chance to discuss how interesting Enmu is as the main villain of this arc. You might be tricked into thinking that Enmu is surprisingly approachable for a member of Muzan’s Twelve Kizuki.
His calming elegance and lulling voice are quite charming, and his approach of killing people in their sleep sounds far more benevolent than ripping them apart or setting them ablaze. He definitely sees his method of murder as an act of kindness on his behalf.
But as funny as it sounds, his plan to murder the demon slayers peacefully in their sleep and trying to get his hostages to play along with his plan isn’t without its sheer cruelty. Using people’s dreams to sadistically reunite them with deceased loved ones allows Enmu to leave his victims vulnerable by disarming them and making them want to stay in the dream world where they can be trapped and killed.
Tanjiro’s dream is wickedly sadistic as it sends him right back to a time when his family wasn’t brutally murdered. He’s left to believe his struggles up until now had to be a dream within itself and forces himself to let go of his grief to catch up to his deceased family. Enmu’s approach of targeting distraught people and giving them a dream with dead loved ones that will make them unwilling to wake up has to be at its cruelest when it comes to how torn up Tanjiro is about dreaming of his long lost family.
YES, WE’RE DOING MORE ART ANALYSIS
The anime managed to create its own identity around art that’s significantly impressive, but one thing I feel is overlooked is how much it captures a lot of the manga’s charm. I’m in the minority that really likes the manga’s art because of how expressive the series’ characters are during light-hearted moments.
In this particular episode, Rengoku’s cheerful smile is something that stood out for me. It has its own charm as it reflects the short bursts of enthusiasm he carries, and ultimately gives us better insight on how he carries himself. In times of turmoil, however, it exudes confidence and an unwavering resolve as he is unshaken by anything that attempts to challenge his worldview.
During calmer times though, it expresses his humble innocence as he is satisfied by the simple delights such as a good meal or a riveting conversation. It’s a smile he retains while he’s talking with Tanjiro because, even if a topic Tanjiro brings up is out of his element, he understands and respects his perspective. Additionally, it shows us how humble he is considering how he was far more open-minded about Nezuko’s presence and sympathizes with his struggles.
Tanjiro is another character whose expressive nature lets us know that he is the kind of protagonist who wears his heart on his sleeve. His exaggerated, precocious expressions when he talks with Rengoku translate well from manga to anime as well, melding the bewilderment and curiosity he has for all of the new information he has to process as he gets to know the Hashira. His dream is also a significant window into his mindset considering how torn apart he is from the trauma of seeing his deceased family members alive again, adding to the cruelty of what Enmu’s intentions are for killing the demon slayers in their dreams.
For lighter moments of the episode, adapting the manga’s goofier art makes it all the more amusing to see how Inosuke and Zenitsu handle being on the Mugen Train. Inosuke expresses his desire to interact with the train by letting his almost-sentient boar-mask billow out smoke as he flails his arms around and tries to hang out of the window.
Zenitsu might be a more divisive character for being annoying, but he’s a character that makes the best use out of Gotouge’s expressive character designs by emphasizing the cartoonish expressions he’s given towards news he’s not too happy about. It translates pretty well in the new CyberConnect2 fighting game too, but it’s also pulled off nicely in this adaptation
GET YOUR TISSUES READY
One noticeable difference between the movie and TV adaptations would be the most obvious one; Openings and Endings. While the OP is keener on letting events from the movie take the center stage, the ED is far more of a tearjerker since we get to see a glimpse of Rengoku’s childhood.
While he grew up around his family, circumstances had forced him to take a lonelier road where even through his humble happiness, he had to get used to carving out his own destiny. Although he could only live for himself, he chose to surround himself with those who shared his compassion and dedication, making company like his fellow Hashira and Tanjiro very welcome friends to have as he continues his journey to help create a more peaceful world for those around him.
ED: Shirogane「白銀」by LiSA