In with the new, out with the old. With One Piece now the last manga standing from Weekly Shonen Jump’s Big Three, the time has come to appoint new successors. Between its overwhelming popularity and wide circulation, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, which made its debut in February 2016, seems like a worthy candidate to fill the gap, but this breakout success was actually a recent development, brought on by the release of its anime adaptation.
The show’s impact was so significant and far-reaching that it turned what seemed like a diamond in the rough into a worldwide phenomenon, so it’s only expected that the third season, premiering in April 2023, will continue to generate more hype for the franchise. As Tanjiro and gang gear up for their return to the small screen, the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village special cut is here to tide over the wait.
Unlike Mugen Train, or Infinity Train, as known in the English translation, the theatrical release isn’t an anime movie. Instead, it’s a patchwork of Episodes 10 and 11 of the Entertainment District Arc from Season 2, and includes an extended pilot episode of the upcoming Swordsmith Village Arc, bundled neatly into a 110-minute runtime. After catching the preview, which offers a teasing glimpse of breathtaking visuals and more colourful characters, it seems fans are in for another treat.
The feature opens with a montage of key moments in the first two seasons and Mugen Train, with their respective opening theme songs (“Gurenge”, “Zankyosanka”, and “Akeboshi”) playing in the backdrop. A welcome nostalgic nod, then an instant dive into breakneck action, as the epic, high-stakes battle between Team Tanjiro (Tanjiro + Nezuko, Inosuke, Zenitsu, and Sound Pillar Tengen Uzui) and the Upper Rank 6 demon siblings (Gyutaro and Daki) breaks out on the silver screen.
A beat-by-beat rehash of the original, the showdown pans out exactly like it did previously, but the 4K resolution and remastered audio makes this watch a lot more intense – both visually and emotionally. The flames of Tanjiro’s sword and Zenitsu’s ferocious lightning-imbued attacks look crisp and vibrant, while the flashback sequences and unravelling of the demon pair’s past have a heavier, more sombre weight to them. Once the rush of the climax dies down, the lighthearted, comedic moments set in, which ease the transition to a slower pace for the opening scenes of Season 3.
The second half of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village snaps its focus from the battlefield to two key locations: the Infinity Castle, where the Demon King Muzan dwells in, and as suggested by the title, a village of swordsmiths. Here, the feature revisits the dynamic camera movement that comes with visiting the castle, weaving past layers of staircases and shifting into the angle for the next series of frames.
The animation, helmed by returning studio ufotable, remains consistent to the smooth and stylistic quality of Season 2. In line with the ufotable staple, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village features some bold, unconventional shots – a lingering scene, for instance, reveals an upside-down Muzan in lieu of the usual upright angle. The dynamic cinematography keeps things fresh, though there’s also a tendency for the studio to over-rely on the aesthetic, which may become too excessive or ostentatious long once the novelty wears off.
Akaza, last seen playing a major role in Mugen Train, returns, but he’s not alone. The special cut introduces more of the Twelve Demon Moons that non-manga fans weren’t previously privy to, including Gyokko (Upper Rank Five, voiced by Kosuke Toriumi), Hantengu (Upper Rank Four, Toshio Furukawa), Kokushibo (Upper Rank One, Ryotaro Okiayu), and Doma (Upper Rank Two, Mamoru Miyano).
A colourful bunch, these demons each have their own distinct traits that are often at odds with the rest – where Gyokko is narcissistic, Hantengu is cowardly; Kokushibo is aloof, while Doma takes on an outwardly unassuming demeanor. Doma, in particular, is a standout, performed to perfection by industry veteran Miyano, who’s no stranger to playing villainous and morally-ambiguous roles (see Death Note’s Light Yagami). From his falsely-honeyed tone to infuriating personality, the voice actor has done an excellent job at capturing the character’s essence.
Over at the village of swordsmiths, the stage is set for two strong combatants to take centrestage: Love Pillar Mitsuri Kanroji (Kana Hanazawa) and Mist Pillar Muichiro Tokito (Kengo Kawanishi), both of whom were briefly introduced in the first season. While the latter, portrayed to be nonchalant, has minimal screen time, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village showcases more of Mitsuri’s jovial and (seemingly) innocent demeanor. Considering their contrasting personalities and yet-to-be-revealed backstories, it’ll be interesting for fans who aren’t in the know to see how things will eventually pan out.
More important, though, is the (re)appearance of a certain red-haired, sword-wielding individual who fans know have a connection to Tanjiro. These strands of mystery aside, there are also warm reminders of Tanjiro’s relationship with Zenitsu, Inosuke, and the others, a first good look at the lush, detailed landscapes, and welcome moments of humor.
As expected, there won’t be much combat action to look forward to, but the reveal of more powerful enemies and Muzan’s scheming promises more exhilarating fights and significant story developments in the later part of Season 3. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village is a teaser of grander, more exciting things to come, and from the looks of things, fans have little to worry about and plenty to take delight in.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village is currently screening in Golden Village cinemas, with Season 3 set to premiere sometime in April 2023.