I’m starting to get really hungry every time I see the Kyojuro Rengoku, the Flame Hashira, on-screen. He’s right, after all: Those meals look oh so umai (delicious in Japanese). All thoughts of food aside, welcome back to the Mugen Train! This portion of the manga was already adapted in last year’s Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. While, this story is worth retelling and Ufotable — the Japanese animation studio already bringing the Demon Slayer manga to life — isn’t messing around.
We can already tell this isn’t a greedy, double-dipping money grab or a stall for more time. No, episode one alone proved how much love and passion went into recapturing the gang’s journey on the Mugen Train, laying the tracks (sorry) for what’s to come.
This episode is all about Rengoku and is appropriately titled “Flame Hashira Kyorjuro Rengoku,” so let’s set our hearts ablaze again as we board the Mugen Train. The episode is streaming now on Funimation and Crunchyroll in the US, but if you aren’t up to speed, here’s what you missed.
Beware: Spoilers ahead!
A new mission
If you’ve seen the film, you know that Tanjiro, Inosuke, Zenitsu and Nezuko were ordered to join Rengoku on the Mugen Train to investigate the disappearance of 40 passengers. However, we didn’t know what happened before the gang arrived on the train, and that’s where this episode clues us in.
The episode starts with a conductor aboard the Mugen Train getting slashed by lurking demons. But this one doesn’t look like Enmu, the Lower-Rank One Demon of the Twelve Kizuki we know (from the film) is the baddie terrorizing the train.
As the opening title plays, we cut to a lower-rank demon slayer meeting up with Rengoku while he is enjoying some noodles — and screaming “Delicious!” with gusto after every bite, naturally. Rengoku is at this town investigating the “Slasher” who’s been terrorizing residents of the area and potentially also the Mugen Train’s passengers.
Rengoku finds an injured woman who’s been tormented by the Slasher. Lucky, she’s recovering well, but people have stopped going out at night because of the incidents, causing the poor restaurant owner serving the slayers’ food to lose business and subsequently have to let go of his employees. The incidents are also causing the Mugen Train to be taken out of order, and the slayers have been tipped that it’s been secretly stored in a shed somewhere.
Bento boxes galore
Rengoku goes to investigate the station where the conductor’s body was found. It’s there that Rengoku encounters a lovely duo, a grandmother and granddaughter, selling bento boxes. Both of them are wearing round glasses extremely fashionable by today’s standards, but we are watching a story placed in Taishō-era of Japan (roughly 1912-26). We can tell that Fuku, the little girl, has a beautiful soul as she roughs it out with Grandma as her mother is pregnant and her dad’s shop isn’t doing too hot.
Rengoku asks the duo blunt questions about the lurking demon, unnerving the child a bit in the process. Rengoku shows his gratefulness by letting the duo know he appreciates them for coming out to sell bento while it’s still dark. “No one should hurt people like you,” he says. At Fuku’s query about buying a bento box, Rengoku surprises them by buying all of them: He sends some to other demon slayers and takes the rest for himself.
A demon of speed
Rengoku is told where the Mugen Train is stored and heads there. Upon his arrival, Rengoku gives the engineers the rest of his bento (not taking a single one for himself) and encounters a demon who’s taken a hostage. Not all demons in this show love to torture people — sometimes it’s about a demon’s midnight snack — but this one actually loves to torment humans, and he taunts Rengoku throughout their entire confrontation, putting Rengoku’s purity in direct contrast with the demon’s callousness. We won’t mourn your death demon of the night!
Rengoku saves the hostage and the speed demon flees back to the platform that Fuku and Grandma are on, attempting to settle the score with Rengoku. Rengoku uses total concentration breathing to accelerate to lightning speed, flames whirling behind him. Why did we have to wait so long to witness the speed and might of a Demon Corps Hashira again?
Rengoku catches up to the speed demon. “You’re slow,” Rengoku says calmly as he slices off the demon’s head using the first flame-breathing form, “Unknowing Fire.”
As it were, this isn’t the first time Grandma has been saved by a Flame Hashira.
The animation then beautifully cuts back and forth between the movements of the Hashira that saved Grandma years ago and Rengoku in the present. The Hashiras’ forms are the same: the fire, the swing, the retraction of their swords. But it’s not the same person.
The Hashira that saved them all those years ago was Kyojuro Rengoku’s father. “I’m following in my father’s footsteps, slaying demons,” Rengoku tells them.
Never seen a demon: ‘That’s the way it should be’
“Not knowing about demons, never running into one,” Rengoku tells Fuku as he laughs, “there’s no better way to live out your life!”
However, Rengoku suspects this demon may have been a diversion — a demon that can munch on 40 humans must be much stronger than this. Rengoku senses traces of another demon and as it turns out, the Mugen Train will be back in service the next night, so you bet Rengoku will be riding that thing in search of more demon-slaying action.
Before he boards the train, Rengoku accepts one free bento box from Fuku and Grandma and buys the rest, again! We now know where he got all of those bento boxes he’s eating at the start of the Mugen Train film. Peep Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke and Nezuko boarding the train at the end of the episode, with the benefit of not knowing the future… unlike us.
I know I’ve already said spoilers ahead, but let me repeat it: If you haven’t seen the film and don’t plan on it (maybe you want to watch this new rendition instead) — please do not read this. The film tells us what happens on the Mugen Train, and I’ll be discussing the episode in light of that film now.
If you’ve seen the film, this episode feels as you might right before you ride a rollercoaster: Butterflies fluttering in your stomach while fear and excitement wash over you. We know at the outset that we’re watching Rengoku’s journey to his last stand, his death. It’s thrilling and exhilarating yet haunting, ominious and pointed.
In the events before the Mugen Train film, we meet Rengoku with the rest of the Hashira, all of whom want to punish Tanjiro and Tomioka (the Water Hashira) for protecting Nezuko, a demon. We don’t get much from his character that would cause us to form an attachment. Even when it happens in the film, it feels like that attachment doesn’t grow until we’re near the credits’ end.
This episode serves as the linchpin that connects the Rehabilitation and Mugen Train arcs, and it’s priming us for the Mugen Train’s events by enamoring us with Rengoku. I mean, how can you not fall in love with the guy after this episode? He’s brave, fiery and pure of heart, but he’s also quirky in all the right places. And the scene that shows Kyojuro’s movements mimicking his father’s? That’s sure to place more emphasis on the relationship between them and how his father ends up (which was revealed in the film). We even get confirmation that Rengoku is well-liked among the Hashira in the quippy-outro that pulls the characters out of the manga’s page at the end of each episode.
This premiere has definitely already improved the Mugen Train Arc tenfold by providing the nexus that connects us with Rengoku, surely injecting more heady emotional gravitas into the events on the horizon.
Is this the true start of season 2?
It’s unclear. The fact that the show outright calls this the “Mugen Train Arc” in the opening title — combined with the fact that it’s not on Funimation’s ledger as “season 2” (but also not season 1) — could point to the hypothesis that this isn’t. This could mean there’s a full-length season with 26 new episodes ahead of us once we start the Entertainment District Arc in December, though we don’t know what the future has in store.