A new “Demon Slayer” film is about to hit the multiplex, and while “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba — To the Hashira Training” contains plenty of familiar material for those who have already watched the show, it’s a little bit of a slog even if you’re already a fan. 

When “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train” dethroned “Spirited Away” as the highest-grossing Japanese film in history after it debuted in theaters and slowly rolled out to the rest of the world in early 2021, it was the first time the “Demon Slayer” anime was on the radar of most non-fans. Heavy on lore and light on any explanation as to what was actually going on—Who are these people? Why are they on a train? Are demons just ugly vampires with superpowers?—“Mugen Train” was a rough ride for anyone not already deep into “Demon Slayer”’s whole thing. 

Since then, the anime’s home studio Ufotable has released two more feature length films with the opposite goal in mind. Instead of throwing fans into a completely new story arc, why not use the movies to advertise the newest season, while easing their audience in by showing them stuff they’re already familiar with? Due to its success, “Mugen Train” was eventually recut into a seven-episode arc to launch a second season of the anime. A second film, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba—To the Swordsmith Village,” was released in 2023 to hype fans up for the third season, including both recut footage from the final episodes of the second season as well as a new episode of the third. The upcoming “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba—To the Hashira Training” does the same thing, beginning with about an hour of footage from the last two episodes of the “Swordsmith Village” arc, leading into the new first episode of the fourth season, which covers the manga’s “Hashira Training” arc and will broadcast in Japan later this year. 

Briefly, the first fifty minutes of the movie rehashes the finale of “Swordsmith Village,” tuning in just as swordmaster Tanjiro hijacks his buddy Zenitsu’s Thunder Breathing technique to chase a pair of demons, decapitating them while sacrificing his demon sister Nezuko to the burning sunlight. When the dust clears, Nezuko is not only still alive, but just fine standing in the full sun as she casts off her ever-present anti-demon gag and wishes everyone good morning. Meanwhile, we get a flashback to the origins of Demon King Muzan Kibutsuji, once a sickly human boy whose medical treatments transformed him into a powerful superhuman who can’t stand the sun. The purpose of his demon crusade is to eventually beget a sun-tolerating demon—so he’ll be coming after Nezuko now. 

Then we get a taste of the new stuff, with a title sequence midway through the movie and everything. While Tanjiro recovers from fighting his previous demons, the members of the Demon Slayer Hashira have gathered in conclave to figure out next steps. They all want to unlock their Demon Slayer marks, tattoo-like shapes that appear on a slayer’s body when they endure nearly fatal physical trauma, driving their bodies to the breaking point. To do that, the Hashira decide to train with the novitiate slayers, putting themselves in potential danger in order to unlock the marks. 

Simple stuff, but it’s cool. The new “episode” begins with Serpent Hashira Obanai Iguro and Wind Hashira Sanemi Shinazugawa stumbling upon some sort of alternate demon dimension, an action sequence that’s particularly exciting after sitting through more of Tanjiro’s characteristically navel-gazey internal monologue. It highlights something of a weakness in these otherwise successful compilation films: is it really worth it to rewatch a recut version of story beats you’ve seen already just to get to new footage you’ll also rewatch in a few months anyway? 

For the hardcore heads, I’m sure the answer is yes. I’m relatively new to “Demon Slayer” and am probably not the target audience for these lightly self-indulgent compilation films (at least “Mugen Train” was something no one had seen before) but I can understand the appeal of something like “To the Hashira Training” as a collective experience. It’s a cool way to see a brand-new episode of your favorite show along with an auditorium of its biggest fans, but if you’re all caught up, you’ll have to sit through an hour of stuff you’ve already seen to get there — and no Thunder Breathing to zip you along any faster. 

Grade: C+

A Crunchyroll release, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba — To the Hashira Training” opens in theaters on Friday, February 23.

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