Demon Slayer’s new movie hints at a Game of Thrones-style problem for the anime’s endgame

Demon Slayer To the Hashira Training
(Image credit: Ufotable)

Demon Slayer may be one of the world’s biggest and best anime but its new, awkwardly titled movie To The Hashira Training hints at a serious upcoming problem for its endgame.

The latest Demon Slayer flick continues the series' tradition of bringing together seasons in a theatrical two-fer. In this case, the third season finale and the premiere episode of Demon Slayer season 4 are bundled together in one clumsily-assembled package before season 4’s Hashira Training arc begins later this spring.

Why is that an issue? For starters, Demon Slayer has already laid the blueprint with Mugen Train, its $500 million-grossing, Tenet-beating movie that ended up as 2020’s most successful film at the box office. The reason why that did so well – aside from the obvious lack of movies in the COVID era – was because it was, in effect, the next canonical chapter in the story of Tanjiro on his quest of revenge to slay demons and battle the Upper Ranks.

Since then, Demon Slayer’s movies have been complacent affairs, an unwieldy bridge between seasons bottled up and sold at full price for an expectant fanbase. The trouble is, you’re not getting a complete theatrical adventure; instead, you’re getting a limited preview of what’s to come. 

Never has that been more clear than in To The Hashira Training. While its opening scene showcasing the Hashira coming within a sword’s breadth of discovering Muzan Kibutsuji’s Infinity Castle showed obvious promise, the rest was bogged down in obvious stalling to ensure it didn’t skip too quickly over the source material.

As Tanjiro recovers from his wounds, plans are put in place for the Hashira – the Demon Slayer universe’s elite demon hunters – to train the next generation of Demon Slayer Corps in preparation for a final battle. A movie? It could have been an email.

Training wheels

Demon Slayer To the Hashira Training

(Image credit: Ufotable)

To that end, the second half of To The Hashira Training movie and its upcoming Hashira Training arc will continue the ‘Hashira Training’ portion of Koyoharu Gotouge’s critically acclaimed manga.

A quick glance ahead, though, reveals two things: 

1) Nine manga chapters isn’t enough material to adapt for a full season (season 1, by comparison, covered 54 chapters).

2) This is likely the final stop on Tanjiro’s journey before the final season of the show as part of the Infinity Castle arc. 

If the Hashira Training arc continues in the vein presented in the movie, the f-word – filler – will rear its ugly head and zap any forward progress in a series that has stumbled slightly in its detour to Swordsmith Village after the heavyweight adventures of the first season, Mugen Train, and Entertainment District.

The show, through the rhythm of its releases, is setting itself up for further disappointment. Demon Slayer season 4 will either be short or will be too full of filler, then we’ll probably get another year-long break.

In truth, it brings back some slightly ugly memories of how Game of Thrones lost some goodwill with two shorter spaced out final seasons following on from an epic saga. For context, Game of Thrones aired six full seasons in six years before two much shorter seasons aired across 2017 and 2019.

Demon Slayer To the Hashira Training

(Image credit: Ufotable)

Now, Demon Slayer surely won’t be as rushed or as reviled as what went down in Westeros, but the parallels are still there. Wait too long, and fans can run out of patience – and the anime’s endgame will lose momentum in the same way Game of Thrones did. 

So, how could Demon Slayer fix itself? The anime could learn some easy lessons from Mugen Train: namely, all killer, no filler.

Instead of a ‘To the Infinity Castle’ feature film next year between seasons 4 and 5, the show could do a lot worse than a quick season 4 stopover with Hashira Training in 2024, a mammoth fifth season with an Infinity Castle adaptation in 2025, then a final theatrical release to cap off the entire series in 2026. Mind you, the show could have avoided all this by adapting Hashira Training as a single movie before laying out its final roadmap for fans, but the foresight just wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, Demon Slayer has been a triumph. It’s cut through to the mainstream in a way that few other Japanese shows have (Attack on Titan, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Pokémon are jostling for a place alongside it on anime’s Mount Rushmore) and it artfully blends adrenaline-pumping action with refined shonen storytelling – but it still needs to stick the landing. 

The issue now is it deserves to be treated as the big deal it so obviously is. A jumbled movie and a mini-season only leaves us practicing our slightly exasperated Breathing Styles. Tanjiro deserves better.

For more, check out the new anime coming your way in 2024, then discover the latest on Jujutsu Kaisen season 3 and the upcoming Chainsaw Man movie.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.