The tragic death of Hashira, the fan favorite in Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, was necessary for both Tanjiro’s journey and the series as a whole.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the movie: Mugen Train.
Death is inescapable in the world of Murderer of demons as the titular assassins continue their fight against the carnivorous demons created by Muzan, the original Demon. But the death of Kyojuro Rengoku in Demon Slayer: Mugen Train it’s particularly poignant as the first screen death of a Hashira in the series. The flame-breathing Hashira was the least eccentric of his comrades, with a more serious and noble personality, which made his gruesome demise that much more tragic. But it was also necessary for the overall narrative of the series, of which Mugen train is canonically part of.
Sometimes the story demands that a character come to an end, regardless of how well received it was by the audience. Rengoku’s relationship with the protagonist, Tanjiro, ultimately doomed Hashira. After all, Murderer of demons it is Dishes history and Rengoku was too convenient to keep as her mentor. As a master of flame breathing, Rengoku may have helped Tanjiro master the Hinokami Kagura, an incredibly powerful technique that seems to be related to flame breathing.
Unfortunately, the events of Mugen train they happen too early in the series’ timeline for Tanjiro to master such a powerful technique. To avoid the common anime trope of a dominated protagonist, Rengoku sadly had to be removed from the board. Although he emphatically states his willingness to train the young Demon Slayer, this would have made Tanjiro’s journey a bit too easy, ultimately damaging the series more than Rengoku’s passing could have.
If Enmu had been the final villain of Mugen train, the series perhaps could have found a compelling way to keep Rengoku close without his mentoring becoming too convenient for Tanjiro. It has been established that Rengoku has a younger brother whom he cares deeply about, and the Hashira constantly receive assignments from Kagaya Ubuyashiki, leader of the Demon Slayer Corps. So there were certainly ways that Rengoku could have been eliminated from Tanjiro’s journey without being killed.
However, the arrival of Akaza at the end of Mugen train it required the death of Hashira who breathed flames. Akaza, ranked top three of the 12 Kizuki, is the first of Muzan’s most elite group of demons to appear in the series. As such, his entry was to be a definitive demonstration of the obscene power of demons and the threat posed by the higher ranks. It would have damaged the credibility of the remaining upper ranks, and even Muzan, if Rengoku had triumphed or even survived this encounter.
The Hashira of the Demon Hunter Corps are destined to be the best of the best, as they have been seen effortlessly defeating the Demons that Tanjiro, Inosuke, and Zenitsu almost died fighting against. While they were lucky to have had a Hashira with them when Akaza appeared, it was important to establish that the Hashira are not invincible. Tanjiro and the others learned that they cannot trust Hashira to save them every time they are overcome by a demon.
Things had been going too well for Tanjiro and company lately. Once he, Inosuke, and Zenitsu truly became friends for life and became significantly stronger, it was time to check reality. Rengoku’s death provided the trios with new motivation not only to grow stronger but to continue to grow as individuals, now that they carry Rengoku’s legacy with them.
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