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New Escapist Column! On What “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” Bodes for the Future of Anime…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is both the highest grossing movie of 2020 at the global box office and the highest grossing film of all-time at the Japanese box office.

The success of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is striking, because it is a very different sort of anime movie than the kind that normally breaks out. The Japanese box office has traditionally been dominated by anime films like Your Name, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle and others. The anime films that have typically broken out global are movies like Akira or Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion. These are all films with a very strong artistic viewpoint and a very consciously artisanal approach to storytelling.

In contrast, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a much more conventional sort of blockbuster in a much more modern style. It is a film written by a group credited under the corporate brand “Ufotable” and adapted from a manga written by an unknown author. It picks up directly from a television series, serving as a bridge between two seasons, with little attempt to orient casual viewers as to the character or plot. It is difficult to discern what exactly Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is saying about the world or even just about Japan, except for the broadest sorts of platitudes about duty and service.

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train feels like a cultural shift, representing a transition within Japanese popular animation that arguably just reflects broader shifts within global culture over the past decade or so. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

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