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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.

241. Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Ressha-Hen (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train) – This Just In (#238)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guests Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Haruo Sotozaki’s Demon Slayer – The Movie: Mugen Train.

Following a series of mysterious disappearances on a train from Tokyo to Mugen, three young demon slayers are dispatched to investigate possible supernatural influences. The three quickly team up with a veteran soldier in the battle against evil, and discover just how quickly their mission can go off the rails.

At time of recording, it was ranked 238th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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235. Seppuku (Harakiri) (#32)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Chris Lavery and Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This week, Masaki Kobayashi’s Seppuku.

It is a peaceful time in Japan. The samurai class have largely been rendered obsolete, with many veterans struggling to feed themselves or their families. A former samurai arrives at the estate of the powerful Iyi Clan, requesting to commit ritual suicide before them. He is the second such wanderer in so many days. However, nobody can expect what will follow.

At time of recording, it was ranked 32nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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235. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) – Ani-May 2021 (#28)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Deirdre Molumby, Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of the last two anime movies on the list, Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime and Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.

This week, the second part of the double bill, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, perhaps Miyazaki’s breakthrough to western audiences.

Chihiro is moving to a new town and a new school. Her parents take a detour down a dirt road and stumble across a mysterious abandoned theme park. Chihiro quickly finds herself trapped in a weird world of spirits, witches and dragons. She needs to learn to navigate this mysterious setting and maybe find a way home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 28th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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234. Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) – Ani-May 2021 (#69)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Deirdre Molumby, Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of the last two anime movies on the list, Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime and Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.

This week, the first part of the double bill, Mononoke-hime, the last film before Miyazaki’s first announced retirement.

A freak demon attack disturbs the peace of a remote village, and places a curse on a young prince. The hero must venture into the larger world in search of a cure, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a struggle between industrialisation and nature, between city and forest, between man and god.

At time of recording, it was ranked 69th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! On “Die Hard” as a Christmas Movie…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

It’s not the 8th of January yet, so it still seems like an appropriate time for Christmas movie discussion. As such, I took a look at one of the great film debates of our time: whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

New Escapist Column! Twenty Years Later, “Battle Royale” Still Stands Apart…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because Battle Royale is twenty years old this month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the iconic Japanese film.

In the years since the release of Battle Royale, there has been an explosion of dystopian young adult fiction based around similar premises: the idea of children forced to kill other children to survive. There are plenty of examples of this subgenre, most notably The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. However, Battle Royale has aged better than these other films for two core reasons. First of all, it acknowledges the horror of its premise, rather than sanitising it. Second of all, it understands that this social decay is perhaps more mundane than sensationalist.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

185. Kumonosu-jō (Throne of Blood) – This Just In/World Tour 2020 (#245)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Chris Lavery, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Akira Kurosawa’s Kumonosu-jō.

War rages across feudal Japan. Tsuzuki has finally managed to subdue the latest insurrection against his rule. Journeying through Cobweb Forest, victorious generals Washizu and Miki stumble across a strange woman, who offers a prophecy that augers great and terrible things for the two men. Promised the throne, can Washizu resist the lure and temptation of power? More to the point, what terrible things will he do to procure such power?

At time of recording, it was ranked 245th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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183. Koe no katachi (A Silent Voice) – This Just In/Ani-May 2020 (—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guest Graham Day, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta and Hauru no ugoku shiro. We’ll also be covering a bonus on a recent entry on the list next week, Naoko Yamada’s Koe no katachi.

This week, the third and final installment of this year’s Ani-May, Koe no katachi.

Teenager Shoya Ishida finds himself haunted by guilt over his merciless bullying of his deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya six years earlier. Coming back from a suicide attempt, Shoyo makes an awkward attempt to reconnect and reconcile with Shoko, but are either of them prepared for the strong emotions that this reunion will provoke and the consequences that it will have for their friends and their families?

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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140. Sanjuro – This Just In (#–)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guest Chris Lavery, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Akira Kurusawa’s Sanjuro.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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