Film Review: “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” (2021)

“That’s dark.”

Escape From New York (1981)

Mostly avoids the anime show-to-movie trope of feeling like a few episodes of the series strung together and introduces a fascinating new character with a crushing story to that whole Jujutsu Kaisen anime thing that’s going on. More importantly, did you see how Gojo’s eyes shimmered?? Most of the extra budget went into enhancing Gojo’s incredible eyes. He was looking right at me, I swear.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “My favorite character is Panda because Panda.”

Film Review: “Turning Red” (2022)

Psycho (1960)

The toxic, generational trauma cycle is once again broken by an overburdened child in this wonderful, high-energy, anime referencing coming of age Pixar movie. It will make a fine double feature with Encanto, for when you really want to dig into some older folks beginning to understand they’re not the main character and should just chillax.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon, and general anime references and aesthetic are out of control in the best way possible. It is a peak 2002 anime kid childhood right there on screen.”

Film Review: “Belle” (2022)

“Another reality. Another you.”

A hyper-modern masterpiece of animation and a soft retelling of Beauty and the Beast that achieves emotional highs by exploring an unexpected variation to the story and combining it with the idea of what connecting really means in a world like ours (or one that’s a half sci-fi step or two ahead of ours, to be exact). Also, because this is anime, a touch of highschool drama.

Both the CG and hand-drawn animation styles are equally impressive, especially on a large screen where you can bask in the warm glow of the real world’s earthy techniques and then can get breathlessly lost in the intimate yet magnificent scope of the digital world.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “When an actual metaverse like the one in this movie forms, I’m afraid that you’ll find me there most of the time, as an autogenerated avatar that looks like a cart of books and wires that you’d find in the back room of your local library.”

Film & TV Review: “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train” (2021) & “Demon Slayer: Season 1”

“How dare you go on living without a care.”

Delicious!

Demon Slayer works because of its animation, fight choreography, violence, and wacky anime hijinks, sure, but it’s the vulnerability of the characters compared to other shonen anime that really lets it stand out in the canon for me. The emotional toll the traumatic past has taken on the main characters (and even the demons they slay) is always palpable in their actions and thoughts. Perhaps most critically, tears flow so freely throughout the story, normalizing strong emotions in stereotypically strong individuals.

The downright stellar animation in Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train bolsters heavy emotional character moments that move the characters forward in meaningful ways and pretty much destroy me and my tear ducts every time I think about them. While the film starts out feeling like just a batch of episodes strung together in a film format, the scale and weight of the overarching theme becomes clear about halfway through. This arc of the story needed to be a film, and I hope they use the feature length format again to at least cap off the series, if not earlier.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Season 4 finale ‘Restless’ continues to inspire dream narratives across the globe.”

Video Game Review: “Persona 5 Strikers” (2020)

“Sorry about that. We just despise the police is all.”

The Persona series’ classic turn-based system is perfectly combined with the frantic action battle system of the equally classic Musuo genre of games. Having played through the game on Hard and Merciless difficulties (the latter being truly merciless in the opening hours), I’ve been able to experience some of the most exhilarating JRPG battles in recent memory (since, like, the Dark Riku battle in Kingdom Hearts) that are going to stick with me for quite a while.

Strikers also retains the charm of the Persona series and doesn’t skimp on the lengthy scenes of all-caps PLOT and dialogue that are so crucial to it. It was phantastic catching up with all the main characters I knew from P5 and meeting a couple new Phantom Thief faces along the way to punching a god in the dumb god face with some epic funky jazz music playing. The truncated Persona Compendium and lack of social connections notwithstanding, that commitment to retaining all these elements makes this whole thing feel a lot less like a spin-off (like Persona 4 Arena) and more like a full-fledged canon sequel.

My flimsy N64 cardboard box cover pull-quote: “One such ‘exhilarating JRPG battle’ (perhaps the most exhilarating JRPG boss battle in the game) happens towards the end to the tune of this absolute banger of a song called ‘Counterstrike’ (listen below). It’s no secret that 73% of the recipe for a successful and memorable JRPG boss battle is the music, so that’s an immediate win in this battle against this tragic jerk Konoe. Add to that the tricky swordy techniques you have to contend with, the fact that the guy just emerged from a mecha, and the impassioned conversation going on throughout and you have a 100% patented ‘exhilarating JRPG battle’ that you’ll remember for ages.”

Exhilarating.