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.”
“Those who survive never stop thinking about the dead.”
A gentle, human drive down a highway through loss on the way to understanding and healing. It enhances the Murakami story, while thankfully steering away from some of the writer’s worst tendencies. While Pig, my favorite movie of 2021 that was actually released in 2021, didn’t get any meaningless Oscar love, Drive My Car explores some similar themes on a search for humanity in the face of loss, so I am stoked that a film like this is getting acknowledged.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s three hours, too, which means it’s a good movie. Long movies = good movies. That’s just movie math, right? (Really, though, it’s so well-paced that it barely feels like it’s 2 hours.)”
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.”
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.”