Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Demon Slayer The Movie Mugen Train

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Let’s preface this whole review by just establishing my position on the Demon Slayer anime. It’s alright. That pretty much sums it up. I was pretty behind in watching Demon Slayer so by the time I got round to it there was so much buzz about it, and I had really high expectations which I don’t feel were met. I really don’t understand the hype around it – people seem to really, really love Demon Slayer, and I just kind of like it. I can totally appreciate it’s a good story, and some of the animation is really nice, but do I love it as much as other people seem to? No, I don’t. I think it’s quite average, I liked it well enough, but I definitely think there are other shows out there with similar premises doing it better.

I hear you ask, if I don’t like Demon Slayer that much, why did I bother to see it? Well, I like it enough to want to watch the second season, and the film is canon unlike the My Hero Academia movies, so I felt like I needed to watch it before season 2 started. I even took half a day off work for it!

So, with that in mind, how was Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? Let’s get into it.

Please be aware the following review may contain spoilers for the movie.

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As a reminder, season 1 of Demon Slayer ended with Tanjiro and co. receiving a message to join flame Hashira Rengoku on the Mugen Train to investigate a case where people were going missing, and this movie is then the outcome of that mission, hence the title, Mugen Train. 

Mugen Train starts immediately with action, there’s little to no rehashing story from the first season, so you really need to go into the movie with some memory of the plot from the anime. Newcomers to Demon Slayer may feel a little lost starting their journey with Mugen Train, though it’s not impossible. Mugen Train does work well as a standalone story, though obviously there’s a lot of context missing without the knowledge of the first season of Demon Slayer.

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Plot-wise Mugen Train is an exciting and interesting ride. The action never really stops throughout the whole movie, save for a few moments of respite.

As with Demon Slayer‘s debut series, Mugen Train is beautifully animated. There does seem to be some reliance on CGI for transition scenes and some background imagery, which I did find quite jarring. I’ve never liked the combination of CG backgrounds within an anime series, which I understand is a personal preference of mine, so others might not find it as much of an issue but for me it really took me out of the moment.

Some key moments lack emotional punch as it feels like the viewer doesn’t have enough time with the characters to develop any real bonds, so it’s almost a “Well, that happened.” and not much else. I feel some of these moments might land more for manga readers who have probably spent more time with certain characters, but as an anime only viewer, for me it felt a bit lacklustre.

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Mugen Train is a good continuation of the Demon Slayer story, and builds well on the world created in the first season. Whilst the story lacked emotional depth in places, there’s no doubting that the plot is a good one, and sets up the second series of the hit anime nicely.

7 stars

Film Reviews, Films

Review: Yes, No, Or Maybe?

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Yes, No, Or Maybe? is a fairly short film – standing at 53 minutes. There’s a lot packed into the short run time, and for the most part it’s a joy to watch. This review will contain spoilers for the end, but I’ll warn you before it’s about to be mentioned, so read with caution.

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The focus of Yes, No, Or Maybe? is Kei Kunieda, a friendly newscaster with a sunny disposition. Kei has a secret – he’s actually pretty grouchy and is pretty much constantly inwardly cursing at other people. This is done to great effect throughout the film showing Kei’s inner thoughts as a little chibi figure on screen, so whilst IRL Kei might be thanking someone profusely, chibi Kei will be cursing them up a storm. It’s a really funny juxtaposition that works really well, and is much more effective than just having a voiceover show Kei’s inner thoughts.

One day, Kei is asked to interview Ushio Tsuzuki, a stop-motion animator. Following the interview, an off-duty and disguised Kei bumps into Ushio (quite literally) outside a convenience store, and after unleashing a barrage of abuse at Ushio reluctantly agrees to help him with his work after injuring him.

What follows is a back and forth between Kei and Ushio as Kei interacts with Ushio both using his work persona and his true self, and struggles to reconcile his feelings with who he truly is as a person. Being a shounen ai, there’s obviously a romantic undertone and typically of a BL anime, there’s some struggle as Kei deals with his romantic thoughts towards another man.

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Yes, No, Or Maybe? presents two really well written characters. Kei and Ushio are both really well developed and each have their own nuances and motivations. I really related to Kei having his private and public personas, as I feel like often I’m very different publicly to how I am privately, and as I said before, the way the film presents this is really effective.

I really liked the animation of Yes, No, Or Maybe?, it felt really soft and natural, with a pretty realistic colour palette, which added to the romantic tone of the movie. Whilst Yes, No, Or Maybe? is primarily a drama, it does have some really funny moments, especially between Kei’s private persona and his inner thoughts. 

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Whilst I wouldn’t want to get into spoiler territory, I feel it’s worth mentioning the end as it could be a huge trigger for viewers and could be the difference between someone watching it or not. If you don’t want to know spoilers, don’t read the next paragraph and just know that I really disliked the final scenes of Yes, No, or Maybe?

The end scene is really hard to bear and features the worst of all BL tropes – dubious consent. Except, it’s really not dubious, it’s pretty clear and repeatedly said that it’s a firm no. It’s a real shame, because up until this point, the movie was golden and the whole scene just sours the wholesome and romantic vibe of Yes, No, or Maybe? up until that point. I’m really interested to pick up the light novel to see how that compares to the film, I would hope that it isn’t so non-consensual but my experience with BL makes me think otherwise.

8 stars

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Given Movie

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The following review contains spoilers for the Given Movie and the anime series. 

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The Given movie is the 59 minute follow-up to 2019’s smash anime series of the same name. Adapted from an ongoing manga series, Given centres around a band of boys – two highschoolers and two college students – as they fall in love with playing music together, and with each other.

Of course, the anime left off with Mafuyu and Uenoyama getting together after some mutual pining and dealing with some underlying trauma. The focus of this movie shifts to their bandmates Akihiko and Haruki. We discovered in the series that Haruki has been in love with Akihiko for some time, whereas Akihiko seems to be a lot more of a playboy and has a different girl on his arm constantly.

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Having read the manga past this story arc, I was a little hesitant to watch the film. There was a lot I didn’t like about the arc portrayed in the film when I read it in the manga. That’s not to say it’s not good, it’s just very raw and a little bit darker but this shouldn’t be a surprise with the content from the first series of the show in mind.

Throughout the movie, it’s very clear that Akihiko has a very toxic relationship with his live-in lover Ugetsu. Neither of them seem to really want to give the other up, but they’re absolutely no good for each other. This is pretty clear throughout the whole movie. Akihiko’s behaviour ends up spiralling as a result and he acts in a truly despicable way. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between Akihiko’s behaviour when he’s influenced by interactions with Ugetsu, and those with Haruki which further cements the toxicity of Akihiko’s relationship.

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Throughout the movie there’s a multitude of levels to the characterisation. At first glance, Akihiko and Ugetsu seem like thoroughly despicable characters, both only looking out for themselves, and whilst there certainly seems to remain an element of this, there’s also a lot of depth to their relationship which becomes uncovered and you can begin to kind of see why they act the way they do. There’s also a undertone of not being able to let your first love go, which I think a lot of people can relate to.

With Ugetsu in mind, I’m really pleased at how he has been portrayed. I think it would have been really easy for him to be vilified as the mean man who is keeping Akihiko and Haruki apart, but there’s actually a really soft side to him and he is characterised really well. His interactions with Mafuyu are especially touching, as we see him helping Mafuyu to write a new song and eventually learning to trust him enough to talk about his feelings with him.

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As you’d expect from a film centred around the lives of musicians, the music in Given is impeccable. From Ugetsu’s classical violin playing, to the rock stylings of the band, the music throughout is evocative and emotional. The music always really adds to the emotion of any scene, and perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the moment.

A lot is packed into the Given movie’s short run-time, which can kind of leave your head reeling, but there are some really sweet and tender moments in amongst all of the angst. The Given movie is a near perfect continuation of a series which was so beloved, and won’t disappoint fans.

9 stars

30 Days Of, 30 Days Of: Film

30 Days Of: Film, Day 21

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Day 21: A movie no-one would expect you to love

Before sports anime came into my life, there was a sports movie I was pretty into; Moneyball. I couldn’t tell you much about it now, other than Brad Pitt manages a baseball team and Jonah Hill is there, but at the time I was super into Moneyball. I even tried reading the book, but it turns out when you know nothing about baseball, it’s much easier to get the gist from a film rather than a super in depth book about it.

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30 Days Of, 30 Days Of: Film

30 Days Of: Film, Day 13

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Day 13: The first movie you saw at the cinema

I’ve mentioned my childhood obsession with dinosaurs, and that led to me wanting to see Jurassic Park in the cinema, and for some reason, even though I was only 4 at the time, my mother took me. I don’t remember being scared, so it’s probably the bravest I’ve ever been, as we all know I’m a huge wimp now.

30 Days Of, 30 Days Of: Film

30 Days Of: Film, Day 11

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Day 11: Your favourite movie as a child

I’ve mentioned previously a love of Jurassic Park and Oliver! as a child, and really I think that those two films are synonymous of my childhood, and certainly the ones I associate with being a child the most.

Like most children, I also loved Disney movies, but I never liked the princess ones much and instead leaned more towards the action type films. My two favourites as a child were The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood, which I have really fond memories of. One time I can remember really vividly is refusing to leave the house for a birthday party because The Sword in the Stone was on, and then hiding under the dining table crying when the ‘squirrel bit’ happened.

30 Days Of, 30 Days Of: Film

30 Days Of: Film, Day 10

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Day 10: Your favourite director

I’ve alluded to this in a previous post, but my favourite director is Wes Anderson.

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I just love everything about his films. They’re whimsical without being ridiculous, funny, heartwarming. He hasn’t yet made a film I don’t like. I love his aesthetic too, as do most people. It helps massively that his cast generally seem to be some of my favourite actors.

Big shout out also to Christopher Nolan, whose work I love immensely also.

 

30 Days Of, 30 Days Of: Film

30 Days Of: Film, Day 1

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Day 1: What is your favourite movie?

For as long as I can remember (well… since about 1993 I suppose), my favourite movie has always been Jurassic Park. 

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Jurassic Park kickstarted my first obsession, dinosaurs. I have really fond memories of visitng the Natural History Museum as a child, and I had anything dinosaur I can get my hands on. I remember before Jurassic Park came out on video, I had the ‘Making Of’ video, and I watched it constantly, even though as a 4 year old, most of it more than likely went over my head.

With an incredible use of effects, favourite practical over CGI, Jurassic Park is a movie which still stands up today, some 27 years later, and still looks amazing now.

2017 challenges, Challenges

2017 Challenges: April Recap

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Wooo boy, only two weeks late with this one, but it’s been kind of hectic, you know? April is done, that means we’re 1/3 of the way through the year, so I should be 1/3 of the way through all of my totals… right? Right?!

Make 10 new cosplays (including one entirely from scratch)
MCM London is next week, and as previously mentioned, I’m doing three new cosplays. That’ll bring my total for the year up to 5, so that’s pretty good going! One of my cosplays for next week I have also made entirely from scratch, and I’m really happy with it so far! I did have a minor meltdown over the wig and the trousers, but I’m through it now (touch wood). I still have some finishing touches to do on each of them, but I’m excited to share photos when they’re done!

For those interested, this is my line-up:

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Watch 30 anime series
I had been doing really well at this challenge, but I feel my progress has slowed down a bit the closer it’s getting to con and the more time I’ve had to spend working on cosplay. It’s really hard to watch anime in the background of cosplay as I find I need to concentrate quite heavily on both activities (I am quite prone to sewing in sleeves inside-out).

Having said that, since last month, I’ve managed to watch the first season of Black Butler, which brings the total to five completed anime series. To refresh, that’s:

  1. LoveLive! School Idol Project
  2. Voltron: Legendary Defender (s01)
  3. Vampire Knight
  4. Vampire Knight: Guilty
  5. Black Butler (s01)

I need to majorly up my game on this one!

Platinum 12 games
This is the part of the list where things start to get a bit less impressive… so the less said about this one the better, I think. *coughnoplatinumtrophiescough*

Watch 30 new ‘old’ films
I think what is needed is a weekend where I just obliterate this list, but until then, I will have to be satisfied with my one tick on this list of thirty.

Watch 60 films at the cinema
Look! An actual challenge I’m on track for! I’ve seen 20 films at the cinema so far, so bang on target for the time of the year!

Clear the gaming backlog
So little progress has been made on this challenge, I still haven’t even made the list yet.