Looks like Mortal Kombat suffered a fatality at the box office (get it, because that’s a thing they say in the games?). The latest attempt to turn the video game franchise into a film was number one at the box office the last time we spoke of these things, but in the week since, it’s fallen to number two while the anime Demon Slayer: Mugen Train – which had previously been in second place – climbed to number one. But in both cases, the two top films lost 70% of their audiences, which isn’t a great sign for the box office in general.
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It’s no secret that the box office hasn’t been all that thrilling over the past year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. But now that theaters are starting to open up more and vaccinated audiences are returning to the big screen, business is starting to pick back up. That’s paved the way for a recent animated import from Japan to top the opening weekend of one of Disney’s big animated movies and earn one of the biggest anime openings of all time.
The anime feature Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train was already a smash hit in Japan and became the highest grossing animated feature across the globe last year. Now it’s making waves on the United States box office charts by more-than-doubling the opening weekend of Raya and the Last Dragon. Read More »
(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
It seems like every month heralds the debut of a new streaming service, or at least a newly rebranded streaming service. And with more and more streaming platforms come more opportunities to watch international movies that you wouldn’t have had the chance to before. Yes, I know that it’s ridiculous to pay for the obscene amount of streaming services out there, but that’s what free trials are for, baby! This month we saw the launch of Paramount+, and with it come a few foreign-language classics that you might have missed. Of course, Netflix, Hulu, and all the rest still have new offerings each month, a couple of which are in danger of getting buried in the algorithms.
So let’s fire up those subtitles and get streaming.
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The battle of the highest-grossing movie in Japan was once fought between critically acclaimed titans of anime — Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away kept the title for years before being temporarily toppled by Makoto Shinkai’s sensational Your Name. But in 2020, another anime film obliterated Japanese box office records, becoming the highest-grossing movie in the country, and becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 2020 (just outgrossing Tenet) even amid a global pandemic. It’s an anime film with a mouthful of a title and not much of a bearing to regular U.S. moviegoers: Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train. And now, it’s coming to U.S. theaters.
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Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 masterpiece Spirited Away was a major global crossover hit — a critical and commercial success that earned the animated film an Oscar, and the title as Japan’s highest-grossing film in history, beating out Hollywood blockbuster Titanic. But 19 years after its release, Spirited Away has lost its crown to Demon Slayer.
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(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)
Because battle shonen anime is arguably the most popular anime genre there is, it is bound to become a bit formulaic. Just like superhero movies can at times feel like they’re just following a series of checklists, too many battle shonen anime feel like a repeat of things you’ve already seen. This is to say that, whenever something even remotely fresh comes along, it feels like a remarkable achievement, even if it still mostly adheres to the tropes and conventions of the genre.
Demon Slayer is one of those battle shonen anime. Sure, it’s still about a young boy joining a group of elite warriors and training to become the very best that ever was. Set during the Taisho era (roughly the 1910s), we follow young Tanjiro Kamado, whose entire family gets murdered by a demon one night. Well, everyone except for his younger sister, Nezuko, who suffers a different fate. Tanjiro then sets out on a quest to become a Demon Slayer, part of an elite group of swordsmen, in order to find a way to bring his sister back to being human.
The show starts out quite conventional, as it eases the viewer with familiarity before throwing unfamiliar things at them, like how the show places a greater emphasis on empathy and compassion than many other similar shows. Demon Slayer may be about killing tons of creepy monsters, but it’s also about how we demonize others. Oh, and the animation is simply outstanding.
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