Bo Burnham’s special Inside is a masterpiece. It holds a mirror to our society from these past few months and makes us ponder a cacophony of social and political issues? What has the pandemic done to our mental states? How has comedy changed? Is technology a force of good or evil? What does it mean to be canceled? How do people change over time?

The special gives a left-leaning point of view, but at the same time, it never feels like Burnham is trying to cajole your opinions. Inside paints a desultory picture of both social isolation during the pandemic and the vanity of the internet. Burnham manages to do all this while using comedy, a unique set, lighting, and camera angles to portray his opinions.

Inside resonates because everyone can relate to it with their own covid experiences. It gives the message that it’s okay to not be okay during these distressing times. The pandemic is coming to an end, but the transition back to routine life will not be easy.

Sound of Metal

This was a depressing movie. It followed Ruben Stone, a gypsy punk-metal drummer who loses his hearing and deals with an identity crisis. This really resonated with audiences in 2020 because an unexpected health crisis can wreak havoc on your life.

The movie was very astute with the sound in the movie and had it emphasize the struggles of being deaf. Moreover, the movie does a great job at bringing awareness to the deaf community in a way that is not condescending. It perfectly portrays that deafness isn’t a disability, it’s a culture.

The ending was left open for interpretation. We don’t get to learn whether Ruben decides to return to his ‘old life’ or embraces deaf culture further. Ruben runs back to Peris to be with his girlfriend after the surgery. however, he shortly thereafter leaves early in the morning. The movie closes with him unplugging his earphones and enjoying the silence.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop, the movie, definitely lives up to the reputation of the anime. The plot follows the Bebop crew as they foil the plans of a biological terrorist using nano technology developed in secret by the martian government.

The terrorist (Vincent) was an ex-military member used as a Guinea pig for anti-nano technology. The particular nanotechnology that he got infected with completely wiped out his memories. This led Vincent down a dangerous path where he questioned his very nature of being believed that he was trapped in a dream. Vincent believed that the only way to escape this dream would be to be the last one standing: ie kill everyone else with nanotechnology.

The very notion of being in a dream and not “living” is reminiscent of the themes in the rest of the anime. In fact, during the show, Spike said that he and Vincent aren’t all that different since they have both died before — in this case, a spiritual death rather than a physical one. For Spike, he died when he fled the crime Syndicate, leaving behind the love of his life.

More recently, Mugen Train explored dreams in an Inception fashion way. But, all this begs the question of what happens when you can’t trust the very nature of your reality? Do we use dreams as a fantasy, a way of escaping reality since the world is too cruel to accept?

Mulan: Another Live-Action Remake

Ignoring all the controversy around the production and cast of Mulan, it is arguably a good show. But was a live-action re-make necessary in the first place?

I grew up watching Disney movies. Disney played a huge role in carving the animation landscape in the United States. With Disney owning a large swath of intellectual property, much of it both iconic yet aging, it isn’t surprising that they would remake the classics. Over the last three years, Disney has made live-action versions of the Lion King, Aladin, and now Mulan.

I’m not going to say that these shows are bad. In fact, it demonstrates how much technology has advanced. I was hesitant when I heard “live-action Lion King,” but I was blown away by the computer graphics. But again, were these even necessary? The remakes followed the same plot as the originals, and the originals haven’t even aged poorly; in fact, many may even argue that the originals are better in some regards

Obviously, this is a cash grab by Disney looking to cash in our nostalgia. However, if we were to do a remake, why wasn’t it an animated remake? The Lion King lost its charm and innocence when the animals weren’t cute animated creatures but straight-up beasts. Mulan changed from a fun childish cartoon to a war movie. This isn’t to say that animations are solely for children– in fact, there are many cartoons just for adults. But, considering Disney’s target demographic being families, it is confusing why they decided to go live rather than stay animated.

Yet another question, why re-make old stuff? Disney could have definitely decided to make sequels or continue the story in some other way. In some cases, remaking makes sense: like with the 2011 version of Hunter X Hunter remaking the 1999 version. The HXH remake was done to preserve a congruent art style when they adapted more volumes. If Disney had the same goal in mind, they would have also re-done Lion King 2, etc. But, instead, they just remade the first ones.

Maybe I’m being too cynical. Nostalgia for nostalgia sake is not always a bad thing.

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train

If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It just came out in theaters in the US. This movie was everything that I expected it to be, more or less from reading the manga in advance. Ufotable did an incredible job once again at animating this. Watching this in a theater gave an immersive experience with amazing sounds and stunning visualization.

Mugen Train was ideal for movie format since it was essentially a giant fight sequence. My one gripe with the manga is that there are chapter cuts and even volume cuts mid-fight. This is obviously a constraint of the medium; however, having an uninterrupted conclusive fight is a nice thing. What sets Mugen Train apart from other anime movies from My Hero Academia, Full Metal Alchemist, and Hunter X Hunter is that this movie is canon and is critical to the main plot. Most anime movies associated with a series are typically just a side quest with no consequence to the main plot. Maybe with the major success of Demon Slayer, there will be more movies like this. Demon Slayer definitely will set an example for the upcoming Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan movies.

Like I discussed in my prior post on Demon Slayer, this is an unapologetic shounen title. The premise and story are straightforward. Demons = bad; boys slay demons. But, what sets Demon Slayer apart from other shounen titles like Bleach is the flawless focused execution. The characters are balanced; there is funny banter; the fight sequences are phenomenal. Demon Slayer doesn’t need a deep or unique story to carry it.

Mugen Train is like an Avenger move: visually stunning, face-paced, and guaranteed to be a mainstream hit.