Tuesday. 20/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Animated conversations

Anime fans in the US and Canada will finally be able to see Japan’s latest juggernaut of the genre in cinemas from Friday. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, a hit with children and adults of all ages, has obliterated the competition in the past year and taken nearly ¥40bn (€307m) at home, making it the highest grossing film in Japanese history.

There has been much discussion about why the film has been slapped with an R (restricted) rating for its North American release, meaning that under-17s have to be accompanied by an adult. In Japan it had a PG12 rating, which means little more than suggesting parental advice is required for under-12s and does not require an adult to be present. Cinemas in Japan were packed with primary-school children who had already read Koyoharu Gotouge’s manga and watched the TV series.

The animated human-on-demon violence might be startling to non-Japanese eyes – young hero Tanjiro Kamado has to behead his adversaries – but in Japan where manga and chambara (sword-fight films) are full of set-piece violence, the effect is lessened. Even Hayao Miyazaki, the most elegant of anime directors, has no problem with an arm or a head being lopped off when the narrative calls for it. The rating gap certainly reveals different attitudes to animated violence on screen; the US Motion Picture Association said that the R was for the film’s “violence and bloody images”.

One other challenge for any novice Demon Slayer viewer is that the film starts where the TV series left off, which means a baffling lack of backstory for those new to the plot (director Haruo Sotozaki rightly assumed that Japanese viewers would be up to speed with the story and the characters). So whether you take your children with you or not, a little homework before viewing is highly recommended.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Germany

Green energy

Whereas Germany’s ruling conservatives continue to haggle over who should lead them into September’s federal election – the first in 16 years without Angela Merkel leading the ticket – the country’s Greens yesterday settled on Annalena Baerbock (pictured). A party insider who was educated in Germany but spent a year at the London School of Economics, Baerbock’s nomination marks the first time that the Greens have formally declared a candidate for chancellor. The move befits the strong rise in the party’s fortunes and its remaking into a centrist contender. If current opinion polls hold true in September, the Greens will become Germany’s second-largest party and have a chance to enter into a coalition government with the ruling conservatives. “Businesses in Germany are not anxious about a Green government,” Anna Rosenberg of financial advisory firm Signum Global told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “On the contrary, they’ve made friends with the Greens and accepted that they will be in charge for the foreseeable future.”

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Pakistan & France

Extreme measures

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan should have seen this coming: in November he signed an agreement with the fundamentalist TLP party, agreeing to expel the French ambassador and boycott goods from the country in reaction to the decision by French media to republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons deemed “blasphemous” by the TLP. Instead of following through on the deal, Pakistan’s government has since banned the TLP for engaging in terrorism.

Now the TLP is trying to force Khan’s hand: protests turned violent over the weekend and a mass march to Islamabad is scheduled for today; the Taliban has also pledged support. French nationals, meanwhile, have recently been advised by their embassy to leave Pakistan – a call that surprised and angered many, who have refused to comply. Whether or not Khan is forced to cave, one thing is clear: attempting to appease the West and the fundamentalists has failed. In the process, both countries have played into the hands of extremists.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Brazil

Growing pains

Brazil’s population decline was predicted to start in 2047 but it could begin much sooner. According to the O Globo newspaper, eight of Brazil’s 26 states, including greater Rio de Janeiro, saw more deaths than births last month. Overall in Brazil, there were 13 births for every 10 deaths in March – a massive drop compared to 22 births for every 10 deaths in the same month in 2020. The country’s infamously poor management of coronavirus is part of the reason, causing more deaths than in normal years. But the number of women having babies has also been in decline for decades, largely due to Brazil’s rapid urbanisation, as well as because of women’s changing roles. So once normal life resumes, the country will face concerns about depopulation – it’s a common challenge for nations entering the next phase of development.

Image: Alamy

Travel / Malta

Welcome relief

As Mediterranean nations gear up for the summer holiday season, approaches vary in their degree of caution. Spain, for example, says that it will not open for holidaymakers until at least 70 per cent of the country is vaccinated, whereas Turkey looks set to permit tourists whether or not they’ve had a jab. Among the most fervent in attempting to attract visitors is Malta, which will allow vaccinated Britons to enter the country for 1 June and looks set to appear on the UK’s “green list” of countries that can be visited for non-essential reasons from mid-May. The small island nation is among the top performers in Europe when it comes to the speed of its inoculation rollout. It has even offered to pay tourists to stay in its hotels: €50 for those booked into three-star hotels, €75 for four stars and up to €100 for five-star accommodation. With more than 27 per cent of Malta’s economy dependent on tourism, it’s a canny attempt to kick-start the industry.

Image: Getty Images

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Bringing the ‘Benin Bronzes’ home

In recent weeks several museums in Europe announced that they are planning to return the treasures known as the ‘Benin Bronzes’, which were looted from what is now Nigeria by British troops in 1897. But why now, after years of clamour for their restitution? Will more museums follow? And what does it mean for a people when stolen property comes home? Andrew Mueller is joined by Victor Ehikhamenor, Barnaby Phillips and Ngarino Ellis.

MONOCLE FILMS / Global

Off-the-grid fashion retail

We walk the extra mile to meet shopkeepers who’ve gone off the beaten track to give their customers a different experience.

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