Demon Slayer, the animated tale of a boy fighting human-eating demons that murdered his family, has shattered a nearly 20-year record to become Japan’s top-grossing movie, according to its distributor.
The film, based on a popular manga and television anime series, powered past Spirited Away, the mega-hit Academy Award-winning movie by Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki that opened in 2001, in just a little over two months.
Demon Slayer, with a full official title of Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie – Mugen Train, had taken in 32.47 billion yen ($313.7m) compared with 31.68 billion yen ($306m) for Spirited Away, according to data released on Monday.
The film got an unexpected boost from the novel coronavirus, film industry watchers said.
People stuck at home because of social distancing got hooked on the manga comic and television series then rushed to watch the film when it was released in cinemas on October 16. The box office release came after cinemas restored normal seating in Japan, meaning film theatres could be filled up to capacity.
“Even luckier, Hollywood studios had postponed releases of nearly all their major titles for the summer and fall, giving local films an open field,” the Japan Times said.
The newspaper also attributed the film’s success to the manga’s “big built-in fan base”, saying nearly 120 million copies of the comic by Koyoharu Gotoge had sold in all formats by December this year.
The film, with its message of resilience, has also spawned a bonanza of merchandise – from toys to canned coffee – generating at least 270 billion yen ($2.61 billion) in business as of December 3, said Toshihiro Nagahama, senior economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
Sony Corp, whose music unit is co-distributor, also got a boost from the film, which has opened in several Asian countries and will head to the United States and Canada early next year.