Japan's film industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, but it bounced back sooner and stronger than even Hollywood could.
The most visible sign of that strength is the stupendous box-office numbers racked up by “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie — Mugen Train,” an animated film based on a hit manga and TV series. Released on Oct. 16, it zoomed past the ¥10 billion mark in just 10 days, a record in Japan. Following this rocketing start, the film soared ever higher into the box-office stratosphere. By Nov. 29, after 6 weeks on release, it had surpassed “Titanic” (which earned ¥26.2 billion in 1997) to take second place on the all-time earnings list with ¥27.5 billion. It’s next target: the ¥31.68 billion made by Miyazaki Hayao’s animation “Spirited Away” on its initial release in 2001 and after revival screenings this year, which added ¥880 million to its box office total.
“Demon Slayer” benefitted from the fortuitous timing of its release — after most theaters had resumed normal (that is, non-socially distanced) seating in September, but before its Hollywood rivals had returned to the screens. It was also boosted by the popularity of its source material, a manga series by Koyoharu Gotoge that has sold more than 100 million copies.