Latest box-office figures show that “Demon Slayer,” an anime based on a popular manga by Koyoharu Gotoge of the same name, is single-handedly propping up the country’s ailing film industry.
More than 17 million people have visited theaters nationwide in the past month to watch the film since it opened on Oct. 16, bringing in a cool ¥23.3 billion at the box office over that period.
Experts are even forecasting that “Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train” may eventually replace Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” as the No.1 Japanese blockbuster of all time. In terms of success, the future couldn’t be brighter for the anime and its 10-year old protagonist Tanjiro Kamado.
However, an increasing number of parents have expressed concern that Tanjiro’s antics may be too harrowing for young children. Theaters have been crowded with parents and their children for the past month or so, but, once the movie is over and they return home, an increasing number of reports have claimed that some kids cry out during the night or say they’re too scared to go to sleep after viewing the film.
As is obvious from the title, “Demon Slayer” is often excessively violent. Set in the Taisho Era (1912-26), it tells the story of a boy who comes home to find his family brutally slain by a pack of demons. His younger sister, Nezuko, has survived the attack but she’s also been turned into a demon of sorts. Tanjiro must destroy the monsters in order to liberate Nezuko from her abducted state, and so joins a local team of demon slayers. The film contains buckets of blood and gore, with much of the controversy centering on the gruesome opening scenes in which Tanjiro’s family is murdered.
Interestingly, several older children have chimed in on the controversy. As early as last December, when “Demon Slayer” was still largely followed by anime fans, Banji55 wrote to Yahoo Japan to ask whether he should let his first-grade sister see the TV series. After receiving plenty of advice online, Banji 55 replied that his family had decided to wait before showing his sister the series.
It was probably a smart move. Yaiko Watanabe, a professor of psychology at Hosei University, told Yahoo Japan that “in spite of the fact that ‘Demon Slayer’ has a PG12 rating, which means it’s typically safe for children to watch with parental guidance, the violent nature of the story and visuals may lead to adverse effects on preschool children.” These effects, says the professor, may include aggressiveness in behavior and cognitive thought, as well as feelings of rage.
On Twitter, a parent using the handle @Soma posted what could be described as a comprehensive manual for taking small children to watch “Demon Slayer” in a movie theater. Soma took his own kids, aged 8 and 4, and though he had no apprehensions about the quality of the movie, he was plenty worried about the reactions of his children.
“My kids begged to see it, and I myself had been hankering to go,” he says. “I assumed that a lot of families would be there, but most of the parents were accompanied by kids 10 years or older. I also discovered that the movie is tailored for a young adult audience. Compared to conventional kids movies, the audio is super-loud, and the movie itself is long. Small children will find it hard to sit still for the 117-minute duration without the distraction of popcorn and drinks. Some theaters don’t allow popcorn in the seats so parents are best advised to check out the situation before going.”
Was the content too violent? Soma claims the movie is actually less gory than the TV anime series, a point his 8-year-old child agrees with.
For all its bloodiness, many parents seem to trust Tanjiro and his team of demon slayers to entertain their offspring.
This certainly wasn’t the case for a children’s book titled “Mommy Became a Ghost” (“Mama ga Obake ni Nacchatta”), which was published in 2015 and is still a hot topic of controversy.
Authored by Nobumi Saito, “Mommy Became a Ghost” is about a mom who dies in a car accident at the very beginning of the story. According to a report in Diamond, the contents are far too much for preschool children to comprehend, suggesting it might scar for life those who read it.
Nevertheless, “Mommy Became a Ghost” has sold more than 530,000 copies, a fact that spawned a petition on change.org last year. The petition calls on Nobumi’s publisher, Kodansha Co., Ltd., to raise the recommended reading age and “put a stop to picture books that make kids suffer.”
The publisher has yet to respond to the demand.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.