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It’s now official: The “Demon Slayer” movie is the highest-grossing film in Japanese box-office history, its distributors said Monday, ending the reign of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”).

The film, a tale of an adolescent boy fighting human-eating demons, had amassed ¥32.47 billion as of Sunday and drew more than 24 million to theaters since its opening on Oct. 16, according to co-distributors Aniplex and Toho.

But how did the film get to be Japan’s biggest box-office hit of all time? It was down to a perfect storm of five factors, writes Mark Schilling, including extremely fortuitous timing and a built-in fan base.

Why is Demon Slayer so Popular in Japan? (November) | THAT JAPANESE MAN YUTA
Why is Demon Slayer so Popular in Japan? (November) | THAT JAPANESE MAN YUTA

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, notes Schilling in his review of Japanese cinema in 2021. The most visible sign of that strength is the stupendous box-office numbers racked up by “Demon Slayer,” but one film does not make up for months of terrible business.

Local films dominated the box office rankings for the year. Of the top 10 high-earning films, as designated by industry data site Pick Scene, eight are Japanese, with only one Hollywood and one Asian film making the cut. (Any guesses which ones?) Of the Japanese films, seven were released in July or later.

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