Tokyo, Japan – The unprecedented success of the film Demon Slayer has helped underscore the potential of its anime industry and its focus on mass entertainment and raising Japanese morale as the country struggles for renewed growth. of coronavirus cases.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the movie: Mugen Train now owns Japanese record books.
After a dozen consecutive weeks late last year as Japan’s highest grossing film – still in effect – in December surpassed Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away as the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time.
He is now leading the U.S. box office, just two weeks after his release.
Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, has this week celebrated Demon Slayer as “good news that Japanese manga culture has been highly regarded around the world.”
In the 29 weeks since its release, the film has sold nearly 29 million tickets and generated sales of about $ 365 million in the Japanese market alone.
Roland Kelts, author of the book Japamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US, attributes the phenomenal success of Demon Slayer to the meeting of “a perfect storm.”
One of the key elements was its “strategic deployment,” he said.
It began as a serialized manga – Japanese comics or graphic novels – in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in February 2015, before evolving into a 26-part television anime series that was released in stages at from April 2019 and which was subsequently aired on various platforms, only then did it become the feature film that premiered in October last year.
The expanded process allowed the buzz to be built up gradually.
Another element was the timing of the film release. It happened during a period of calm in the Japanese pandemic COVID-19, between its second and third wave, when cinemas were open, but there were few films to choose from.
Kelts says that when it went through the big cinema in the Tokyo neighborhood at the time of its premiere in October 2020 “there were virtually no options … it was Demon Slayer all day.”
Of course, even then the film would not have been able to achieve its record success without having a wider appeal.
“He has an attractive and very empathetic young hero,” said Carol Hayes, an associate professor of Japanese studies at the National University of Australia. “The dilemmas he worries about are very human.”
Good versus bad
The central character of the series, Tanjiro Kamado, starts from an adventure that seems familiar and timeless.
He is the brave young man of the country who sets out to fight the threatening evils and avenge and save his family. In that sense, it could be a tale of any culture from any time period in human history.
We hear the hero’s inner monologue as he struggles with “the moral dilemma of what is good and what is bad.”
Hayes also suggests that it is derived from the contemporary popularity of zombie and vampire movies and that, as the anime is very well drawn, it can be very appealing to a wider audience.
At the same time, Demon Slayer is not entirely dark, as many of the characters and situations are designed to make the audience laugh and to preserve a lighter, whimsical mood.
“They’ve made an effort to make it fun, and that’s a good way to deal with violence,” Hayes noted.
Also, by taking “demons” as antagonists, the murder that takes place in almost every episode becomes less of a problem from a moral perspective.
Emerald King, a professor of Japanese at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, adds that beyond Tanjiro, there is “a really fantastic cast of supporting characters and supporting characters, and there’s someone for everyone … None of the characters are wasted. They all have a purpose. “
Making an issue that other analysts cite, King notes that while they have the typical structure of youth manga, the female characters also have depth.
“There are very good female characters … they are allowed to have as many flaws and strengths as the boys have,” she said.
On the other hand, those who study Japanese manga and anime also tend to agree that despite its success, there is no element within the Demon Slayer series that can be said to be truly innovative.
“There’s nothing new,” King admitted, “He’s taken the best pieces of everything and put them together.” The series makes use of the “that works in other genres and [is] using it to your advantage “.
In this context, Kelts goes so far as to suggest that his reputation may fade over time.
“I don’t think it’s revered as an anime classic in five years,” he said.
Demon Slayer’s genius may not lie in his innovation or artistic depth, but in his ability to deliver exactly what he set out to do.
Kelts notes that a lot of money for investment has been flowing from the United States into the Japanese anime world for the past five years or so, meaning that studios are “forced to step up” their act. from a business perspective.
“The industry is realizing that their job is to deliver a product that now has a global audience,” Kelts said. Demon Slayer’s mature craftsmanship reflects this best-written and well-executed style.
The national and international success of the film virtually guarantees that other studios and actors in the industry will study Demon Slayer, hoping to overcome the wave it has created. It will serve as a model for many things to follow, including, of course, some uninspired scams for the purpose of collecting.
But even many of the best anime products of the future will likely feel the impact of the commercial success that Demon Slayer has achieved, and some of the effects may be lamented by certain groups of anime fans.
The perfect storm could leave behind an altered landscape.
As one study expert told Kelts, “our generation has realized that anime is entertainment; it is not art “.