“Demon Slayer” Closes In On Japanese Cinema History And Boosts Economy With Message Of Resilience

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The story of a boy fighting human-eating demons who murdered his family, “Demon Slayer” is set to become Japan’s highest-grossing film, thanks to an increase in the number of fans because of the coronavirus pandemic and its message of resilience.

Based on a popular manga and animated television series, the film created an industry of related merchandise and won over fans with its nod to Japanese traditions that people fear they will miss today.

“People in high positions act on that – ‘Noblesse oblige’, samurai and so on. Those at the top become a shield for the weak, using their strength to protect them, ”said film commentator Yuichi Maeda.

“It is absolutely lacking in modern Japan. “

“Demon Slayer” is set to overtake “Spirited Away,” Japan’s highest-grossing film in nearly two decades.

According to Monday’s data, the movie – whose full title is “Kimetsu no Yaiba – Mugen no Resshahen” and was released on October 16 – grossed a total of 30.28 billion yen ($ 291 million), minus of $ 30.8 billion. yen for “Spirited Away”, by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli.

It has already opened in a few Asian countries and will head to the United States and Canada early next year.

The Demon Slayer manga series, which ran from 2016 to 2020 in a magazine and published in a book series, has sold over 100 million copies of the first 22 books. Fans lined up for the 23rd volume when it went on sale earlier this month.

But the impact didn’t stop there, said Toshihiro Nagahama, senior economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute, which estimated an economic impact of at least 270 billion yen as of Dec. 3.

Women wearing protective masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walk past a poster for an animated film “Demon Slayer” outside a cinema in Tokyo, Japan, December 13, 2020. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

Of that amount, some 130 billion yen was for related goods such as toys, with a sword launched by Bandai Namco Holdings – which also produced a “Demon Slayer” series of its longtime hit Tamagotchi – flying off the shelves. some stores.

A less obvious winner is Dydo Group Holdings, whose “Demon Slayer”-themed canned coffee proved so popular that it revised its profit forecast for this fiscal year to 2.5 billion yen from 500 million yen. yen.

Sony Corp, whose music unit is co-distributor, has also taken a boost.

Although the film’s opening was postponed due to the pandemic, the delay worked to its advantage as parents, stuck at home during Japan’s soft lockdown in the spring, heard about the franchise from their children. . With free time, they read and watched the series frantically on streaming services.

“It interested the whole family, it was something they could talk about at home,” said Yuka Ijima, assistant professor at Daito Bunka University.

Ijima noted that demons first appeared in Japanese folklore as a symbol of illness, and said the story’s message resonated with audiences.

“Overall it’s about resilience, overcoming terrible things and the strength to do it,” she said.

This message is similar to “Spirited Away,” when a girl finds herself alone after her parents turn into pigs, said Kaoru Endo, a sociologist at Gakushuin University – but with one crucial difference.

“I think the meaning is less that we have to fight to get over things than just living is good,” she said. “You just have to go through difficult situations – and that is helping everyone right now.”

Fans gathered at a downtown Tokyo cinema agreed.

“There are a lot of people suffering in the current situation,” said Yohei Suzuki, 38, and office worker. “I don’t think the story was intentionally made for these people, but it… might lift people’s spirits.”

($ 1 = 104,0200 yen)

(This story was passed on to correct a typo in the title of the Japanese film in paragraph 6)

Reporting by Elaine Lies; additional reporting by Akira Tomoshige; Editing by Lincoln Feast.


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