Why the ‘Demon Slayer’ movie is such an unique anime success story

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One of 2020’s biggest box office hits has finally hit U. S. theaters.

Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train , ” released Friday, is more than just an anime movie about members of the Devil Slayer Corps trying to safeguard the passengers of a train from being eaten by a demon. It’s the movie that will saved the Japanese box workplace during the pandemic.

The “Demon Slayer” movie’s record-breaking run started when it opened in October. It took just 10 days for it to gross over $100 million in Japan and became the fastest film to ever hit that milestone . It has since become the highest-grossing anime and highest-grossing Western film of all time. “Mugen Train” closed out 2020 with all the year’s fourth highest worldwide box office gross, edging out Christopher Nolan’s much-hyped “Tenet, ” which came in fifth.

These feats are impressive for virtually every movie, but “Mugen Train” is not even a traditional stand alone feature. The “Demon Slayer” movie is the immediate continuation of the “Demon Slayer” TV series’ 26-episode first time of year. Unlike other anime films with TV counterparts, “Mugen Train” is not a spinoff or a side story using its own canon designed to be more accessible for an audience that could be unfamiliar with the series.

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What is “Demon Slayer”?

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” is originally a manga series by Koyoharu Gotouge. Set in Taisho era Japan (1912-1926), the series follows teenager Tanjiro Kamado, the kindhearted oldest son of a family that makes and offers charcoal. One day he comes back home to discover his family continues to be slaughtered by an oni, or demon, who subsists on a diet of people. The only survivor is their younger sister Nezuko, that has been turned into a demon but eventually becomes protecting of her brother.

After an encounter with Giyu Tomioka, a high-ranking member of a key organization of warriors tasked with defeating demons known as the Demon Slayer Corps, Tanjiro is sent to train to become demon slayer. This creates Tanjiro’s quest to avenge his family and find a way to turn Nezuko back into an individual.

A man smiling

Kyojuro Rengoku in “Demon Slayer — Kimetsu simply no Yaiba — the Movie: Mugen Train. ”

(Koyoharu Gotoge / Shueisha, Aniplex, ufotable)

Along the way he befriends fellow Demon Slayer Corps members Zenitsu Agatsuma, a cowardly teenager who is a surprisingly skilled sword fighter only when unconscious, and Inosuke Hashibira, a rambunctious teen who was raised by wild boars.

The “Demon Slayer” manga was serialized within the weekly manga magazine “Shonen Jump” from February 2016 to May 2020. The entire series has been collected straight into 23 volumes.

How did “Demon Slayer” get so popular?

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Although the “Demon Slayer” manga was generally favorably received, what really propelled its popularity is the TV adaptation. The first season of the “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” anime series initially aired in Japan through April to September within 2019. (The series happens to be available for U. S. audiences on Netflix and Hulu. )

“Demon Slayer” has been praised for its gorgeous animation, particularly its dynamic action sequences exactly where every frame feels like some art. The stunning visuals are a credit to ufotable, the animation studio behind the anime adaptation.

A swordfighter charging a demon on a train

A scene from “Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — the Movie: Mugen Train. ”

(Koyoharu Gotoge / Shueisha, Aniplex, ufotable)

But the series’ appeal is not the artwork alone. While “Demon Slayer” features familiar manga tropes, its characters and story have also been a major part of its success.

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Tanjiro’s empathy can be unmatched and serves as the emotional core of the series. And despite his tremendous loss and various hardships he faces, he understands he has to keep on residing and is determined to do what’s best. He’s a character that is particularly resonant throughout a pandemic where so many people have faced so much loss.

The anime’s reputation led to an increased interest in the manga series, which was nevertheless ongoing when the first season had finished airing in Japan. Those curious about how the story continues beyond the anime series turned to the original source material. Books from the “Demon Slayer” manga series topped Japanese sales charts in 2020 and was attributed as one of the factors that helped boost the whole comic market .

What’s unique about the movie?

The “Demon Slayer” movie had made over $417 million globally even before hitting U. H. theaters (outside of a brief Oscar-qualifying run), making it the very first Japanese film to combination the $400 million indicate. In December, it became Japan’s biggest package office hit ever, unseating Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved “Spirited Away” (2001).

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A boy in the woods about to unsheathe his sword

Tanjiro in “Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train. ”

(Aniplex America/FUNimation Entertainment)

Part of “Mugen Train’s” box office success can be attributed to the timing of its release. The film hit theaters just as COVID-19 theater restrictions were getting lifted in Japan. It also faced little competition from Hollywood, which postponed much of its slate because Oughout. S. theaters remained shuttered. There are reviews of a theater in Japan showing “Mugen Train” more than 40 periods per day.

Unlike the anime films that are based on a TV adaptation, but exist outside of the series continuity, “Mugan Train” is exclusive in that it is basically the chapter in the middle of an ongoing story, set between two seasons of a TV show.

What’s next for your franchise?

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An additional season of the “Demon Slayer” anime series, which covers the story after the events associated with “Mugen Train, ” was announced in February. The particular series is expected to atmosphere some time this year and will protect what is known as the “Entertainment District” arc.