The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan released their yearly look-back at the Japanese box office and trends today, examining the domestic film industry in the second year of the pandemic and after its lowest box office takings in 2020 (despite the record-setting gross of Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train).
Leading the box office was the final Evangelion film, Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time as the only film in Japan (domestic and international) to gross over 10 billion yen at the box office, though more films in 2021 made over 1 billion than in 2020 with 37 titles in 2021 compared to 2020’s 25.
The top ten Japanese films to pass 1 billion yen:
- 1. Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (10.28 billion yen)
- 2. Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet (7.65 billion yen)
- 3. BELLE (6.6 billion yen)
- 4. ARASHI Anniversary Tour 5×20 FILM “Record of Memories” (4.55 billion yen)
- 5. Tokyo Revengers (live-action) (4.5 billion yen)
- 6. Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (4.35 billion yen)
- 7. The Untold Tale of the Three Kingdoms (4.03 billion yen)
- 8. We Made a Beautiful Bouquet (3.81 billion yen)
- 9. Masquerade Night (3.81 billion yen)
- 10. My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission (3.39 billion)
It’s interesting that not only do anime make up the top three spots of the rankings, but fan-driven films make up four of the top five films, with only BELLE being the wholly original work–though being a Mamoru Hosoda film, he already has an in-built fanbase that will come out for his works through tougher times. Funnily enough, My Hero Academia held the same spot on last year’s rankings with Heroes Rising, despite making a little less than half more with World Heroes' Mission.
The five international films to make up the list of films that reached past 1 billion yen includes:
- 1. F9 (3.67 billion yen)
- 2. No Time to Die (2.72 billion yen)
- 3. Godzilla vs. Kong (1.9 billion yen)
- 4. Monster Hunter (1.25 billion yen)
- 5. Eternals (1.2 billion)
None of the international films released in Japan would have even cracked the top ten this year if the two lists were combined. This is different from 2020 where both Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Parasite were second and fourth on a combined list, with Demon Slayer topping it.
Despite the lower grosses on the film compared to the behemoth of Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train, film attendance increased to 114,818,000 compared to 2020’s 106,137,000 with the full year’s box office rising to 161.893 billion yen (US$1.419 billion) compared to 143.285 billion yen (US$1.380 billion) in 2020. These numbers are the second-lowest amount since records began in 2000.
79.8% of the box office takings were Japanese-made films, while only 20.7% were international films. This is partly due to the boycott of Disney films by theater chains of day-and-date streaming on Disney Plus, as well as the continual delays due to COVID-19.
With the 2022 box office already in full swing with Spider-Man: No Way Home already bringing in over 3 billion yen, and JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 parading through the box office, it’s likely we’ll see these two heavyweights on the list next January. Maybe alongside Makoto Shinkai’s next film Suzume no Tojimari and Hayao Miyazaki’s How Do You Live?
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.