The King of the Monsters has his cinema dominance challenged by hit anime Your Name, and it won’t be the first time he’s been defeated by a movie with that title.
Following the highly anticipated theatrical release of Shin Godzilla in late July, the King of the Monsters is getting more media and popular attention in Japan than he has in decades. While he never completely went away, the heavy, mature approach taken by new-to-the-series director Hideaki Anno has made Godzilla pop culturally significant in a way that’s reminiscent of his 1954 debut.
Just how successful has the movie been? As of September 4, 38 days after its release, Shin Godzilla has pulled in six billion yen (US$58.2 million) in box office revenue, more than any other domestically produced live-action film this year. The final tally is expected to break 7 billion, which would be more than 2016’s top earner so far, the newest Detective Conan anime movie, which was released in April and took in 6.4 billion yen in ticket sales.
And yet, it’s looking doubtful that, when the dust settles, Shin Godzilla will be the number-one domestic movie in Japan for 2016. Your Name, the newest theatrical feature from anime director Makoto Shinkai, debuted on August 26. In just 10 days, the film has raked in 3.8 billion (as of September 4). In other words, Your Name has made almost two-thirds as much as Shin Godzilla despite the kaiju movie having a one-month-plus head start.
▼ The trailer for Shinkai’s Your Name
With that sort of momentum, analysts are saying the anime could break the eight or even nine-billion yen mark, so it looks like Godzilla is going to be defeated by Your Name. Really, though, kaiju historians should have seen this outcome coming, since it’s almost exactly what happened 62 years ago.
Back in 1954, when Godzilla was rampaging on the silver screen for the very first time, the Japanese film industry didn’t measure box office revenue. It did, though, keep track of the distribution fees that movies earned, and the original Godzilla produced an impressive 1.6 billion yen for its studio. Still, that was less than half of the 3.3 billion yen for 1954’s top domestic movie. And what was that movie’s title?
While the Shinkai anime has no official connection to the 1954 live-action hit (which was the culmination of a trilogy), the two films have the exact same Japanese title, Kimi no Na ha, which translates to “Your Name.” Both movies to bear the Your Name title also focus on a trepidatious romance between a man and woman who feel an undeniable attraction, yet can’t easily be with one another (although it’s the chaos of World War II-era Japan that gets in the would-be lovers’ way in the live-action Your Name, as opposed to science-fiction body swapping in the anime).
Historic precedent or not, 2016’s increasingly likely surprise upset has to be a little vexing for the Shin Godzilla team, since for a while it looked like nothing was going to steal their thunder. On the plus side, both the new kaiju movie and Shinkai anime come from distributer Toho, so in a lot of ways, the situation is really a win-win. Still, if Godzilla’s handlers want the big guy to reign over all domestic competition at the box office, they might want to make sure that any sequel plans they have don’t overlap with yet another movie called Your Name.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s still got that Radwimps’ song from Your Name stuck in his head.