Only two Japanese-made films have ever earned more, and one of them is about to get knocked down a slot by Makoto Shinkai’s runaway hit.
Anime director Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name deals with a lot of seemingly unstoppable forces. Shooting stars and young love, for example, both have a role to play as events unfold on the screen.
But in the real world, Your Name is also displaying nearly unprecedented box office momentum. While the film is just now reaching English-speaking territories, it’s been out in Japan for three months now, yet still has people heading to the theaters to see the theatrical event of the year.
In late September, Your Name became the first non-Hayao Miyazaki-directed anime movie to earn more than 10 billion yen (US$88.5 million). A month later, it had blown by The Wind Rises and Ponyo, Miyazaki’s final two directorial works. And now, Your Name has out-earned another of the old master’s anime by slipping past Princess Mononoke.
Distributor Toho reports that as of November 27, Your Name has grossed 19.492 billion yen (US$172.2 million), thus edging Princess Mononoke’s 19.3 billion. It’s a major accomplishment, since while the marketability of Ponyo and The Wind Rises were somewhat limited by their respective very-young-kid-friendly and World War II-related narratives, Princess Mononoke is arguably the purest form of classic Miyazaki anime. A fantasy adventure with an occasionally militant ecological sensibility, it was also billed as the last film Miyazaki would direct, giving movie-goers one more reason to go see it during its 1997 theatrical run.
Passing Princess Mononoke makes Your Name the third-highest-grossing domestically produced film in Japanese cinema history. What’s more, the continuing popularity of Shinkai’s latest anime means that it’s still playing in Japanese theaters, and it’s practically assured that there’s at least another 200 million yen’s worth of demand for tickets. Once it sells that much, it’ll leapfrog Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, moving it into second-place on the all-time domestic film earnings chart for Japanese-made movies, behind only Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s Academy Award winner that boasts a likely insurmountable 30.8 billion yen in earnings.
But even if Your Name doesn’t finish its run as Japan’s highest-earning movie ever, it’s still been an incredible run for the unexpected hit, and a fitting parallel to the never-say-die attitude of its protagonists.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where all this talk of anime films has him wanting to dig out his Kimagure Orange Road-I Want to Return to that Day VHS.