"Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train" "Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train"

The biggest film at this weekend’s global box office was animated. Not just that: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which opened on Friday in Japan, is a bona fide hit, even by pre-pandemic standards.

The film took a whopping 4.623 billion yen — around USD$44 million — in its first three days, breaking the country’s all-time opening record. To put that number in perspective: Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You grossed 1.644 billion yen ($15.2 million) in three days last year, while Frozen 2 managed $18.2 million, which was the best opening ever achieved by a Disney or Pixar film in the country. Japan’s previous opening weekend record was held by The Matrix Reloaded, which took $20.8 million in 2003.

Distributors Toho and Aniplex released Mugen Train in 403 theaters across Japan: 365 normal screens and 38 IMAX screens. There are reports of some theaters showing it as early as 7 a.m. on Friday, and others screening it 40 times in one day.

This success didn’t come out of nowhere. Mugen Train is based on Koyoharu Gotoge’s manga Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, which was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump between February 2016 and May 2020; it is one of the best-selling manga series of all time, with more than 80 million copies in circulation. It has inspired numerous spin-offs, including anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Here’s the official synopsis for the project:

It is the Taisho Period in Japan. Tanjiro, a kind-hearted boy who sells charcoal for a living, finds his family slaughtered by a demon. To make matters worse, his younger sister Nezuko, the sole survivor, has been transformed into a demon herself. Though devastated by this grim reality, Tanjiro resolves to become a “demon slayer” so that he can turn his sister back into a human, and kill the demon that massacred his family.

In Japan, which has seen relatively low rates of coronavirus infections and deaths, theaters began reopening in May. Last month, seating restrictions were removed except in screenings where food is allowed, in which case capacity remains limited to 50%. For this weekend, many theaters, including the major Toho chain — part of the same conglomerate as the film’s distributor — announced that they would open all their screens at full capacity.

Mugen Train is directed by Haruo Sotozaki and produced by the Tokyo-based Ufotable; both also worked on the tv series. The Sony-owned divisions Funimation and Aniplex of America are partnering to release the film in North America early next year.

"Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train"