The comic book ‘Demon Slayer’ shot to fame when it was released in 2016 in Japan. It is a series revolving around the adventures of Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy who becomes a demon slayer, and is set around a century ago.
The demons come down to Earth and commence on a killing spree. Tanjiro Kamado’s family is slaughtered. His younger sister Nezuko is spared, but is turned into a demon. The young boy then forms a group to destroy the demons. And he embarks on the mission to rescue his sister.
That is the story of ‘Demon Slayer’ in a nutshell. But when Aniplex Inc and Toho Company made an animated cartoon series of films based on this comic, they had no idea just how tremendously popular this would become. In less than two months of its release, it broke all box office records and became the highest grossing film.
The animated movie was not made just for the continuity of the comic. Each sequel has a adventurous story. In ‘Mugen Train: The Movie’, the boy and his group battle it out with the demons and save the passengers on the train. The Japanese word ‘mugen’ means ‘eternal’ and in this unending journey the passengers fall prey one after the other to the demons and the boy valiantly wards them off.
The author of the comic series was Koyoharu Gotouge. It was made into a TV series an then a full length movie for the big screen, directed by the anime director Haruo Sotozaki.
Till last week this movie had grossed around 32.47 billion yen. This has broken all previous box office records in Japan. Previously this record had been held by ‘Spirited Away’, directed by the internationally famous cartoon director Hayao Miazaki. This movie grossed 31.68 billion yen.
It was obvious that Demon Slayer was on the verge of breaking all records as it raked in 10 billion yen just within just 10 days of its release. No other movie in the history of Japan’s cinema earned so much in such a short span of time. By 30 November it crossed the record of the second highest grossing film ‘Titanic’. And now, just within less than two months of its release, it has ascended to the top. The sheer speed of becoming No. 1 is amazing. It took Miyazaki’s movie 253 days to cross the 30 billion yen mark. ‘Mugen Train’ touched that record in a matter of 59 days.
The movie is such a hit, that alongside Japan’s anime fans, movie goers in general have been flocking to the theatres despite all the precautions due to coronavirus. It had also been a silver lining to the dark cloud that descended upon Japan’s economy du o the pandemic.
The Demon Slayer comic series has been translated into 14 languages so far and is available in 33 countries and territories of the world. Work is also on in full swing to dub the movie in quite a few languages and the English language version is scheduled for release in the US at the beginning of 2021.
Outside of Japan, the movie was first released in Taiwan. After the US, it is scheduled to hit the theatres in Europe. Movie pundits predict it will bring in big profits for Japan’s cinema industry.
There are all sorts of theories in Japan as to why ‘Demon Slayer’ has been so massively popular. Many feel it has a lot of similarity to the difficult times people are going through at present. Tanjiro Kamado’s battle against the demons inspire hope against the onslaught of coronavirus. Many are of different opinions, but do not dismiss this perception outright.
Many feel that the popularity of the comic series has been transferred to the movie. Long before the movie, the ‘Demon Slayer’ comics were hugely popular in Japan. And with scope for entertainment shrinking during the pandemic, people are now returning to the movie theatres.
Another group believes that the ‘Mugen Train’ record-breaking popularity is a manifestation of the overall growing popularity of anime.
The bottom line is that this movie offers a ray of hope. It instills belief that all barriers can be overcome, no matter how big. That is the message of ‘Mugen Train’. One cannot die before death. The virtual boy Tajiro Kamado teaches us that defeat is not an option.
This feature appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir