It is no secret that anime and manga continue to be hugely popular not only in Japanese culture but on a global scale. The genre’s popularity is a massive money spinner for authors, animators, and anyone connected with a title. For example, did you know that the best-selling manga comic book series of all time is Weekly Shonen Jump by Shueisha? Since its first edition in 1968, fans have bought more than 7.6 billion copies and generated $20.2 billion in sales! But what about anime at the box office? Which anime title is king?
The top five highest-grossing Japanese films have combined box office ticket sales in excess of $1.72 billion! That astronomical figure does not include sales of home entertainment, merchandise, or the sales of licenses to slot machines in casinos like the one online sportsbook BetOnline customers enjoy because some of those figures are not accurately reported in some countries. The following five Japanese films are classics you must try and see when you get the chance.
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train – $506,523,013
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train holds the title for the highest-grossing Japanese film, with ticket sales tipping the scales at an impressive $506,523,013, despite enjoying a budget of only $16 million. The movie launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, premiering in Japan on October 16, 2020, yet it still grossed over $506.5 million, making it not only the highest-grossing Japanese anime ever but also the highest-grossing film of 2020, marking the first time in history that a non-Hollywood movie topped the annual sales list.
The film won several notable awards, including Best Animation Film at the 45th Hochi Film Awards and the same title at the 44th Japan Academy Film Prize.
Spirited Away – $395,580,000
Spirited Away held the title of the highest-grossing anime film for 19 years until Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train hit the screens worldwide. Written and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away was released on July 20, 2001, and went on to earn $395,580,000 in tickets sale. Many anime experts say Spirited Away is Miyazaki’s best-ever work and regularly ranks among the best films ever made.
Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore features heavily in Spirited Away, as does the theme of fantasy, traditional Japanese culture, and Western consumerism. We have to agree that Miyazaki’s work is a masterpiece.
Your Name – $380,140,500
Your Name was released on August 26, 2016, and it quickly became apparent that Makoto Shinkai had a blockbuster hit on his hands. Your Name grossed more than $380 million globally, making it the second best-selling domestic film in Japan (behind only Spirited Away at the time) and the fourth-largest grossing film in Japan ever behind Spirited Away, Titanic, and Frozen. That tells you how popular this anime was and still is.
Howl’s Moving Castle – $236,323,601
Howl’s Moving Castle premiered at the 61st Venice International Film Festival in September 2004 before releasing in Japan two-and-a-half months later to critical acclaim. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s work flocked to theatres in droves grossing $190 million in Japan and $236.3 million globally.
The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards but ultimately lost out to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
One Piece Film: Red – $206,740,295
One Piece Film: Red is the most modern of the anime titles in this list, enjoying its Tokyo premier in July 2022. The film, directed by Goro Taniguchi, is still in Japanese cinemas now and has spent 11 consecutive weeks at number one at the box office. To date, ticket sales have pulled in more than $206 million, and it has every chance of climbing from fifth place to fourth in this list before it is no longer shown in theatres.
Best Anime-Adjacent Mobile Apps & Games