‘One Piece Film: Red’ Is the Third Recent Anime Film to Top Japan’s Biggest Box Office Openings Ever
Three cheers for big screen spectacles!
Those of us who are lucky enough to count ourselves as One Piece fans have sensed for a while that One Piece Film: Red was going to be a big deal. Hell, the new protagonist of the movie is the never-before-mentioned daughter of one of One Piece‘s most important and most mysterious figures. But now that Red has come out in Japan and France, the scope of the film’s reception is eons beyond what even I, a well-chronicled One Piece diehard fan, expected. The film’s theme song is currently the top song IN THE WORLD on Apple Music. Meanwhile, Red itself had the second-biggest opening weekend in Japanese box office history. And that’s with a truncated weekend.
For a long, long time, when describing Japanese box office trends to friends, those of us who are nerdy enough to care about such things used Studio Ghibli’s 2001 classic Spirited Away as the barometer. Spirited Away’s rule over Japanese box office trends started to ebb in recent years, though. It all started when Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name ousted it to become the highest-grossing anime film of all time. Then comes Demon Slayer: Mugen Train to topple its opening weekend box office record in 2020. Mugen Train continued to mercilessly slice Spirited Away’s records until it became the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, worldwide—not just anime, all Japanese films.
Now, just two years later, all three of the top opening weekends in Japanese cinematic history—for any movie—belong to big screen adaptations of anime series, and all three have come out within the last two years. Mugen Train retains its top spot—for now, at least. Then, you have One Piece Film: Red. To complete the trilogy, we have Jujutsu Kaisen 0, which was released in 2021.
Unlike Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Mugen Train, Red released on a Saturday in Japan, not Friday. If we’re measuring by “two-day opening” metrics, Red outscores Jujutsu Kaisen 0 in the box office race. But if we say “weekend,” and thereby usher in Jujutsu Kaisen 0‘s Friday box office pull, Panda and pals pull out on top. (Is Panda the protagonist of Jujutsu Kaisen 0? Decidedly not. Is he the protagonist in my heart? Yes, absolutely.)
Either way, this is a huge jump for One Piece films. It’s far and away the biggest opening weekend a One Piece film has ever had. If I were to guess as to why Red in particular is getting all this attention compared to the other films, I’d attribute it to a perfect storm of hype. The presence of Shanks can’t really be overstated as a pull—for such an important figure (he gave Luffy his freakin’ hat), Shanks has had virtually no screentime since episode four—out of nearly 1,030. So.
Additionally, the celebrations around One Piece‘s 25th anniversary, which includes the beginning of the manga’s final saga, have placed an even bigger spotlight on the series than usual. Lastly, Ado—the singing voice for Uta—is a huge star in the Japanese music scene right now. Whether you’re intrigued because of her specifically or because you’re going into a One Piece movie with freaking musical numbers, the resultant hype is the same.
One Piece Film: Red’s international performance is still largely unknown. Crunchyroll is distributing the film in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and yet, the only information we have on a release date is “fall.” The better it does, though, the more incentive Toei and anime studios at large have to keep making these huge spectacles. So, if you feel comfortable going to the theater, you’re doing a good deed for anime fans everywhere. If you don’t feel comfortable—I understand completely, my friend.
But therein lies the intriguing nature of what the sum of Mugen Train‘s, Jujutsu Kaisen 0‘s, and Red’s gigantic success means for future anime trends. We now have three incredibly recent films from three popular shounen TV/manga series on top of Japan’s all-time box office records. Listing what records Mugen Train alone broke internationally could be its own article. If I were a navigator like Nami and were trying to read the winds of anime production, I’d bet this means more large-scale anime film productions in the next few years. Maybe we’ll get that Attack on Titan movie after all.
(featured image: Toei Animation)
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