• Yomiuri Editorial

How Can Megahits Like ‘Demon Slayer’ Be Created to Power Cultural Industry?

This phenomenon is energizing the cultural industry, which is in a difficult situation. The success of the manga “Demon Slayer” is rippling out far and wide.

Set in the Taisho era (1912-1926), the story is about a boy whose devotion to his younger sister leads him to fight man-eating demons with his friends. The popularity of the manga was ignited by the TV anime adaptation, which was followed by a film version. There has also been a novelized version. This approach of using mixed media can be said to have been successful.

In 2020, the publishing industry recorded estimated sales of about ¥1.6 trillion, up 4.8% from the previous year.

In addition to increased demand for reading due to people refraining from going out because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the manga and novelized versions of “Demon Slayer” are said to have contributed to the increase.

A total of 23 volumes of the manga, including the electronic version, have sold over 120 million copies. The work’s magazine serialization run was completed, and the manga’s final volume released, around the time that the fan base had expanded significantly. This continued buzz surely also boosted sales.

The movie industry was severely affected by the spread of infections. Movie theaters temporarily closed and the number of filmgoers dropped.

Yearly box office revenue fell by almost half from the previous year to only about ¥140 billion. This was the lowest in the past 20 years, but the movie version of “Demon Slayer” accounted for more than 20% of the total.

Due partly to the postponement of the release of major Western movies, the number of screens showing “Demon Slayer” greatly increased. Helped by preparing various kinds of merchandise for fans, the movie’s domestic box office revenue surpassed that of “Spirited Away,” directed by Hayao Miyazaki, in just over two months from its release, quickly rising to the top of the all-time list.

Though the film version of “Demon Slayer” is described as a lone winner in the slumping movie industry, it is significant that the movie was able to draw audiences back to theaters through ingenious screening methods.

Many products related to “Demon Slayer” have been released, and the economic effect is estimated to be huge. From the perspective of the government’s goal to promote the content industry, this will surely be a model case in the future.

In recent years, methods for mixing media have become more diverse. The combination of games and video streaming is also notable, but it would not be possible without the core popular works. This case shows how manga still has a strong presence as a source of content.

One characteristic of the manga industry is that it has put a lot of effort into discovering young talent. It should not be overlooked that “Demon Slayer” was its author’s first work to be serialized in a magazine. Efforts to broaden the base of the industry by utilizing electronic media will probably also result in megahits.

In other fields as well, it is important to nurture new generations. In the long run, this will help develop the cultural industry.