IN THE BEGINNING CRITICS questioned that “Devil Slayer: Mugen Train”, which hit American cinemas in April, could reproduce the success it accomplished in its Japanese home market. The animated feature is set in early-20 th-century Japan, an unrelatable age for non-Japanese audiences. Defying the odds, the movie generated $195 m throughout its opening weekend, breaking America’s box-office record for a foreign-language launching.
For many of its history “anime” was obscure outside Japan. “Astro Boy”, a TV series from 1963 that stimulated the first anime boom, and subsequent hits like “Doraemon” and “Gundam”, were seen mainly by otaku (geeks).
Now, gushes Muto Takashi, who runs Dentsu Japanimation Studio, “anime is no longer a subculture; it is a major culture.” In 2019 anime-related earnings from TV, streaming and video gaming rights, live home entertainment, cinema tickets and product sales struck ¥ 2.5 trn ($24 bn). Simply under half came from abroad, where the anime market has actually nearly quintupled in size over the previous years. Figures for the pandemic year are scarce however are probably higher. Netflix says that over 100 m households worldwide streamed at least among its anime titles in 2020, 50 …