Mugen Train shows there’s no stopping the Kimetsu no Yaiba juggernaut.

Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away was the first (and so far only) anime to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. That’s an honor it’ll always have, but as of today, the Hayao Miyazaki-directed classic has to relinquish its other enviable distinction, as it’s lost its status as the highest-grossing film, of any type, ever in Japan.

Spirited Away held the top spot for nearly two decades, having debuted in Japanese theaters in July of 2001, and even getting a boost to its box office total thanks to a revival screening series this summer. Ultimately, though, there’s just no stopping Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train. On December 28, the franchise’s official Twitter account announced that the film has now grossed 32,478,895,850 yen (US$313,805,758), surpassing Spirited Away’s 31.68 billion yen.

▼ Trailer for Mugen Train

A follow-up to the Demon Slayer anime, Mugen Train arrived in theaters roughly a year after the TV series finished, and about five months after the source manga concluded. Unlike some series that overstay their welcome, both the Demon Slayer TV series and manga were at the high-point of their popularity when they ended, and fans hungry for more have responded with some over 24 million tickets purchased.

Mugen Train breaking the record is such a big development in the Japanese entertainment world that broadcaster Fuji TV broke the news with a special bulletin text message at the top of the screen during an unrelated program, as shown here.

Both the Demon Slayer TV series and manga were extremely popular, but it’s safe to say that prior to its release, no one was expecting Mugen Train to become the most successful film in Japanese cinema history. It’s particularly surprising because, as a Hayao Miyazaki-directed Ghibli anime, Spirited Away has always had an aura of prestige to it. Parents proudly take their kids to see Ghibli films, and cinephiles also watch them as a matter of course, so much so Ghibli works generally occupy a separate section of popular perception than other Japanese animated films. There’s a similar sense to Your Name (Japan’s fifth-highest-grossing film, and third-highest anime movie) in that it’s an original, stand-alone movie that doesn’t lean too hard into otaku-oriented tropes, making it palatable and appealing even to moviegoers who aren’t necessarily anime fans.

Mugen Train, though, is very much an “ANIME!” movie, and also a direct sequel to a pre-existing body of work. Emotional as its storytelling may be, it’s been marketed primarily as an entertaining action adventure, without the sense of weighty importance so often attached to Ghibli’s anime. Though no official statistics have been released, odds are that Mugen Train owes a larger chunk of its success to super-fans watching it multiple times than Spirited Away does,

▼ A Twitter user offers their congratulations on Mugen Train’s record while tweeting a photo of 20 tickets for the movie.

But regardless of how it got to the top of the mountain, Mugen Train is now the number-one movie of all time in Japanese earnings, and that’s definitely something for the Demon Slayer franchise to be proud of.

Source: Twitter/@kimetsu_off via Jin
Top image: YouTube/アニプレックス
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