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Studio Ghibli's New Movie Isn't Doing Well In Japan

[Image via Studio Ghibli]
[Image via Studio Ghibli]
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

The Red Turtle is Studio Ghibli’s latest release. So far, it’s not exactly a hit in Japan.

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The movie, which was directed by Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit, opened on September 17 in the country. Yahoo! Japan reports that it didn’t crack the top ten at the box office.

The movie’s official Japanese website is calling the movie a “big hit,” which it’s unfortunately not.

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Keep in mind that this is for the week that ended on September 18, so the movie only had two days at the box office to make the top ten.

That explains it, you say. However, according to Box Office Mojo, The BFG opened on September 17 in Japan, and it grossed the equivalent of US$1,037,433. That’s because The BFG is a Hollywood movie, you say, and Japanese movies have a hard time competing against them. Well, the Japanese film Ikari (Rage) also debuted on September 17, and it grossed $2,279,397.

[Image via Studio Ghibli]
[Image via Studio Ghibli]

Not fair, you say! The Red Turtle is animated, and those movies are live action. Okay, then, anime A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) also opened on September 17 and made more than both of those films, coming in at number two at the box office and raking in $2,771,278.

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The number one movie at Japanese theaters is currently the anime feature Kimi no Na wa (Your Name), which grossed a whopping $10,528,423 during that same period and has grossed a total of $83,493,003.

Oh.

According to Yahoo! Japan, The Red Turtle is on 124 screens across the country. In comparison, A Silent Voice is on 120 screens. Bunka Tsushin reports that The Red Turtle only grossed $328,750 during its first weekend. (If those numbers are correct, I believe it should be number 11 on Box Office Mojo.)

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So, what’s the deal? This has the Studio Ghibli seal of approval on it. Why aren’t Japanese moviegoers watching this?

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Commenters on popular site Girls Channel gave an array of answers as to why they’re not interested in the movie. One wrote that the reason is because it’s a coproduction with another studio that it’s not a real Ghibli movie, while another added that the movie’s title doesn’t sound very Ghibli. Here are some more reasons:

“There’s no dialogue in it. I’d definitely fall asleep.”

“Hit movies aren’t because of Studio Ghibli. Hit movies are because of Hayao Miyazaki.”

“It looks so boring.”

“I had no idea that this movie was out.”

Just because a movie is a box office hit that doesn’t reflect on the actual quality of the film. Miyazaki, for example, was impressed, and he’s one tough critic.

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However, if the movie doesn’t do better in future weeks, it could impact what Studio Ghibli does next, whether that’s collaborating with another studio or creating a new film in-house.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

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Here’s another aspect that should be considered: movie tickets in Japan are insanely high. I think I recall reading an article that you wrote a while back about how movie going in Japan isn’t something you do any given day, but something that’s a big family event because of how expensive it can be.

If all that’s true (and I’m not just creating some sort of false memory), then it stands to reason you’d spend that time, energy, and money on something either Hollywood CGI heavy (BFG), something very well-known and beloved (anime adaptation of A Silent Voice), or something that has received a ludicrous amount of marketing (Kimi no Na Wa).

The Red Turtle is in the wrong place, wrong time, and cannot realistically compete, I guess.