The Anime That's Beating Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Japan

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Star Wars is very, very popular in Japan. Guess this means, though, that Yo-Kai Watch is more popular?

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For the second weekend in a row, the new Yo-Kai Watch animated feature film, Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2: King Enma and the 5 Stories, has topped Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Japanese box office.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2 raked in US$4.1 million on 450,000 tickets in Japan during the December 26 to December 27 weekend. According to Variety, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, coming in the number two slot, earned $5.8 million on 440,000 admissions during the same period in Japan. Wait a second...

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Illustration for article titled The Anime Thats Beating iStar Wars: The Force Awakens/i in Japan

[Image: Cinema Pia]

Variety explains the box office winners are ranked by admissions instead of earnings (probably due to the different ticket costs, such as IMAX versus Standard Definition or adult prices versus child tickets). Variety reports that to date, Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2 has earned $19 million in Japan, selling 2.15 million admissions.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that kids who go see the movie get a special Yo-Kai Watch medal for free!

Well, Yo-Kai Watch is incredibly popular in Japan, you say. Sure, but over the past year, things appeared to have cooled off—or so people thought. It’s now easy to get the Yo-Kai Watches (before, in Japan, you’d have to wait in line for a chance to buy one). For the past several months, many net users have tried to claim that Yo-Kai Watch was “over” in Japan by showing piles of unsold Yo-Kai Watch toys or discount watches in Japan (here, here, and here).

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So much of those claims were anecdotal. I mean, there are currently piles of unsold Star Wars toys in the U.S.

This is less a matter of Yo-Kai Watch’s popularity simply cooling in Japan (okay, yes, things have cooled off from the insane popularity of 2014), but more a part of the “mania” ending and Yo-Kai Watch becoming a part of Japan’s established toy and anime milieu.

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There were hints that Yo-Kai Watch was still going incredibly strong this past fall: At Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, for example, one of the most popular attractions has been a Yo-Kai Watch one, which is running for a limited time only.

But still! Beating The Force Awakens! That’s impressive. It’s even more impressive when you consider the following:

Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2 opened on December 19, while The Force Awakens opened a day earlier on December 18. Yet, Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2 still beat The Force Awakens during that first weekend.

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Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2 is playing at 358 cinemas, while Star Wars The Force Awakens is playing at 370. That’s according to Cinema Pia.

Seeing how Level-5’s offices have a Yoda statue, how Level-5 founder Akihiro Hino is a huge Star Wars nerd, and how Yo-Kai Watch sometimes riffs on the iconic space sage, the folks behind the Yo-Kai Watch movie must be pretty pleased!

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Illustration for article titled The Anime Thats Beating iStar Wars: The Force Awakens/i in Japan

[Photo: Level-5]

Illustration for article titled The Anime Thats Beating iStar Wars: The Force Awakens/i in Japan
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[Photo: Level-5]

Top GIF: 映画『妖怪ウォッチ』

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter@Brian_Ashcraft.

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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.

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DISCUSSION

Last Wednesday was a holiday in Japan so I finally got around to going to the theater to see Star Wars. The mall was packed with kids (as it normally is on holidays), but the movie theater especially. I was worried - I had bad experiences watching the prequels in America in theaters full of screaming children with lightsaber toys being brandished about. I’d say it ruined my experience of the prequels, but Lucas did that all on his own. The guy waiting in line in front of me had two small children with him and I gathered from them pretty quickly that they were on their way to see the Yokai Watch movie. I was there with my friend, who was on her second viewing, and couldn’t hold in how excited I was to see Star Wars. I guess the kids heard me, and asked their dad about the movie. He perked up right away and asked them if they would rather see Star Wars. They said no, and the father seemed to deflate completely.
When I got to the theater, there were exactly 0 kids in the audience. Being a Japanese theater, everyone was almost eerily quiet throughout the whole film. In Japan if the movie is good people tend to show their appreciation not by cheering or clapping, but by watching through all of the credits quietly and then leaving without a word. Needless to say, I am very happy about the well timed release of Yokai Watch!