I’m glad Shinkai Makoto’s latest theatrical work grossed 6 billion yen in just 17 days. That beat not only the estimate commercial distribution outlet, Toho, but the commercial success beyond most’s expectation somewhat validates the movie. Critics like Yamakan and Azuma have already weighed in, among others.
I don’t think it’s a fluke. He was honing on the formula from the very beginning. The real question, I thought, was similar to the one Azuma posited.
The cultural trend has been long going that route. If the soccer-bu star can moonlight as an otaku, there’s no stopping it. In a society where animated mascots and cartoons surround its inhabitants daily, where manga is consumed with typically zero stigma attached, you’d think it is normal for animated movies to get such hits. In fact, isn’t this what Studio Ghibli have been doing in the past couple decades? To me that was kind of the line of thought, until I realized who Kimi no Na wa is about: the riajuu.
This movie is fueled by sales of couples going to theaters. This, I think, is what Azuma is on about. To be clear, plenty of romantic stories dotted Studio Ghibli’s output, but those always served mainly as backdrops to epicly for-the-children narratives. The ones where the romance poked its head forward tend to do worse, as they often eyed a more mature audience. Kimi no Na wa is not such a thing. I make the assertion about riajuu only via second-hand observations and some personal observation, so I could be wrong, but that is the vibe and reports I have gotten.
If you’re one of those people who have enjoyed anime because, at times, some story/aspect of a show jumped out at you, and you think it has mainstream appeal because it’s so good, then I think you should cheer for Shinkai and what he’s doing. Otaku media or not, its evolution is contingent on hanging on to these sorts of valuable things about the medium.