A new month is upon us, so now it’s time to see what’s hot and what’s coming to the Japanese box office in July 2021. This monthly series chronicles and analyzes the Japanese box office while previewing the major new movie releases of the upcoming month.
As we entered June, cinemas in key regions like Osaka and Tokyo began to re-open in limited capacities based on new local municipality quasi-emergency rules, to an extent that some studios felt confident enough in finally releasing films like Kakegurui 2 that had once been put on hold by Golden Week closures. Although COVID-19 cases have once again begun to rise after falling to pre-emergency levels in these and other regions, cinemas remain open with a number of heavy hitters releasing both last month and across the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a mix of these new-releases and long-showing favorites (including a surprise revival for Evangelion) drove ticket sales in a recovering national box office.
An Evangelion Resurgence
The biggest story of the box office as we head into July has to be the surprising turn of fortunes for the early 2021 release of Evangelion 3.0+1.0. Or maybe we should be calling it Evangelion 3.0+1.01 now, thanks to a decision by studio Khara that propelled the film back to the top of the weekend box office after a major increase in ticket sales. While Evangelion released in theaters to franchise-record opening sales in March of this year, the hope that the movie may breach the 10 billion yen barrier seemed out of reach as declining returns saw the movie not even ranking in the top 10 in the first weekend of June.
Following the announcement that the film would run in Dolby cinemas across Japan from 12 June with a new edited version of the film that featured minor animation improvements without changing the story of the movie, the film shot to the top of the box office with an incredible 960.5% week-on-week rise in ticket sales. Earning an impressive 265,876,000 yen on the weekend of the film’s rerelease in theaters, the film’s cumulative box office after 14 weekends in cinemas increased to just shy of 9 billion yen.
What’s more impressive is that, thanks to this new version hitting theaters and the promise of a special 36-page booklet for attendees, the film has maintained this revitalized momentum, dropping to 4th place in its most recent weekend while continuing to earn above its pre-new version earnings. The film’s total box office now stands at 9.5 billion yen, putting the film on track to be just the second film since COVID to earn more than 10 billion yen at the Japanese box office (after Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie Mugen Train).
While the rest of the month’s movie releases may not have earned themselves the headline-grabbing success stories of Evangelion, there were a number of notable movies released in the past month as a pent-up backlog of movies were finally released in theaters following delays because of COVID-19.
The first of these movies to hit theaters was Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette, the sequel to the first live-action Kakegurui movie, spun off from the TV adaptation of the popular manga series. Unfortunately, though the film is certainly not having a disastrous performance, especially considering the current circumstances, the film appears unlikely to match or surpass the final box office total of the original film.
Over the course of that film’s release in 2019, it earned a total of 320 million yen, while this second film has earned just 118 million yen in its opening 6 days and failed to rank following its first week. A lower-budget adaptation, for sure, but there would have been hope in an unaffected theatrical environment for the film to surpass its predecessor, which this appears unlikely to achieve.
Another major release this month came in the form of Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. This film shot to the top of the box office charts on its first weekend and has so far earned a cumulative 2 billion yen to date. While both the release of this film and The Final will be deemed a success considering their success during times where COVID is having an impact on box office attendance (particularly for The Final, which opened just one week before the closure of Tokyo and Osaka cinemas during Golden Week), these films are both currently on track to earn less than the Kyoto Inferno and Legend Ends previous entries in the series in 2014.
As of the end of June, The Final has grossed 3.99 billion yen since releasing on 23 April while The Beginning has earned 1.78 billion yen.
Moving onto the biggest anime releases of the month, Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway has been a breakout hit for the Gundam franchise after finally releasing in theaters on 11 June following numerous delays. This first film in a planned series adapting the novels of the same name by franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino earned an impressive 523.94 million yen in its opening 3 days according to Cinema Today, an opening three times the amount earned by Mobile Suit Gundam NT in 2018.
Not only that, the film’s success has only grown. Alongside releasing in theaters, the film was being sold on Blu-ray on the same day exclusively in theaters, with this release selling over 53,000 units in its opening week. Since then, the film has gone on to gross 1.5 billion yen, making it the first Gundam film since Char’s Counterattack in the 1980s to earn over 1 billion yen at the Japanese box office. Although in terms of ticket sales the movie still lags behind Char’s impressive theatrical performance, this bodes well for the planned sequels that continue the Gundam Hathaway story scheduled to release in the coming years.
With decent box office performances for The Fable: A Contract Killer Who Doesn’t Kill and Character, this month proved to be a strong month for domestic releases as new Japanese films dominated the box office charts with revenues approaching, albeit still below, pre-pandemic levels.
Of these films, The Fable has brought in a cumulative total of 700 million yen after two weekends in theaters, with Character surpassing this total with 917 million yen after three weekends. Both are live-action adaptations of popular manga with major celebrities in the starring role (Junichi Okada in The Fable, SEKAI NO OWARI’s Fukase in an acting debut in Character) that have typically served as reliable box office success stories in recent years, and while their earnings are below pre-pandemic comparison points like Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (1.7 billion yen after three weekends), these signal a further audience return to Japanese theaters.
What’s Coming Out at the Japanese Box Office in July 2021
Considering July has already kicked off with the delayed Japanese release of Godzilla vs Kong, soon to be joined by Black Widow and more international releases as the Hollywood machine bursts back into life, a number of major Japanese releases from high-profile anime and live-action directors set theaters up for an enticing summer of movies to look forward to. Here’s a rundown of a few of the major or exciting Japanese films to look out for in cinemas over the next month.
With the recent anime adaptation propelling sales of the manga to new heights, the upcoming live-action movie adaptation of the popular series looks set to be one of the biggest movie releases of the summer.
Initially planned for release in 2020 before COVID pushed the film into 2021, Tokyo Revengers weaves together a story of gang warfare, utilizing yankee sub-genre tropes that have fallen out of fashion in manga in recent years. The series centers on Takemichi Hanagaki, who is transported through time 12 years into the past into middle school, where he vows to save the only girl he ever dated, Hinata, from being killed in the future by a violent gang.
With a large ensemble cast starring DISH’s Kitamura Takumi, Yamada Yuki, and more, the attention to detail in recreating the manga in a live-action setting, including the skip back in time, everything we’ve seen of the film so far embodies the hot-blooded passion of its characters. Tokyo Revengers hits the Japanese box office on 9 July.
The Croc Who Lived for 100 Days
Originally planned for a theatrical release in May until COVID pushed the film back to a July release, The Croc Who Lived For 100 Days is an expanded adaptation of the viral This Croc Will Die After 100 Days manga by none other than One Cut of the Dead and Special Actors director Shinichiro Ueda.
The original Twitter web comic, which was compiled into a bestselling manga volume, explored the daily life of a crocodile and their friends in the 100 days leading up to their sudden death during the spring cherry blossoms. This planned anime adaptation, alongside covering the events of the manga, attempts to explore what happens next when this group of friends begins to gradually lose touch with one another as they confront the pain of losing their friend.
Having been all set for release on 28 May, with a new webcomic being serialized that was set to conclude on the same day, the film will now release in Japanese theaters on 9 July.
Speaking of anime, Mamoru Hosoda’s first film since his Oscar-nominated Mirai is set for release in theaters later this month, with awards speculation surrounding the film even before it’s hit Japanese theaters.
It’s hard not to understand why. After the success of Mirai, Hosoda has brought on an international staff including veteran Disney character designer Jin Kim (Big Hero 6, Frozen) and the team at Wolfwalkers studio Cartoon Saloon to support the film, and the movie’s release will be marked by a world premiere at none other than Cannes Film Festival. The movie tells the story of Suzu, a young girl who loses her ability to sing following her mother’s passing. She soon finds a new way to explore singing and herself through U and her virtual avatar known as Belle.
Whether the film can repeat the award-chasing escapades of Mirai remains to be seen, but we do know that Belle will hit Japanese theaters on 16 July.
Words Bubble up Like Soda Pop
Another film set for release in 2020 before delays pushed the film’s release into 2021, Words Bubble up Like Soda Pop will follow up its world premiere at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival with a thematically relevant chasing of the summer box office with a release in July both inside and outside of Japan.
Taking place over the course of one summer, a boy named Cherry, who’s bad at communicating with others and hides behind his headphones and love of haikus, and a self-conscious girl named Smile, who hides her face behind a mask, share a fleeting few months together after meeting by chance at a suburban shopping mall. Driven by music and the summer sun, a romance begins to blossom.
Originally produced to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Flying Dog, the film will release the Japanese box office on 22 July, with a Netflix release planned outside of Japan for the same day.
Jump! Let’s Go! Pui Pui Molcar!
I mean, it’s Molcar!
Molcar was a far bigger success than anyone predicted when it first hit Japanese TV screens earlier this year. Fan art, fake episodes and a lot of merchandise later, all twelve episodes of the series will be screened for a limited time in Japanese cinemas. What more could you want?
You can see Molcar for two weeks only in 3D, 4DMX and 2D theaters on 22 July. Tickets are even reduced to just 1000 yen, so you have no excuses!
Tom and Sawyer in the City
A movie based on a popular manga produced in co-operation with SCRAP, all with a real escape game underbelly and a few famous faces? While certainly aimed at a slightly younger audience, this film has the potential to be fun for all the family.
Tom and Sawyer in the City follows Naito Naito and Ryuo Soya, two junior high students dragged into a high-stakes real escape game set in the city known as Area Z. With danger even beyond the game itself, the adventure requires this duo to save the city by completing the game before it’s too late.
As the movie aims to appeal to target a broader audience than the teen and pre-teen audience of the books by bringing on talent like Win Morisaki and Momoiro Clover Z’s Tamai Shiori, the film’s interesting setting and tone give this movie the chance to be a surprise hit. Certainly one to watch. It hits the Japanese box office on 30 July.