Japan’s anime goes global: Sony’s new weapon to take on Netflix

Lifestyle

Japan’s anime goes global: Sony’s new weapon to take on Netflix

The expansion of franchises such as Demon Slayer reflects shifts in ownership, ambitions of mega-industry

Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki

In the first episode of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the child hero trudges home from a day selling charcoal to find his mother and siblings slaughtered in the goriest way imaginable. Moments later, he is attacked by the sole survivor — his sister, transformed into a homicidal demon.

Devotees of the popular, blood-soaked anime series can buy Demon Slayer-branded strawberry milk in Japanese convenience stores. They can also buy Demon Slayer lemon-flavoured boiled sweets, curry sandwiches, collapsible chopsticks or a virtual pet.

These trinkets are sweet icing, but even more valuable has been the underlying cake. In 2020, the manga comic series on which Demon Slayer is based sold more copies than the next nine rival titles combined. When the series jumped from TV to the big screen last October, Kimetsu no Yaiba, produced by a studio owned by Sony, became the highest-grossing film in Japanese box-office history with sales — even under Covid-19 restrictions — of $300m (about R4,5bn)...

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