Japanese Box Office Analysis

I just saw Marnie Was there a few weeks ago and it makes me wonderhow well Ghibli films, and other anime for that matter, did in the box office in previous years. For the analysis, I am using Box Office Mojo’s data between 2002 and 2014 for this analysis. Here are the results of top Japanese films:


Rank Movie Title Year Type Franchise Total
1 Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle) 2004 Anime Ghibli 190,000,000
2 Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on a Cliff) 2008 Anime Ghibli 164,565,997
3 Odoru daisosasen the movie 2: Rainbow Bridge wo fuusa seyo! (Bayside Shakedown 2) 2003 (blank) (blank) 155,138,312
4 Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises) 2013 Anime Ghibli 119,513,192
5 The Borrowers (Kari-gurashi no Arietti) 2010 Anime Ghibli 110,013,058
6 Umizaru 3 (The Last Message) 2010 (blank) (blank) 94,786,753
7 Umizaru 4 2012 (blank) (blank) 91,331,832
8 Rookies: Sotsugyô 2009 (blank) (blank) 87,999,688
9 Eien no zero 2013 (blank) (blank) 81,133,182
10 Terumae romae 2012 (blank) (blank) 74,091,903
11 Hero (2007) 2007 (blank) (blank) 73,109,846
12 Odoru Daisôsasen the Final: Aratanaru kibô (The Bayside Shakedown the Final) 2012 (blank) (blank) 72,834,411
13 One Piece Film Z 2012 Anime One Piece 72,822,122
14 Sekai no chûshin de, ai o sakebu (Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World) 2004 (blank) (blank) 72,719,040
15 Hana yori dango: Fainaru (Boys Over Flowers: Final) 2008 Adaptation manga (blank) 70,821,405
16 Gedo senki (Tales from Earthsea) 2006 Anime Ghibli 63,786,538
17 Okuribito (Departures) 2008 (blank) (blank) 61,010,217
18 Limit of Love: Umizaru 2006 (blank) (blank) 60,136,488
19 Evangelion Shin Gekijôban: Kyu (Evangelion 3.0) 2012 Anime Evangelion 59,891,241
20 Kokuriko-zaka kara 2011 Anime Ghibli 56,029,615

Miyazaki’s films dominated whenever they came out, Ghibli films by other directors less so

  • Four of the 5 highest grossing Japanese films over the last 12 years are Ghibli’s and 3 of the 4 (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises) and Miyazaki’s films
  • Highest non-Miyazaki film is One Piece Z

Anime movies are dominated by Ghibli and franchises

  • Only 2 movies in the top 50 grossing anime films are not Ghilis or franchises (Conan, One Piece, Pokemon, Doraemon, Evangelion, Lupin)
  • The highest ranking non-Ghibli, non-franchise anime movies are:
  1. Wolf Children (by Hosoda Mamoru) – 52,5mn [ranked 10 among all animes]
  2. Madoka III: The Rebellion Story – 19.2mn [ranked 47 among all animes]
  3. Summer Wars – 17.4mn [ranked 51 among all animes]

Ghibli remains the undisputed brand name when it comes to Japanese animation films in Japan

Rank Franchise Number of films Average gross per film
1 Ghibli 9 90,028,901
2 Evangelion 3 38,512,857
3 Pokemon 14 36,758,768
4 Doraemon 13 33,034,705
5 Conan 12 29,792,663
6 Hosoda 3 23,399,055
7 One Piece 9 21,195,967
8 Gintama 2 13,095,791
9 Madoka 2 12,402,449
10 Shin-chan 12 11,907,453
11 Kitaro 3 11,638,260
12 HxH 2 9,987,364
13 Naruto 9 9,609,088
14 FMA 2 8,557,058
15 Precure 17 8,337,218
16 Inuyasha 3 6,744,939
17 Gundam 5 5,433,230
18 Bleach 4 5,166,450
19 Beyblade 2 4,476,710
20 Nanoha 2 3,697,342
  • The 9 films Ghibli has released over this 12 year span gross an average that is 3 times higher than any other anime movie franchises.

Saying that, box office-wise, Ghibli will really have a hard time in the post-Miyazaki era

  • On average, Miyazaki’s 3 films averaged $158m while other films by other directors averaged $61m
  • Even more worryingly, the last 3 non-Miyazaki films grossed $33m (Marnie was There), $23m (Princess Kaguya) and $56m (Up on Poppy Hill). Combined, those are less than Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises at $120m

When it comes to animation, Ghibli still rules over Disney and Pixar, but as a movie, Frozen rules them all

Studio Median gross per movie ($mm)
Ghibli 74,147,580
Pixar 59,898,718
Disney 46,143,543
  • Disney’s low total is even skewed by Frozen’s $249m gross (median is in fact ~$10m only)
  • Frozen’s gross is actually the highest among all films in the last 10 years in japan

Other observation

  • As steady and unspectacular as Conan manga is doing, its movies have actually been doing really well through time, beating even One Piece and Naruto.
  • Personally I was hoping that Berserk would do a lot better and I am sad to see that the movies from this series is no where near the top
  • Say what you want about Evangelion, It definitely have enough hardcore fans to make it the second highest grossing franchises in the list.
  • Of all franchises with more five or more films, Shin-chan is the most steady across time with the lowest standard deviation (variation between top grossing films and lowest grossing. All 12 films fall within the range of USD 9 – 14 m). On the other hand, One Piece has the biggest disparity, with the more popular one (One Piece Film Z) making 10 times of the least popular one (One Piece: Karakuri Shiro no Mecha Kyohei) (USD 72.8m vs. USD 7.0)
  • Surprisingly (to me at least), Precure is the franchise with the most released movie over this 13-year period, more than Pokemon, Doraemon, Shin-chan and Conan. Granted, its average gross ($8.3M) is by far the lowest among those titles
  • The grossing amount for Evangelion also goes up from the first one (15mn) to 2nd (40mn) to 3rd (60mn). That does at least correlate with the amount of new stuffs in each films



I can see that Ghibli will struggle making the gross in the post-Miyazaki era. Let’s hope the studio proves this wrong and keep producing more films that make a lot of money! As for other animes, they seem to be ever-present within the Japanese moviescape without making too big of a splash.



  • Results are not inflation-adjusted (though considering it is Japan, there is probably barely any inflation around anyway…)

One Comment on “Japanese Box Office Analysis”

  1. What are your criteria for franchise films? I would have considered Madoka franchise is Evangelion is but I’m curious to see what you think qualifies or doesn’t qualify.

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