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Canon anime films should be made more frequently

Canon anime films should be made more frequently

Canon anime films should be made more frequently
February 19
18:59 2020

In November of last year, my girlfriend and I decided that for our anniversary we would see the “Konosuba” movie in theaters during its limited U.S. run. I can firmly say that it was one of the most beautifully animated films I’ve ever witnessed and the most fun I’ve had in the theaters in years. To be fair, I’m an American anime fan with a preference for at-home streaming and not an active movie buff. But I felt compelled to go out of my way to see this movie because unlike a majority of other anime movies, it was canon.

Allow me to explain what I mean by a “canon” film. Strictly referring to Japanese anime films, there are around three categories of films. Firstly, wholly original anime films like “Your Name” or any Studio Ghibli work. My focus is on movies based on existing franchises like “Dragon Ball,” “One Piece” and “Naruto” that were each manga and TV anime before being made into films. However, a majority of these movies are “non-canon.”

An anime’s “canon” refers to the story arcs and plot lines that were written by the author and featured in the first medium of that franchise, usually the manga. So a “non-canon” story is one that is not written by the original author and has no lasting impact on the series. For reference, only two of the 11 “Naruto” movies are canon, only three of the 20 “Dragon Ball” movies are canon and none of the 14 “One Piece” movies are canon. 

When it comes to this second category of “non-canon” anime films, there isn’t much reason to care. Sure, some of the stories were alright, but when returning back to the original show, all the movie characters and events would never reappear or be acknowledged ever again. Watching movies of franchises with larger stories felt like a waste of time for myself and others.

However, in recent years there’s been a surge in the third category of anime films, “canon” movies based on existing franchises, and it’s been amazing. One great example is the movie for  “Saga of Tanya the Evil” which instead of adapting its source material into a second season of TV, they adapted it into a movie instead. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it on Crunchyroll, and I was curious about how well the movie worked out for the series.

At first I thought it did awful, as it apparently only earned around $3.58 million at the box office. But everyone was celebrating these earnings, so I dug deeper and it turns out I shouldn’t have judged this movie’s performance on a U.S. live-action movie scale. Not many U.S. theaters listed sources, but I found most people say that anime movies like Tanya have incredibly small budgets, somewhere around $1.5 million. That would mean Tanya doubled in profits.

Another recent canon anime film was the one I saw in theaters for the show “Konosuba.” Domestic earnings for “Konosuba” saw around $1.8 Million in its first weekend alone, and around $7.57 million in total for domestic ticket sales alone, meaning “Konosuba” was a resounding success.

Honestly, more anime TV series should follow these two examples. Some story arcs are too short to justify a full season but just enough for a feature-length film, and with a larger film budget it allows for tremendous jumps in animation quality and fluidity. And of course, adapting canon material gives fans of the show more reason to care about the film and its success rather than non-canon ones.

Even older shows like “Dragon Ball” have learned this lesson as the last three films, while original stories, were written by series creator Akira Toriyama. The latest film “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” did exceptionally well, earning $100 million worldwide.

Thankfully it looks like more anime shows are following this trend as the recently popular “Demon Slayer” announced at the end of its first season that a film adaption of its next story arc was green-lit. If more canon anime films are produced, more fans will care and that can lead to more success for the shows and their studios as well as the potential for more frequent and longer international or U.S. screenings. I can only hope that the anime canon movie trend continues in the future so it can make a huge explosion at the box office.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Matthew Payne

Matthew Payne

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