SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

CHEN Yan SGRA-V Café #15 “Demon Slayer”


We had the 15th SGRA-V Café on March 20 (Saturday 2021) amid COVID-19 pandemic.

All the audiences attended the Café “on-line”, using “simultaneous interpretation and translation” in three languages Japanese, Chinese and Korean. We tried working diversely  for both COVID-19 and possibilities of on-line at the stage of planning, preparation and operation. I think we could satisfy more than 200 participants from all over the world, as “Webinar (web seminar)” by aggressive participation of viewers and efforts of SGRA staff members.



There is a small scale story behind setting of the theme of the Café. I have been thinking to take up a subject “animation” since 2019 when we had SGRA China Forum in Beijing on the theme “movies in Japan and China”. I asked Professor Eiji Ohtsuka (International Research Center for Japanese Studies) to attend the China Forum and talk about “media mix” which is said to be a characteristic of Japanese Manga-Anime Industry. The response was so good, I thought to take up any theme regarding animation at SGRA Café in Tokyo. Firstly, I planned to take up the subject “Research on animation culture” but I could not find “entry(entrance)” to animation research. Although the history of research for animation culture is not old, the way the animation should be is changing rapidly together with the development of the mass media. And the other reason not to find “entry” was too many phenomena of writers, works and era (times) surprisingly.



When I was worrying, there happened to be a much-discussed work “Demon Slayer (Kimetuno Yaiba)”! Its box-office revenue became the top successive ranking outstanding “Spirited Away” (Sen and Chihiro’s Spiriting Away). “Demon Slayer” attracted attention of not only fans of its original story but fans of animation in the world and also from people who had no interest in animation. I asked Professor Nobuyuki Tsugata (Animation researcher, Associate Professor Faculty of Manga, Kyoto Seika University) immediately to give a lecture on the title “Cultural Power of Japanese animation from the viewpoint of “Demon Slayer””. Since his books were translated into Chinese and Korean language. Coincidentally, Professor Tsugata was the most suitable guest as a guest speaker for “Webinar ” which had simultaneous interpretation in three languages.



We prepared slides in three languages and webinars comments on Q&A were also interpreted simultaneously by SGRA Raccoons on-line. SGRA Café started by introduction of Atsumi International Foundation and SGRA by Mr. Sangryul JEON (2016 Raccoon). I introduced Professor Nobuyuki Tsugata and I thank them for such special consideration by organizers of the Café.



Professor Tsugata started his lecture with the analysis of the reason why “Demon Slayer” became a big hit and explained its real image. According to his explanation, “Demon Slayer” was cinematized only for the fun of the original story first. (Cinematize of original story has been established in Japanese animation field since long ago.)  And nobody has imagined such the biggest hit which involved ordinal people. Producer Toshio Suzuki of Studio Ghibli said   10 billion yen of box-office revenue is within the ability of the works. But more than 10 billion yen would be the social phenomenon. Many specialists analyzed the reasons for such “social phenomenon” and Mr. T. Suzuki pointed out two reasons which cannot be disregarded. One is “Demon Slayer” was screened at a vacant time of movie theatres which came from the postponement of releasing movies under the pandemic of COVID-19. There were unusual situations that “Demon Slayer” was screened at every fifteen minutes at four screens of a certain movie theatre.



The other reason: Beautifulness of screen and a story-telling is a piece of art of “Demon Slayer” satisfied fans who went to theatres at beginning stages and the box-office revenue resulted in exceeding 10 billion yen in ten days. And people, who did not go to theaters, thought “Let us go if it has so good reputation” by spreading big through mouth of fans. Such “synergistic effect” resulted in “the all-time top of box-office revenue”. Incidentally, there was a word “Total Concentration: Constant” (Zen Shuuchu) in Demon Slayer and this word is being used in the real world. According to Professor Tsugata, Prime Minister Suga used this word in the Diet. (cf. Prime Minister Suga replied with “Total Concentration; Constant” at the Budget Committee of the lower house of the Diet on November 2, 2020 replying to Mr. Kenji Eda, Acting Leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan)



Then, where should we place the “Demon Slayer” phenomenon in Japanese animation history? Professor Tsugata analyzed its appealing points of “Demon Slayer” following the history of Japanese animations since 1960s.



TV series “Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom)” in 1963, has established “Characteristics” and “Traditions” of Japanese animation after “Legend of the White Snake” (Hakujaden)” which was the postwar first and most famous animation film. The pattern where one story was broadcasted in thirty minutes a week was fixed. There were few TV animations at that time in the world. Even in preceding America, one story was only five to ten minutes and the contents were just short “gag” at most. On the other hand, Japanese animation could depict affection of characters richly taking thirty minutes for one story. A lot of TV animations

are produced now and the pattern thirty minutes for one story has fixed since then.



In 1970s, “Space Battleship Yamato” (1974) and “Mobile Suit Gundam” (1979) established a rare genre which valued sophisticated stories and psychological description of characters for “young adult” not for children. It was the time when “theatre version” of TV animation were produced basing on animated feature film of popular works in TV. Popular MANGA (carton) stories are animated in TV first and produced theatre version followingly. Such production style has been fixed and became staple as the new genre and interrelated to “Demon Slayer”.   



Animation industry in 1980s went into the golden days by producing series of MANGA in “Weekly Shonen Jump”. “Dragon Ball”, “SLAM Dunk”, “YuYu Hakusho” and “SAMURA X (Rurono Kenshi)” established various boom. It was in 1980s the activities of Studio Ghibli went into full swing. The series of such works by Director Miyazaki Hayao, “Naucica of the Valley of the Wind” (1984), “Castle of in the Sky” (1986), “My Neighbor Totoro”(1988) etc., also attracted attention of the people who were not interested in animation.



After 1990s, both production style of original popular animation and animation movies by Studio Ghibli developed independently. In addition to those two styles, technology of digitalization in production of animation developed in Japan.   



Professor Tsugata concluded “originality” and “cultural power” of Japanese animation after marshaling its history as follows: Japanese animation has diversification and aims for young adults. It developed on2D (2 dimension) digital, not on3D(3dimention computer graphic).

It caused to the social phenomenon of the world as it was dispatched as a new Japanese culture where Japanese animation were set in and introduced and also Japanese foods which were used in the film became popular.  



As Part-2 after the lecture meeting which had a plenty of topics to discuss and we talked with Professor Tsugata about three topics. I, as an interviewer, asked him first about the “Demon Slayer” movie which was not explained precisely in his lecture. The hero in the movie, “growth speed is slow” and “week relatively” comparing with original story. He said there wasn’t big difference and explained that hero is being expressed emphasizing his growth just as a tradition of Japanese animation. I asked him “Who shall watch Japanese animations hereafter?” and “Will diversification of audiences affect Japanese animation?”

His reply was that Japanese animation should be planned and produced toward the world on the assumption that the number of audiences in the world will be increasing.



I asked Professor Tsugata as the last question difference between “ANIME” and “animation”

which was the point of issue in his Research. He explained difference between commercialized “anime” and artistic “animation” or classification by “for family” and “for adults” or difference of definition of words depending on production style or areas etc. For example, in America or Europe, “pokemon” on family shelves, “Ghibli” is “ANIME” and Disney is “animation” etc.

In China, there are words “動画”(douga)and “動漫“(douman). He insisted we understand such differences by analysis of vicissitudes in the cultures of the areas.



In Part3 of the Café, we had questions and answers. Ms. Sonya Dale (2012 Raccoon) picked up several typical questions. Professor Tsugata and I made answers for the questions “Progress of Japanese Anime in overseas”, “starting point of animation research” and “expression for violence in Japanese”.



On-line SGRA Café using “simultaneous interpreters and translators” by three languages finished. SGRA is aiming at the Café “by four languages including English” to dispatch more globally. I am looking forward to up surging of webinars.  



SGRA NEWS ( Report of the 15th SGRA Café) in Japanese (original)



Photos of the Day



Recording of the Day



CHEN Yan / 2017 Raccoon, Full-Time Lecturer of Faculty of MANGA(cartoon), Kyoto Seika University



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala