While making a movie, there are a lot of factors which need to be considered, most importantly, the budget. A film’s budget is the key component in determining the quality and production value of the movie. It covers the money required to create and construct sets, design special effects and props, salary given to the actors and the people involved in the production process, lodging and various other aspects. Japan, the hometown of anime, is known for high-quality animated movies, which are usually extremely expensive as it requires advanced technology and animation to make. However, a movie’s budget does not reflect how well it does in the theatres. With that in mind, here are the 10 most expensive Japanese movies ever made.
(All of the film budgets are reported estimates)
1. Howl's Moving Castle - $24 million
Directed by the famous Hayao Miyazaki, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the most popular Studio Ghibli films to be released. It is the love story of 18-year-old Sophie, whose body turns into that of an old woman upon being cursed by a witch, and Howl, a magician. It became an instant success as soon as it hit the theatres and went on to gross over $236 million worldwide.
2. Steamboy - $26 million
Known for breaking quite a few records related to budget, animation and production time, this movie didn’t score as well in the theatres. Despite having good animation and decent reviews, this action-packed adventure movie failed to reach the audience’s heart, garnering only $18 million at the box office.
3. The Wind Rises - $30 million
Hayao Miyazaki’s last movie before he announced his retirement, The Wind Rise is regarded by many as his magnum opus. The story revolves around Jiro Horikoshi who designed aeroplanes which were later used as Japanese fighter planes to fight in the second world war. Largely successful, it scored over $136 million at the box office worldwide.
4. Pokémon: The Movie 2000 - $30 million
Released in 1999, this colourful, fantasy adventure film is directed by Kunihiko Yuyama. Although financially it was a success, it didn’t do so well with its audience, garnering quite a few negative reviews upon release. Nevertheless, it grossed over $133.9 million worldwide, which proves the cultural impact Pokémon has on the world.
5. Space Pirate Captain Harlock - $30 million
Released in 2013, this film is a 3D CG reboot of the anime franchise with the same name. This remake implemented modern themes in the storyline and was a departure from the previously popularised anime styles. Despite getting less than the budget at the box office ($24 million), its CGI animation and use of 3D were praised by Avatar director James Cameron.
6. Ponyo - $34 million
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this Studio Ghibli film tells the story of a young 5-year-old boy who forms a relationship with Ponyo, a goldfish princess, and the latter seeks to become human after falling in love with the boy. An English language version was released in the West, where it became the widest opening for a Ghibli film in the US market. The movie managed to gross $204.8 million worldwide.
7. Stand By Me Doraemon - $35 Million
Similar to Space Pirate Captain Harlock, this film also made use of 3D computer-generated animation and graphics, all of which increased the production budget. Combining several Doraemon stories, this movie was a huge success in Japan where it became the second highest-grossing film of 2014 and had a box office of $183.4 million.
8. Antarctica - $40 million
This 1983 Japanese drama film is about an unfortunate Japanese scientific expedition to the South Pole in 1958 and the relationship between the scientists and their loyal Sakhalin huskies, specifically Taro and Jiro, the lead dogs. The cinematography was immensely applauded by the audience, and it was a big cinema hit grossing $84 million in Japan.
9. Gantz & Gantz: Perfect Answer - $45 million
Based on Hiroya Oku’s manga series of the same name, Gantz is a live-action horror science fiction. The plot revolves around two high school students who are transported to an alternate reality after they die and are sent on a mission to kill aliens. Doing pretty decent at the box office, it garnered over $56 million worldwide.
10. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya - $49.3 Million
Finally, last on the list is the most expensive Japanese movie ever made. This animated historical fantasy under Studio Ghibli is extremely underrated compared to other Ghibli films. What distinguishes it from the others is its animation style, as during the time of release hand-drawn animation was no longer popular with the audience. It might be because of this reason that it drastically underperformed in theatres grossing only $27 million worldwide. However, the box office is not something one should go by for this film as it is an incredibly tasteful and extremely beautiful movie.