A film adaptation of Ni no Kuni released in Japanese theaters on Aug. 23, and we now know how it did in its first week — poorly. It placed seventh at the box office on the basis of ticket sales, ahead of Hobbs & Shaw and behind Rocketman, making 140 million yen according to Crunchyroll. That equates to $1.32 million. Granted, Japan is a much smaller market than the United States, but I have to imagine game developer Level-5 was hoping for better than this.
For comparison’s sake, critically panned Dark Phoenix made 132 million yen in its first week, so things could surely be worse. However, Ni no Kuni also made less than half of what Dragon Quest: Your Story made in its first week, though Dragon Quest is one of Japan’s biggest video game phenomena. It’s hard to say exactly, when put in perspective, how badly Ni no Kuni is doing, but even Crunchyroll describes it as “disappointing.”
Studio Ghibli was not involved in the Level-5 film
The film was directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, an animator who has done work for Studio Ghibli before. Studio Ghibli was not the animation studio used for this film, but they did provide animation for the original Ni no Kuni game. Likewise, esteemed composer Joe Hisaishi provided the soundtrack for this film; he is a longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator who also scores this video games series.
I certainly know nothing of how this film was marketed in Japan. But if I were to hazard a guess as to why Ni no Kuni is not performing better, I would say it’s because the film follows an original plot unrelated to the games. Here’s a summary of the film per MyAnimeList:
High schooler Yuu and his friend Haru get involved in a case involving his childhood friend Kotona, which forces them to go back and forth between another world that is different but is somewhat similar to their world, Ni no Kuni. The real world and Ni no Kuni, when Kotona’s life is in danger, what’s the ultimate choice the three of them have to make in Ni no Kuni?
On the bright side, developer Level-5 is working on a brand new Ni no Kuni game for undisclosed consoles.