By ‘it’ I mean the ability to earn gobs of cash. Variety reports that Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea has hit the 10 billion Yen mark. Animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s latest is the first Japanese film to do so since his last movie, Howl’s Moving Castle. There’s a reason this is notable for anyone not counting beans for Miyazaki’s company Studio Ghibli. Ponyo took 31 days to reach the mark, while Howl’s took 33 and Spirited Away only 25*.

When Ponyo first hit theatres, the reception was not as ecstatic as one would expect for the director, and reports filtered through of debut weekend screenings with plenty of tickets left. That led the more paranoid contingent outside Japan to fear for the film’s quality. If it couldn’t even earn up to the mark of the generally lousy Howl’s Moving Castle, we might have to worry. A lot.

The numbers, then, suggest that word of mouth is strong. In fact, not only has Ponyo triumped over Batman in at least one weekend (not the first for either film, and probably not a significant feat in Japan), this past weekend saw Ghibli’s box office take at 112.6% of the weekend previous. Even so, a massive flaw does lie within the logic that suggests 10 billion Yen = quality. Despite being generally lousy, Howl’s hit that mark, and in not much more time than the latest film. 

What can we conclude from this? That Hayao Miyazaki, like Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto, has a license to print money.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is part of the Venice Film Festival, and will open in North America sometime next year.

*Tomorrow morning when I’m slightly more awake I plan to look up some
figures about the value of Yen and the price of tickets at the times
those films were released to see what the numbers really mean.