It’s of course been popular all over the world, but nowhere else has it been the top film for 10 weeks, and in fact without the overwhelming success in Japan it probably wouldn’t have been the record breaker it has been. It can’t be the Disney Princess effect, because that isn’t half as popular here as it is back home in the UK.
Here are some possible reasons why the Japanese have really got into Ana to Yuki no Joo (Anna and the Snow Queen, as it’s called in Japan), in order of probable importance and with the only explanation I’ve been able to find online top:
1. Disney really got the dubbed version right
This is Disney’s own explanation for the success, and I definitely think it’s a big factor – especially making sure that the singers sing a lot less “X Factor” than the American ones do.
2. The songs are great for karaoke
The singalong version of the movie came later to Japanese cinemas than elsewhere, but I’m sure the actual karaoke boxes must have been ringing to the tune of Do you Wanna Make a Snowman etc.
3. Disney have been on a roll in Japan
Although not this much, Tangled (called Rapunzel in Japan) and Wreck it Ralph (called Sugar Rush) were also big hits here. Even the pretty rubbish Monsters University did surprisingly well here.
4. Japanese anime films haven’t been doing so well
… leaving a gap in the market.
5. The songs work well in other languages
Apparently some people doubted whether these quite musically musical songs would be popular with the kids, but it seems that show tunes sure do at least translate into Japanese well.
6. The characters are quite anime-looking
I haven’t done any measuring, but even before I heard how successful this film was in Japan I’d agreed with my daughter that their eyes were bigger than any Disney cartoons we’d seen before.
7. The story seems to be more well-known in Japan than it is back home
When we saw it on the plane (in English), my daughter turned to me after about ten minutes and said “This is Ana to Yuki no Joo”, having no idea that was the actual title of it in Japanese. Apparently she’d come across the original story at nursery school long before the Disney cartoon came out. My (Japanese) wife had never heard of it though, the same as me, so don’t know how generally true that is, hence it’s place here near the bottom of the list above only…
8. The Japanese like animation with more complex stories
I’ve read Frozen being described this way, but it’s no Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi in Japanese), so this theory goes bottom of the list…
Did I get any of those in the wrong order or just totally wrong. Any theories of your own? Comments below please.