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13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles

By Michelle Lynn Dinh

Hollywood films are popular around the world and Japan gets its fair share of dubbed and subtitled blockbusters. But sometimes things get a little mixed up when changing words from English to Japanese. This gives rise to translated titles that come in a wide range of strange from unintended sexual innuendos to spoiler summaries.

Let’s take a look at 13 weird Japanese movie titles that make you wonder what the translators were thinking.

1. Napoleon Dynamite → Bus Man (バス男)

Not only does Napoleon Dynamite have nothing to do with a bus (except for maybe the school bus he rides every day), the eccentric high school student is barely old enough to be called a man. The title translation was apparently so bad that 20th Century Fox issued an official apology.

2. You Only Live Twice → 007 Dies Twice (007は二度死ぬ)

“You only live twice” is similar to saying that someone died twice, but not quite.

3. Despicable me → Mysterious Thief Gru’s Moon Theft 3D(怪盗グルーの月泥棒 3D)

We understand that translating “Despicable Me” into Japanese would prove difficult, but couldn’t they have thought of a catchier title?

4. Bring It On → Cheers! (チアーズ!)

Cheer leaders are called “cheer girls” in Japan, but “cheers” is an entirely different word. The title translation might have made sense if these high schoolers celebrated a successful routine by knocking back a few drinks.

5. Fast and Furious → Wild Speed Max (ワイルド・スピード MAX)

This is our favorite, yet strange movie title translation. And it kind of makes sense…the cars are zipping around at “wild speeds.” Each movie in the Fast and Furious franchise comes with an equally awesome Japanese title. Here they are in order:

The Fast and the Furious → Wild Speed 2 Fast 2 Furious → Wild Speed X2 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift → Wild Speed X3 TOKYO DRIFT Fast & Furious → Wild Speed MAX Fast Five → Wild Speed MEGA MAX Fast & Furious 6 → Wild Speed EURO MISSION

We like Wild Speed MEGA MAX the best. Which one’s your favorite?

6. Being John Malkovich → Malkovich’s Hole (マルコヴィッチの穴)

Malkovich’s hole? We’re not so sure about this one…

7. Freaky Friday → Fortune Cookie (フォーチュン・クッキー)

There is a fortune cookie in the 2003 remake of "Freaky Friday," so it does make sense. But we’re wondering why they chose to change the title when the original 1976 version was called “フリーキー・フライデー”, “Freak Friday” in Japanese.

8. Karate Kid → Best Kid (ベスト・キッド)

There are those who argue that actual karate is not being performed in the movies, so the Japanese version is probably more accurate.

9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off → Ferris, Suddenly One Morning (フェリスはある朝突然に)

At first, we weren’t so sure of the name change, but the new Japanese version does give the movie a sense of urgency.

10. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) → The Sniper Without a Shadow (影なき狙撃者)

Not so bad of a title and we think the Japanese version actually sounds cooler than the original. But we were wondering why they decided to change the translated title of the 2004 remake:

11. The Manchurian Candidate (2004) → Crisis of America (クライシス・オブ・アメリカ)

The new title is completely written in katakana, the Japanese syllabary for foreign words, and gives a sense of impending doom that the 1962 title lacks.

12. Ratatouille → Remy’s Delicious Restaurant (レミーのおいしいレストラン)

Maybe “ratatouille” is too difficult to say in Japanese, especially for little kids, forcing translators to go with an easier to digest title.

13. Up → Grandpa Carl’s Flying House (カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家)

The original, slightly cryptic title of “Up” was canned in favor of a more descriptive title, letting curious kids know exactly what’s in store in this Disney Pixar masterpiece.

British Bonus: Moon → The Man Who Was Imprisoned on the Moon (月に囚われた男)

Finally, as an added bonus we couldn’t help bringing you a recent British movie whose title Japan seemingly decided was simply not descriptive enough. Sure, there’s plenty more to be seen and revealed in the movie proper, but when we stumbled upon the Japanese release of "Moon," the 2009 sci-fi flick starring Sam Rockwell and featuring the voice of Kevin Spacey, and saw it titled as “The Man Who Was Imprisoned on the Moon” we couldn’t help thinking, “Um, doesn’t that kind of ruin a hefty chunk of the plot?” Three cheers for spoilerific titles!

Read more stories fromRocketNews24. -- Live Out Your Fast and Furious Fantasy: Night Drive in Tokyo Video -- 20th Century Fox to officially apologize for Napoleon Dynamite’s crappy Japanese title -- Video shows karate ref flipping out and defeating both fighters

© RocketNews24

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That happens in every country, including movie that were not originally in English that get weird tittles in English.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wonder why it has to be changed..I get lost in translation with this system? Why can't it not be simplified by using the same title? Why does it always have to be complicated?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember years ago going to a video rental shop and trying to find "The Magnificent Seven," "An Officer and A Gentleman" and "Mr Deeds Goes to Town." All had completely different names.

Some Japanese titles are actually better than the original English ones, sometimes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Why distributors allow they movie name changed is beyond me, arent they losing a lot of money, especially now that the amount of foreigners is increasing rapidly its better to keep similar titlenames.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They only sound stupid for foreigners, it is marketed to Japanese people so that is what they want. Ever seen some of the title names for Japanese movies? or the fact they incorrectly use the word "roadshow" for every movie.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Up → Grandpa Carl’s Flying House (カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家)

The translation of this one was a little too far off for my liking. I think "Old Man Carl's House that Soars the Skies" would be a little more accurate.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"The Italian Job" is one of the worst that springs to mind. Look it up if you don't know and want to facepalm...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They're often terrible - one of my fave movies "Taken" was refitted to "96 hours". JUST LEAVE THE TITLES AS THEY ARE! Surely it affects sales...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The mistranslation of "Up" is particularly egregious, as a substantial part of the the reason Carl was so driven to keep his house was the fact that his late wife wasn't able to have children. He wasn't a father, much less a grandfather.

Watch the first ten minutes. Have a handkerchief ready.

It also irritates me when they decide to keep an approximation of the English title, but make a pointless error. QV "Charlie's Angel".

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

He wasn't a father, much less a grandfather.

You don't have to actually be a grandfather to be referred to as an "じいさん". It just means an elderly man.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What about "GRAVITY" into "ZERO GRAVITY" just saw that movie last night. The tension of falling to Earth is now negated becuase in this movie, their is ZERO gravity. Nothing to worry about now. I really don't understand why they added the ZERO. At the start and end of the movie it pops up in big BOLD font. "GRAVITY" surely Japanese peopel can read that. and wonder.... "hey where is the zero? why did they add a zero to the Japanese title?"

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I burst out laughing at "Malkovich's Hole". There are so many jokes and pun's to make from that. "The Sniper without a Shadow" sounds like a really cool title though. Definitely my favourite of the translations.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

On the other hand they totally missed the chance to change the title, and kept Syriana as "シリアナ". Now THAT'S what I call idiotic...

PS: for those that can't speak Japanese, シリアナ (shiriana) means anus...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wild Speed MEGA MAX

More proof that CAPS LOCK is cruise control to cool! I laughed a little to hard at the Fast and Furious names...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's completely normal to change a title to the native tongue of the country. What's NOT normal is to change it using loan words from the same language. The movie industry here has this weird notion that association will make you go out and pay a fortune to see movies. "Pretty Woman" was indeed that in Katakana. It was so successful that pretty much everything under the sun had to have 'pretty' in the name. "Princess Diaries" = "Pretty Princess". "A League of Their Own" = "Pretty League". "Runaway Bride" = "Pretty Bride", etc. The association thing aside, I think movie names should either be the same as the original but phonetically changed where needed (ie. Katakana in Japan), or be changed to the native language with an appropriate meaning. Japanese movie titles in the past almost never used Katakana English and always used regular Japanese, and the titles and images that were produced were beautiful at times. Now it's just a butchery.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Being John Malkovich → Malkovich’s Hole (マルコヴィッチの穴)

The Japanese title for this one could be translated to English less awkwardly as "The Malkovich Hole". The Japanese title doesn't necessarily imply that the hole is his, just that it concerns him.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You don't have to actually be a grandfather to be referred to as an "じいさん". It just means an elderly man.

That was his point - he was agreeing that my translation of カールじいさん as Old-man Carl was more appropriate than the translation given in the article, Grandpa Carl, due to the fact that a major plot point of the story is that Carl never had any children, much less grandchildren.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

That was his point - he was agreeing that my translation

I don't think so. He said 'The mistranslation of "Up" is particularly egregious'. He further went on to discuss details of the story to explain the reason why he thought the translation was 'egregious'. I believe he was talking about the Japanese translation, not the English explanation in the article that you mentioned.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here's a few more funny movie title translations:

Jaws is "Teeth From the Sea" in France

Leon is "Hit man Is Not As Cold As He Thought" in China

Pretty Woman is "I Will Marry a Prostitute and Save Money" in China

Hee hee!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wreck-it Ralph was called Sugar Rush in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Strangerland - you're exactly right. There is more than one way to express the concept of an elderly man without calling him "Grandpa".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

He said 'The mistranslation of "Up" is particularly egregious'. He further went on to discuss details of the story to explain the reason why he thought the translation was 'egregious'. I believe he was talking about the Japanese translation, not the English explanation in the article that you mentioned.

Going back, I can see how it wasn't necessarily clear whether he was referring to the Japanese title as translated from English, or the English title as translated from the Japanese translation of the English title. But the post above this would seem to indicate that he was agreeing with my translation as I had originally thought.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I see. It was hard to tell. Especially since in Winston's post he continued by talking about the Japanese mistranslation of Charlie's Angels. I do stand corrected.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Happens with films shown in countries with the same language. Take "Brighton Rock", that British classic - renamed "Young Scarface" in America... why? I admit that some of the Japanese titles are just a wee bit odd at times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Malkovich’s Hole - alluding to 'the rabbit hole' in the everyone-and-his-bother knows 'Alice in Wonderland...?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

how ridiculous, but there is that why japan is so unique. :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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