Japan Today

20th Century Fox to officially apologize for 'Napoleon Dynamite’s' Japanese title


For foreigners living in Japan, looking through DVDs can be a chore. You generally have a 50% chance of the title being the same, leaving you scanning through the cover designs to find what you’re looking for the other half of the time.

Sometimes the new titles that are bestowed in Japan give more insight to the film. For example, "Jerry Maguire" is given the less romantic but more concise title of "The Agent." However, translation and localization often leaves people making judgment calls that could easily backfire. Take the DVD version of "Napoleon Dynamite" which Japanese cinema lovers have deemed “Japan’s worst changed movie title.”

In Japan you’ll find this quirky slice of Americana comedy listed under "Bus Man."

At first it might seem that someone at 20th Century Fox simply fell in love with those few minutes of the film that the main character is actually on a bus and named the whole movie after them.

Actually, at the time the film was released in Japan in 2006, there was another movie, book, and television franchise doing very well called "Train Man."

Looking at the cover images and apparent themes for both works, it actually doesn’t seem like a bad idea to try and cash in on the later series’ popularity. Unfortunately, film buffs in Japan felt rudely misled and scornfully dubbed it the worst – title – ever.

Showing that they have a sense of humor about the blunder, Fox Searchlight Pictures has decided to use this dubious honor to celebrate their 20th anniversary next year. They announced that starting this October, "Napoleon Dynamite" will be reissued with its original title in katakana as "Naporeon Dainamaito." The DVD will also come with a band around the cover with a written apology from Fox saying: “We thought we were taking advantage of the times. We sincerely apologize.”

When news of the announcement hit the Internet, fans reacted by sharing their feelings on the film and many assumed that this was just a publicity stunt. Others suggested their own candidates for worst movie title substitutions. Take a look at the top contenders.

"Jason Z" (Original title: "Shredder")

This would be a good title and follow-up to Jason X, aside from the small fact that this movie has nothing to do with the "Friday the 13th" series. To add to the confusion, they seemed to replace the original ski slopes of this movie with a hockey mask and burning camp.

"Die Hard: Last Day" ("A Good Day to Die Hard")

Can’t really blame them for thinking this was the last day though. Who would have thought yet another sequel was in the works? Oh yeah, I guess the studio would have.

"Wolverine: X-Men Zero" ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine")

More anachronistic fun with this installment of "X-Men," only to be followed up by the earlier-set "X-Men: First Class," which I guess in Japan should be called "X-Men Negative One."

"A Goat and a Man and a Man and a Wall and" ("The Men Who Stare at Goats")

It seems like they just ran this one through one of those automatic translators.

"96 Hours" ("Taken")

Not a bad title considering the 96-hour deadline Liam Neeson had to work with but I guess they weren’t expecting…

"96 Hours Revenge" ("Taken 2")

Alright, that’s still a good save, even though this movie lacks the time limit of the first. But you can just see this premise sitting in the corner surrounded by wet paint with the third installment coming up. I guess they could call it "96 Hours Avenged Revengence."

"Hurt Locker" ("Hurt Locker")

The name is the same but when put into the Japanese alphabet “hurt” sounds identical to “heart” making the title "Heart Locker," "Heart Rocker" or "Hurt Rocker." This was probably one they should have changed.

"Shiriana" (Syriana)

Last but not least, we have another film that could have used a title change. Converting Syriana into Japanese phonics, we get "Shiriana." This wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that "shiri" means “butt” in Japanese and "ana" means “hole.”

Source: Yahoo! News

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Vote for Pedro.

2 ( +4 / -2 )


14 ( +18 / -4 )

I made the same darned joke about Syriana, horrible name for a movie! Unless it is a porn then well you get it.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Why don't the Japanese film industry make a good movie other than cartoons.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )



0 ( +2 / -2 )

The title changes have been bothering me since day 1. Sometimes i want to rent a classic and i simple cant find it because of this idiocy, trying to explain with handgestures at the girl behind the counter at tsutaya that i want to see outbreak and she comes back with King Kong.

Just use Katakana. And be done with it

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They should leave the titles along. Seem like a waste of money but Japan has to waste money on middle men.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's almost as if they didn't even watch the movie (Napoleon Dynamite)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My vote for worst title translation goes to Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men", which was dumbed all the way down to "Tomorrow World", in katakana.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you can read some basic Japanese, you can usually find out the Japanized names of the movies at Yahoo Japan's movie section. Just type the English name in the search box second from the top and hit return. It will return a list of movies based on that English title.


2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am always surprised that they don't leave both names on the DVD labels.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bad movie title for a bad movie.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I hate katakana.... >< I remember once there was this kids TV programme which some bright spark had called "Happy Clappy" but when they changed it to katakana it quickly turned from clappy to crappy..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Shiriana!! Wife and I laughed at this for several times!! We thought it must be on purpose, someone is having a laugh with these names. Another good one was "Centre of the earth" the way they pronounce it, so funny!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My vote would be Hamunaputora (The Mummy). It makes sense if you've seen the movie, but at first I couldn't understand how the hell they came up with that one.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@ bicultural The third one set in China kind of screwed them with that title. Also, it's an old one, but I've always been baffled by the change from "Karate Kid" to "Best Kid."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Whomever wrote this article really only skimmed the surface of the issue. Now, argue that I have put far too much focus on it all you like, it doesn't change the facts. Movie companies in Japan will delay a movie that doesn't shed it in what the companies (or film board) deem a good light for up to two years, as they did, for example, with Lost in Translation despite it being based in Japan and earning Academy Awards. They will put something they think is positive, and has Japanese actors in the mix, out the same day as it is released in Hollywood.

More to the point of the article, though, companies here will remake the names and covers entirely, but in the last 10 years in a way that defies stupidity. Look for any old classics; "Gone With the Wind", for example, and you'll find a name in Japanese with something that might be considered appropriate by translation. Look for modern titles and you'll find trends in titles.... the problem being the trends are not in the native tongue, either. Anything starring Julia Roberts is now called "Pretty....", given the success of Pretty Woman. Sadly, anything else with women or little girls is also called "Pretty....", from "Pretty Bride" (Runaway Bride), to "Pretty League" (A League of Their Own). And forget about the covers... when Saw (part one) saw amazing success for a film that spent so little money every single cover in the 'horror' section of the rental shops copied Saw.

Please.... use the Katakana English equivalent, or rename it in Japanese. Don't choose a completely different name in Katakana English!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Hahaha, I've been laughing at these titles for a very long time. Sometimes I wonder if the distributor did it on purpose as a marketing scheme. Maybe the title should be in Katakana or Kanji to reflect the thesis of the movie. But they are funny though and people will remember about them. I dunno, I'm torn about it.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Movie companies in Japan will delay a movie that doesn't shed it in what the companies (or film board) deem a good light for up to two years, as they did, for example, with Lost in Translation

Umm, what? Lost in translation was released in America at the end of September, 2003. The movie was released in Japan at the beginning of April, 2004. How did half a year turn into 2 years?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Lord of the Rings" - plenty of my Japanese colleagues are/were under the impression that the story is about a ring moving on many roads. Really! Try to ask around.

4 ( +5 / -1 )


You beat me to it. Road of the Rings. Classic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shiriana - whoa baby 8-(...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My favourite was Black Sheep with Chris Farley, changed to Problem Fatty.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@doedel Yes, methinks they should have used the book's title in Japanese, which is Yubiwa Monogatari 指輪物語. It's a classic novel from Tolkien and using the original title would probably have caused less confusion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How the hell did they miss "Army Of Darkness" becoming "Capain Supermarket" in Japan?!?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

now this is a dilemma for foreigner on the one hand it is difficult for to find a DVD and on the other hand you can not download or even watch the movie on the internet due to new Japanese cyber laws.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

bicultural: "Umm, what? Lost in translation was released in America at the end of September, 2003. The movie was released in Japan at the beginning of April, 2004. How did half a year turn into 2 years?"

Yeah, and what was the amount paid in advertising the movie vs., say, "Lasuto Samurai", which suddenly the film board released on the same day as Hollywood? (but don't ask people what they think about Tom Cruise as literally the 'last samurai' -- they get more upset than a Chinese playing the main character in Memoirs of a Geisha..... errrr.... 'Sayuri').

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why don't the Japanese film industry make a good movie other than cartoons.

There are plenty of great Japanese live action films out there, it's up to the Anime nerds to seek them out themselves.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Rent your movies through iTunes and you're fine

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Mr Dumber" for "Dumb and Dumber" is my fav

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Taken" being renamed to "96 Hours" was one of the worst.

"Fast & Furious" becoming "Wild Speed Max" was another.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

malfupete: "Rent your movies through iTunes and you're fine"

Depending on region, since the Draconian protection laws took place at any rate.

I remember a casual conversation with a friend via email way back when when I said I was going to go rent "Black Diamonds", the new Jet-Li flick at the time. I didn't mention Jet-Li at first and so he said he had never heard of it. When I mentioned it was the movie that also had Tom Arnold, DMX, and Anthony Anderson (etc.) he said, "Oh, you mean 'Cradle to the Grave'," after which we both insisted on the different names. I remember that being one of the first cases of me being genuinely confused over the made up titles.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

In Japan, iit is mandatory to take English class, usually 5 hours a week as soon as they become 7th grade.. So, people can read English titles. Movie companies that wants to market their products do not have to change to Katakana or hirakana titles, especially when title makers are not familiar with Japanese words.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Bus Man"? Seriously? I bet they only looked at the first 5 minutes of the movie... and then decided to name it "Bus Man".

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

shiri ana? Hmmm, I'll have to try that around the office....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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