Something cool about going to a movie theater in Japan is that films from overseas are shown in both Japanese-subtitled and dubbed-into-Japanese formats. Finding a subtitled screening doesn’t require you to go to some tiny arthouse cinema or wait until a late-night showing, either, as subtitled versions are regularly shown throughout the day at major theater chains.
So, for example, fans of Brad Pitt going to see "Bullet Train," which was just released in Japan at the start of September, have the option of listening to the Hollywood star speak English while being provided with Japanese subtitles for what he and the rest of the cast are saying. Well except for the characters in "Bullet Train" (which takes place in Japan) who are already speaking Japanese, of course, since Japanese moviegoers don’t need subtitles for them, right?
That was the common logic, anyway. It’s something the film’s in-Japan producers have rethought, though, and now a new subtitled version of "Bullet Train" has been released, and this time all of the dialogue is subtitled in Japanese, even when the characters are already speaking Japanese.
The announcement tweet for "Bullet Train’s" new subtitled version (seen above) doesn’t mention a specific reason for the change, but the prevailing theory is the producers realizing that it’s not just linguistic purists (and foreign residents whose Japanese-language skills aren’t up to watching a whole movie in Japanese just yet) who choose subtitled screenings, but also people who are hearing-impaired.
Japanese-made movies (i.e. movies with Japanese dialogue from the beginning) don’t screen with subtitles at mainstream movie theaters, so people who are deaf or hard of hearing generally have to wait for a TV broadcast or streaming/home video release with captions. Foreign films, though, they can enjoy in the theater with everyone else, since they’ve got subtitles to read projected right up there on the screen…at least until "Bullet Train’s" original version dropped the subs when someone started speaking in Japanese.
The new version, though, allows hearing-impaired viewers to follow along as easily as anyone else in the audience, and the update is getting applause on Twitter with reactions like:
“I really appreciate how thoughtful this is.”
“Really been looking forward to this movie and now I can finally go see it!”
“Now a whole new group of people can fully enjoy it!”
“For people who are hearing-impaired dropping the subtitles when someone is speaking Japanese is like switching off the audio for people who can hear.”
“I hadn’t realized adding Japanese subtitles to Japanese dialogue could help more people enjoy a movie. Nice work!”
"Bullet Train’s" new subtitled version began screening just two days later, on September 23 (though not at IMAX or Dolby Atmos/Dolby Cinema theaters, perhaps because of technical issues). The announcement of the update came less than a day after Twitter user @defsapo, who has been deaf since birth, tweeted about going to see the film but being unable to know what actor Hiroyuki Sanada was saying in his Japanese-speaking scenes, and she happily retweeted the announcement of the new version.
Along with the positive reactions to the update, a number of commenters expressed their wish for this to become the norm for subtitled movie screenings in Japan, since "Bullet Train" isn’t the first foreign film to include patches of Japanese dialogue, and it won’t be the last either. That really does seem like a smart idea, seeing as how audiences choosing subtitled screenings are already OK with having text on screen during the movie, so a few extra lines so that more people can enjoy it doesn’t seem like very much to ask.
Source: Twitter/@BulletTrainJP via IT Media
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