Japan Today

Japan’s poster for Academy Award-winning movie 'Birdman' raises eyebrows online

By KK Miller, RocketNews24

"Birdman" won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography at the 87th Academy Awards this year. Ever since the awards ceremony, everyone has been talking about the movie, but it hasn’t been released in Japan yet. That fateful day is April 10, which allows for some time to adjust the advertising campaigns.

Bu the Japanese poster for "Birdman" is…well…we’ll let you decide.

Japan is no stranger to tweaking movie titles, and not just for purposes of translation. Ask someone here if they’ve seen "Frozen," and even if you put it into katakana English and call it “Furoozen”, they will likely tilt their head in that unmistakable way that indicates they have no idea what you’re talking about.

The changes are usually made to give people a more implicit understanding of what the film is about, even if it means potentially spoiling plot points along the way. Even when translated into Japanese, “Frozen” might not mean anything to most people in Japan, but “Anna and the Snow Queen” has that Disney flavor to it, albeit presenting the story as much more of a “good versus evil” struggle than it actually is.

With "Birdman," the studios have decided to keep the title for its Japanese release, presenting it as バードマン (“Baadoman”), but they’ve made some changes to the movie poster.

Below is one of the posters that moviegoers in North America and Europe were shown.

The Japanese poster (above left) proudly proclaims that the film has won a bevy of awards, which of course makes sense. But it’s also now in color, and then there’s the very much “in-your-face” addition of Michael Keaton’s alter ego swooping in and seeming to lift the protagonist up – although people unfamiliar with the film would be forgiven for wondering, “What the hell is that thing in the background? Is that Birdman? So who’s the guy he’s saving?” The whole thing has more of a Marvel Comics vibe to it than “washed-up actor tries to claw back his career.”

But is more giving cinema goers more information better? Are ambiguous movie titles or overly simple posters misleading?

A majority of Japanese Internet users were deeply concerned about these seemingly unnecessary changes to the poster, as was the user who originally shared it online.

“Simple is better.” “It makes no sense.” “At a glance, it looks like a B-movie.” “Why’d they put it in color?” “Is it a horror movie?”

There are a few positive opinions though, with some people wondering if the changes were really that bad. Another even expressed an interest in seeing the movie thanks to this new poster.

The awards circuit has clearly made up their minds about "Birdman," but the jury is still out on the Japanese poster.

Source: Hamsoku

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You know, the Japanese staff need to justify their salaries, so they come up with such BS... All in the name of cultural differences, of course...funny enough, they left Siryanna as シリアナ.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I was just in Japan and mostly all the children in Hokkaido knew Frozen as Furouzen.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

I like some of the Japanese versions of movie posters. This reminds me of the "Man of Steel" one two years ago that showed Superman flying over Mt Fuji.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never mind the title, that poster looks like it was put together in MS Paint. Horrendous.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Can't wait for the follow up article filled with complaints from movie goers who decided to see the movie based on the poster and awards recognition alone without bothering to look up the plot synopsis. Hell, I knew what the movie was about before watching it and was still disappointed with it. Guess I'm one of the few out there who wasn't impressed by endless hallway scenes and a drum only soundtrack. I really doubt that this movie will do well in Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's the worst movie I've seen in about ten years.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Very disappointing drawn out movie. After it ended, I thought it might come back to conclude it. It didn't.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

The Passion of the Keaton

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This was the crappiest movie I have ever seen, it only won awards because it was a movie and about the movie industry

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Japanese have no idea of class and quality when it comes to movies (save Kurosawa) and music. Food, yes, movies and music, nah.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Birdman represents the protagonist's career, and the career lifts him up again. Isn't that a good metaphor?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This movie was a tough sell in the US, even though many are pretty familiar with Keaton and with of course the 1989 Batman film. But not many know the story behind Keaton's reluctance to continue Batman, which is some of the background for this film.

And now the Japanese distributors have to somehow explain this to the Japanese audience. Good luck. It doesn't matter the poster. With or without the alter ego, Birdman, in the poster, anyone who knows nothing about the movie still won't get an idea what it's about.

The most successful foreign movies in Japan are the easy to understand action flicks because you don't have to be an American to get boom-boom, there's no heavy talking to slog through the subtitles, and they have US stars that the Japanese recognize and like, or movies concerning Japan in a positive light.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But it’s also now in color, and then there’s the very much “in-your-face” addition of Michael Keaton’s alter ego swooping in and seeming to lift the protagonist up

Lifting him up? More like creepily doing a fly-by and whispering in his ear, which is a pretty accurate metaphor for ... no, I don't want to spoil the movie, but let's just say that there's nothing wrong with the poster.

I don't think it deserved an academy award, but the fact that it resonated so much with the judges suggests some interesting things.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"Michael Keaton’s alter ego swooping in", sure, clever, very nuanced.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I thought that it was Batman coming to rescue someone.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Very disappointing drawn out movie. After it ended, I thought it might come back to conclude it. It didn't."

That's essentially how I felt while watching another previous " winner", Dancer in the Dark. Horrible! Worst. Movie. Ever.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just knew about the Japanese poster and then I saw the trailer because it was intriguing. After seeing the western poster I actually think the Japan one is better in some sense. For some reason I feel it matches the actual movie according to the trailer better than the American poster does. And I don’t think I am the only one who doesn’t see the visuals as ¨a man being saved by the character behind him¨. I mean is totally something else. I see something completely different that’s why I felt curious about the trailer, but I don’t know… I would say the Japanese poster fits better the Japanese mind but since some Japanese say it looks like a saving scene then…I don’t really know. Anyhow it is just a poster so ...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"The changes are usually made to give people a more implicit understanding of what the film is about, even if it means potentially spoiling plot points along the way."

uummm... no, not at all. In the past, when movie companies or the Japan Film Board used their heads and the Japanese language THEN it was the case, like Hitchcock movie titles or the old, big black and white hits like Gone with the Wind or what have you. Now, if they change the name, it has NOTHING to do with giving the audience a sense of what the movie is about, it is to try and associate it with other big name hits. "Pretty Woman" was "Pretty Woman", and a huge success, so everything after it was "Pretty" this and "Pretty" that. A League of Their Own? "Pretty League". "Princess Diaries"? "Pretty Princess". "Runaway Bride" (which is very much what the movie is about)? "Pretty Bride", etc. Even in the article the author admits that Anna and the Snow Queen gives it a more "Disney feel" while not telling what the movie is about. When Saw became hugely famous despite being a low-budget flick, every single horror movie after for about a month had a cover changed to look the same, and you STILL see Sci-Fi movie posters/covers copying Armageddon and Deep Impact's posters! Again, it's all about association with previously successful movies. When it's a title that absolutely won't translate in terms of innuendo or multiple meanings (as with 'Frozen'), they usually choose some other Katakana title (with Frozen they did not), like when "Cradle 2 the Grave" was changed to "Black Diamond". Doesn't say a thing about the movie, is not in Japanese, and is just an odd choice.

As for the poster. It's overkill. The movie itself though is great. A real piece of art in and of itself.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Whenever Keaton acts, you can see him acting. That's not a sign of good acting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

'Anyone remember the Piano or the English patient? Very excruciating and painful to watch, but Hollywood loved those movies'

I think Hollywood likes to give awards to movies like this to counter the mostly European snobbery about ditzy romantic comedies, brainless fistfights/gunfights/car chases, endless superhero movies and idiotic lines. It's an inferiority complex for the 'serious' actors in the US.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd recommend to everyone to wait for the DVD. It is certainly NOT Academy Award material, IMO. I thought it was boring but others might like it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Back on topic please. The story is about the poster change.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't know about big studio releases, but for anime titles going the other direction at least one company pays (or paid) very low wages for the graphic artists who make American-style vidbox designs for titles licensed from Japan, almost minimum wage. And they hack out the designs, it's just a job. Graphic artists aren't paid much in general, I think.

They may have spent a lot of money on the design for this poster, paid for rooms full of focus groups, etc. Or maybe not.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, it kind of makes sense. With a title like "Birdman," I think many Japanese would expect at least some sort of reference to superheroes in the advertisement and posters. It may be sort-of misleading, but that's not the point. The point is to sell the movie and get people in the theatres.

It seemed to work for "Baymax," which avoided references to superheroes in order to appeal to the female, non-otaku audience. So no Big Hero Six, no combat-mode Baymax and no pictures of any other characters. Just have the posters focus on the boy and the cute robot. Because the minute they shifted into superheroes, many of my Japanese friends(who happen to be female) got that sinking feeling and just started to enjoy the film less and less.

I am sure western countries do the same when they advertise for any non-western movie.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It was a Badman who had the idea of doing that. Just plain silly and unnecessary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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