Have you ever noticed that movie posters often look totally different when released in other countries? I have! Sometimes they’re good, but sometimes they’re not. This might be why.
Even online in Japan, people will comment how the localised movie posters look “dorky.” They’re often covered in text and are very busy. A fairly recent version of this is the Birdman poster, which was universally blasted in Japan for being not cool. The latest one is the Japanese In the Heart of the Sea poster, which is being criticised online in Japan for “ruining” another interesting foreign movie poster. But, hang on.
This “terrible” Japanese poster is really just the international one-sheet. So, it’s not the movie’s Japanese distributor who has strayed from the original poster! Still, that being said, let’s continue.
Japanese Twitter user Mana_Teapot, however, thought about why the localised posters were so “uncool” and came up with this reason, using the US and Japanese In the Heart of the Sea posters. Note that Mana_Teapot doesn’t actually consider the Japanese poster to be “uncool,” but is simply trying to explain the changes in the wake of Birdman poster brouhaha.
Mana_Teapot pointed out concerns people might have about the U.S. poster, which would lead to the decision to make a dorkier localised one. Kotaku has translated these comments into English (above and below).
The Japanese poster is filled with buzzwords like “stunning,” “ultimate,” and whatnot. If you’ve ever watched a movie on Japanese television, even a localised Hollywood one, you’ll notice how often, whenever characters appear on screen, both the character’s and the actor’s names appear. This is done, apparently, so viewers do not get confused. (Note: This doesn’t generally happen on DVDs or Blu-rays.) Japanese television is also crammed with text, too, to underscore what people are saying in real-time with various different fonts — certainly useful for the hearing impaired among us.
Visually, Japanese viewers might be used to processing lots of text on a regular basis, which might be why Japanese posters are sometimes wordy. That’s probably why the Japanese In the Heart of the Sea poster might look like the other international one-sheets, but has more text. More context, even.
Not all Japanese movie poster designs take this approach — in fact, many of the best ones don’t. So while people online in Japan might be quick to poo-poo their country’s movie posters, they shouldn’t! But this might explain how localisation changes the way even promotional images look.
Top image: Warner Bros.