Japan’s Movie Posters Could Be Great, Like This

Japan’s Movie Posters Could Be Great, Like This

In Japan, the rep for many modern movie posters is that they’re not cool. The ones distributors create for the local market are often criticised for lacking in style. Shame, because there are truly awesome one-sheets being done, many of which are totally unofficial and totally fantastic.

During the Showa Period (1926-1989), poster design was often wonderful. The fonts and layouts were inventive and energetic. During the early years of the current Heisei Era (1989 to present day), that continued, but as time passed by, many Japanese movie posters have lost what made them special. Instead, cinemas often get poorly executed or uninspired pieces.

But there are still talented designers making posters. Take Yoshiki Takahashi, who works as a screenwriter, art designer and critic. His retro poster work is brilliant.

(Image: Eiga Hiho via Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook)

[Image: Eiga Hiho via Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]

Above, for example, is the poster he recently did for Eiga Hiho magazine. Below is the official Japanese poster for The Hateful 8. Which Takahashi didn’t do. And which looks stupid.

(Image: Japan Today)

[Image: Japan Today]

Damn. Why the distributors didn’t hire Takahashi is beyond me.

Takahashi makes posters professionally for B-movies and does a bang up job (check out his online portfolio here). But my favourite Takahashi pieces are the ones he does for fun, often of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. He takes the Showa style, which suits Tarantino’s movies so well, but gives them a modern sensibility. This might seem easy, but it sounds incredibly complicated.

(Image: Eiga Hiho via Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook)

[Image: Eiga Hiho via Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]

Here’s another unofficial poster Takahashi created for the magazine. “It’s the very first 70s style poster I did and Tarantino has a copy down in his basement,” Takahashi writes on Facebook.

Takahashi uses at least twenty layers in Photoshop, working manually and eschewing third party plug-ins and filters. The layers mainly consist of tweaking the hue and the tone. Further explaining his process, Takahashi tells WildGrounds:

The biggest difference between 60s/70s and the modern days is, the whole printing process of course. They used to cut photos, collage them physically and cover the edge by air brushing. Sometimes they didn’t have the colour stills to start with so it needed to be colorized using various techniques of print processing.

So when I make these old-school posters, I try to mimic that process digitally. So many people think that only putting the colour on black and white photos could make it look one, but it doesn’t work that way. If you do that it will look some hand-painted photos from the early 20th century. Back in 60s and 70s, they had more advanced way of processing, and it’s because of that the shadow part of the face for example, is not just grey or black.

Here is more of Takahashi’s fantastic work:

(Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook)

[Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]
(Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook)

[Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]
(Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook)

[Image: Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]

I love the colours, the fonts and the way these posters pop and flow. They’re visually engaging. They’re cool. Maybe there is a concern that these would be seen as too old fashioned. Better that than uninspired, because the layouts alone work so well. “Retro” or not, they’re a million times better than the modern Photoshop disasters cluttering up megaplexes across Japan.

Takahashi’s Showa style posters have become influential enough to inspire Twitter user Tohru Mitsuhashi to create, as he writes, this “faux Yoshiki Takahashi style” poster.

(Image: Tohru Mitsuhashi | Twitter)

[Image: Tohru Mitsuhashi | Twitter]

I hope he inspires more designers and artists, because this design language is way better than anything in the official Japanese poster for The Revenant.

(Image: 20th Century Fox via Antenna)

[Image: 20th Century Fox via Antenna]


If you like Takahashi’s work, check out more of his posters on Facebook.

[Images via Yoshiki Takahashi | Facebook]


  • As much as the official posters are meh, I don’t see this guys work as particularly amazing. It looks like it’s trying to emulate 70s poster art but far too busy and the colours look extremely digital.

  • Yeah the first Hateful 8 poster doesn’t look that good – if he had imposed the whacky fonts over the original poster, it would have looked good. Sam Jackson looks way out of place and is Jennifer Jason Leigh trying to eat her thumb? – I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know if its a thing from the movie

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