Go-Go-Gaijin: Lost In Translation, The Movie Quiz

Going to the movie rental store in Japan to find an American movie to watch can be a little aggravating. I know the English title of the movie, but often that’s not enough. I need to know the Japanese title, and it’s not always the simple matter of translating English into Japanese. When bringing movies into Japan, the studios have to sometimes rework a title to make it more appealing to a Japanese audience. Sometimes the title stays the same (for example, the movie Lost In Translation ironically keeps its original title) and sometimes it is changed in ways that make poor ex-pats such as myself scratch our heads thinking “I don’t remember a movie called Cutie Blonde…”

There are essentially four types of movie titles for overseas productions in Japan:
1. Essentially Unchanged — These movie titles either stay the same English or lose some unimportant particles (“the” and such) to keep pronunciation easier for Japanese moviegoers.
2. Simple Translation — You would think a simple translation of the original title into Japanese would be the most common form, but very rarely do the new titles keep the same meaning.
3. Engrish Revamp — This is when the original movie title’s English wasn’t good enough, and the Japanese distributors change the title to something else in English. Or Engrish, as often it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
4. Outlandishly Nonsensical — These are usually Japanese titles that bear no resemblance to the originals. They will convey the plot of the story in a wordy title that sometimes matches the content of the movie and sometimes doesn’t even come close, and those movies are the ones that leave me the most confused.

Because Categories 1 and 2 are pretty basic and boring, I won’t mention any of those titles. Instead, I’d like to play a game called “Guess The Movie”, by giving you a Category 3 or 4 title and its translation. Some are easier than others, and some will likely give you a headache.

Q1. Hollywood Nightmare
Hint: Category 3
Well, it sounds like a horror movie, right? Nightmare’s in the title. But what’s with the Hollywood part? Do people get murdered in Hollywood? Or is it like Scream where kids talk about bad movie plots as they get killed. Oh, that’s it, right? Or wait, if Nightmare is in the title, it must be Nightmare On Elm Street. That makes sense, I guess.

A1. Tales From The Crypt
What?? That’s a stretch… And okay, okay, this is a TV show, not a movie. I’ll stick with movies from now on.

Q2. Wanwan Monogatari (eng: Bow-Wow’s Tale)
Hint: Category 4
Well, if it’s about “bow-wows”, I guess that means it’s about dogs or rappers. I’ll go with dogs. A tale of dogs. Uh… dogs dogs…. lots of movies have dogs! The Incredible Journey? 101 Dalmatians? Lady And The Tramp?

A2. Lady And The Tramp
Oh! Okay, well, that wasn’t so hard! I knew it had to be a Disney flick…

Q3. Pretty League
Hint: Category 3
Is this a movie about attractive people? A league of attractive people? Oh wait!

A3. A League Of Their Own
Now that wasn’t so hard. Maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Q4. Ai To Seishun No Tabidachi (eng: Setting Off For Love And Youth)
Hint: Category 4
Setting off… setting off on a journey… so it’s about a journey, right? The Incredible Journey?? Love and youth… The Titanic? Or one of those movies about growing up from the ’80s and early ’90s… is it Stand By Me?

A4. An Officer And A Gentleman
What? WHAT? Love and youth and journeys have nothing to do with this movie! Maybe mentioning the U.S. Navy would have been more helpful. I thought this was a cheap romance or an adventure movie.

Q5. Dear Friends
Hint: Category 3
This is easy. Obviously it’s a movie about writing letters to your friends. No wait, maybe it’s about friends who are close to your heart…. a friend movie. A buddy movie. With letters… or without…. or…. not sure.

A5. Now And Then
The movie about the girls who were friends growing up? And then they grow up into Rosie O’Donnell? Well, it made me think it was about writing letters, but I guess it’s not as off as it could have been. Though, wouldn’t a Japanese equivalent of “Past and Present” been sufficient? This is even vaguer than the actual title.

Q6. Leon
Hint: Category 1 and 3
How is it both categories? I’m confused…. Leon? Who is Leon?

A6. The Professional
Oh, now you’re being tricksy on me…. the Japanese title is the same as the French title, but in America it was often known as The Professional. All right, it can slide.

Q7. Cutey Blonde
Hint: Category 3
This has to be a Marilyn Monroe movie. She was the most famous blonde of them all, and cute to boot.

A7. Legally Blonde
I should have gotten that…

Q8. The Agent
Hint: Category 3
The agent… agent… uh… what kind of agent? Talent agent? Elite Beat agent? Is this really not the American title? This must be a movie about trying to be a talent lost in Hollywood, always missing their chance…

A8. Jerry Maguire
OH. Oh, oh, right, Tom Cruise was a sports agent in that movie. Was the name change really necessary?

Q9. Oretachi Newscaster (eng: We Are Newscasters)
Hint: Category 4
Obviously this is a movie about anchormen. Is this the title of that Walter Cronkite movie? Anchormen… Anchormen… wait…

A9. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Ha! And actually, Will Ferrel. movies tend to have “oretachi” at the beginning of a lot of his movies. I’m not sure if Japan thinks that Step Brothers, Semi-Pro, and Blades Of Glory are all directly related, but they all start with “oretachi” in Japanese.

Q10. Love Song Ga Dekiru Made (eng: Until We Finish Our Love Song)
Hint: Category 4
Well obviously this is a love story, yes? I’m going to guess a romantic comedy with music. Uh… I got nothing.

A10. Music And Lyrics
You know… the title works. It makes sense if you’ve seen the movie. And actually, I like it better than the original title. I probably would have figured this out if the movie hadn’t been completely forgettable….

Well, I’ve listed ten movies so far, but there’s still more to come! Now I’m specifically going to list movies with the names of a character from the movie in the title. Sometimes it’s the main character, and it makes sense. Sometimes it’s a side character and you wonder why they didn’t choose the title character to be IN THE TITLE… and of course, there are movies with a bastardization of a character’s name in the title. These are all Category 4, so I’ll keep it simple.

Q11. Marshall Hakase No Kyouryuu Land (eng: Dr. Marshall’s Dinosaur Land)
A11. Land Of The Lost
Easy to guess if you’ve seen the movie, but way to make the title longer than necessary, Japan.

Q12. Carl-jiisan No Sora Tobu Ie (eng: “Old Man Carl’s Flying House”)
I was actually really surprised when I heard the English title for the first time. It was so short and simple, so why did Japan add so many words to the title? And while we’re on the subject of Pixar…

Q13. Remy No Oishii Restaurant (eng: Remy’s Delicious Restaurant)
A13. Ratatouille
Since I can barely spell the original title (I had to copy-paste it), I was actually pretty thankful for the easier to pronounce Japanese title (being from Oklahoma, my experiences with Italian is limited to The Olive Garden and Chef Boyardee). I think it’s pretty cute, and obviously the “rat” part of “ratatouille” won’t translate as easily to a country who refers to Remy as a “nezumi”. “Nezumitouille” just sounds silly.

Q14. Ore Wa Tobashiya; Pro Golfer Gill (eng: I’m a Long Driver; Pro Golfer Gill)
A14. Happy Gilmore
I actually just spent the last hour trying to figure out what a “tobashiya” was EXACTLY… it doesn’t show up in any dictionaries, but I have finally decided it is a term for a “long driver”. So great, I’ve learned a golf term. This Japanese version of the Adam Sandler movie’s title is slightly redundant and, for some reason, decided to change Happy’s name to Gill. I’m not sure if the translator realized Gilmore was his last name or not, but Japanese Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for this movie, so I guess the only way to find out is to rent the movie. Which I won’t do (even though I love this movie).

Q15. Bianca No Daibouken (eng: Bianca’s Big Adventure)
A15. The Rescuers
Though I guess it’s debatable, Bianca was not the main character in this movie. It was Bernard, Bob Newhart’s character, or Penny, the little girl who had been kidnapped. But admittedly Bianca was pretty adorable and marketable, so there ya go.

Q16. Olivia-chan No Daibouken (eng: Olivia’s Big Adventure)
A16. The Great Mouse Detective
Wow, really Disney Japan? If you’ll look closely, you will notice that the title is pretty close to the #15, which is also about mice on adventures. But this movie was a detective movie about a mouse who emulated Sherlock Holmes. Basil of Baker Street is the titular character, the great mouse detective if you will. Olivia is his client. But again, as with Bianca, Olivia was cute and marketable. Whatcha gonna do?

Q17. Kirsten Dunst No Daitouryou Ni Ki Wo Tsukero! (eng: Beware Of Kirsten Dunst’s Presidency!>)
This. This makes me furious. The Japanese distributors didn’t even use the character’s name (Kirsten Dunst played Betsy), and in fact I’m pretty certain they didn’t bother to watch the movie before they named it. They probably saw the cover, which looks like this, and said “Well, we don’t recognize this other girl, but it looks like Kirsten Dunst is taking over the White House. I like it!” The movie is about two teens becoming the infamous Deep Throat during Nixon’s presidency (not Kirsten’s), but you would never know it from the title. I feel sorry for Michelle Williams, though like the Japanese I was unfamiliar with her as well.

And now prepare yourself for the final eight entries… movie titles that made me go “How did you get that from THAT!?” and practically describe a completely different movie. You thought An Officer And A Gentleman was hard to figure out (and really, it should belong in this list, oops), check these out…

Q18 . 17-sai No Karte (eng: A 17-Year-Old’s Medical Records)
Hint: Category 4
What is this??? A sick 17-year-old… uh… Patch Adams?? Who was seventeen and sick!?

A18 . Girl, Interrupted
Is this a joke?! Who was seventeen in that movie!? Wynona Ryder’s character was eighteen!

Q19. Koi Suru Bakery (eng: The Love Bakery)
Hint: Category 4
Is this like the Love Boat of pastries? Or is it like a movie about baking wedding cakes? Or is it…

A19. It’s Complicated
Well then. The Japanese title is pretty cute… but not a very accurate description of the movie. Now, I’ll admit this is a movie I haven’t seen yet, but I’ve seen the trailers and I’ve been to the website and browsed through the photo gallery, and I’ve read the whole plot summary on Wikipedia. The bakery does not appear in the trailer, in the photos, and from what I understand it’s not actually a huge part of the story. One scene in the movie seems to have influenced the title, even though most love scenes and developing romances take place outside the bakery. So it’s a pretty misleading title, albeit a cutesy one (which in itself is misleading).

Q20. Itsuka Hareta Hi Ni (eng: On Some Sunny Day…)
Hint: Category 4
This could be any movie ever. Any movie except The Perfect Storm.

A20. Sense And Sensibility
Really? Really Japan? You’re not even going to try anymore, are you?

Q21. Sotsugyou Hakusho (eng: Graduation White Papers)
Hint: Category 4
Okay… I had to look up what “white papers” meant, but it is apparently a marketing or sales tool for some sort of product or as a way to explain why one bill or law is best, etc. Fascinating. So then this is perhaps a movie about why graduating from school is a good business venture? Wait… okay, so it’s making a case for graduating. I think. What’s the movie?

A21. Risky Business
NO! This title is too deep for the movie about a teen-run brothel. The character was still in high school… is it referring to the scene in which the guy from his Ivy League college of choice comes to talk to him, and has sex with a prostitute, and then lets him go to the school even though he’s running a brothel? Is the secret to a successful graduation opening up a whore house, and this movie is campaigning that? I just… I just… it’s a teen comedy… it should have been named “High School Whorehouse”, or “Tom Cruise Dances In Briefs” or something. I never would have gotten this title right.

Q22. Ame No Passport (eng: Passport For The Rain)
Hint: Category 4
Rain Man! Right? Or… or… no, it’s got to be that. Or Sleepless In Seattle… because there is traveling and… and because it rains in Seattle?

A22. To Catch A Spy
I didn’t see this movie, so maybe I’m the ignorant one, but does rain have anything to do with this movie? Passport? Yes. Rain? WELL!?!? Does it!?

Q23. Meguri Aetara (eng: If We Could Meet By Chance)
Hint: Category 4
Good gravy, uh… uh… Serendipity? An Affair To Remember? Something with Cary Grant in it!?!?

A23. Sleepless In Seattle
Oh, NOW it’s Sleepless In Seattle. But hey, I was close with the Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr movie.

Q24. Sugao No Mama De (eng: As You Are)
Hint: Category 4
Interesting title. See, “sugao” can mean you aren’t wearing any makeup or that you are being frank. Like being true to yourself, with no shenanigans. True to yourself, without the glitter and lies of… oh, I’m getting off topic. Hard to translate this sort of title, but I think it’s safe to say this is a movie about honesty, about loving yourself, about…

A24. Striptease
….no. NO. What, because they get naked?? Because they don’t get naked so much as they wear whore clothes, work at strip clubs, and push skanks down staircases. And they wore PLENTY of makeup. No, movie, this title is misleading! These are all misleading! But only one more question and I can be done with this stupid quiz…

Q25. Tenshi Ni Love Song Wo… (eng: A Love Song To An Angel…)
Hint: Category 4 (but you know that by now, right?)
I have no idea. Angels In The Outfield. Michael? Any movie with a romantic sideplot and wacky angel adventures? I don’t know. Just tell me.

A25. Sister Act
Oh, sure sure. Remember when Whoopi Goldberg and Bert Reynolds were about to sing a duet at their wedding when suddenly Bert died and became an angel and at the end of the movie she sang that big number in honor of him, and it was like she was singing to him, as an angel? This title makes a lot of sense now. It does. And I have no idea why I said Burt Reynolds. This is yet another example of where the Japanese didn’t bother to look at the cover, watch the movie, or read the description. It’s like they heard “blah blah blah SING blah blah CHURCH blah blah blah” and went with it. Since they don’t know what church is, they made it a love song. To angels. In a movie about a Vegas superstar pretending to be a nun to avoid being killed. There is singing, and that’s all this botched title got right. I remember reading the TV Guide and seeing this title with Whoopi Goldberg written underneath and turned to that channel just to see what it was talking about. “Oh, sure, Sister Act, of course.”

I hope you enjoyed this giant list of ridiculous movie titles. If you hated it and thought “I waited three weeks to read this article because Brooke was running late this month, and this is all I get?” then you can kiss off because this took a lot of researching. Besides, I had an insanely busy month all month and all last month, and it’s not like I get paid to do this. So relax, because next month I’m going to review the year’s best-selling Nintendo DS game, which had its Japanese-only release this weekend. I am of course talking about Pokemon Black and White—and if you don’t like Pokemon you can, again, kiss off (or quietly choose not to read my next article… the choice is yours!).

Posted on September 19, 2010 at 23:30 by Brooke Stephenson · Permalink
In: Columns, Japanese Entertainment, Movies, Opinions/Editorials · Tagged with: , ,