As a film student it’s always a good idea to keep on top of watching cinematic content, and using this to develop reason as to why it is important to digest such media…but then of course the other half of the films I watch I simply do it because I want to. I have a lot of love for international forms of media, particularly foreign films, mostly from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and Japanese anime. For the novice, anime is essentially animated series, produced and distributed primarily in Japan, covering a plethora of genres and age ranges. Naturally, I generally relish Western media picking up this phenomenon and encouraging its consumption in other English-speaking countries; this is one of the reasons why the convention Comic-con has spiked in popularity. But I’m drawing a very distinct line, and sometimes westernization just takes the proverbial biscuit!
As much as I do not want to make this into too much of a rant, I think it’s important for students in academic arts departments to discuss such issues. The example that peaked my curiosity recently was the Netflix new film adaptation of the anime Death Note, originally released in the form of manga (similar to a graphic novel) in 2003. I’m not going to go into the logistics of the plot line, but suffice to say it’s thoughtful and original concept kept me hooked for hours on end. So, you would think I’d naturally be excited that a live-action remake was now available to watch, but on reflection I was always right to be skeptical.
Of course this post is purely based on my opinion but I really do want this to provoke some thought from everyone. I’m a huge advocate of subtitling and sometimes dubbing international cinematic content, so that everyone can have access to the stories and diverse ideas. So, knowing that this Netflix film would be available in five separately dubbed languages, five subtitling options, and have audio description for those who are hard of hearing, I was feeling fairly positive. My problem however, for one, is there is absolutely no way of watching it in Japanese, despite the entire original concept coming from this nation!
Other details were changed, such as again, rather than being set in Japan, this version is set in North America, and other fundamentals such as surnames were changed to those more recognizable in the western world. The big sticking point however is that some of the subject matter, involving Japanese culture, is included but not referenced as such. I won’t give away too much on that but I suggest googling the word ‘Shinigami’, before watching the film, in order to understand some of the events.
This is not to say that the film was entirely bad, for example a more diverse cast than most content you’ll have seen at the cinema this summer, but I feel the boundaries of westernization have been pushed to their very limits, no longer aiding one culture to understand another, rather causing one to sweep the other under the rug, in a form of cultural appropriation.
I’ve talked for too long, right? Bored of the crazy film student rambling at you? I’ll wrap this up. What I’m really trying to get across, rather than aiming this discussion of film producers themselves, I’m encouraging you to broaden your own horizons in terms of foreign media. I’m not saying that foreign film or even reading subtitles in great capacity is for everyone, neither would this stop the westernization of foreign content; all I’m saying is that I think you’d be pleasantly surprised, and might even find something you truly like. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on this topic in general, or in fact if you’ve seen the film/original anime, I’d love to hear any opinions you have.
Take Care Everyone, I’ll Speak to You All Soon.