A closer look at some scenes reveals a very different kind of Japan to the one fans were expecting. 

Anything Brad Pitt stars in turns to gold in Japan, where the actor is known by the shortened nickname “Burapi“. So when fans viewed the brand new trailer for the upcoming movie Bullet Train today, it caused a huge buzz online.

▼ Check out the Japanese trailer for the film below (same as the overseas trailer, but with Japanese subtitles).

Based on the 2010 novel Maria Beetle by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka, the original story is set in Japan, with a lot of the action taking place on a Shinkansen bullet train travelling north from Tokyo to Morioka, in Iwate Prefecture.

▼ In real life, the journey takes around two hours and 20 minutes by bullet train.

With the novel being adapted for the screen by screenwriter Zak Olkewicz, we’re yet to find out how much of a departure the movie will be from the original novel. However, the trailer released today gave us a look at some of the changes, one of which is that the bullet train in the movie isn’t like the one in the novel, nor is it like the ones in Japan.

▼ The movie bullet train is called the “Nippon Speed line“, and it was introduced in this clever bit of marketing on 25 February.

The Nippon Speed Line does take its design cues from the long-nosed bullet trains that run on the Tohoku Shinkansen line from Tokyo through to Morioka and beyond, albeit with a different colour scheme.

Image: Pakutaso

However, the trailer reveals that the train in the movie is headed in the other direction to the one in the novel, going from Tokyo through to Shin-Osaka instead. How do we know that? Well, for starters, the trailer opens with a scene of the bullet train hurtling past Mt Fuji, which is south of Tokyo, not north, and then there’s the fact that it says “Shin-Osaka” on the digital display on the outside of the train…

▼ …and inside as well.

Why the change in locations for the movie? Well, aside from the fact that it allows the director to slot in that gratuitous “we’re in Japan” Mt Fuji shot, the journey from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka takes around two and a half hours by bullet train, so there’s not much difference to the time schedule for the action to take place. Plus, it’s a well-worn route taken by international visitors wanting to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, which amps up the appeal for audiences.

Some other interesting things to note from the trailer include:

  • The “Quiet Car” on the train, which doesn’t exist in Japan, although carriages are generally quiet anyway
  • The Japanese lockers that do exist at stations, although not right on the platform, like the ones Pitt runs from to board the train
  • The Rakuen Exciting Amusement logo, for a pachinko parlour chain that really does exist in Japan, appears outside the window as Pitt’s character uses the briefcase to fight off another assassin
  • The back-to-front “お弁当” (“obento”) on a yellow sign on a pillar in the middle of the platform, which reads incorrectly, as if you’re looking at it in a mirror.

▼ The yellow sign in the middle should have お at the top, followed by 弁 and 当 underneath it.

The Japan in the movie is an amped-up version of the real thing, featuring all sorts of “Cool Japan” elements you’d expect a big Hollywood version to latch onto. Demon masks? Check. Polite trolley cart lady on the bullet train? Check. A walk though Akihabara at night? Check. Sakura petals falling upon yakuza with samurai swords? Check.

▼ Oh, and Brad Pitt punching a mascot character? Check.

So what do people in Japan think about the version of Japan shown in the trailer? Let’s take a look at some of their comments below:

“It has a completely different atmosphere to the original, but I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s different from my imagination, but I want to see it!”
“I love the cyberpunk style Tokyo they create for overseas audiences. It’s not the real Japan, but it makes me feel like I’m watching the Japan of the future.”
“It’s been ‘Hollywoodized’ with a good feeling!!!”
It’s not the same as the original, but it seems to have been adapted for Hollywood without ruining Isaka’s style.”

And what does the original autor himself think of the film? He wrote this handwritten message, which has been shared by Sony Pictures:

The message reads:

“What’s this Japan!? Even though I was surprised, I was excited by the gorgeous actors and their energetic, violent scenes! I hope it will be a fun movie that will drive away dark feelings!”

With people in Japan, including the author of the original novel, throwing their support behind the Hollywood version, it looks like the film will be a hit when it’s released here later this year.

Burapi’s still got his golden touch.

Source: YouTube/ソニー・ピクチャーズ 映画 via Net Lab
Featured image: YouTube/ソニー・ピクチャーズ
Insert images: YouTube/ソニー・ピクチャーズ unless otherwise stated
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