You might find it hard to believe, but the year’s highest-grossing movie “The Avengers” was just only released in Japan. Which means more moolah to add to the US$1.46 billion its already made globally. But the movie’s promotions in the Land Of The Rising Sun just might have taken a negative toll on the public’s desire to see it. Traditionally, American superhero flicks don’t enjoy as much success in Japan. Except for Spider-Man, who is extremely well-loved there. So the strategy was to let the hype get to the Japs, convincing them that they must see “The Avengers”. Well, the tagline in this poster sure doesn’t help (apologies for the crap image quality).
In Japanese, the tagline says “日本よ、これが映画だ” which translates to “Hey Japan, this is a movie”. That almost sounds like Whedon-esque type droll humour. Unfortunately, quite a number of Japanese failed to see the funny side and have taken that tagline as an insult.
Popular novelist Toshihiko Yahagi stated that this tagline deeply offended and angered him: “Having an American say, ‘Hey Japan, this is a movie’ is deeply unpleasant. I swear that there is no way I’m going to see this film.” Then we have columnist Takashi Odajima, who pointed out that to some it could be like colonialists saying to native people, “Hey native people, this is culture.” or The New York Times saying, “Hey Japan, this is journalism.”.
Marvel Studios has not yet come forward with an official statement, let alone any explanation for this PR blunder. The thing is, the copy was obviously handled in Japan, where it would probably been written by a Japanese person anyway. My guess is, the tagline is an intentional reference to Japan being one of the last countries on Earth to watch the year’s biggest movie. So they were going for a slightly sarcastic tone, like saying “Hey, here’s this tiny little independent movie you might have heard of.” Clearly it backfired.