We have our movie watching down to a science nowadays, viewing Hollywood flicks while in Japan, and Japanese ones during the summers in Canada. This may seem counterintuitive, but it really makes quite a bit of sense. In Japan, all the English-language films are subtitled in Japanese, and there are lots of choices, so we rent those there; I follow along in English, and my Japanese friends can read the subtitles, laughing, crying, oohing and aahing in exactly the same places as I do. Prior to leaving for Canada each year, I order a couple of dozen cheap DVDs from Hong Kong, Japanese films with English subtitles, and we have our summer’s entertainment waiting in the mailbox upon our return. The Japanese folks who stream in and out of my place over the summer can watch them in their native language, and I can follow along with the subtitles.
Years of reviewing books has turned me into something of a turbo-reader, and for the most part I have no problems keeping up. I say “for the most part”, and therein lies the rub. Because every now and then, I get a Japanese movie that has clearly been subtitled by someone whose first language is, say, Urdu, and whose English skills border on the painful. Such was the case with the movie I watched last night, a sci-fi thriller entitled Senrigan.
The plot line followed the machinations of a religious splinter group called The Green Monkey, bent on world domination through mind control. They were apparently going to achieve this (or at least give it the old college try) by means of a magnetic force field of some sort, beamed from a huge statue of Buddha overlooking Tokyo Bay. The special effects were pretty good, if not on George Lucas’ level, and there were a couple of unexpected twists toward the end. Also, the heroine drove a red Alfa Romeo Spider; this would have endeared her to me even if she hadn’t been a major cutie, which she most certainly was.
I knew from early on that the subtitles were going to be an issue, though. First, they were not available from the “Menu” button on the DVD remote control, but only through the “Subtitles” button, always a bad sign. These have typically been added on at a later date, by somebody other than the studio’s hired guns, and the English skills often…well, have a look for yourself; these screen stills say it so much better than I ever could: