Monday, August 17, 2009

Know Your Mollusks

The other day, Wife and I went to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (or, as it's known to the article- and preposition-challenged nation of Japan, Night Museum 2). Normally I pass on this kind of movie, but there's a theater in Kichijoji where tickets are ¥1000 all throughout your birth month, and Wife was psyched to watch yet another film in which Ben Stiller talks to animals, so our fate was sealed.

(Jeez, to think that ¥1000 for a movie ticket actually sounds like a bargain to me now....)

Now, I'm sure I've said before that people who work in marketing are prone to making astonishingly bad decisions, but the Japanese marketing of this film has been a brave, new world of nonsense. I challenge you to get your head around why the marketing people made the decision I'm about to describe. Thinking hats on.

As you may know, the film highlights a number of the Smithsonian Institution's actual exhibits, like the Apollo space capsule and the Wright Brothers' plane. One exhibit that failed to make it into the film, however, was the body of 24-foot giant squid displayed in a refrigerated tank.

What did make it into the film, on the other hand, was a giant CGI octopus.

Granted, I can imagine the scenario by which the Smithsonian's squid accidentally became an octopus. Hollywood has mistaken these two mollusks before, so it's par for the course that they do it again. Besides, at no point in the movie do they actually call the octopus "squid," so you could chalk the whole thing up to creative license and leave it at that. But what's much harder to fathom is that all the Japanese promotional material for the movie, and I mean ALL OF IT -- trailers, TV spots, printed leaflets and even a two-hour TV special designed specifically to promote the film's Japanese release -- persistently refers to the animal as a squid.

I'll do a quick Let's Learn Japanese here, just to be thorough:

tako (n.) Octopus.

ika (n.) Squid.

There, see? They're different. For these two to be confused in Japan, a country where both are routinely eaten, a country where the average child learns the difference between tako and ika in kindergarten, a country where the difference between the two is important enough that even visiting foreigners figure out how to tell them apart before they return home...well, that's just far fetched.

Like I said before, the movie itself never makes the mistake of calling this octopus a "squid." So why this concerted (not to mention downright Orwellian) effort to fool the moviegoing public? Is it out of an obligation to link the film to the Smithsonian Institution for advertising purposes? Is it just another example of empty-headed marketing?

Could it possibly be both?

1 comment:

Christopher M. Ball said...

I wish to god I had studied up on seafood distinctions before heading to Tokyo a couple months ago for vacation. I have always been a big fan of sushi but had never been to a sushi bar with no pictures nor any English so I had to try everything on the menu just to learn what each were called ;).

I also have a Japanese learning blog and would be happy to provide a link exchange. Stop by and say hello sometime!