First look at “Bullet Train”

Having been conducting research about the shinkansen (‘bullet train’) for over 20 years, when I learnt of the book Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka, I knew that I had to get a copy and you can read my review on that here. In brief, however, I had many issues with the book – including the choice of English title (very different to the Japanese one) and some of the details in the book itself (many of which stem from the original and not isolated to the English-version). As noted in that review, after reading the book, I discovered that the book was being turned into a movie.

As you can see from the summary on IMDb, there are some significant changes from the both the original book and its translation. Now, you can also see the first trailer of the film:

As can be seen in the clip, the title of the film will be “Bullet Train” – with the Japanese title seemingly also being the same, using the katakana phonetic script (primarily used for foreign words) – i.e. Buretto Torein.

I have watched the clip once. I don’t want to watch it more than that. Two reasons for this. First, I spotted so many issues and mistakes that it started driving me crazy. Second, I will go to watch the film at the cinema so don’t want any more spoilers (yes, I have read the book, but there are likely to be so many departures (pun intended) from even the translation, that I’m partly seeing this as a stand-alone output).

Despite my first comment in the paragraph above, there are hints that the film – so long as I can move on from the errors – could be enjoyable. I think I will have to approach it as though the film is set in Barthes-like world (in Empire of Signs), where the “Japan” on display is not the “real” Japan, but one of the director’s and actors’ imagination. Otherwise, it could become another film, like the awful “People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan” that I just spend ticking off the clichés, stereotypes, and tropes related to Japan. That the film is, at least partly, set on a shinkansen (though clearly not a real shinkansen or on the route of the train in the book) is likely to make it hard for me to get away too much from the errors and issues. However I end up interpreting it, I suspect it could be useful for my update to Japan: The Basics and perhaps also my work on Visual Packaging Culture.

One Comment Add yours

  1. The Author says:

    I’ve seen it written that some of the film was shot in Tokyo but I find that impossible to believe other than perhaps a second unit picking up some material to establish scenes or to be incorporated into the CGI.

    Liked by 1 person

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