Why is Frozen so popular in Japan?

It’s of course been popular all over the world, but nowhere else has it been the top film for 10 weeks, and in fact without the overwhelming success in Japan it probably wouldn’t have been the record breaker it has been. It can’t be the Disney Princess effect, because that isn’t half as popular here as it is back home in the UK.

Here are some possible reasons why the Japanese have really got into Ana to Yuki no Joo (Anna and the Snow Queen, as it’s called in Japan), in order of probable importance and with the only explanation I’ve been able to find online top:

1. Disney really got the dubbed version right

This is Disney’s own explanation for the success, and I definitely think it’s a big factor – especially making sure that the singers sing a lot less “X Factor” than the American ones do.

2. The songs are great for karaoke

The singalong version of the movie came later to Japanese cinemas than elsewhere, but I’m sure the actual karaoke boxes must have been ringing to the tune of Do you Wanna Make a Snowman etc.

3. Disney have been on a roll in Japan

Although not this much, Tangled (called Rapunzel in Japan) and Wreck it Ralph (called Sugar Rush) were also big hits here. Even the pretty rubbish Monsters University did surprisingly well here.

4. Japanese anime films haven’t been doing so well

… leaving a gap in the market.

5. The songs work well in other languages

Apparently some people doubted whether these quite musically musical songs would be popular with the kids, but it seems that show tunes sure do at least translate into Japanese well.

6. The characters are quite anime-looking

I haven’t done any measuring, but even before I heard how successful this film was in Japan I’d agreed with my daughter that their eyes were bigger than any Disney cartoons we’d seen before.

7. The story seems to be more well-known in Japan than it is back home

When we saw it on the plane (in English), my daughter turned to me after about ten minutes and said “This is Ana to Yuki no Joo”, having no idea that was the actual title of it in Japanese. Apparently she’d come across the original story at nursery school long before the Disney cartoon came out. My (Japanese) wife had never heard of it though, the same as me, so don’t know how generally true that is, hence it’s place here near the bottom of the list above only…

8. The Japanese like animation with more complex stories

I’ve read Frozen being described this way, but it’s no Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi in Japanese), so this theory goes bottom of the list…

Did I get any of those in the wrong order or just totally wrong. Any theories of your own? Comments below please.


Why is the pokemon called “Pikachu”?

According to most sources, it comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparking (“pikapika”, more commonly used for shiny and so-clean-they-shine things) and the sound a mouse makes in Japanese (“chu” or “chu chu”), because Pikachu is a mouse which gives off electricity. Googling “Meanings of pokemon names” brings up loads of complete lists of origins such as this one, many of the meanings being interestingly bizarre.

Why does cos-play have a (semi-) English name?

It could be because the idea also came from an English speaking country, if this story from a recent edition of the BBC Radio programme Boston Calling is be be believed:

“Some early Japanese fans went to Star Trek conventions, saw them dressing up in the US and brought that back to Japan”

Cos-play is short for “costume play” and in Japanese means any kind of dressing up, unlike its English language use only for anime-related dressing up since it was borrowed (back?) from Japanese.

Why is Spirited Away based at a bathhouse?

According to this blog post, it might have something to do with prostitution.

Why do the English titles of Japanese films and manga often have so little connection to the Japanese title?

My favourite example of this (as well as my favourite manga) is Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku (literal translation Urayasu- a lower middle class area of Chiba near Disneyland- Steel Muscle Family), which for some reason gets the English title Super Radical Gag Family. And the reason is… Read the rest of this entry »

Why is “otaku” the same word as “you”? Second attempt

“In the middle eighties, there was a Japanese science-fiction author called Moto Arai. One of her stylistic tics was to address the reader very formally with the second person pronoun, otaku, a much more distant form than the French vous, for instance. Her fans liked this book so much that they adopted this peculiar usage, referring to each other as ‘otaku'”

Read the rest of this entry »