Japanese Filmmaking vs. American Filmmaking

Japanese and American films provide their audiences with quality entertainment and the opportunity to leave their everyday worries behind for a while.  Casting is an important part in making a film and actors have to portray their characters in a convincing way to the audience.  Film is considered a powerful tool that can change the way people think about a certain issue affecting them on a daily basis.

Even though they may share similarities that we might all know of, there are differences that make both stand out from each other.  Let’s look at the differences between both cultures.  First, we will start with filmmaking in America:


Hollywood films tend to focus more on the way things should be instead of how they actually are.  Many people like to live in a dream world and not deal with the realities of everyday life.  Some of the most notable filmmakers that transformed the way people look at film include Spike Lee, Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Clint Eastwood.  There are some that portray things the way they are and others that do not.  A lot of times, people do not like to be told the truth because it is too painful.

Most films that get released in nationwide theaters contain over-the-top special effects as a way to make them look more sophisticated.  Visual effects of a film is just as important as its storyline.  However, the use of special effects cannot make up for a good storyline.  The plot is one of the most important elements that make up for a successful film as well as having a good cast that can deliver great, memorable performances.

Hollywood measures their success by using a formula.  For example, if the film Transformers becomes a huge box-office success, then studio executives will make five sequels to keep the franchise going.  Also, the success of these kinds of films have a lot to do with creating smart marketing strategies to persuade the audience in watching them.  Most successful American franchises such as Rocky, James Bond, and Indiana Jones make even more money overseas.

However, studio executives want to make money and focus more on quantity over quality.  When people start to value money over content, then the quality of films released will start to suffer over time.

You also have independent films that provide audiences an alternative route.    The difference is that independent films gives artists more freedom and creative control over something they want to do.  Even though most of them might not have big name stars, some do.

One last difference is that Hollywood tends to give actors of other ethnicities  stereotypical roles.  For example, whenever the audience watches a film, they like to make the Japanese or German actors the bad guys and the American actors the good ones.


image of Japan National Flag


Let’s look at filmmaking in Japan:

Japanese films tend to focus more on creating a good storyline and fully developed characters.  Their action scenes are more realistic and do not rely on cheesy special effects like American films.

Filmmakers also focus more on creating good quality films than making money.  Making money is important in making any film but the content plays a huge role in bring audiences to the theaters.  Taking chances and making something original is what filmmaking is all about.

Japanese people want to see a good film, especially something that they could relate to on a daily basis.  Their films portray the way life actually is.  I will give you an example.  Since Japan lost World War II, films that accurately depict events occurring during that time period helps audiences appreciate their history more and how far they came as a country.

There was more to World War II than the bombing of Pearl Harbor and occupying most of the Asian territory.  Unlike America, Japanese filmmakers do a great job of making sure their stories are told properly.  Some of the most recognized filmmakers include Akira & Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, Hayao Miyazaki, Tezuka Osamu, and Oshima Nagisa.

There were untold stories that took place such as The Battle of Iwo Jima and the dangerous missions by the kamikaze pilots to help carry out the duties of serving their country. However, the major disadvantage with Japanese films do not translate well overseas in America mainly because they contain subtitles.

Unfortunately, many people do not want to read them because it takes away the enjoyment from the film.  Just because you have a popular film actor like Keanu Reeves starring in 47 Ronin, which is based on a true story, does not automatically translate into box-office success.  Actually, when it was released last Christmas, the film bombed in Japan and audiences could not connect with it despite having Japanese actors in there.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process and it is up to us in telling stories that others can relate to.  Different cultures have different beliefs in how they do things.  However, great storytelling is a part in keeping the everyone connected.


About wmckenzie95

I am passionate about travel and learning about other cultures. On my free time, I love to listen to music and watch movies. Some countries that I really want to visit are Japan and France.
This entry was posted in cultural exchange, history, movies. Bookmark the permalink.

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