"You're kind of a douchebag, and going to Japan is not going to fix that"

So I finally saw Cloverfield. Fun enough. I wish I'd been less spoiled, but that's the internet for you. I loved Michael Giacchino's Ifukube homage over the ending credits.

I have heard criticism along the lines that insofar as it is a 9/11 allegory "terrorism" becomes an alien monster of (literally) unfathomable origin, destroying innocent lives for no reason and unstoppable except via indiscriminate megadestruction. But then I suppose similar criticism applies to Godzilla as nuclear allegory.

Anyhey, I blog this because I was intrigued by Cloverfield's Japanese title, which is:


The first part is just "Cloverfield" in katakana. The second part, hakaisha is a Sino-Japanese word meaning "destroyer", from hakai 破壊 "destruction" and sha 者 "person, actor, doer". The standard Japanese word for iconoclast, for example, is gūzō hakaisha 偶像破壊者, "icon hakaisha". Graham Greene's "The Destructors" has been translated under the title "Hakaisha" (plural/singular distinction is optional in Japanese, as any fule kno). And so on.

The Cloverfield monster is indeed a destroyer, so fair enough. But the movie's title in the U.S. wasn't Cloverfield: The Destroyer, so why add it to the title in Japan—and why in roman characters?

A little research reveals that J.J. Abrams (for it is he) made this decision. According to various news sites (e.g.), he asked Paramount Japan what the Japanese word for "destroyer" was, and then told them to tack it on. No word on why, though; maybe he had heard before about katakana titles being misunderstood (many people here thought quite reasonably that ロード・オブ・ザ・リング was "Road of the Ring", for example), and wanted to make sure no-one came to the movie expecting a documentary about lush fields of emerald-green clover. Or crowbars, since the two loan words are homophonous in Japanese.

As for the romanization, my guess is that the intention was to make it seem slightly more exotic, more like a code name that an English-speaking government might choose.

Here are some 2chites fussing over this and related issues for your edutainment.

Popularity factor: 5

W. David Marx:

The job of the 邦題 is to literally explain the film and remove all metaphorical ambiguity. For example, "Chariots of Fire" becomes "RUNNERS of Fire" (炎のランナー). Because clearly the Japanese movie audience would think the film is about chariots.


My favorite example of this is "The Rookie" becoming "Old Rookie".


A No-sword post my feeble mind can relate to. Excellent!

Though the title *was* misleading enough to make me think it involved people I might know.


My friends and I used to have fun sticking 怒りのアフガン! and the like onto the end of random movie titles. Old Stallone flicks are a treasure trove of these explanatory phrases.


Adding "怒りのアフガン!" is guaranteed to improve pretty much any title.

I guess I was mostly just surprised because Cloverfield is supposed to be all viral and stuff, and then I was doubly surprised because Abrams himself ordered the change (apparently).

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