I was really really excited to see Harry Potter. Since I live and work as an English teacher in a somewhat rural area in Japan, the nearest movie theater is a good 45 minute drive (more time if there is traffic). Since I had work the next day, I didn’t rush to see it when it first came out on a weekday. I planned to see it after morning church since I would be in the city anyway and a movie theater was down the street. Morning church has a sign language interpreter and I already made plans to see it with my Deaf friends I have made there. It was great because there are Japanese captions since the movie is in English!
Some of my coworkers had seen it the first day it came out and I was DYING to see it when Sunday finally came around. For some reason I didn’t have the sense to buy tickets in advance. The entrance was packed with people. I think they were all wanting to see Harry Potter. It was even showing in several theaters.
I got to do most of the talking even though my Japanese is horrible, but I did my best and ordered the tickets. I specifically said we wanted it at 1:30 PM. I wanted it then because I wanted to be on time for English church at night. Two other people had to be somewhere at 5 as well, so it was perfect. We got our tickets and paid for them and waited for the theater to open. I was SO excited. I could almost see it now. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I just love to see the movie version. The wouldn’t let us in until 15 minutes before it started and I kept checking the time and excitedly talking about the movie. My friends were not as excited as me, but I think they were amused at how excited I was.
Then right before we got to go inside, we realized our tickets said 3:30. WHAT? I was upset. How could this have happened? We went back. I told her we wanted 1:30. The lady at the counter looked really confused. She said some stuff, but I didn’t understand. Not only was the theater loud with people, I have a really hard time understanding service workers because they use this ultra fancy polite version of Japanese that’s hard for me to understand. I just repeated the same thing that we wanted the 1:30 time. With a resigned look she pulled out the seating chart said that showing was almost full, look at the diagram. (In Japanese theaters its reserved seating and we get to pick our seats). The only seats that were left were the VERY front row. My friends were not into this. They were like, “I am not craning my neck and paying this much money to see a movie. Especially since we have to read captions. Lets see it another time, how about next week?”
I was crushed. I REALLY REALLY wanted to see this movie. I had waited so long! I could see it now. I could see the door where the movie was going to play. The comforting smell of popcorn and butter was surrounding. People were pouring in to watch the movie and I wanted so badly to join them. I just couldn’t leave now…
So for the first time in my life, I went into a movie theater by myself. I chose the exact center of the very front row. I didn’t care. I really wanted to see this movie. I was so excited.
The theater was completely packed. Even the very front was packed to the max. I was so excited. I eagerly waited for as the curtains opened and the trailers began. Finally the familiar Harry Potter theme song started and my heart rose in anticipation and happiness.
It starts out in muggle (human) land which threw me off since I specifically remember how the book started. It didn’t matter though. I was so excited. Then some of the muggles started to speak.
They were speaking Japanese.
My mind was wildly trying to remember was there any time in the book they somehow encounter some muggles in Japan. That only lasted for about a second though.
It hit me.
I suddenly understood what the lady was probably trying to explain to me and why she was so confused as to why I wanted THIS time and not the OTHER time. It was NOT just because the seating was full.
It was because this movie was dubbed in JAPANESE!!! Which meant no captions. And worst of all… NO ENGLISH!!!!
Later on my friend asked me if I rushed out and got my money back. That thought didn’t even enter my head. I wanted to see the movie too badly. I knew it would be another week before I would have the chance to see it again. I couldn’t wait. So I took it as a valuable Japanese listening practice experience.
It was actually really good. It was perfect since I’ve read the book so I know what’s going to happen. Also a good portion of the movie is with families or school. Two of the places where I am exposed to Japanese the most. I couldn’t have asked for a better listening comprehension practice. Plus the movie has tons of action so that helped too.
The story does not end there. As I was sitting there, there were these students behind me. They were probably in Jr High or High school. It was this girl with some friends. This girl was seriously talking throughout almost the whole movie. Her and this other guy in particular. The guy was pretty much lost the whole movie and kept asking the girl questions. The girl had obviously read the book so she was constantly explaining and RUINING the ending for everyone around her. I’m serious. She would see two people on the screen and go, “OHHH!!! They are going to get married in the next book!!!” or “Oh, he dies in the next book, it’s really sad.” It was like she didn’t know how to whisper. I looked around but other people didn’t seem to notice or care. Once I turned around and glared at her and she stopped. For about five minutes.
It was only when she started laughing REALLY loud that I realized this was revenge for all the times I have been loud in a movie theater with my friends. She would still be laughing and giggling long after the scene was over, which in turn made her friends laugh more. It was then I started to just listen to her comments and enjoy them as part of this unexpected Japanese movie experience. Hey, it was more listening practice.
Maybe it’s a Japanese thing but people would yell out during the movie. Or maybe it had to do with it being a full theater of Harry Potter fans. One part that sticks out in my mind was that people thought that Hermione was cute and Ginny wasn’t. Someone literally shouted (in Japanese of course), “GINNY IS UGLY!” right in the middle of the movie. When there was this slight romantic part between Harry and Ginny someone screamed, “WHY, HARRY, WHY!?” Stuff like that. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think Ginny is ugly. Why would anyone say that?! The funny thing is, later I was reading a forum and others thought the same thing!
I felt pretty good about myself because I got every joke except one. It felt really weird when everyone burst out laughing in the whole theater and I was completely clueless.
I have seen other movies in Japan. I don’t usually go because movies here are expensive. (about 20 bucks a ticket). I usually see movies in English and it’s the other way around where I’m the only one laughing in the theater. I would wonder if Japanese people were always this quiet at the movies. I realize now it was just a language barrier and the jokes didn’t make it through the subtitles. I also realize that a big part of the joke is the tone of voice.
Speaking of voices, the Japanese version of Ron was sooo creepy because he really sounded a lot like the real Ron speaking Japanese. He had good expressions and tone of voice like Ron too. I also loved the guy they picked to do Dumbledore. His voice was so soothing and grandfatherly like. It is actually more how I imagined Dumbledore sounding than the English speaking one.
I actually still haven’t gotten around to see the English version yet. I feel like though I’ve seen the movie already. I know I will though someday. Definitely one memorable experience!