I picked up a copy of the new Cyzo today, and there’s a fascinating article about how the Japanese promoters/distributors of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith systematically censored magazine critics’ reviews of the film. The whole story broke as film critic Machiyama Tomohiro wrote on his blog that the promoters heavily corrected several parts of his review.
In Japan, all writers must submit their final texts about a certain person/cultural item to the corresponding management company for what is called the “genkou check.” At least in America, writers just write about their topic and give a subtle cold-shoulder or extended middle-finger to later interference, but most magazines in Japan are dependent upon the producers for access to information. So in this imbalance of power, texts get checked. Mostly, management companies just change straight-up mistakes or incorrect facts or try to stop magazines from running “spoilers,” but Machiyama was upset that the film promoters had edited his critical content.
They specifically told him to “take out” sentences, “change this expression,” and “cut the political content.” He was asked to remove references to “Greek myths.” Failing to adhere to these edits would mean losing the right to print promotional photographs from the film, and the promoters rejected another magazine’s attempt to run photo-less critical reviews, threatening to stop sending press screening passes for future movies. Comparing the films to other sci-fi works was also verboten. In other words, write a positive review or we will add you to our little blacklist.
Machiyama was particularly puzzled that the Star Wars promotion team was so keen to jettison any discussion of the film’s political message, seeing that George Lucas himself had discussed these themes in official interviews. A film critic and shukanshi writer interviewed for the article explained this action (translated quote): “Japanese distributors think that if you don’t appeal to people with ‘love’ or ‘you’ll cry’ or a famous actor’s name, OL (office ladies) and young kids won’t get into it. There’s a feeling that films that include a political message are absolutely hopeless.”
The author also notes that German film critics threatened a boycott against War of the Worlds after the distributors there attempted to ban all pre-release reviews. Japanese critics, on the other hand, did nothing and fully complied with the guidelines. Except for Machiyama, of course, who whined about it on his blog and then had the second-tier tabloid media pick up the story.
So what have we confirmed here about the Japanese media world: