Chirashi are mini movie posters printed on sturdy paper distributed to advertise films in Japan. Side A has the theatrical poster, while Side B typically features information about the film and photos/other supplemental info. Sometimes there is an entirely different poster on the back. Due to their small size, they are easy to store and display and are popular collector’s items for moviegoers in the east.
As an American, I am fascinated by the ways that our popular culture is perceived in other countries, especially because the United States creates a large chunk of the media that the rest of the world consumes. I’ve found that international posters can be a good glimpse into cultural attitudes to American film. Posters are a crucial element to a film’s advertising and marketing, so they can convey what elements of a certain piece of media are appealing, alluring, or enticing to the culture they are trying to appeal to. I also enjoy the aesthetics of foreign languages as well, the way that unfamiliar words and alphabets look on paper when they are used organically.
I have ordered the entirety of my Chirashi collection from jposter.net, which is based in New Zealand of all places. Despite being over 5,000 miles away from Japan, this site boasts having Chirashi for over 7,000 films in stock, and they seem to update stock frequently to include both popular new releases and more obscure titles. On this site you can find the poster for Star Wars: Rogue One happily situated next to the poster for your favorite Czech new wave film. The product information will also tell you the condition that the Chriashi is in and when it was first printed. I have seen some on there that are nearly 50 years old and still in great condition! The only thing that really annoys me about this site is that, when titles are listed alphabetically, any “The” title will be in the T section. You can also find an interesting selection on eBay and on Etsy, but the prices tend to be higher. Videotheque on Etsy has some especially well curated selection even though the prices are much higher. I am in love with booklet they have about Catherine Deneuve’s films with Jacques Demy.
Most Chirashi are “B5″ size (7″x10”), which is fairly uncommon frame size in the states. Luckily it is close enough in size to the more common “A4”, and can be framed with some solid matting. The Hemmingsbo frame from Ikea has the dimensions of 8.5″x11″. Center the poster inside of the frame, and carefully place a piece of 8.5″x11″ cardstock underneath. Huge packages of cardstock are pretty affordable and can easily be found at most office supply and big box stores.
Here are some of my current favorite JPoster site picks. I’m always so tempted to order more of them, but I don’t have anywhere else I could put them. Maybe it’s time to ditch the Midnight In Paris poster for a film with a director that isn’t as creepy.
While I silently judge anyone who says that Magnolia is their favorite P.T. Anderson film (maybe because it’s an acquired taste, most definitely because we live in a world where Boogie Nights exists), I definitely won’t judge anyone who says that this is their favorite P.T. Anderson poster! I am loving the color scheme and the minimalist feel of this poster, and appreciate that it isn’t trying to lean heavily on its star-studded grand-scale ensemble cast to market this film to a foreign audience.
I found four poster for anarchist/feminist Czech new wave masterpiece Sedmikrásky (Daisies), and I feel like these three convey the mood of the film best. They are loud, bright, colorful, and busy, but still soft and very feminine. (1, 2, 3)
While this Ghost World poster isn’t too different than the one we have in the states (which isn’t a complaint, because it’s already pretty solid), this is one of the few Chirashi I have seen with full-color images in Side B! This one is serving up some of Enid and Rebecca’s best looks from the films. Forever aesthetic goals.
This Beyond the Valley of the Dolls poster from a 1999 theatrical re-release is perfect for the transitional psychedelic sixties to seventies style that the film serves as a perfect time capsule of. I also appreciate that this poster (mostly) features The Carrie Nations, using a lesser-seen shot from that infamous promotional photo shoot. Hang cool, teddy bear.
Donkey Skin might be the only Catherine Deneuve-led Jacques Demy film I have yet to see, but I am loving this three part set featuring Deneuve’s gowns. I’m big on costume design in film, so I am sold on anything where design is treated as a focal point, especially considering what a visual art form film is. (1, 2, 3)
One thing I love about this Fantasia poster is the retro charm the illustration has. It looks like it could have been taken out of a Disney Little Golden Book back in the day.
Showgirls is barely recognizable as the campy, unintentionally humorous trashterpiece it is in this poster. Instead of playing up the nudity and sleaze factor like the studio did in the west, we get a sketch of Nomi Malone with a soft, ethereal palette in a coquettish pose that you would see in a college drawing class, featuring mainly screenshots on the back where Nomi is sporting soft and glittery looks for her starring turn in Goddess. I doubt that a more brilliantly misleading poster could have been designed by Versayce herself.
They’re not going to laugh at you when they see you with this Carrie poster from its initial Japanese release in 1997. I greatly prefer this to the before/after photo format that the US poster takes on.
While this Lolita Chirashi is predominantly in English and visually identical to its US counterpart, I am crying laughing over the decision to replace the iconic “How did they ever make a film of Lolita?” tagline with “WHAT IS SHE?”
This Pulp Fiction poster has some cool graphics on the back, but I’m mostly sharing for the poorly-lit photo of Quentin Tarantino on the top left in contrast with Travola and Thurman’s film stills. I’m also 70% sure that the photo of Bruce Willis might be his wax sculpture from The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
On the other hand, I am amazed by the typography and overall graphic design skill that went into this poster for Kill Bill Vol. II. This reminds me of a Criterion cover, although this might actually look better than some of Criterion’s recent box art and definitely precedes the “let’s add some blocky text and handwriting to some beautiful establishing shot” Criterion cover trend by at least 10 years.
This Rocky Horror poster is one that I have been lusting after for a few years now. The flying stars, the hidden Franks in the background of the poster and the RKO Radio Tower in the bottom center both make this my favorite Rocky re-release poster I’ve seen in a while and an embodiment of everything that makes Rocky Horror so joyful to me.
I never would have expected Japan of all countries to be a place where John Waters would be so welcomed, but thankfully I have been proven wrong! I love that John himself shows up on the anniversary poster for Pink Flamingos, and is awarded his birthright as “King of Cult” on Side B. I have a book compiling some of his early screenplays, and while Pink Flamingos wasn’t considered as objectionable in Japan, it was illegal to show pubic hair on film so anytime that a character appeared naked their genital region was censored with a pale blue circle. The more you know!
Cry-Baby is my personal favorite John Waters film, and I’m loving this poster too. I love the very high school-esque handwritten flourishes on both sides, and the pastel color scheme. I also like the two-word identifiers that the Cry-Baby Girls are given on the right-hand sidebar. Apparently Pepper’s baby is going to be fat, and I guess Wanda hasn’t had sex before, because honestly who in high school was worth it anyway? Hatchet-Face does have an “amazing face” as it says though. You’re beautiful, baby.