Finally got my hands on the Full Metal Alchemist チラシ! Just when I had given up hope after searching for it at various cinemas to no avail for a month, it was miraculously restocked at my favourite haunt.
Many years ago, I was one of those teens who would plaster their bedroom walls with posters of various idols. Jpop album posters were not easily available, and prices can be marked up considerably for popular artistes. Years later, some of the prized posters were framed up nicely, but by then the realization came that while I could now afford them easily, accumulating them would eventually overwhelm me. There was one huge Namie Amuro poster purchased at Nakano Broadway inn Tokyo, which made its way back to Singapore, but there was no longer any space for display.
One day I chanced upon a shop selling movie memorabilia at the Esplanade Theatres (Singapore), some of which were B5 sized movie posters released in Japan. Now if only album posters came in that size. I later learned that the appropriate term would be movie fliers/leaflets, as translated from the Japanese term 散らし/チラシ chirashi. While I was not really into collecting them during my first few trips to Japan, I did pick a few up as it was a novel Japanese collectible that was 無料, entirely free.
Movie fliers were available in Japan even before WWII. Of course, the paper quality and habits then were way different than today, hence it will be a rarity to find any from that era on the market now. While color printing became available in the 1960s, the collection boom only took off in the next two decades before subsiding in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet and online auction sites has led to more active trading and renewed interest in movie flyers, which are also sought after by collectors outside Japan.
During the past 2 years residing in Japan , collecting 映画チラシ has truly become a hobby. Once a fortnight, I'd drop by the cinema at Namba Parks to add the latest flyers to the collection. So why do I collect them?
While it is freely available at cinema lobbies (usually there is a notice to remind individuals to refrain from taking more than 2 fliers of each movie) , the fliers are printed in limited quantities and are usually taken off the stands once the movie is released or when its theatrical run is coming to a close. There are also no movie fliers found in Singapore cinemas or any other country that I have visited.
Japanese chirashi retain the attractiveness of a standard size movie poster while gaining the significant advantage of being relatively compact. It is easy to store them in B5 sized clear pocket folders - for foreign travellers do grab one from Daiso or Seria before heading to a cinema. They can be a great addition to your coffee table books, and you can easily laminate some for display or even as a desktop placemat or mousepad. They are also inexpensive gifts too - If you have a friend back home who is a huge Marvel fan, he/she will definitely appreciate a laminated Captain America chirashi more than a random keychain souvenir.
For Japanophiles, there is an inexplicable beauty to everything made or designed in Japan. While most Western movies released in Japan retain their original poster designs, sometimes Japanese graphic designers are commissioned to produce designs for the domestic scene. The English titles will also have to be converted to katakana.
The standard chirashi is a single B5 sheet, of which the Japanese movie poster design is printed on the front page, while the back page consists of promotional photos, plot summary, excerpts from reviews and other text information.
Double-sided chirashi consisting of two poster designs are sometimes produced, so are two or four sheet foldout chirashi. For Transformers: The Last Knight, a generous foldout was also released, definitely a visual treat for Transformers fans.
As Japanophiles, it is our sacred duty to preserve all forms of popular culture - one of my favourite phrases back in the days of sharing Jpop music and videos on mIRC servers. Chirashi contain a treasure trove of information when you look at them many years from now - one can see the trend in graphic design, developments in printing, or even analyse linguistic patterns.
While digital content will be increasingly available online, challenging traditional platforms, catching a movie at the cinemas should continue to be a personal or social experience for many people. It will be interesting to see how 映画チラシ continues to evolve with changing times.