Japan & US Edition Blu-ray Cover Art Smackdown

Posted By yonghow on July 2nd, 2012

Yeah, I compare blu-ray covers. I love my movies. And my cover art.

Here are some cover art comparisons ( US covers on the left, Japan editions on the right ) of several films I enjoy. While living  in Tokyo I often went bargain hunting for used dvds, and am always fascinated by the different cover art the Japanese distributors use.

Let’s start with Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. (image above) Brilliant film, beautiful cinematography. It was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa camera, but retains a very filmic, creamy look.

The US cover is aesthetically more pleasing and artistic but I also like the high contrasty, saturated color use on the Japan edition. Both look great; I can’t decide which one I like better.

(above) Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. I prefer the US cover. It’s cleaner, simpler and just pack more visual punch. Sometimes less is more.

Marc Web’s (500) Days Of summer. Loved the film. Gotta have to go with the US cover again.

If you’ve stayed in Tokyo for a few years and have rented your fair share of dvds from Tsutaya (a video rental chain) like I have you will probably notice that many of their cover art follow a very similar design – photographs of the principal actors on the cover art are espoused, rather than abstract, graphical art/layout. I suspect the marketing strategy is to make it easier for potential viewers to recognize the actors ( and hence the film ), thus increasing the chances of a successful rental.

Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. See my point ? US version – Symbolic image of a bloodied baseball club and a Nazi helmet. Japan edition – Pictures of the principal actors on the cover, and a bright yellow background, which makes it jump out on the rental shelf. It’s an overused trick though – walk into a big video rental store in Tokyo and you’ll seen half a dozen blu-ray covers with bright yellow backgrounds. ( Though in this case, I actually do prefer the Japan edition cover… )

Luc Besson’s Leon. Hands down to the the Japanese cover; it’s just more attractive. The graphical Leon design on the US cover, though well executed, doesn’t quiet draw me in as much.

Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. The cover designs are not too different here; though the composition for the Japanese edition is a little more dynamic and interesting. Helena Bonham Carter however is positively staring into outer space.

And Remember what I said about bright yellow backgrounds ? :]

US versions :

Japanese editions :

Posted in Blu-ray/dvds, Film, Japan

4 Responses to “Japan & US Edition Blu-ray Cover Art Smackdown”


I’m surprised because Japanese packaging for anime is a million times better than the American packaging, so I would have expected the Japanese versions to be much better.

In general I think Japanese packing has better typography, and they don’t plaster the cover with logos and quotes from reviews and tag lines. The covers are usually more dignified. I think the US designs covers to look cheap so that they look like better deals to customers.

I think this list is a bit of an exception though. The American covers here aren’t bad (the Black Swan cover is one of the cleanest I’ve seen).

I think the US has been getting better, aesthetically, for the last 5 years or so though. Everything from ads to websites to product design has been getting better.


Jason – You’re right – I’ve actually completely forgotten how bad some of the cover art for US dvds/blu-rays can be, though Criterion is a notable exception.

I think the last point you made is definitely a good thing; it also means the masses are more and more receptive to good design, which will drive the demand and quality of aesthetic more.

Packaging for Japanese dvds/blu-rays, especially the boxsets are usually very good, which is very bad for my pocket actually. 😛


“Yeah, I compare blu-ray covers. I love my movies. And my cover art.”

No worries, you are not the only one! I compare film posters, translations, anything really! They all say something, all have some impact. Hey, there is even people who do trailer reviews! (e.g. on the Guardian. And then Guardian readers complain, but I think it’s a perfectly valid thing to analyse.)

King’s Speech doubly fails for me – both covers are as boring as hell!

Have you seen this?

Changing hue of movie posters.

Would be interesting to do that with Blu-Ray/DVD covers as well AND make country specific comparisons (which was something that was not taken into account here).

h park

One reason why I still buy Anime DVD & Blu ray from Japan: They have great package design. Some of them look like work of art. Graphic designers from Mach 555 and THESEDAYS did fabulous job on Anime DVD package designs.