Perspective From Japan on Movie End Credits
Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)
On May 8, 2022, SoraNews24 published an article by Ms. Katie Pask titled: Should you watch the credits at the movies? Japanese celebrity’s comments spark fierce debate. The headline immediately caught my attention because I covered the same subject from an American perspective in an article that I published on June 6, 2020. My article addressed a story from my high school days that occurred in May 2005.
Little did I know that questions about whether movie-goers should stay for the end credits was a hot topic in certain areas of the world and corners of the internet. In this post, I will revisit my own article examining whether people should stay for the end credits of movies before taking a look at Ms. Pask’s report from Japan.
My Post on My Teacher’s Take
You will find the full version of the following story in my 2020 post.
In May 2005, my high school homeroom teacher advised us that we should always remain for the credits after a movie. He reasoned that staying for the credits is how movie-goers acknowledge the work of everyone who contributed to the production. A smart-aleck in the class (not me) chimed in with a question: What do you do if it was a bad movie? My teacher laughed and responded succinctly: “Then you leave before it’s over.”
I remembered this conversation well enough to write about it 15 years after the fact. In the original post, I considered the wisdom of my teacher’s position from various angles. Today, we look at a different take on the issue.
Movies, Credits, and Japan
The author of the SoraNews24 article, Ms. Katie Pask, is from the United Kingdom. She explained that one of the earliest forms of culture shock she experienced upon moving to Japan occurred when she made her first trip to a Japanese movie theater:
As the credits started rolling, I did what I expected everyone else would be doing — I stood up to leave, only to have my Japanese friend tug on my sleeve to make sit me back down. “It hasn’t finished yet,” she whispered, and as I looked around, every other person was still sat in their seats, eyes glued to the credits rolling up the screen.
That first Japanese movie theater experience stuck with Ms. Pask. She stated that with the sole exception of the time she and a friend saw_Cats_ in theaters, she has “dutifully stayed sitting until the credits have finished in full” every time she has gone to see a movie in Japan.
According to her biography, Ms. Pask has been living in Japan since 2009. Her account suggests that it is at least more common than not in parts of Japan to sit through movie credits. Note that she observed that when she first started seeing movies in Japan, post-credit scenes were not common. Thus, movie-goers in Japan were (and are) apparently not motivated by the expectation that they would be seeing anything other than the credit roll.
Ami Suzuki Dissents From Credit Mores
My high school teacher would apparently be at home in most Japanese movie theaters – provided the movies came with English-language subtitles. However, we learn from Ms. Pask’s article that Japan, much like my 2005 classroom, was not without dissenters from the expectation that one should sit through the credits of movies. Ms. Ami Suzuki, whom Ms. Pask identifies as a “legndary 90s J-pop idol” (while I watch anime, my knowledge of J-pop is slightly worse than my non-existent knowledge of American pop).
Ms. Suzuki appeared on a television show where panelists were presented with questions. The topic on May 4, 2022, was a question that is not unfamiliar to The New Leaf Journal: “Should you watch the credits of a movie until the end?” Ms. Suzuki did not hold back her opinions on the matter:
Do we need to? The moment the movie ends, I’m like ‘I’m outta here!’
Ami Suzuki (Tr. SoraNews24)
(This is an interesting translation. If this is the best English-version of what Ms. Suzuki said, it would be perilously close to making my abuse of “like” series. But I digress.)
Japanese Social Media Users Discuss Ms. Suzuki’s Take
Ms. Suzuki’s strong opinion apparently sparked quite a bit of discussion among people who spend too much time discussing things on social media. Although Ms. Pask stated that there were views on both sides of the issue, she noted that the vast majority opposed Ms. Suzuki’s position.
My high school teacher expressed the view that one should remain for the credits as a way of showing respect to the people who made the movie. Several of the posters quoted by Ms. Pask expressed similar views. However, a number of posters offered other reasons in support of their views that movie-goers should sit through the credits. I will look at some of the takes and offer my assessments.
First, one poster stated that “anyone who leaves before the credits isn’t a real movie fan.” This is a terrible take. Most people who go to the movies simply want to watch a movie or go out with friends. Being a “real movie fan” is not key to the identity of most movie-goers.
Another poster provided a more meditative take: “Movie fans like to use the credits to think about important scenes from the movie they just watched. People standing up and talking is really rude and distracting.” I never thought of using the credits to reflect upon the important scenes of a movie. While I do not think this is an oversight on my part, I suppose that it could make sense for a good movie. We also find the reference to “movie fans” again – do people identify this strongly with liking movies or are most people simply casual viewers?
(We need to stop the true movie fans from banding together or they will create their own version of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.)
The third quoted take is more practical: “I like the credits so I can see important facts, like where the movie was filmed.” This is actually a fine reason for staying for the credits. This person is clearly a movie fan, but he or she offers a practical, concrete reason for staying for the credits that does not refer back to being a movie fan. Bravo. Ms. Pask quoted a similar take from a movie-goer who stated that he or she likes to look for Japanese names in the credits of Hollywood movies.
The fourth view was almost identical to my teacher’s: “If you leave early, you’re disrespecting the people who worked hard on the movie.” Agree or disagree, this is a coherent take.
The fifth view thought more about content: “These days, so many movies have post-credits scenes, so you’re missing out.” Sit through the credits and hope for a reward. Less altruistic than some takes, but perfectly reasonable.
The final two takes that I will look at are interesting because they went against the don’t shoot the messenger idea. The first suggested that Ms. Suzuki’s opinion would have been acceptable if it came from a normal person. However, in light of the fact that she herself is a star in the entertainment industry, the poster rhetorically asked if she had no respect for the staff that worked behind the camera. Another poster suggested that Ms. Suzuki’s leaving before the end credits of a movie was akin to people leaving during the curtain call at one of her concerts.
In light of the fact that many people worked behind the scenes to support Ms. Suzuki as a performer, I suppose it is fair to wonder whether she is the best messenger for the anti-credits cause. With that being said, I note that the people at Ms. Suzuki’s shows bought tickets to see Ms. Suzuki. The domestiques of the man who takes the Maillot jaune to the Champs Elysse in Paris on the final day of the Tour de France played a key role, but glory goes to the man standing on the top step of the podium. Everyone has a role to play – I would not go so far as to analogize movie credits to a curtain call at a live show (and for whatever it is worth, I am sure some people do leave during or before the curtain call – traffic, et al.).
My Take On the Credits Debate
Although my June 2020 article was prompted by my teacher’s views that one should stay for the credits of any movie that is good enough to watch through the end, my analysis focused primarily on his take that one should leave bad movies early. That is, I was most interested in his view that if a movie proves not to be worth one’s time, the viewer should leave rather than stay through the end. My not focusing squarely on the question of movie theater decorum was perhaps prompted in part by the fact that I had not (and have not) been to a movie theater since April of 2010. But since Ms. Pask’s article at SoraNews24 focuses squarely on the question of whether one should sit through the credits of a movie, I will address that issue here.
To begin, by purchasing a ticket to see a movie, one has already shown respect to the people who made the movie even if one fails for whatever reason to actually use the ticket. Thus, I cannot abide by the view that movie-goers are obligated to watch the end credits after supporting the movie financially. The reason why there are jobs for people working behind the scenes is because people pay to see movies.
It is also not the case that every contribution to a movie is equal. Support staff is needed for every movie, as are many behind-the-scenes roles of varying degrees of importance. But some roles are more important than others. Successful movies have people filling critical roles who contribute more to audiences spending time and money to watch the movie than those filling other roles. It is not a grave offense if a particular movie-goer is only going to see the movie because he or she happens to like one actor or actress. Regarding the support staff, I think it is far more important that they are treated with respect by the people who hired them and by those playing lead roles in the movie production than it is that every anonymous person seeing the movie stays for the credits.
(My scenic area of Brooklyn suffers from a surplus of arrogant movie production staffers setting up shop on the sidewalk while standing around doing little more than holding clipboards and impeding pedestrians. Their trucks consume scarce parking space and idle continuously. After receiving tax breaks, their way of supporting the local economy is to bring catering from outside the area in order that they can avoid buying anything local. After the second or third movie set spanning 4-5 blocks, you begin to assume a less-than-idealistic view of the movie and television industry. But I digress.)
With that being said, my teacher’s view was fair and well-reasoned – and I abide by it when I’m finishing a good anime series or movie. I do not think that movie-goers have an affirmative duty to watch the end credits, but it is a nice invisible gesture to do so – provided that the movie was worth watching through to the end (one of my favorite anime series of 2011-2020, Shirobako, indirectly makes the case for watching the credits even if a movie is less than stellar). There may be other reasons to stay through the credits. Some, for example, may enjoy looking for locations or certain names, as suggested by some of the responses to Ms. Suzuki.
We should put the onus on production studios to give people an additional reason to sit through the credits. Assuming arguendo it is a good thing to take in the names of people who worked on a particular production, would it not be a good thing for the people with decision-making authority in the production to structure the credits in such a way that people who do not have the firm moral views of my high school teacher or the truest of true movie fans in Japan want to stay and watch the credits? Why not make it a rule that there should be a post-credit scene? Or, as I suggested in my 2020 piece in the case of anime, provide viewers with a good ending song with visuals to keep their attention for the credits?
Thus, let us conclude. Sitting through the credits is a nice gesture. Most of the names in the credit roles will never be famous, but for each name there is someone somewhere who is very excited to be there (probably). If you think that staying for the credits is the right thing to do and you have no compelling reason not to, you should stay even though no one will praise you for it. Follow Emperor Augustus’ final request – but instead of applauding the performance, sit and quietly watch the credits roll. However, if you are not inclined to watch the credits – leaving is not a sign of disrespect to the names on the list. Unless you sneaked into the theater without buying a ticket, you have already supported the production with your time and money. I will venture that just about everyone involved in the production will take paying customers who leave before the credits over non-paying customers who remain for whatever reason as the credits roll.
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