Lost in Tokyo, Lost in Cincinnati: A Comparison between Lost in Translation and Anomalisa

By Kevin Yu

I read through this week’s blog posts and found Shelby’s on Lost in Translation, which, in my opinion, is a beautiful movie about two broken people finding comfort in each other. Broken may not be the appropriate word, but they are suffering from loneliness, partly a result of cultural alienation. Alienation may, again, not be the appropriate word, because it sounds negative. But to me, it is just something that happens, not necessarily negative at all. I came here to America with all good intentions to study, but who can say I’ve never had a moment of loneliness, because I could not fit in, tried to understand people around me, or had difficulty with language? Charlotte and Bob are dealing with cultural shock of this sort while meeting each other, and a great relationship comes out of it.

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Still from Lost in Translation, (2003.)

When watching Anomalisa, I couldn’t help but thought about Lost in Translation. There are some parallels and direct contrasts between these two movies.

Anomalisa is beautiful in its own way, but much darker and more alarming. Instead of finding comfort in someone who understands and resonates, which in my opinion is heartwarming, Anomalisa is about finding a person who is different, who stands out, in a world where everyone is identical. Only possible in animations, Anomalisa represents us with a world in which everyone is the same; people have the same face, speak in the same voice, regardless of their sexes, and talk the same nonsense. When all of these are driving Michael crazy as he arrives at Cincinnati, Lisa appears. She is different, a different face, different voice, and a distinctive personality. Michael clutched at her like a drowning man. This relationship is sick and doomed from the start. Not that difference is bad, but Michael takes this relationship as a war between TeamIdentical and TeamDifferent, while love is not about war, but more about making peace, as shown in Lost in Translation.

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Still from Anomalisa, (2015.)

Both about finding comfort in each other in a foreign city, Charlotte and Bob find similarities in one another in Tokyo, while Michael clutches Lisa in Cincinnati, because she stands out in a world where everyone is the same. Lost in Translation is sad and heartwarming at the same time, but Anomalisa is cynical and even a little bit frightening.

(Trivia: Today I learned that Anomalisa has only three voice performers, one for Michael, one for Lisa, and one for everyone else.)

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4 Responses to Lost in Tokyo, Lost in Cincinnati: A Comparison between Lost in Translation and Anomalisa

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I haven’t seen Anomalisa, but I have seen Lost in Translation. Your description of Anomalisa makes it sound incredibly interesting and one that I want to check out. Its been a while since I’ve seen Lost in Translation, but the comfort the find in each other is very touching Bill Murray’s performance is really great as well.

    -Walker Rise

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I’m glad you found my post helpful! I thoroughly enjoyed Lost in Translation because of those reasons stated in your post. I believe alienation is a good word to describe each of those characters and it also ties into my point about the culture shock rather than cultural appropriation. This is a really great post and the other movie you analyzed, Anomalisa, sounds really interesting. It would be nice to see Anomalisa just so I could compare the two.

    -Shelby Halliman

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I love how you related your own experience to this movie! I have never been in a situation where I have ever completely been “Lost in Translation”, but this movie helps you imagine how difficult and, yes, lonely it would get. I also loved watching this movie because before this I had seen Bill Murray as strictly a comedy actor, and he truly blew me away in this film.

    -Kendra Thornton

  4. marymdalton says:

    Fascinating post…two interesting films.

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