With the development of the Internet, we now live in an age where we can watch all kinds of video content on demand. With a proliferation of distribution sites available, movies can also be enjoyed on a variety of platforms and devices.

And yet, people continue to visit movie theaters. Being able to watch a movie with many people in a theater with a large screen and excellent acoustics... These are some of the advantages that still attract people to the silver screen.

Catching pirates in the act

Manga artist Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei), known for works like かけあうつきひ Kakeau Tsukihi currently serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine, enjoys going to the movies. He was looking forward to watching Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness so he went to see it on the day it opened in Japanese theaters, May 4th, 2022.

However, in addition to entertaining horror thrills planned by Sam Raimi in the film, there was something else that made his heart race in the theater, and not in a good way...

Two foreigners sitting next to him were pirating the film!

As an artist himself and someone who understands and respects the value of entertainment, he was not going to let this go unnoticed. The day after, he wrote about his experience in a manga which he posted to his Twitter account.

We have translated the manga below each panel. TOP, MIDDLE and BOTTOM refers to the frames within each panel.

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: The other day, I went to the movie theater to see Doctor Strange 2 [Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness] MIDDLE: During the movie...I noticed that one of a pair of people sitting next to me was taking out his smartphone every now and then. BOTTOM: At first, I thought he may be just taking notes, jotting down his thoughts on the film or something. {Thinking} Hmm...It's bad manners but...I won't do anything (I'm afraid to anyway)

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: But after that...I also noticed him aiming his (smartphone) camera (at the screen)... MIDDLE: {Thinking} Wait...Could this be pirating...? Nah, it can't be... BOTTOM: ...If he was pirating, he'd fix his phone in one spot and film from beginning to end, wouldn't he? This guy next to me is taking his phone out and putting it away again...But then again...maybe there's such a thing as partial pirating... | I really started worrying about it.

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: After wondering what to do for about 30 minutes...I finally made my move. {Thinking} OK, here I go. Three, two, one... MIDDLE: This was my "Lean back while pretending to stretch and catch a glimpse of his screen" strategy. BOTTOM: It was too dark so I couldn't really see anything.

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: Eventually, the film ended and the closing credits began to appear. {Thinking} I can't stop thinking about it...Was he pirating... or was he just taking notes?... MIDDLE: I made up my mind. {Thinking} OK, once the closing credits are over...I'll gather up my courage and ask him, "Were you doing something with your smartphone?" I'll be sure not to say the word "pirating" (I'm too scared) BOTTOM: OK, I'm going to ask, here I go! "Um...Excuse me..." They're not speaking in Japanese!

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: Apparently, they were foreigners so I gave up on my plan to ask him. I went to the lobby but I still felt uneasy about the whole thing. MIDDLE: {Thinking} What should I do?... Should I tell a staff member? Maybe they'll just give me the cold shoulder... BOTTOM: After some hesitation...I noticed the two of them going to the bathroom so that's when I told a staff member. "Um, uh...In the film I just watched, the guy next to me took out his smartphone...and I think he may have been pirating the film.

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: (Staff) "Thanks for telling us. Which screen was it?" (Fukui) "Oh...um...It's the Doctor Strange (film) that just ended... My seat number was..." The staff handled it very politely. MIDDLE: [Very nervously] "Oh...Um...It's...It's those two who just stepped out of the bathroom..." (Staff) "I understand. Please wait here for a while." BOTTOM: The staff member brought reinforcements and faced the two men. (Staff) "Excuse me, can I ask you something?" But at this point... I was already regretting my actions a bit.

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: After taking it this far, what if I was wrong?... He'll get angry at me. MIDDLE: 15 minutes passed... And then the staff member came back. (Staff) "I talked to those two and checked their smartphone (photo albums). As it turns out..." (Fukui): "Oh, um..." BOTTOM: "I'm sorry. If I was mistaken, I'm sorry... It's not like they were aiming their (phones') cameras at the screen the whole time, so maybe I was wrong about them..."

Reproduced with permission from Sei Fukui 福井セイ (@fukuisei)

TOP: (Staff) "...They had pirated clips (of the movie) in it." (Fukui) So they really did do it! MIDDLE: (Staff) "We asked them to delete the clips on the spot. Thank you so much for your cooperation!" (Fukui): "...Oh, no, I'm just glad they were discovered." BOTTOM: {Thinking} Maybe I'll watch (the movie) again. I'm sure I missed something. | Hey everyone, it goes without saying, but under no circumstances should you ever pirate a movie... Actually, you shouldn't even be messing with your smartphone during the movie in the first place.

Although we have no way of knowing what these individuals intended to do with the pirated videos, if Fukui hadn't reported the incident to the theater staff, they may have been uploaded to the Internet and used for illegal purposes.

The post went viral, drawing both condemnations of the film pirates and praise for Fukui's courageous actions in preventing the crime. Some of the comments the manga elicited were:

  • "What a great response!!! I hope his good deeds will bring him good fortune in the future."
  • "I am very annoyed by this kind of thing because it makes it difficult for others to enjoy the movie."
  • "It's too scary that they would pirate the movie so unconcernedly...."

See a film pirate? Tell the theater staff!

Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs warns that filming movies, even for private use, is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of up to 10 million yen, or both, under Japanese Copyright Law.

In addition, the film industry and many establishments have voiced their request that if moviegoers should ever see a suspicious person in their theaters, they should report it to the staff.

In some cases, such as Fukui's, it may be difficult to determine whether someone was illegally filming or not. It can also be intimidating to report a case to the staff without any proof. However, you may be able to prevent a crime by having the courage to tell a staff member even if it's only a possibility.

And for those who are visiting Japan, please familiarize yourself with Japan's laws. Not knowing isn't an excuse. Sometimes, films are released in Japan earlier than in other countries (the reverse is sometimes true as well), but you should never consider this an opportunity to pirate a film.

In order to protect the future of movie culture, say "NO" to film piracy.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.