Study Guide

Lost in Translation Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

Bob arrives at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and is greeted by Kawasaki and the Suntory team. He's there to shoot a commercial for their whisky, and the Suntory execs are very welcoming and offer Bob gifts. He gets a fax from his wife wishing him a good trip and letting him know that he forgot their son's birthday. Come night time, Bob can't sleep, so he heads to the hotel bar where he's recognized by two American dudes. He leaves. As he tries to fall asleep, another fax from his wife arrives. This time, it's about their home renovation.

Call To Adventure

Bob makes eyes at Charlotte in the elevator. She smiles back.

Refusal Of The Call

In the hotel bar, Bob and Charlotte mock Sausalito, the lite rock cover band, from their vantage points across the room. Charlotte sends Bob her table's snack mix. He waves his thanks and leaves with it. He’s not about to jump into something that could be dangerous.

Meeting The Mentor

Both up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, Bob and Charlotte run into each other at the hotel bar and finally have a conversation. They cover the basics: like what they do for a living and why they're in Tokyo. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna learn a lot from each other.

Crossing The Threshold

Bob accepts Charlotte's offer to go out on the town with her and some friends. The go to a bar and, after one of those friends gets into an argument with the bartender, they get chased down the streets of Tokyo by an angry, BB-gun-toting man. They go to a house party where Bob talks to some surfers. They sing karaoke and forge a connection over pop lyrics and cigarettes. At the end of the night, Bob carries a sleeping Charlotte back to her room, puts her to bed, and leaves. The relationship doesn’t get sexual, but it’s crossed a line into emotional intimacy.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Bob's first test comes right after he crosses the threshold via the magic of karaoke. He has the brilliant idea to call Lydia, tipsy, at 4:00 in the morning to tell her what an awesome night he just had running around Tokyo, going to house parties, and hanging out with rad Japanese surfers. Needless to say, she's not thrilled that he's having a great time with God knows who while she's taking care of their kids. Relations between Bob and Lydia get tense and stay that way for the rest of the movie.

Bob makes new friends, like Charlie Brown, and a bunch of other Japanese people whose names we're never told. One of them speaks French and, hey, so does Bob. He's not really interested in those friendships, though. He just wants to hang out with his new possible soul mate, Charlotte.

Bob meets Charlotte and her friends at a club again, but then Bob and Charlotte ditch Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang to hang out one-on-one in Bob's room at the Park Hyatt, watching movies and their insecurities and relationships. It's sweet. It's intimate. It's chaste.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Bob has a tense, if not downright disastrous phone call with Lydia. First (out of the blue if you're Lydia), Bob tells Lydia he wants to take better care of himself. For example, he wants to eat less pasta and more Japanese food. He kind of sounds like he's blaming her (and possible the folks at Barilla) for why he doesn't feel so hot. Lydia tells Bob that if he stays in Japan, he can eat Japanese food every day.

That's settled then.

When Bob asks how the kids are doing, Lydia says they miss him, but they're used to him not being there. Ouch. Bob's feeling pretty low.


How low? Bob gets plastered and sleeps with the lead singer of Sausalito; that's how low. The next morning, Charlotte finds out and is upset and angry. Bob joins her for lunch, and they're kind of awful to each other. She calls him old. He says she needs lots of attention.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

When the fire alarm drives everybody out of the Park Hyatt in the middle of the night in their jammies, Bob and Charlotte reconcile. Then they grab one last drink in the bar. (Yes, in their jammies.)

The Road Back

Bob's extended his trip for as long as he could. It's time to head home. He gets ready to leave for the airport, but Charlotte's nowhere to be found. He calls her room and leaves her a message. She still has his jacket. At the last minute, Charlotte shows up, and she and Bob say their goodbyes. Charlotte leaves to head out into the city. Bob takes a few final photos with the Suntory team and looks super-bummed as he watches her go.


In the car on the way to the airport, Bob spots Charlotte. He asks the driver to pull over. Bob gets out and catches up with her. He kisses her and whispers something in her ear. She tearfully says, "Okay" and smiles. Then Bob plants another one on her and leaves, all smiles.

Return With The Elixir

Bob gets back in the car and continues his trip to the airport. For once, he looks content. We have a feeling he's going to be a whole new Bob when he gets back to the states.

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