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Is Oppenheimer Banned In Japan? The Answer Is Complicated

There's no getting around the fact that Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" deals with some extremely sensitive subject matter as it pertains to world history. The film explores many of the crucial events that surrounded the titular scientist's creation of the atomic bomb, from the formation of the Manhattan Project to the ultimate bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 

With how significant and serious the events that the film depicts are, one might suspect it would prove to be a divisive release in a global context. But while "Oppenheimer" has seen some censorship in certain territories (primarily centered upon changing Florence Pugh's sex scenes), its worldwide release has mostly been smooth sailing — that is, except in Japan.

While "Oppenheimer" hasn't officially been banned in Japan, there is no set date for the movie's theatrical premiere in the country. In fact, there isn't even confirmation that the film will see a release there at all. When asked by Variety in June about plans to distribute "Oppenheimer" in Japan, Universal Pictures stated that "plans have not been finalized in all markets." There has been no public update on the movie's release strategy in the nation since then. 

Toho-Towa, the dominant Japanese distributor of Hollywood films, has also not given any official indication of plans to bring "Oppenheimer" over either. Essentially, the Nolan biopic is in limbo — not officially banned in Japan, but with no official plans for a release on the horizon.

Warner Bros. Japan took issue with making light of Oppenheimer's subject matter

While the status of Universal Pictures bringing "Oppenheimer" to Japanese audiences isn't yet set in stone, the film has been the subject of some controversy with regard to another major studio entirely: Warner Bros. Pictures. Warner Bros. notably released the Margot Robbie-led comedy "Barbie" on the same day as "Oppenheimer," leading viewers to treat the two films as a double-feature and prompting plenty of online memes, fan art, and more. Unfortunately, one piece of media born out of the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon led to a clash between Warner Bros. US and Warner Bros. Japan.

On July 31, the official Warner Bros. Twitter replied to a tweeted piece of fan art featuring both Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer and Margot Robbie's Barbie in front of a mushroom cloud, adding the caption: "It's going to be a summer to remember." The tweet was criticized for making light of Oppenheimer's subject matter, and potentially the real-world bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. Warner Bros. Japan posted a statement to the official Japanese "Barbie" movie Twitter, writing: "We take this situation very seriously. We are asking the U.S. headquarters to take appropriate action. We apologize to those who were offended by this series of inconsiderate reactions."

Warner Bros. US subsequently deleted the tweet and issued the following apology statement to Variety: "Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers a sincere apology."