The Japanese Author Behind ‘Bullet Train’ Is OK That the Film Isn’t So Japanese

SENDAI, Japan — Kotaro Isaka, one of Japan’s most popular crime thriller writers, is a self-described homebody. He rarely leaves Sendai, the city in northeast Japan where he lives, and many of his books are set there.

Yet when his 2010 novel “Maria Beetle” was adapted into “Bullet Train,” a Hollywood action film starring Brad Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry and Joey King that opens in the United States on Aug. 5, he embraced the largely Western cast and highly stylized, hyper-neon setting that can perhaps best be described as Japan-adjacent.

In writing “Maria Beetle,” a thriller about multiple assassins trapped