Monday, August 5, 2013

The Cursed Kleenex Commercial

I shy away from pronouncements such as “Japanese culture is so weird!” because I’ve come to associate them with a sheltered sort of person who uses the “W”-word as a put-down for anything that’s different than what they’ve come to expect. Examples: “Ew. They eat bugs over there? That’s weird!” or “Their god has an elephant head? That’s weird!” or “They put it where? That’s weird!” But “weird” is nonetheless the word that comes to mind when I read Wikipedia’s list of Japanese urban legends. The layering of the horrific on the absurd on the mundane adds up to something I don’t have another word to describe.

Of all the Japanese urban legends described in the Wikipedia list, the strangest has to be the Kleenex commercial that viewers found disturbing. It is weird, and of this I am certain. But I’m puzzled as to why people would have found it disturbing to the point that they circulated rumors that the actress died, was institutionalized or gave birth to a demon baby. Watching it, I’m unable to explain why Japanese people would have been that disturbed by it, to say nothing of why they would have imagined that the featured song — the original, pared-down version of “It’s a Fine Day,” before it became a club anthem — sounded like a curse, German or otherwise.

Here’s the video (via Pink Tentacle):

A few questions:
  • It is it disturbing simply because it features a child dressed up like a Japanese oni?
  • It is disturbing because the Japanese oni looks a hell of a lot like an Oompa-Loompa?
  • Is it disturbing because it’s in slow motion, and that suggests some weird dreamy version of normal life?
  • Is it disturbing because the content of the commercial — an angelic woman hanging out with a demonic child — stands in such stark contrast to the very ordinary content of the song? Or are the lyrics completely irrelevant, because so many Japanese viewers apparently thought the song was in German and therefore couldn’t have understood the English lyrics?
  • What does the red background add?
  • Why do I have goosebumps right now?
  • Is it disturbing because they are sitting on haybales? I mean, buy some furniture, Keiko.
But really, what do you think? I am eager to hear someone else’s opinion on this might be.

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