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Cup Noodle and Gundam: Boil Japan (?)

July 18, 2011

Nissin Foods has just released a new ad for Cup Noodle as part of their 40th anniversary campaign this year. This one features a giant Gundam robot rising to its feet holding an enormous kettle of boiling water, then ends with a somewhat unexpected tagline.

“Boil Japan.” This raised an eyebrow the first time I saw it. After all, between radiation fears in Tokyo and further north, and having to suffer through one of the hottest summers ever with minimal air conditioning (part of the electric belt-tightening made necessary by Fukushima accident), people around here are probably feeling pretty well boiled already.

There is, however, an explanation. According to Nissin, their Cup Noodle campaigns all year have centered around the idea of “this country has hidden strength” (which is the Japanese copy that appears on-screen just at the end) and of rebuilding the spirits of people. They describe the ad as taking some of Japan’s coolest imagery and “using them in a way that boosts up the energy and imagination of the Japanese people by heating up their courage and passion.”

Ok, but why “Boil Japan”? It’s actually a play on words. It doesn’t appear anywhere in the ad, but the answer can be found in the description on their website, where they use the word “Wakasu”, written as 沸かす(to boil), but which can also be written as 湧かす(to boost or raise up).

I have to wonder how many in the target audience will get the pun, since it requires them to understand the word “boil” (not a big hurdle), then recognize that one of the many ways to translate it into Japanese is a homophone for “boost or raise up”. Had the voice-over actually said something like “Nihon wo wakasou!” it would have been a lot clearer.

The Gundam model used in the commercial is most likely all CG, but it’s very similar to an actual full-scale Gundam statue in Japan. Built in 2009 to commemorate the manga/anime’s 30th anniversary, the 18-meter statue originally stood at Odaiba, where it overlooked Tokyo harbor.

Via Pink Tentacle

At the end of 2009, it was dismantled and moved to Shizuoka, where it now stands near Higashi Shizuoka station with Mt. Fuji in the background. This version of the giant robot doesn’t have nearly the same range of motion as the one in the commercial: far from being able to crouch down and stand up again, the one here can only move its head back and forth.

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