Archive for the ‘media’ Category

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Does an Actroid really need mosquito repellent?

August 18, 2013

Kincho Actroid

Every summer, Kincho (an Osaka-based bug repellent-maker) comes up with a new crop of ads as customers once again look for ways to keep mosquitoes at bay. This summer, they’re re-using one of their ads from a few years back (I believe it first aired in 2011), featuring an Actroid robot demonstrating one of their anti-mosquito skin lotions. While it’s eye-catching, I’m not sure how much need an android has for insect repellent, or whether they need to be worried about skin lotions.

While waving her arms around semi-naturally, she says “Insect repellent PreShower is gentle on your skin” twice before asking “Is that all I say?” and then going right back to her prepared line before her companion can respond.

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Amami Yuki Powers Up for Suntory Chu-hai

April 6, 2013

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A cool new commercial from Suntory has just hit the air, featuring Amami Yuki outfitted in alcohol-dispensing powered armor. (the link below has the 15-second version, followed by the 30-second version)

The drink is a canned chu-hai called -196C Strong Zero Dry. Chu-hai is a blend of shochu (a Japanese spirit made from grains or sweet potatoes, fairly similar to vodka), blended with fruit juice or other mixers. The concept behind Suntory’s -196C, which has been on the market for several years now, is that the fruit are flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, then pulverized and blended into the drink mix. It tastes pretty good, but honestly isn’t any different from any of the other brands of chu-hai available. Later variations included -196 Strong, which had  a higher alcohol content (8%, compared to the normal version’s 5%), and -196C Strong Zero, which had the same alcohol content but less sugar. The newest version, Strong Zero Dry, doesn’t have any fruit flavoring, and so is slightly more bitter than the other variations. I’ve tried it, and it’s not too bad. I’d certainly drink more if I knew I’d be served by models in flying power armor suits.

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Fujitsu’s New Technology lets Smartphone Users Download Data from TV

November 14, 2012

Fujitsu has recently introduced a new technology that could allow smartphone users to download data directly from TV screens, in a way that uses only their current hardware, and doesn’t block non-users from viewing the show.

via Diginfo TV link

At October’s Ceatec Japan 2012, held at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center in Chiba, Fujitsu demonstrated their new data transmission technology, which lets viewers access program or advertiser information using the cameras in their smartphones. The message information is encoded as variations in image brightness that are too faint for the naked eye to see, but which digital cameras can detect. These messages then act like QR codes,  directing the smartphone to a related website or advertising offer, but without any symbols taking up screen space.

The as-yet-unnamed technology allows data to be transmitted at a rate of 16 bits/second, fast enough that users can access the links within two or three seconds. An additional advantage is that the message can be received from further away than with QR codes, and that the TV screen can be at an angle to the user. The technology requires that smartphones be equipped with special software capable of reading the messages, but this can be downloaded as an app and requires no hardware upgrades. Fujitsu aims to have the technology ready for practical application by 2013.

 

Just speculating, this could be an interesting gimmick for TV programs. Pointing a smartphone at the screen at specific moments during the show could direct viewers to ‘secret’ online content or grant access to exclusive promotions. I’m sure a creative game designer could also come up with some cool augmented reality applications for this technology.

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“Love Distance” – Sagami Condom’s Billion-Millimeter Marathon

June 5, 2012

Sagami Condoms claim to fame is that theirs are the world’s thinnest. To help illustrate that claim, creative director and copywriter Naoki Ito of GT Tokyo agency produced this ad video, titled “Love Distance”.

A man and a woman separated by over a thousand kilometers spontaneously decide to bridge the gap between them on foot, as a caption counts down the distance remaining between them in millimeters.

[edit 19 Feb 2013: the vimeo version has been taken down, but I’ve since found it on Youtube]

Submitted to the Cannes Lions Festival for advertising in 2009, it took the Gold award in the Film category.

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Bob McGrath – from Showa-dori to Sesame Street

March 10, 2012

Lots of singers and other performers end up in Japan one way or another, and it’s not that uncommon for them to achieve a measure of success here that outweighs what they were able to generate in their home countries. For most of the ones that start out here, “Big in Japan” is as far as they ever get, but some manage to parlay it into a springboard to fame back home and worldwide.

One example I discovered recently was Bob McGrath, an American-born tenor who performed with the Mitch Miller Orchestra in the early 1960s before traveling to Japan as soloist, where he found success singing Irish ballads and other tunes in English and Japanese. In this clip, with stills of his albums and from his performances, he sings Koji no Tsuki (“荒城の月) in Japanese:

If he looks at all familiar, you may recognize him from the TV show he joined in 1969, soon after returning from Japan, and where he is still performing today, over 40 years later:

Yes, that’s the same Bob we grew up watching on Sesame Street. I purchased a set of the early-season DVDs for my own son a little while back, and while thumbing through the booklet that came with it, there was a trivia note saying that Bob had been a “pop star” in Japan before joining the show. My older in-laws didn’t recognize the name, so I did a bit of searching on YouTube and found these:

Bob singing a variation of  “Jingle Bells” in English and Japanese”

Kaze no Yureteru Oka ni (風のゆれてる丘に) / On the Windy Hill

Koi no Sasurai (恋のさすらい) / Love’s Wanderings

During his time in Japan, Bob came back to appear on To Tell The Truth, where the contestants had to guess which of the three panelists was the real Bob McGrath. It doesn’t seem that the other two had done much preparation, since they could hardly answer any of the questions about Japan or Irish ballads. Some of the contestants also seemed to know a fair bit about Tokyo (I’ve been here over 15 years and I don’t know what’s in Kami-Meguro).  They guess correctly, and he rewards them with one of his songs.

They mention in the opening that he’d performed at the Copa Cabana and the Latin Quarter in Tokyo. After reading about some of the things that went on in those clubs in Robert Whiting’s Tokyo Underworld, Bob’s gentle demeanor seems like an odd fit.

He also appeared on I’ve Got a Secret, where the contestants have to guess that Bob has been performing in Japan (they must not have seen the To Tell The Truth episode). I love his rendition of “Home on the Range” in enka style.

Unfortunately, Bob didn’t appear in the 1988  Sesame Street TV movie “Big Bird in Japan”. That would have made an interesting addition to the show.

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New TV CM: Get Your Cholesterol Checked Before We Kill Another Cast Member

November 22, 2011

Most TV commercials in Japan aim for either happy and upbeat, dramatic and sophisticated, or sad and poignant (usually charities and PSAs). One recent series of ads, however, advising people to get their cholesterol levels checked for possible arteriosclerosis, has chosen a surprisingly different approach.

Start off with a with a basic variety show format, complete with studio audience and costumed characters (representing high-density “good” cholesterol and low-density “bad” cholesterol), with the host cheerfully educating everyone about cholesterol and its effects…

… then, just as the host mentions that “there are no outward symptoms [of arteriosclerosis], so even if you feel all right…” randomly have someone on the set keel over from a heart attack.

There are a set of five ads, produced by pharmaceutical companies Shionogi and Astra-Zeneca, each one ending with a different heart attack victim.

Ending on a shot from the victim’s viewpoint as their vision blurs out and fades to black is an exceptionally morbid touch.

It’s very rare to see ads (or even regular programming) here take such a dark turn, so I commend the producers for their willingness to go with something so different.

The first one of these I saw was the last one in the video above, in which the viewer at home is the one dying. The surprise ending shocked the hell out of me and actually left me feeling rather shaken for some time afterward. It definitely got me thinking about my cholesterol levels, so I guess it did its job.

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Squarepusher Music Video Set in Osaka Mental Hospital

October 31, 2011

I recently came across this wonderfully creepy video for “Come on My Selector” by UK-based electronic artist Squarepusher. Directed by Chris Cunnigham, it takes place in the “Osaka Home for Mentally Disturbed Children” and features a little girl making her escape with advice from her dog.

I realize my ‘discovery’ is way behind the times, as the video came out over ten years ago. Still, I thought it was interesting.

While the Japanese voice-overs seem accurate for the most part, it’s pretty obvious that the actors are all speaking English. But what really happened to catch my attention is the similarity with the currently popular Fuji TV series, “Marumo no Okite”. The show is about a company worker trying to take care of two orphaned children, and along the way he ends up with a dog (similar to the one on the video) that periodically talks to him, though he never seems sure if it’s not just a stress-induced hallucination.

Obviously, the dogs and shows are very different, but finding this video right when another work using the ‘dog talks to mentally fragile people’-concept is the rage just struck me as amusing.

The main characters (including the talking dog) are all in the first 30 seconds, but feel free to watch the whole episode. The rest of the series (this is episode 5) so far has been uploaded to Youtube.