Things from the Land of the Rising Sun can sometimes be a little bit odd – whether it’s the humiliation based game shows, the hostess bars or the preoccupation with school girls. It’s only natural that Japanese advertising reaches the same peculiar highs, employing bizarre imagery, strobe lighting and inexplicable celebrity endorsements. It all gets a little bit stranger when a US A-lister is seen shilling a product that they’ve never heard of, in a language that they don’t understand. What’s more, they really do know what they’re doing – making lots of money out of something that they hope their core audience will never, ever see. However, the joke’s on them. Here are 10 of the most insane US celebrity appearances in Japanese ads!
10. Nicolas Cage – Sankyo
Nicolas Cage is a man who has spent a career attempting to perfect the ‘going insane’ look (see everything from ‘Face/Off’ to ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans’ and don’t miss out ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ while you’re at it), so he naturally took to the ‘going insane for pachinko’ theme of this campaign – pachinko being a kind of Japanese slot machine cum pinball arcade.
To summarise, Cage drives up, unwittingly stumbles into a triplets convention, goes loopy, stands on his car and then drives off without saying goodbye. ‘No more drugs for that man!’
In another ad in the same series, Cage gets to be a bonkers cowboy who dances with some bobble headed silver men in the desert. Truly, the Cage man in meltdown.
9. Bruce Willis – Eneos
So, this is Bruce Willis promoting Eneos service stations. Naturally this means that he has to be in bed wearing a bright orange nightcap and is driven to subsequently shoot up his apartment with a ray gun. Our problem, however, is with the darned bizarre hat.
8. Quentin Tarantino – SoftBank
Is this what ‘Uncle Tara’ gets up to in his free time? Possibly, but it doesn’t make it any less nuts. Tarantino, a certified Japan-ophile (see Kill Bill 1 and 2), here gets to karate chop in the general direction of a dog shaped speaker, in order to promote mobile phone manufacturer SoftBank. All aboard for the crazy train.
7. Dennis Hopper – Tsumura
Here Dennis Hopper features in… bath time madness. He: holds a woman hostage in a film; flash-transports the director of said film to his flat; shows him a rubber duck; cackles at the rubber duck in the bath; and then won’t let the director have the duck. This advert might leave you at a blank as to what Tsumura is (clue: it’s not rubber ducks).
6. Sylvester Stallone – Bayern
‘When Stallone’s around the sausages are flying!’ …we assume is the message of this advert. While there’s no denying that Stallone loves a sausage-fest (see The Expendables), the Rocky star really has spent a lot of time in Japan selling pork products.
We kid you not and we haven’t even got to the ‘hamming it up’ line. See this example:
Sylvester Stallone – he loves the pork! In a very, very earnest fashion. He’s got the eye of the piggy.
5. Keanu Reeves – Suntory
Keanu Reeves imagines his obese cat is a Japanese woman who is stalking him in his flat, during a lightning storm, while he listens to terrible music.
One can only imagine that this is because he’s been drinking. And he’s specifically been drinking Suntory Reserve. Or possibly, it’s only by drinking Suntory that these peculiar fantasies go away. In either case, it’s not a good message.
4. Hulk Hogan – BigFlow
Hulk Hogan… has the mind of an infant? As the white Mr T, we would vaguely imagine that Hulk Hogan would symbolise madness and terror in the Far East, rather like Godzilla (sorry, Gojira). Judging from this advert, maybe he does.
We start off with Hogan singing the names of the days of the week in a nursery rhyme style, while lightly jigging, and it seems like he’s probably launching into an endless loop. There’s then a shot of him staring into the distance in a generally lobotomised fashion, which then fades to a shot of a baby. More jigging. Then Hogan holds a fan. This is, of course, an advert for air conditioning. Insane.
3. Sean Connery – Biogurt
Running on ‘very old James Bond’ mode, complete with white dinner jacket, bow tie and toupee, Sean Connery here plays the sidekick to a talking rabbit puppet, in aid of pushing bio yogurt.
That’s quite a career move. Naturally his mission involves driving up to a giant yogurt pot and singing about yogurt. He’s now mostly retired, we hear.
2. Harrison Ford – Kirin beer
Harrison Ford – one of the greatest actors of the last 30 years – drinks imaginary lager, with a Japanese man in a sauna. While Harrison might have had one of the most expensive divorces of all time, we can’t imagine that he’s ever needed the money enough to make this awfulness. Perhaps something might have got ‘lost in translation’…
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Alinamin V Energy Drink
Arnie is a man who has form for making insane Japanese advertisements.
In the series of ads for the Alinamin V Energy Drink he plays a possibly evil genie that occasionally emerges from bottles of the drink to endlessly laugh at people.
In one video he flies around on a giant V, before teaming up with another V to make a mega V (not a W mind). Meanwhile, in the video below, approaching full batsh*t mode, we have Arnold riding around the inside of a bottle on a miniature penny farthing and later floating in a rubber ring in a bottle.
Not a selling point, we think. Yet the people in the adverts apparently love it. Beyond words.