Selling hybrid electric cars in Japan is easy. All you apparently need to do is anthropomorphize each individual component of the car and turn these characters into anime mascots that customers can buy as badges, pillows, and wall hangings. No, really, this the strategy that Toyota has embraced for its new Prius Impossible Girls campaign.
Merchandise, a trading card game, and audio guides
A total of 40 of the Prius's main attributes and components have been rendered as cartoon characters, with the roster covering everything from purely mechanical items (like the hybrid transaxle and 2ZR-FXE engine) to more abstract concepts (like the sound of the Prius's doors closing, or triangular silhouette of the car). The detailed campaign includes merchandise, some sort of trading card game, and even audio guides to a catalog of car parts narrated by the mascots themselves.
That means Japanese Toyota customers can learn more about their car by having anthropomorphized drivetrains and wishbone suspensions pass comments like "Sexy, huh?" on one another. Each of the mascot's costumes even matches their function — the air conditioning character has a fan and flowing robe while the personification of wireless charging ports has weird gloves with what looks like conduction pads on them. Not even Disney could come up with this level of involved, metafictional marketing.
The Verge's Japanese staff tell us that although this is a particularly elaborate example, this sort of advertising isn't unusual. In fact, we've seen it before plenty of times in the tech world, such as with Microsoft's use of anime mascots based on major operating system versions and developer software. It's an appeal to a certain demographic, while for most of the population it's just normal weirdness that's easily ignored.
But really, some of the material used is just inexcusably bad, with the characters (many of which are obviously supposed to be teenage or even younger) dressed in unnecessarily sexualized outfits. This isn't a cartoon aimed at entertaining children, this is an ad campaign for grown men and women who can afford to buy cars. It's hard to know why Toyota would create a cartoon girl that personifies the Prius's rear lights and give her a costume that draws attention to her own rear, unless the company is trying to appeal to people who fetishize underage girls. Hybrids aren't so much of a tough sell that Toyota needs to be that desperate.