One of the major perks about living in Japan, I thought before I moved to the country, would be the TV. I'd been raised in the UK on a steady diet of Takeshi's Castle (MXC in the US), Nintendo games, and incomprehensible internet videos, so I was expecting wall-to-wall oddity on my own Japanese flatscreen. Imagine my sadness when I arrived and realized that Japanese channels were just as tedious as their British counterparts. More so, in some cases, represented by three main categories of broadcasts: cooking shows, infomercials for baffling products with names like "Placenta 100 Challenge," and baseball.
Beware the noodle-napping drones
Fortunately, that honest-to-goodness strangeness isn't gone — it just moved from TV to online commercials. Nissin's latest ad is one such breath of weird air, hawking viewers instant chicken ramen with a samurai schoolgirl doing parkour, a Rube Goldberg machine, six competitive eating champions, an estranged zombie father, a cross-dressing reveal, and an army of noodle-napping drones. The story starts when one of said quadcopter drones steals a freshly cooked bowl of Nissin's ramen from an apartment, sparking a chase across rooftops that ends with an explosive showdown.
It's an ostentatious way to sell dirt-cheap blocks of dried ramen, but unlike some of Japan's weirdest ads, is actually grounded in reality: the events of the commercial are inspired by previous commercials, YouTube clips, and shows popular in Japan. Turn on the video's Japanese subtitles and you'll see these references flagged up as "buzz points," nods to previous Japanese memes and viral videos, including this one from makeup manufacturer Shiseido. Nissin's point is that while these fads have come and gone, its ramen has remained popular since its introduction in the 1950s, something legions of broke college students around the world are likely to agree with.