This is the creepiest commercial you've seen in a long time, right? Hitting the airways around 1986, millions of Japanese viewers agreed...and it was quickly pulled from Kleenex's advertising campaign, which featured this ad, and two similar. But, why is this commercial so darn creepy? And just what the heck is going on with that kid?!
According to internet sources, this popular Japanese urban legend got its start when viewers noted that the jingle for this song, which is actually an English-lyric version of "It's a Fine Day" by Jane and Barton, sounded an awful lot like a German curse-- "Die, die, everyone is cursed and will be killed."
After it was pulled, the rumors began to pour in. First it was said that the ad wasn't just pulled due to complaints of it being creepy, but that it was banned because people who watched it either died of mysterious circumstances or felt the overwhelming urge to commit suicide. Secondly, it was widely believed that the cursed commercial had led to the deaths of the entire cast and crew, and that not one person who worked on the commercial was alive at the time it aired.
One cameraman was rumored to have been burned to death in a freak mechanical failure with his sauna. The little boy had a whole list of things allegedly happen to him. Some milder accounts place him as the victim of horrific nightmares lasting for days after filming. In other versions of the legend, he isn't so lucky, either dying of organ failure from the toxicity of the paint used on his body, or decapitation resulting from being hit by a car.
The actress in the commercial may have had it worst of all. Legend states that she went insane after the filming, and either hung herself or is still rotting away in a catatonic state in a mental institution. Or, in my preferred telling, she became pregnant with the devil's child, and went insane. It's actually the actress who gives us the biggest piece of evidence that this story is nothing more than an urban legend. Her name is Keiko Matsuzaka, and if she DID go insane after giving birth to a devil baby, she recovered well, still working on film and television projects as late as 2007.
So, as rational people, we can be reasonably sure that the entire curse is simply an urban legend...but that leaves the question of what is going on in this commercial? Well, as many sites that discuss this legend state, the child IS an ogre. More specifically, he is a type of being called an oni, which is a demon, devil, ogre, troll mash-up, basically. More specifically than THAT, he is an example of an Akaoni, or Red Demon.
The Akaoni is a pretty popular creature from Japanese folklore, and tends to show up in children's literature as a red critter, with green, moppish hair, a horn or two, and wearing tiger striped pants. The Akaoni makes a prominent appearance in the 1933 children's book by Kousuku Hamada, called Naita Akaoni, or, the Red Demon who cried.
It was also the basis for a character named Ten in the popular anime of the time period, Ursei Yatsura! In fact, it is widely speculated that the characters of Ten and Sakura, as seen below, were the inspiration for this commercial, as Kleenex tried to capitalize off a widely known television show airing in 1985-6. So, yeah, its a little creepy as far as commercials go, but its definitely not the creepiest thing I've seen come out of Japan!
|Ten, from Urusei Yatsura|
It's a Fine Day Lyrics
The Horror Tree
|Sakura, from Urusei Yatsura|