A promotional YouTube video made by the city of Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture, featuring a young woman in a swimsuit who morphs into an eel has been pulled following a public outcry that it was sexist.
“We apologize for upsetting viewers with our release of ‘Unaco,’ ” Shibushi Mayor Shuichi Honda said in a statement Monday, referring to the title of the two-minute video that was uploaded Sept. 21. “We made the video to convey the fact that our city’s eels are grown in mineral water and with great care, in a stress-free environment where nutrition and rest are adequately provided.”
The video, produced by ad giant Hakuhodo, has the feel of an idol video. It starts out with a scene of a girl in a black school swimsuit at a swimming pool where she utters the words “Feed me.” The video shows the girl swimming, dozing off and looking ecstatic as she is splashed with water from a hose.
A male narrator goes on to explain how he would nurture her.
“I’ve decided that I’ll do my best for her,” he says. “I would give her as much food as she wants. I would give her enough sleep.”
When contacted Tuesday by The Japan Times, a city official denied that the video had any sexist intent.
“It was to show our locally cultured eels in an easy-to-understand manner,” said the official, adding that Shibushi “wanted the ad to be different from other PR videos, to look nostalgic and artistic.”
The video was aimed at promoting furusato nozei, a donation that people offer to local or prefectural governments of their choice.
Eels are a local specialty and among the items Shibushi offers to donors as a token of its appreciation.
The municipal government decided to pull the video after judging it “would end up hurting eel farmers” instead of promoting them, the official said, noting that it had received some 50 phone calls and 120 emails over the footage — 90 percent of which were critical.
Yuki Senda, a sociology professor at Musashi University in Tokyo, said the ad was full of sexual innuendo and even smacked of child pornography. At the end of the footage, as the woman jumps into water and turns into an eel, another, younger girl appears, asking to be fed.
“The producers probably intended it to be provocative from the beginning, thinking even negative feedback would help with the publicity,” she said. “But for a video made by a municipal government to promote itself, it totally lacked the perspective that its viewers include women and children.”