With less than a month to go to the Olympic Games, the promotional wagon has swung into full gear as everyone from national public broadcasters to soccer teams have begun to promote their coverage of the Olympics, giving us a glimpse of how the world sees Japan in 2021.
The BBC’s trailer depicts a digitally re-created neon-infused Japan that takes the viewer from street stalls through the inner workings of a gachapon machine and up and over a skyline that is hard to recognize as Tokyo’s.
Set to music by anime composer Kenji Kawai (“Ghost in the Shell,” “Avalon” and “Hyakkin”), and featuring the vocals of pop avatar Hatsune Miku, the trailer has been praised for its creativity in some quarters but derided on Twitter for its “Let’s Go There” message at a time when Tokyo remains in a quasi-state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have accused it of being “techno-orientalist” and a “stereotype bingo,” that depicts an unrealistic version of Japan that to some looks more akin to Hong Kong or Shanghai than Tokyo.
France Televisions’ trailer, “Sumo,” takes a different approach entirely, and is inspired by 18th-century Japanese art and the sports that will debut at this year’s Olympics. Produced by MullenLowe France, and set to a soundtrack of taiko drumming, it depicts a sumo wrestler surfing Hokusai’s great wave, skateboarding and climbing his way through a ukiyo-e print-inspired landscape before pole vaulting his way into the Olympic Stadium.
On its website, the MullenLowe team says: “Throughout the projects, we tried to respect the traditional codes of 18th-century Japanese prints, both from a narrative and aesthetic point of view. The environments and characters are full of detail, drawn with thick, bold lines, strong shapes and innovative concepts.”
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) July 5, 2021
The German Olympic soccer team released its own promotional trailer earlier this week, with a “Captain Tsubasa” anime-inspired depiction of the team throwing, kicking and heading a soccer ball from Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island to the lower slopes of Mount Fuji.
There’s also a sentimental trailer from the Olympics YouTube channel featuring Tony Hawk, the world’s most famous skateboarder and one of the main forces behind getting skateboarding into this year’s games. It shows the evolution of the sport from street culture to its Olympic debut through Hawk’s career as a skateboarder. “We used to see ourselves as a family of misfits,” says Hawk. “But now the world will call us Olympians.”
The Olympics are due to start July 23, and remain highly controversial among the Japanese public as the pandemic continues. A decision as to whether domestic spectators can attend the games is expected to be made Saturday.
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