Western cosmetic brand Ponds is using members of the all-female Takarazuka Revue theater troupe in its latest campaign. This is what Takarazuka's Rurika Miya looks like off-stage. What's she look like on stage — as a Nazi?
Since the Takarazuka Revue is an all-female group, male parts are also played by cross-dressing women. The female performers tend to have a very distinctive tall and thin look. The Revue shows and actors inspired the work of a young Osamu Tezuka, who would explore gender ambiguity in works like Princess Knight.
The most recent campaign that Western cosmetics brand Ponds is running features Takarazuka talent on stage, with the tagline "Behind the performance, there's Ponds." Images of the actresses "on stage" are contrasted with them images of them "off stage".
Miya's on-stage photo is of her as Gestapo colonel in Takarazuka's musical The Prisoners of Lilac Walls. Likewise, fellow Takarazuka members appear in their own posters with comparisons between their stage roles and off-stage appearances. It's just that those other actresses aren't shown in Nazi get-up.
Granted, this is a role Miya played, but the posters, which are displayed in train stations and on billboards, make for an arresting and unsettling comparison. The Nazi totenkopf is clearly visible, and it is highly unlikely that Ponds would select this image if the campaign was running abroad (One would think that Ponds, a Western brand, would know better!). Just try imaging Unilever, the company that owns the Pond's brand, using an image of Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth would never be used to sell, say, aftershave to American or Europe. Wouldn't happen! The oddity is compounded by the fact that this is hardly Miya's most famous role and other parts she's played have far more innocuous costumes. Then why this Nazi image?
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Square Enix is removing the Nazi swastikas from the dubbed version of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Square Enix has yet to provide Kotaku with a comment as to why it is removing the swastikas; however, the reason seems to be related to possible confusion between the Nazi swastika and Buddhism's counterclockwise swastika, or manji as it's called in Japanese, could cause in a Japanese language version — as opposed to it being deemed offensive.
During World War II, Japan fought with Germany against the Allies. That, coupled with a microscopic Jewish population, means there seems to be less awareness of the atrocities the Nazis committed. Due to the country's educational system, most people simply aren't attuned to the gravity of what happened — hence young idols referring to Adolf Hitler as "Uncle Adolf" — and what this Gestapo get-up means as they are in the West. Hundreds, thousands even, pass by this particular poster daily in Osaka and probably only a small percentage are bound to be flummoxed.
That isn't to say that normal Japanese people think the Nazis were swell (they don't), but something like a Gestapo uniform doesn't exactly cause a knee-jerk reaction like it would in the West. But here, it's just some old European military uniform that a Takarazuka actress is wearing while shilling make-up and not an outfit that symbolizes the murder of millions.