How Nintendo Created a Sex Symbol

Dressed in smart business attire and glasses, she takes her seat behind a desk. She's here to explain a turn-based strategy game. Yet, online forums are buzzing in Japan that she is "way too erotic". She is Cepko Culd, Japanese gaming's newest sex symbol.

With Culdcept for 3DS, Nintendo is bringing Omiya Soft's classic fantasy strategy title Culdcept to its handheld. Not everyone is familiar with the card-based game, so if Japanese magazines like Famitsu (via Siliconera) say that Culdcept for the 3DS will be similar to 2001's Culdcept Second, not everyone knows what that means.

That's why Nintendo rolled out a campaign to explain Culdcept to the great unwashed. In the series of ads, a woman named Cepko Culd (カルド・セプ子) explains the rules and rattles off character names. Innocent enough, no? Yet, she's inspired a series of erotic fan art and has many Japanese gamers wondering who she really is.

Forgotten history and in-game vibrators aside, Nintendo is a family friendly company. Generally speaking, it doesn't deal much in innuendo. The character of Cepko flies on the radar. She is straight-laced, but there's a slight tinge of sexuality. For many in Japan, her appeal exists in that gap.

There's also an air of mystery. Who is Cepko? Cepko is similar to Sony's Kevin Butler character in that actors play both, and both do PR in an interesting or amusing way. Actor Jerry Lambert plays the Butler character, but for months now, the identity of Cepko's actress wasn't known. Nintendo typically uses famous celebrities to promote its games. But the identity of Cepko's actress was a big question mark, which added to the character's allure.

It wasn't until this week that it was discovered that a local actress is Osaka named Aya Shibata, who does primarily reporting, MC event work, and even modeling. Add to that, starring in one of the most memorable game campaigns in recent memory. With her Cepko character, she's likely to get legions of new fans.

So what's so sexy about Cepko? A casual look at Japanese pop culture leads some to believe that the country is only infatuated with young women. This is incorrect as the anchorwoman, or businesswoman, type has its fair share of admireres. Nintendo's Cepko character taps directly into that infatuation with this brainy-looking, prim and proper anchor lady. But, Cepko goes one step further.

While the character doesn't wear revealing clothing per se, her breathy voice sounds erotic in Japanese. It doesn't necessarily translate for non-speakers, but her delivery makes what would probably be a rather innocuous Culdcept walkthrough anything but.

What's more, her catchphrase is "gappori" (がっぽり), which is often translated as "bundle" or "wad". So you'd use it to maybe say a "wad of money". But to Japanese ears, it's an onomatopoeic word that sounds sexual—like people getting it on. So when Cepko says "futari de gappori", it could mean something innocent like "Let's do it together" or something that, like her delivery, is once again anything but. Ga~ppori, indeed.


Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome—game related and beyond.
(Top photo: Nintendo/Pixiv)