Sponsors make television possible. And in Japan, those sponsors dominate the commercial breaks. During each show, they even get one shout out right before a commercial break, with an announcer saying that the program is brought to you by whatever . Normal enough, right? The ensuing meme is anything but.
Welcome to the world of "sponsor eyes" ("teikyou-me" or 提供目). It's when television broadcasters list the sponsors (above, it's Sony Music), the kanji characters for "sponsors" ("teikyou" or 提供) and cover up each eye with each character—thus, "teikyou" (提供) can even be written as a visual pun <提><供> when referring to this meme.
Sponsor eyes can happen to an anime character, a celebrity, a cat, or even the Prime Minister of Japan. It doesn't seem to matter!
This happens so often that it hardly seems accidental anymore. And within the last few years (especially since 2009), anime shows especially appear to be taking sponsor eyes and running with the meme. Sponsor eyes are supposed to look accidental, but they seem to be totally on purpose. The placement is often too precise.
The meme is a good example of Japanese humor. In the West, Japanese humor is often seen as being very broad and slap-sticky, with people doing dumb things that are often silly or painful. And the country can be like that, but it can also be incredibly wry and very dry.
One Japanese website even made glasses that could give anyone instant sponsor eyes. This year, they are being mass produced and sold for ¥800 a pair!
In the above gallery, you can see some of the best sponsors eye meme images collected from the internet. Do note that there is also a variation in which the sponsor's corporate logo can be cleverly incorporated.