This week, Japanese restaurant chain Gusto started running a new series of commercials. It features the above woman, a "handsome foreign man" as the chain's website says, and two comedians. So, what's the problem?
The two Japanese comedians in the commercial, Ungirls, can be funny—at times. For this spot, they are "disguised". This is a Japanese pun: "Ungirls" is written as "Angaaruzu" (アンガールズ) in Japanese, and they are disguised as "Italiangirls", or "Itariangaaruzu" (イタリアンガールズ) in the original Japanese.
In the commercial, the foreign woman sings a little jingle, asking with whom she is going to eat some Caponata. She picks the handsome foreign dude, instead of either member of the comedy group Ungirls. Part of the comedic schtick of Ungirls is that they are creepy and not popular with the ladies. That's the gag. Apparently.
What makes this ad all the more baffling, is that both members of Ungirls seem to be wearing the infamous "Hello Gaijin-san" disguise—a disguise that some foreign residents in Japan have found offensive. Certainly, it is odd to go into a party supply store and see "foreigners" being sold as a gag costume. Look, big nose! Blue eyes and blond hair! I'm a foreigner! Hilarious.
Granted, this kind of thing isn't a Japan-only phenomenon, as evident by this recent "Make Me Asian" app. Americans might say, see this kind of stuff happens everywhere. It does! That doesn't make it okay. It makes it othering. It means that one group's physical features ends up being the joke in and of itself, reducing the gag to a gross exaggeration of how a group of people look. That's it. Different eyes, nose sizes, hair color, so funny.
You can watch the full commercial right here.
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