During my time in Japan over the summer, I kept seeing this monkey. That’s not a euphemism. His little monkey head just seemed to pop up wherever I went, on top of his little monkey body which was smartly dressed in a business suit and tie.
I suppose this kind of brand omnipresence is the unnerving face of high-impact advertising, but on this occasion I thought their cartoon mascot was brilliant. Thankfully, I don’t think eccentric tourists are the primary demographic targeted by Japanese advertising execs, especially ones for petrol companies, and so I could rest slightly easier in my new-found rôle as a pawn in the marketing machine.
I am not sure exactly what it is about the sombre monkey in a sharp suit image which brings me so much aesthetic pleasure, but it has given me a little appreciation for ad campaigns which capture the public imagination. Previously, I have always spat upon successful ad mascots as populist, capitalist claptrap, and those who parrot their catchphrases as tools of the corporate machine; but Enegori-kun, at least in his cartoon incarnation, opened my eyes to the strange, intangible sense of satisfaction which people presumably feel when touched by a piece of advertising. (It still makes me feel slightly dirty. Especially because it’s an evil greenwashing attempt by a petrol company.)
Yesterday, my Japanese-reading-and-writing friend used his Japanese-reading-and-writing skills to track down some Enegori-kun goodness for me. Enegori-kun’s World is a strange Flash applet, aimed at I’m-not-sure-whom, which ties in with the ad campaign.
Allow me to thoroughly recommend it: most Japanese advertising appears to a Westerner to be a brain-slamming, eyeball-searing, ear-shattering unintelligible assault on the senses. Enegori’s website is a soothing, surrealist ride through monkey-in-a-suit goodness, with a calming soundtrack to massage your mind into a jelly-like, brainwashed pulp. It is especially glorious as someone who can’t read Japanese*, because every click is a leap into the totally, but reassuringly calm, unexpected. It is like the purest distillate of chill-out: a fresh drink of clear, cool mountain spring water for the mind.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few unintelligibly mad bits, though. Like, er, what the Hell is the game where you have to go through the forest handing out business cards to a totally ecologically-inconsistent crew of other animals? Pressing one button appears to spontaneously quit the game, whilst pressing the other causes Enegori to hand a business card to the adjacent animal, which proceeds to do a happy dance, and your score increments by one. If you don’t hand the card over fast enough, the animal turns bright red and you get booted out of the game, just like if you’d pressed the first button. The game, however, seems to comply to the ultra-relaxed ethic of the rest of the site: to score what one would assume is full marks, a whopping fifty, would take aeons given Enny’s lackadaisical, ambling pace through the forest.
What a brilliant monkey.
The only downside is that the site loads at a pace comparable to Enegori’s unhurried amble: not only are the data coming from the other side of the World, but we mustn’t forget that all the Japanese have blazingly fast ’Net connections which make your 4 Mbps broadband look like a man pissing Morse code down a piece of bendy piping into your living room. Squirt. Squirt squirt. Squirt. Squiiiirt squirt.
* I downplay my considerable talents: I actually know the kanji for ‘open’, ‘close’, ‘station’ and ‘fish’ (開, 閉, 駅 and 魚, in case you were wondering). ‘Gents’ might have been a good one to learn…