Last year, US Open champ Naomi Osaka signed a deal to appear in Nissin Cup Noodle commercials. The latest one, an anime version, has been criticised for whitewashing the biracial tennis star.
Prince of Tennis manga artist Takeshi Konomi drew the ad, which also features fellow Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori.
All the characters are done in a Prince of Tennis anime style, but Osaka’s representation raised eyebrows.
In a Japan Times article, writer Baye McNeil wrote how he was “truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of colour to speak of in the commercial” after looking forward to the spot. In Japan, it’s uncommon to see women of colour in major ad campaigns, but the result was just a typical anime character.
“Well, when you sponsor a top tennis pro, and one of the most popular athletes of colour in the world, you’ve got to expect the world, particularly the people of colour in the world, to take notice of how you utilise her,” McNeil added.
[Full disclosure: I write a monthly column for The Japan Times.]
Naomi Osaka, the tennis champion, is the star of a new Japanese anime-style ad. The problem? The cartoon bears little resemblance to her real self. https://t.co/TCjTTg6OcR
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 22, 2019
On Twitter, folks expressed their displeasure at Osaka’s anime rendition.
(left) Naomi Osaka in new Cup Noodle commercial
(right) Osaka on the cover of TIME, ???? by Cait Oppermann
— Jun Tsuboike 坪池順 (@juntsuboike) January 14, 2019
This meme-type image has also been circulating online.
Nissin issued an apology, telling Justin McCurry at The Guardian, “There is no intention of whitewashing. We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”