Anyone who’s watched more than a smidgen of Japanese TV will tell you that the line between “appropriately heartwarming” and “so cheesy you want to tear your eyeballs out” is drawn in a different place in this country. It can seem like every exchange in a Japanese drama is overly emotionally charged. Why are the actor’s reactions so exaggerated? Does it really have to rain every time someone is sad? And why is there someone running through the streets frantically in every single episode? I have grown to love J-drama’s clichés and warm heart, but still occasionally regard Japanese acting as perplexingly over-done.

It’s heartening to discover, then, that a series of spectacularly cringe-inducing ads for Microsoft’s Surface tablets have been widely panned in Japan, as the nation screams, “Stop! You’re hurting my ears!” in one voice. Let’s take a look at this awkward new advertisement in all its glory.

The set-up for the latest offending ad is an airplane, on which an earnest-looking businessman is travelling. Next to him is a rather overweight headphone-wearing gentleman. Our leading man leans over towards us, whispering conspiratorially to the camera:

▼ “To be honest with you, it can be hard to work somewhere like this.”


▼ “But luckily, my Surface tablet runs Windows, and I can use Microsoft Office! It really helps me out!”


▼ “It’s so thin and light!” exclaims our new best buddy.


▼ “While I’m working, I can also check news and even… [raises eyebrows in guilty delight] watch Xbox videos.”


▼ “It’s like the world is in my hands!”


▼ “Thanks to my Surface tablet, I can stretch my legs and relax!” he exclaims, doing a little excited seat-dance.

Unfortunately, our friend’s seat-wriggling fun distracts the large gentleman in the next seat from his potato chips. “Oh! SUMIMASENNNNN!!” (sorry!) says our friend, ducking behind his Microsoft Surface in shame.

▼ Microsoft Surface: lightweight, portable, and still large enough to hide under in embarrassing moments.


▼ He then gets back to his work (read: watching Xbox videos) and tries not to think about the fuss he has caused with his tech-induced over-excitement.


Watch the video in full here (Japanese only, but I’m pretty sure that awkward feeling in your stomach is the same in every language):

The new ad is the latest in a series, which has also shown a student doctor and an office worker. All three start with the actor leaning in and saying “Shoujiki…” (meaninghonestly”, or “to be honest with you”), before talking about how incredibly wonderful life is now that they’ve got a Microsoft tablet in it.

Japanese netizens didn’t hold back:

“I hate the new Surface ad!”

“It makes me mad, but I don’t quite know why.”

“The new Surface ad is even worse than the other ones.”

“It doesn’t fit with Japan because it [Microsoft] isn’t a Japanese company.”

“It makes me feel icky.”

“The acting is horrible!”

Maybe that’s the problem. The actors say they’re being shoujiki, but by looking right at the camera and pulling knowing eyebrow raises, they also keep reminding us that they’re acting. You can look, but there’s not much to find under the surface.

Video: Windows Japan, via YouTube.
[ Read in Japanese ]