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The story of Momotaro is one of Japan’s oldest folktales, but a lot of its elements seem a little silly. For starters, the hero’s name translates as “Peach Boy.” His companions are a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, who he wins over by giving them some sweet dumplings in exchange for their help against the story’s villains, who all have outie bellybuttons.

Goofy as these details may sound, though, the core of the tale is absolutely epic. A young hero who harnesses the power of wild beasts, then sails into the heart of demon territory to rumble with them on their island fortress? In a world where every literary and comic character is a candidate to become a darkly stylish action hero (heck, even Batman’s gritty reboot is getting its own gritty reboot), why hasn’t someone revamped Peach Boy into something closer to Peach Man?

Actually, someone already has, but you won’t find the new Momotaro in theatres, and while you might catch him flipping through the channels on TV, you can’t find his adventures scheduled in the program guide. That’s because this amazingly awesome version of Momortaro is actually a series of commercials from Pepsi.

In Japan, Pepsi always has a novelty flavor, like pink strawberry, in its product planning pipeline. Not all of the company’s Japan-exclusives are so off the wall though, as the country is the only place where you can get the zero-calorie Pepsi Nex Zero.

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We suppose Pepsi could have gone the traditional route for marketing low-calorie beverages, and shown a group of fashionably fit friends laughing together with a round of Pepsi Nex Zeroes after one of those oddly sweat-free workouts TV commercials are so fond of showing. Instead, though, we got this:

That’s Shun Oguri, who you might recognize from his starring role in the live-action Lupin III film, playing Momotaro. Along with the rousing fight song of British rock band The Heavy’s “Same Ol’,” the video is accompanied by the following text.

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Long, long ago, a legion of oni (demons) invaded a village. They were far too powerful, and the villagers could do nothing to stand against them.

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Hearing news of their plight, Momotaro enlisted the help of a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, and set out for the Onigashima Island, the monsters’ home.

The band of heroes aren’t in for an easy fight, though, if the next episode’s flashback is anything to judge from.

This is a tale from the time before Momotaro met his animal companions, from when he challenged an oni alone.

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The creature’s strength was beyond Momotaro’s imagination. Utterly defeated, he sought out a master swordsman.

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The swordsman’s name was Miyamoto Musashi. Momotaro trained under him, and one day, became skilled enough to be a match for his master. On the day his training was complete, Musashi presented his disciple with a sword.

It’s not just the lead who gets a backstory dripping with pathos, though. The newest episode, which was just released this month, sheds light on the dog’s past, which makes Momotaro’s bitter backstory look warm and fuzzy by comparison.

Long ago, in the mountains where the wolves live, the animals found a human infant.

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The wolves raised the boy as their own son, and lived together in happiness. However…

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The oni appeared on the mountain, scattering the pack with their terrible strength. In an instant, all was lost. Only the boy was left alive, and his grief was so great that when morning came, his hair had turned white with sadness.

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Wrapping himself in his only inheritance, the pelt of his dead mother, from that day forward, he would tell all he met that his name was Dog.

At 90 seconds, each episode is just long enough to whet your appetite for more of this incredible reimagining of the Japanese classic. Thankfully, since there’ve already been installments highlighting two of the four heroes, it’s safe to assume we’ll eventually see ones focusing on the remaining two, and at least one episode after they arrive on Onigashima. So we’ve got a minimum of three more episodes to look forward to, even if what we’d really like to see is these characters in a full length theatrical feature.

With all the awesomeness distracting us, though, we still haven’t addressed the question of what exactly any of this has to do with zero-calorie cola. Pepsi hasn’t come out and given an explicit explanation, but we’ve got a theory.

Because the goal of ads is to make you think you’ll be happier if you buy the product, most diet-related items are marketed by telling you how easy it is to lose weight. That’s a lie, as anyone who’s successfully shed several pounds or maintained an admirable physique can tell you. Staying in shape is hard, hard work, and the unspoken message in Pepsi’s commercials is that you’ll never get anything done running from that challenge. Meet it head on. Grapple with it. If it knocks you down, pick yourself up, wrap yourself in a wolfskin, and charge at it again.

Or, as the Japanese tagline that appears near the end of each episode says, “Defeat those stronger than you.”

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Sorry, Nike. You had a good run with “Just do it,” but the world’s most badass creed now belongs to the Peach Boy.

Source: IT Media
Top image: YouTube (1, 2, 3)
Insert images: Pepsi, YouTube (1, 2, 3)