Megumi Hayashibara, Bump of Chicken, and one more contributor create amazingly inspirational anime short.

Cup Noodles occupy a very unique place in Japanese society. On the one hand, they’re just about the cheapest and most convenient hot meal you can find, and this humble position in the culinary pecking order means the brand is perfectly fine making zany ads in which a pack of noodles becomes the hero of Final Fantasy or an actor transforms into a horse and surfs on a sea of ramen.

But at the same time, Cup Noodles, as Japan’s best-selling brand of instant ramen, are a source of pride for many people in Japan, with their international popularity a symbol of Japan’s can-do-attitude and determination to succeed on the world stage. So sometimes Cup Noodles’ marketing team goes the dramatic route, and they’ve done that with some subtle but unmistakable star power in this new anime ad titled Hungry Days.

Let’s start with the visuals: gorgeous anime-style illustrations from manga artist Eisaku Kubonouchi, who was also responsible for the moving short animation Sayo and Ko’s Departures that had us tearing up a year ago. Hungry Days opens with a montage of determined-looking young women, but if you’re an anime fan, you’ll want to keep your ears open along with your eyes.

That’s because handling the narration is Megumi Hayashibara, Japan’s most prolific voice actress who’s played, among other characters, Ranma 1/2’s Ranma Saotome, Evangelion’s Rei Ayanami, and Cowboy Bebop’s Faye Valentine.

Hayashibara’s breathy monologue translates as:

“After class. A one-sided love. A confession of love. Your diploma.

Seishun [the Japanese word for “youth”] is written with the kanji ao [“blue”] and haru [“spring”]. Youth is blue, and hot. It’s meaningless, but enrapturing.

In 2017, a youth that no one yet knows is starting.”

And it turns out that Hayashibara isn’t the only pop cultural icon to be heard in the 30-second video. At the 22-second mark, the background music is joined by the singing voice of Motoo Fujiwara, vocalist for Bump of Chicken, one of Japan’s most consistently popular rock bands of the last two decades. As a special bonus, the tune he’s singing seems to be from a new, as-yet unreleased song.

So in the end, the ad is a collaborative effort between three immensely talented individuals. Perhaps the overall effect is best summed up by the online commenter who said “After watching this, I suddenly don’t feel sleepy anymore,” as the triple-helping of unabashed emotion is inspiring in a way few such short pieces of art can hope to be.

Images: YouTube/日清食品グループ公式チャンネル
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he and his coworker are going to have to agree to disagree about whether Rei Ayanami or Lina Inverse is the better Hayashibara-voice character.

[ Read in Japanese ]