A blend of modern and traditional designs come together for a whistle-stop tour.

Idemitsu, one of Japan’s largest oil refiners and owner of over 5,000 petrol stations across Japan, has decided to celebrate their 106-year anniversary with a series of TV commercials documenting their history through the use of traditional papercraft and shadow theatre.

The commercials address key points in the company’s history, with the first ad using some stunning examples of finely cut papercraft to take us back to Japan’s pre-war era with beautifully animated scenes.

Take a look at the history of Idemitsu, from the years 1911-1945, below:

Beautifully displayed against a backdrop of paper scenery, key points in Idemitsu’s history include:

▼ The company’s founding in Kitakyushu in 1911…

▼ The selling of oil as fuel for fishing boats in 1913…

▼ And the development of oil lubricants that didn’t freeze for use in what is now northern China.

▼ During the war, however, they lost nearly everything, leaving them with nothing but workers and debts.

The next commercial, which moves on to cover 1945 through to the present day, is equally gorgeous:

▼ “Let’s stop complaining, and get building”

▼ Buildings pop up as Japan begins to recover from the devastation of war.

▼ Idemitsu starts importing oil from all over the world.

▼ In 1957, the company completes work on their Tokuyama oil refinery.

Using computer-aided design, the backdrops and foreground pieces were created from multiple sheets of paper and card and then layered to give a sense of depth and movement. The sound effects, in contrast, were a little more old-school with the makers resorting to artistic flapping of paper and shaking of paper bags to produce the sounds, which culminate in a particularly fine sound of paper being rustled at the very end.

▼ The making-of video

As an advertisement, a lot of time and effort has been put into making something a world apart from the standard Japanese commercial fare of brightly costumed superheroes, a la Ultra Idemitsujin, a former, possibly now disgruntled, Idemitsu employee who features in this 1996 ad.

Delicately wrought papercraft, or gasoline-powered, costumed fighters, there’s something for everyone in Idemitsu’s attention-grabbing marketing campaigns.

Sources: Youtube/出光興産(Idemitsu Japan) (1, 2, 3), Youtube/190E-2.3-16
Featured image: Youtube/出光興産(Idemitsu Japan)
Insert images: Youtube/出光興産(Idemitsu Japan) (1, 2)