Nijigen has Japanese influences both inside and out.

On a recent trip to Shanghai, our reporter Meg stepped into a convenience store to grab a drink to quench her thirst. But although Meg travels to China regularly, her eyes passed over the familiar local drink options and settled on something she’d never seen before.

Sitting on the shelf was a can illustrated with characters showing a clear anime influence. Meg picked one up and took a closer look, learning that the drink is called Nijigen, the Japanese word for “2-D” that’s regularly used to refer to the non-reality world of anime.

▼ Although the kanji characters have a different reading in Chinese, the Latin alphabet lettering makes it clear that the manufacturers want you to use their Japanese pronunciation.

The lovelorn-looking lass and brooding boy on the can don’t hail from any preexisting Japanese animation franchise, but with their character designs they wouldn’t look out of place staring in a late-night TV anime.

They even have a backstory, which is revealed in text written on the container.

-They meet-

It happened when the sakura slowly began to bloom, and a warm spring breeze blew in from the ocean.

As Jun was walking down the street, she felt like one of the delicate pink cherry blossoms.

“Ah, is that Colum-senpai? He’s so cool!”
“I’m the manager of the Nijigen Club. If only I could get him to join.”
“Will senpai notice me?”

That was the meeting of coffee and milk.

To be continued…

Yes, it turns out this is a tale of tender teen romance between schoolgirl Jun and her dashing upperclassman Colum. And to bring this back around to beverages, the kanji for Jun’s name, 醇, is sometimes used for dairy products in China, while Colum’s kanji, 哥伦, are part of the Chinese rendering of the country Columbia.

Unravel the metaphor, and you’ll learn that Jun and Colum represent milk and coffee, because Nijigen is a canned coffee milk drink.

▼ The paid even have their own animated short, although the movement is pretty stiff (maybe they need some caffeine to wake themselves up).

But why use anime to sell coffee milk? Because Nijigen’s makers didn’t want their drink to taste as bitter as regular canned coffee or café au lait. Instead, they wanted something milder and more refreshing, and so based Nijiken off the coffee milk beverages commonly sold at Japanese hot springs and public baths.

In other words, Nijigen is meant to tap into Japanese appeal with both what’s on the can and what’s inside of it. It certainly got our attention, and since neither the can nor the video contain a conclusion to Jun’s romantic ambitions, we hope Nijigen turns out to be a big enough seller that the story does indeed continue.

Reference: Weibo/@一刻talks, CN Food
Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s now hoping someone uses the power of anime to market taiyaki in the United States.

[ Read in Japanese ]