This new commercial stars Halloween costumes, luscious visuals, lipstick that dances and leaps from your face… plus a sweet, inclusive ending.

Japan is one of the most happening places for great make-up products, and fashion behemoth Shiseido is one of the highest in demand – whether they’re collaborating with magical girls to give you sparkling, perfect foundation or studying the chemicals that make you smell bad in high-stress periods, they have a holistic approach to their craft that speaks dedication and quality.

That quality is reflected often in their commercial campaigns. Rather than flinging together some glossy photoshoots of models wearing make-up, Shiseido celebrates its own legacy of over a 150 years by weaving narratives into its advertising.

Their newest commercial, “The Party Bus”, has a striking tagline: “As the party bus rolls through the night, hidden feelings are unmasked.” Though it clocks in at just under three-and-a-half minutes, it tells an entire romantic drama in miniature… with make-up!

Our story starts with a dramatic title card decreeing “I just can’t tell you that I love you.” Befitting this message of unrequited love, we see two hands entwined outside the titular bus’ window – only for our protagonist, a pretty girl dressed as Princess Kaguya, to come crashing back to reality.

Her boyfriend, the handsome and charismatic Dracula, gestures for her to join him further back in the bus… and she leaves her mysterious would-be beau to sit alone, though the regret is obvious on her face.

The viewer is treated to a kaleidoscope of ghoulish glamor, with partygoers clad as ghosts, witches and mythological figures cavorting through the seats. Everyone appears to be having a roaring good time, except for Kaguya herself. She tries to return to the undead samurai she left at the window-seat, but Dracula stops her.

Here, Shiseido’s planned message of “make-up becomes bravery” shines through. The world freezes around Kaguya as she sheds a single tear, which courses down her cheek to touch her beautifully painted lips, and this causes a reaction. The crimson of her lips alchemizes into a miniscule girl with an umbrella, and in a series of artistic shots this tiny maiden travels across the landscape of Kaguya’s face. Using nothing but the make-up palette around her, she creates effect after effect, lighting up Kaguya’s cheeks, forehead and eyelids with color.

When the lipstick girl free-falls back against Kaguya’s lips, it marks a change in her determination. She peers past Dracula to see the zombie warlord she left behind, walking away from the bus, having apparently accepted her rejection.

▼ They share one last look before the samurai turns and walks away

But she pushes her boyfriend to the side, and runs from the bus to catch up with her friend. Slowly, she peels the mask away…

And she reveals the face of her best friend. Her best female friend. The two girls look at each other, enchanted, before they meet in the middle for a kiss. Both girls’ lipsticks perform a similar visual spectacle, where they bow to each other and start up an elaborate dance. Soon enough that dance is mirrored by the girls themselves, as well as all of the fantastical creatures from the Party Bus.

▼ Kaguya and her partner are mirrored by their tiny lipstick selves

It’s a gorgeous moment, especially when underscored by the sentimental piano refrain. With the kiss, that soft piano gives way to Mara Carlyle’s gentle voice singing “She Burns”, adding to that glorious movie-finale effect. The final words written across the screen drive home the message once and for all: “Make up your own story”.

The company has spared no expense for the ad, with Dracula played by popular dancer/model Yuki “ENDo” Endo, the zombie samurai played by up-and-coming Japanese-Filipino model Rina Fukushi and Korean-Russian actress Elena An as our leading lady. All three of the main actors are mixed race, and the love story culminating with two women is an even more surprising twist than Shiseido usually deploys.

▼ In the behind-the-scenes video you can see just how much painstaking effort it took to animate a tiny make-up world

While this isn’t Japan’s only LGBT-friendly commercial, it’s striking in that it tells a sweet story played by actors who are often undervalued by Japanese society themselves. Congratulations on another beautiful commercial, Shiseido!

Source: YouTube/資生堂 Shiseido, Co., Ltd., Shiseido, nanou inc.
Images: YouTube/資生堂 Shiseido, Co., Ltd.