Osaka turns into a kimono-clad anime character halfway through the clip.

Ever since winning the U.S. Open against her idol Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka has won fans around the world and made a name for herself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional tennis.

Now she represents brands like Nissan, Seiko and Nissin cup noodles, and for New Year, she’s made her first appearance for the instant noodle brand in a special New Year’s-themed commercial.

The new ad sees her playing a match against fellow Japanese pro player Kei Nishikori, only instead of tennis, they’re playing hanetsuki, a traditional Japanese game often played at New Year’s, using rectangular wooden bats called hagoita and a brightly coloured shuttlecock.

Take a look at the fierce match below:

According to Nissin, the ad, which is entitled “Happy New Year – The Year We Want Gold Compilation”, was designed to act like a nengajo (New Year’s Card) to everyone from the instant noodle brand.

This visual greeting card features a “dream confrontation” between Nishikori and Osaka. However, the battle goes in an unexpected direction, as the two end up pulling out hagoita paddles for the fiercest game of hanetsuki we’ve ever seen.

▼ Traditional hanetsuki.

Image: Wikipedia/Kusakabe Kimbei

▼ And next-level hanetsuki, with Osaka’s paddle appearing to feature an image of herself, drawn in a traditional style often seen on these paddles.

The game then takes an animated turn, with Osaka and Nishikori hitting the shuttlecock back and forth on a court at the foot of Mt Fuji.

▼ In the umpire’s chair is a shishi (lion), a New Year’s good luck symbol.

The clip ends with a gathering of auspicious symbols. In Japan, it’s considered lucky to see “Ichi-Fuji, Ni-Taka, San-Nasubi” (1. Fuji, 2. Hawk, 3. Eggplant) in your first dream of the year, and this ad comes with all three at the very end, offering maximum luck for the brand, the players, and the viewer. Plus, there’s the added bonus of more lucky symbols, with the first sunrise of the year, and two gold coins also making an appearance.

▼ The message “The Year We Want Gold” is written on the virtual card in gold.

In another strange twist, a man pokes his head out from behind the eggplant in the end, but it’s not tennis pro Nishikori. This is an image of “Nasubi” (”Eggplant”), a man with an “eggplant-shaped face” who appeared in a Japanese reality TV show more than a decade ago. For the show, he was locked in a room for 15 months with no food and no electrical goods, and a goal to win as much as possible in public prize competitions.

Nasubi’s surprising appearance in the ad is a bit of an odd choice for the noodle brand, especially given that they’re also an official Olympics 2020 partner, but we can’t deny that prize-hunting Nasubi embodies a desire for gold while also bringing a bit of luck with his eggplant likeness. Could this be a hint that Nasubi, now a 43-year-old performer, might be appearing in the next Nissin compilation? Only time will tell.

Source, featured image: YouTube/日清食品グループ公式チャンネル