Nissin Foods, the creator of Cup Noodle and Top Ramen, is in a bit of trouble. The Japanese food company recently released a now-retracted ad featuring an almost unrecognizable Naomi Osaka. After hitting the Internet, many are accusing the video of whitewashing the tennis star.
The anime-style commercial doesn’t capture the essence of the biracial 21-year-old and has caused a lot of backlash. According to The New York Times, the cartoon illustration was drawn by Takeshi Konomi, a well-known Japanese manga artist. Nissin even admitted that the artist worked with Naomi to develop a character that was “in line with his series,” which is popular throughout the East Asian country. But, the lack of ethnic features has left people confused as to how this depiction even resembles her.
But, according to the U.S. Open winner, she wasn’t even consulted: “I’ve talked to [Nissin] and they’ve apologized. It’s obvious, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious. I don’t think they did it on purpose to be, like, whitewashing or anything. But I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it,” she said in a press conference at the Australian Open. Watch below:
There were even replies on social media saying, “Whose Naomi Osaka is that?” In a side-by-side comparison, Baye McNeil, an African American author who has lived in Japan for 15 years, showed that Osaka, who is of Haitian and Japanese descent, clearly does not resemble the cartoon which was supposed to be her: “Many Japanese still believe deeply in the notion of the [pure] Japanese race. And so, she’ll never truly be Japanese,” he said according to the Japan Times.
And in a statement, the organization offered an apology for the shortlived promotion: “Nissin Foods Group operates under the respect of fundamental human rights, ensuring that gender, race, age, nationality, or any other values are taken into consideration in accordance with all our business practices, including our advertisement activities. The characters were designed with the intention to replicate the world of the anime series as much as possible. The current situation creating social controversy is not what we had intended, and therefore have decided to stop the campaign.”
TELL US: What do you think could have been done differently?