Watch the Japanese commercial for eels that is being compared to a sexist horror movie

The video soon became viral and as well as incurring allegations of sexism, some said the footage was even suggestive of confining people and cannibalism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 3:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 11:06pm

Officials in Shibushi, Japan, wanted to drum up some attention for their delicious, locally-farmed fish. So they filmed a glossy online advertisement meant to showcase their eels as some of the most exquisitely pampered and sustainable in the country.

Unfortunately, their method didn’t quite hit the artistic sweet spot they intended, and has been withdrawn. The two-minute commercial, which featured a young girl who turns into an eel, quickly received outcry for denigrating women, and was mocked as a clip that looked like it belonged to a horror film.

Narrated from a man’s perspective, the video opens with a teenager in a black swimsuit lounging around a pool, asking the man to feed her and help her grow.

“I decided I would do anything for her as much as I could,” the narrator says, with soft piano music playing in the background. “I fed her with lots of delicious food. I let her sleep well.”

The message was meant to put the spotlight on sustainability, using the tagline: “We’re growing eels carefully.” But some people on social media said it was sexist and brought to mind kidnapping and cannibalism.

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At the end of the video, the girl says goodbye, jumps into the pool, and turns into an eel. Soon after, a shot of grilled, sizzling eel flesh fills the screen.

“This makes me think of a girl who is being kidnapped and locked up. . . it’s the delusions of a pervert,” said one Twitter user. Shibushi officials quickly caved to social media protest and pulled the advertisement.

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A city official admitted the video “lacked consideration” but said its makers, by using the words “Feed me,” were trying to illustrate how local farmed eels are raised with care.

The video has been removed due to concern that the incident may cause damage to eel farmers, the official said.

Japan’s industry has for years been threatened by rampant overfishing, and because of that, prices for the traditional delicacy have been rapidly rising. But showcasing the eel industry in a commercial that was ultimately interpreted as sexist probably wasn’t the right way for Shibushi’s government to encourage consuming sustainably-farmed eel.

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The city of Shima, which hosted G7 talks earlier this year, changed its new female community mascot after it was blasted as obscene and sexist.

The cartoon image of a voluptuous 17-year-old aspiring “ama” diver in search of a boyfriend drew fire from real female divers, who traditionally harvest seaweed, clams and, in some areas, pearls.

While Japan’s opposition party has a woman heading it for the first time in history, the country still dismally lags behind in female work force representation. Out of 142 countries worldwide, the World Economic Forum, a Swiss non-profit, ranked it at only 104 - behind Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe.

Foreign Policy, Reuters, Agence France-Presse