When you get to be as big a company as Toyota, you can afford to go out and get A-list talent for your commercials. Over the last few years, the automaker’s created a series of ads starring boy band SMAP’s Takuya Kimura and film icon Beat Takeshi.
In the commercials, collectively known as ReBORN, Kimura and Takeshi play historical figures Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, reincarnated in modern Japan. The latest installment even has a special guest star as Hugh Jackman, Wolverine himself, shows up to help spread the word about Toyota’s newest eco-friendly cars.
Jackman actually appears in two Toyota ads. In the more straightforward of the two, he drives along the coast in a hybrid Crown sedan, sings an English version of J-pop vocal group Greeeen’s “Kiseki,” and really doesn’t do a whole lot else.
On the other hand, the actor’s work in the 18th ReBORN commercial is a little more surreal. Titled Ferry Chapter, and viewable here on Toyota’s website, it opens with the reborn samurai Nobunaga and Hideyoshi reminiscing on their experiences trading with European merchants in the 16th century.
“In those days, we were overwhelmed by the technology and production of the rest of the world, and how they had things like guns and cakes,” recalls Hideyoshi.
Nobunaga thinks Japan may have reached a turning point, though. “Japan can become a world leader in hydrogen technology,” he points out, before going on to talk about a new car from Toyota that produces only water as a byproduct of its operation.
“It’s called the Mirai,” Nobunaga explains, which is also the Japanese word for “future.” “The name’s a little on the nose,” he admits as footage is shown of the car, which Toyota expects to have ready for market next March.
“Japan, which has few natural resources, can develop a hydrogen society for the future of the planet,” Nobunaga declares. “Doesn’t that sound great?” he asks. Before his companion can answer, though, their conversation is interrupted by some very thickly accented Japanese coming from a very famous face.
“That’s the golden country, Jipangu, for you!” the sea captain exclaims, using the name for the country which Japan thinks used to be much more in vogue among non-Japanese speakers than it really was.
▼ In a way, it’s a little like how some Japanese people think native English speakers pepper their Japanese sentences with the word “me” all the time.
Startled by the newcomer’s sudden appearance, Hideyoshi asks Nobunaga if the seafarer is an acquaintance of his. “Nope,” he responds, and as Jackman continues watching them while they climb into their Prius, Hideyoshi implores the other samurai,“Let’s get out of here, quick!”
It’s an unusual, off-beat ending to the encounter, even by Japanese commercial standards. In the ad’s final moments, the samurai decide to head for a skyscraper in the distance. The camera doesn’t show us the next stop on Jackman’s voyage, but if we had to guess, our money would be on a repeat visit to the port of Tomonoura, the town where Wolverine fell in love.