Telling a new story is always a risky affair. People constantly demand new stories. They want stories that are new, true, and trustworthy. They want stories that are subtle but tell everything, and they demand stories that are consistent with their worldviews and their message. If they fail these criteria, the story will fall flat, and the audience will reject it outright.
Tonight, I’d like to take a look at such a storytelling failure.
In 2009, the administrative team behind Sakura-Con produced a video advertisement for the year’s convention. The video featured a family dining at a sushi restaurant, which began with the group talking about how they love sushi, and the tea ceremonies, and Japan… and so on. At the eight-second mark, a messy-haired refugee from the Hot Topic clearance rack does an over-the-top pose as he screams “Girugamesh” at the top of his lungs. The commercial continued as random folks continued to scream their favorite things about Japan (because they ARE in a sushi bar) before the annoyed chef brandishes a knife and tells the crowd to “get their butts to Sakura-Con.”
By all accounts, it was a sub-par advertisement, and a generally bad story.
Taken at face value, the advertisement’s story was muddled and inauthentic. It was told with a frame that alienated the very people it sought to entice, and gave off the appearance of a lie, more than a genuine and consistent experience. The story was delivered with the subtlety of a chopstick through the eye, and still somehow lacked a consistent promise. What was it trying to sell? Was the event about these people? Would the viewer have to deal with these loud and annoying people? Why are people dressed like anime characters in a sushi bar?!
However, if you ask anybody about the spot, they’ll immediately mention the Girugamesh Guy. In less than five seconds, the Girugamesh Guy provided a story. It was a simple, subtle, and effective story that delivered a clear message. Of course, the message was far from what the Sakura-Con administrative team wanted to convey. These four seconds stated, in few uncertain terms, that people like the black-clad crusader would frequent the event. It stated that this was an event for the fringes of the anime fan culture, which exists as a niche within a niche of popular culture as it is.
The ad clearly missed its mark. Viewers were given the idea that the Sakura-Con staff didn’t know what they were running, and that they were out of touch with the people that would fill the halls in just a few short weeks. The Girugamesh guy became a running joke for several months, and still remains somewhat synonymous with the event itself.