This beautifully-done Japanese ad for the cosmetics brand Shiseido, has gone viral, racking up millions of views in just a few days
The spot, titled “High School Girl?”, opens with a professor opening the door to her classroom. As a soft female vocalist begins to sing over a loungy beat, we pan slowly across the faces of the girls in the room, who seem ordinary enough: One holds a guitar, another drinks from a bottle of water. At the end of the room, a last girl gives us a knowing look and gazes back down at her book.
But all is not at it seems, and the ending packs quite a wallop, playing with our notions of image, gender, and expectations.
The music abruptly transforms into a smooth rap duo. To its beat, the camera moves back the way it came. Stop-motion effects take us backward in time, before these high school girls were merely high school girls, to reveal what’s behind all those placid pretty faces.
Sliding back past the professor, who’s decided not to enter the room after all, the ad closes with a shot of Shiseido makeup casually splayed around a piece of binder paper, upon which is written a tagline that’s almost too simple for an ad that’s otherwise so interesting: “Anyone can be cute.”
If you watch the ad again, you can appreciate the quiet subtlety with which it shows its hand: It’s less of a reveal than a call to be more attentive. The opening scene, for example, focuses not on the teacher but on what she is holding: An image of a piece of art depicting a woman. This image is flipped at the end to reflect how easily we can be fooled once we’ve looked at something, decided what it is, and moved on.