This Cosmetics Ad From Japan May Be the Most Romantic Love Story of the Year

Shiseido's elaborate new film is inclusive and beautiful

A surprising, beautiful ending. - Credit by Shiseido
Headshot of Shannon Miller

With Halloween just around the corner, you can expect makeup companies to ramp up their marketing in ways that highlight (pun not intended) the fun and versatility of their products. However, you may not expect a company to churn out one of the most captivating, romantic stories of the year in just one three and a half minute film. The Shiseido company from Japan managed to do just that in a heart-clenching campaign that reminds viewers (in between tears) that makeup possesses far more power than some of us acknowledge.

The short film entitled “The Party Bus” opens with a vibrant red title card that says, in Japanese, “I just can’t tell you that I love you.” It then cuts to a pair of briefly intertwined hands hanging outside of a dingy bus window. One of those hands belongs to a young woman dressed as Princess Kaguya, who is dragged away by a boy donning a Dracula costume. The owner of the other hand—a ghoulishly masked samurai—looks on helplessly. As the camera follows their gaze, we’re met with the strange dichotomy of the raucous Halloween-themed party atmosphere and emotional, lilting piano accompaniment in the background.

With a look of concern, the princess tries to return to the samurai, but she is kept at bay by the doting Dracula. There’s a moment when she looks to be preparing for the inevitable kiss.

And that’s when the magic happens.

Suddenly the scene outside the windows blurs into hurdling, flashing colors and the girl’s makeup peels from her face and morphs into the shapes of glossy, glittering dancing figures. Blush swirls into flowery patterns as these scenes play out on her face. Like many who choose to wear it, her makeup is telling a unique story across her skin, and it’s utterly captivating.

But before long, we are yanked back to the present, where the princess-looking young woman is faced with a suitor who just isn’t able to pull her focus from the mysterious person in the samurai costume, who is just outside of her window and walking away. Suddenly, she urgently rushes out of the bus—the camera shaky, close behind—and sprints into the parking lot where she reunites with the only person she’s truly cared about all night.

The princess pulls of the samurai’s mask to reveal another young woman in similarly bold makeup, looking hopeful. They sweetly kiss, and this time both of their lipsticks morph into two waltzing figures. As the new happy couple dance, the caption “make up your own story” sprawls across the screen at the end.

Though Shiseido is one of the oldest flagship staples within the cosmetics world, it has worked in recent years to rebrand itself for younger generations. This gorgeous, LGBTQ-friendly ad spot shows a desire to reach a more inclusive audience, which will surely breathe more life into the brand and ensure its continued longevity.

This isn’t the first elaborate under the cosmetic powerhouse’s belt. Last December they released an ad that summarized the history of Japanese beauty trends through intricate finger dancing.

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Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: October 19, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT