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Sneaking Onto the Set: A look back at the Japanese Metroid Zero Mission commercial
Whenever a new Metroid game is released, fans all around the world check their televisions and gaming news sites for the latest commercials by Nintendo. While most of the ads are memorable, fans remember the live-action ones most, particularly the risque Metroid Zero Mission commercial from Japan. Featuring the lovely idol Chisato Morishita in Samus's Zero Suit, the ad is infamous for showing off her curvaceous figure - while also revealing the game's 'secret feature' in one fell marketing swoop. Although Metroid fans are probably very familiar with this ad, there was actually a lot of coverage and promotional events that were only available to Japanese fans and not widely known in the West. These include a lot of behind-the-scenes photographs from a series called "Sneaking Onto the Set".
Official Metroid Zero Mission Homepage Coverage
In the first exclusive, journalists from Famitsu Weekly were allowed onto the set to take photographs and interview Morishita-san. Series director Yoshio Sakamoto was also on-set to answer questions and help Morishita-san get in role. He actually gave her a walkthrough of the intro to Metroid Fusion! Morishita-san also conducted an interview for the official website and provided a "Play Diary" - basically a walkthrough of Metroid Zero Mission where she covered strategy for the first part of the game. While the interview portion of the Japanese Metroid Zero Mission homepage has long since been removed, we were lucky enough to find a copy in our archives from which the site could be reconstructed! Check Page 2 of this special for a translation of the article.
Idol Magazine Coverage
Several photographs from the shoot were also published in an idol magazine (or perhaps inside Famitsu - we actually don't know where these came from, but the writing suggests it's from an idol magazine...). These provide more stunning behind-the-scenes images. Notably, the article sheds light on Yoshio Sakamoto's role in the shoot - he actually hand-picked Chisato Morishita to play Samus because he felt her gaze reflected Samus's spirit and willpower. While Sakamoto has gotten a lot of flack recently for his portrayal of Samus in Metroid: Other M, it is important to realize that he was thinking of how to best portray Samus for years - well before Metroid Zero Mission in fact! Check Page 3 of this special for a translation of the article.
Contests and Other Promotions
In addition to the ad campaign, Nintendo ran a contest to record the top speed runners of Metroid Zero Mission. The fastest 80 players received a two-tone Game Boy Advance SP styled after Samus's suit, while the top 50 received a Zero Mission T-shirt (which was also available through Nintendo Power). The lucky top 10 earned a flyer signed by Chisato Morishita, while the three best players won a signed standee! Va-va-voom!
The Metroid Zero Mission commercial was also broadcast in a 15-second clip; it is briefer and shows highlights from the reel.
Nintendo created another trailer that was given to game retailers. These videos would be shown in the shop to help advertise new games and illustrated all the different kinds of gameplay modes.
In contrast, the US commercial, part of Nintendo's "Who are you?" campaign, features a young blonde gymnast with a gaze similarly as intense as Morishita's. Note at the same time as the game's release, America was preparing for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, so the choice of a gymnast was also aptly timed.
Zero Suit Samus Cosplay in Japan
Given the Zero Mission ad and the popularity of Samus cosplay in the US, there actually doesn't seem to be a lot of Metroid cosplay in Japan. However, there is at least one awesome cosplayer who goes by the handle Urumi. Check out her fantastic Galactic Federation uniform!
Surprisingly, the lack of cosplay doesn't stop costume designers from making and selling Zero Suits on Yahoo and Amazon Japan. However, it isn't very high quality - it appears to be made from a material like latex, and has goofy gloves with giant red faux jewels. The suit will run around 18,800 yen, or roughly $190 - not including shipping.
Chisato Morishita's Later Work
After starring in the Zero Mission commercial, Chisato Morishita went on to work in several B-movies, TV dramas, and anime. She played a bit role in Bleach: Memories of Nobody and also appeared in several horror films, including Shibuya Kaidan (The Locker) and Mail. You can get either for about $5 on Amazon, if you're that serious about it. She was also in a low-budget remake of Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro. A more complete listing is on her agent's official site. Oh yes, there's also a blog, if you can read Japanese. At least she hasn't retired to newscasting, like a lot of idols apparently end up doing - still busy acting!