I have to admit, that as I was just coming back from a 3-day trade show in Seattle, and was suffering serious “screen eyes” from trying to play the game, while working, shooting video, and doing “business meetings” with potential clients that went in the wee hours. So, I was tempted to make the answer really concise…and just say, “Japan.”
But, as there seems to be no end of the excitement for this odd, yet beloved sub-character in our games, I will do my best to get “deeper” into the origins of our favorite Japanese advertising mascot, “Mr. Sparkle” (with a huge assist from the crib notes that Wookie sent with his email request).
At the root of Mr. Sparkle, is a long-running insider worldwide joke about the Japanese purloining traditional Western marketing concepts, but getting them a bit “Lost In Translation.” In fact the movie, “Lost in Translation” makes the point that for decades, some of the best-known Hollywood types have taken “advertising junkets” to Japan to make a bit of side money off the Hollywood/Union/Guild radar. The Japanese pay big bucks, for a bit of work, and then do their best to make the product make sense to their own population of consumers. Sometimes with hilariously weird results.
This link has 15 great examples of this concept…executed in truly bizarre Japanese marketing style. The list is broad, and the product names alone should give you an idea that “Mr. Sparkle” using Homer Simpson, just isn’t that far off of the mark. I’m surprised that Matt Groening hasn’t allowed Homer to actually go to Japan and earn a little side Duff Dough!
- Tommy Lee Jones – Suntory Boss Coffee
- Edward Furlong – Hot Noodle
- Lucy Liu – Suntory Diet Beer
- Ben Stiller – Kirin Beer
- Charlize Theron – Honda
- Sean Connery – Biogurt
- John Travolta – Tokyo Drink
- Jean-Claude Van Damme – Black Black Gum
- Leonardo DiCaprio – Honda Civic
- Bruce Willis – Eneos Card
- Dennis Hopper – Tsumara Medical Company
- Cindy Crawford – Pocari Sweat
- Brad Pitt – Edwin Jeans
- Nicolas Cage – Pachinko Fever
- Arnold Schwarzenegger – Alinamin V Energy Drink
Like I said…a lot of energy drinks and beer…but No DUFF?? Homer is missing his calling here. But, I digress…
Let’s get back to the crib notes that the Wookster sent me, as they are FAR more to the point of the topic of this blog post…
Where Did Mr. Sparkle Come From???
Ok. So that joke didn’t work a second time, either.
Here are Joe’s Notes.
Pat… if you want to do Mr. Sparkle (Misutā Supākoru) from “In Marge We Trust” (S8:E22), that’d be awesome.
- The detergent box is seen in “Lisa the Skeptic” (S9:E8),
- “Days of Wine and D’oh’ses” (S11:E8),
- “Gal of Constant Sorrow” (S27:E14), and
- “Orange Is the New Yellow” (S27:E22).
- There’s also a commercial in “Funeral for a Friend” (S19:E8).
- My fave appearance are the pixelated version at the beginning of “My Fare Lady” (S26:E14) and the
- billboard in the Homerzilla segment of “Treehouse of Horror XXVI” (S27:E5).
- While I think it is best forgotten, Mr. Sparkle was also a tattoo in the abominable “Every Man’s Dream” (S27:E1).
- “Married to the Blob” (S25:E10) and it’s always seen in the grocery store scene of the HD opening.
OK. So Mr. Sparkle is kinda EVERYWHERE…
So let’s break this down. There seem to be a bunch of “Mr. Sparkle Sightings” in and around Springfield, and on their local TV channel. But, the REAL origin comes from “In Marge We Trust.” In my estimation, the rest are just “product placement” ops for the “Mr. Sparkle brand.”
As with most of the BEST Simpsons episodes, the writers stuck with just a couple of threads, as opposed to some of the later episodes that suffer from so many threads, they become unraveled. (Get it? Thread? Unraveled? No??? No wonder you didn’t get my other joke!).
While Marge is busy trying to save souls as “The Answer Lady,” (after hearing how Reverend Lovejoy got burned out by Ned’s neediness, starting in the 80s), Homer, after finding a “Mr. Sparkle Box” at the dump, is trying to find out the connections to his picture and this Japanese soap product.
He asks Akira to translate the writing on the Box…
Homer: Akira, can you read this for me? Ah, yes.
Akira: This is a product called Mr. Sparkle. Very popular dish detergent. Hey, he looks like you! [Laughing]
Homer: What’s he saying?
Akira: He identifies himself as a magnet for foodstuffs. He boasts that he will banish dirt to the land of wind and ghosts.
Akira: Yes. You have very lucky dishes, Mr. Simpson. This soap is from the sacred forest of Hokkaido renowned for its countless soap factories.
Which leads to Homer (in my favorite bit in the episode) faking a “local call” at the resource section of the library, with a dialing bit that goes on forever…and then finally reaching the Mr. Sparkle Factory.
And there you have it. The REAL legend of Mr. Sparkle. From Japan. Or at least a Japanese character!
OK. So there is more...
Here’s a Quick Recap with pics and the Wiki Review of the episode:
According to the Wiki- From this point, “Homer, disturbed by the box of Mr. Sparkle, contacts the manufacturer in Hokkaidō, Japan for information. He is sent a promotional video for Mr. Sparkle, which consists of a TV commercial.
At the end of the video, the mascot is shown to be a result of a joint venture between two large Japanese conglomerates, Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern. Their mascots, a smiling anime fish and light bulb, merge to form Mr. Sparkle.
Thus, Homer discovers the similarity was a mere coincidence.”
Or WAS IT???
OK. Yes. It probably was just a coincidence. I’ve been told that I look a lot like a cross between Colonel Sanders and Garth Brooks. But that’s only since I grew the goat. I’m sure there is some Sumo character that could also be melded into an Anime version of me…but why push the limits. One cartoon version of me is enough. And I’m not wild about Japanese beer. But I digress again…
As I said before…the rest of Wookie’s mentions are pretty much just fleeting product placements. And as these posts hardly get any play on the blog, I’m NOT going to chase down a bunch of screen shots. You can do that…if you care enough to want to see Mr. Sparkle in flashes of other episodes. For me, it’s just enough to BUY Mr. Sparkle with my Bonuts…which I did.
I don’t regret it a bit, because now, if my screen gets grubby for any reason (like this morning when I tried to eat peanut butter/honey toast while playing TSTO…not recommended), I can just call out MR. SPARKLE!! He is “Disrespectful to Dirt!!”
For those of you who love YouTube Clips an are too lazy to read the post before this…here’s the primary point of discovery, including the Mr. Sparkle commercial…
Did YOU get Mr. Sparkle? Are YOU Disrespectful to dirt? And even though “Moshi Moshi” is only used as a greeting on the phone in Japan, does it still apply if you are REPLYING to this blog on your phone?? Mr. Sparkle wants to know!