Brian Ashcraft for Kotaku:
In Japan, there is stock imagery for foreigners—nee, gaijin. The imagery consists of blond hair, a large nose, and a comically bad Japanese accent.
The stock imagery described is for “desirable” foreigners: American/European whites. The imagery for blacks and many other ethnicities would probably be called tantamount to hate crimes in many places.
This commercial is as completely tone-deaf as using blackface to promote awareness of Martin Luther King Day would be. The whole point apparently was to show how “international” ANA is. Nice job, guys! Nothing says, “sophisticated and cosmopolitan”, like crude racial stereotyping.
On the other hand, Americans apparently still suck at race relations too, with a recent How I Met Your Mother episode drawing fire for yellowface shenanigans. Oops.
While it’s gotten better in the last few years, Chinese and Koreans were often cast as Japanese with uncomfortable frequency. Compounding the problem is that most Japanese actors and actresses either don’t speak English — or any other languages — well enough to function in non-Japanese films, or have an acting style more suited to native-style melodrama than the more naturalistic performances expected in most of the rest of the world.
Conversely, the handful of Japanese actors and actresses who have been successful abroad often haven’t done particularly well in their home country. Kikuchi Rinko, for example, was nominated for an Academy Award for her outstanding performance in Babel, and has gotten continuing attention internationally since then, but has been virtually ignored in Japan, even after headlining in the kick-ass homage to Japanese monster movies, Pacific Rim (not that many Japanese necessarily recognize the references).