Digital & Social Media

An Anime Chippy Pushes Out Clippy


What Happened: So it’s Super Saiyan-like heroine versus Clippy? Microsoft and Internet Explorer have been without a mascot ever since the endearingly androgynous paperclip was tossed into the trash a decade ago. Well, the search is over: IE seems to have landed on a new image—an anime girl-turned-robot-killer called Inori Aizawa.

Microsoft posted a video on its IE YouTube site showing a dark futuristic cityscape through which Inori Aizawa initially tries to elude evil robots and then kicks some serious metal butt once she realizes her powers—and turns in her shabby attire for a blue-and-white, very form-fitting uniform, with a Microsoft logo on the rear (literally) and the collar. The adventure ends as she faces off with a mega robot—but that fight will have to wait until the next episode. (While female techies were probably elated to see a female mascot, her surprisingly voluptuous form clearly panders to male Nerdvana daydreams.)

Clippy was resurrected a couple of years ago by Microsoft for an IE training film, but it was on a very limited exposure basis as there were some seriously disturbing threats against the harmless office supply at points on social channels. But what does this new personification say about Microsoft? Well, anime fans seem to love it, with many demanding on Facebook a series based on the character.

Her backstory—similar to those constructed for Japanese corporate characters—is a bit puzzling: She says that when she was young she was clumsy, slow and awkward. So is that what Microsoft is saying about IE? With the introduction of IE 11, Microsoft seems to be taking a POV that because many people have not-so-fond memories of IE, the company’s job is to “transform” that antipathy to newfound respect.

What This Means for Brands: It probably doesn’t mean much for other brands, other than Microsoft and competitors. But still the effort demonstrates how unpredictable the results will be when companies decide to develop personified images of themselves. The reviews for this from the tech media have been guarded, which seems to suggest Microsoft hasn’t changed its image of aging techie on the outer perimeter of what’s hip with this effort. Choosing anime doesn’t, in fact, feel cutting edge or provocative: It’s an art form that has been gaining popularity since the 1990s at least, which of course was when Clippy made its debut. It has its fans who tend to be techies as well as global appeal, making the choice seem somewhat safe or uninspired. That said, Microsoft has an opportunity with fantastical images and storytelling to transform IE’s image. We’ll have to wait for the next episode to see if it’s successful.

Contributing to TRENDING are Lucy Arnold, Jenna Carter, Sarah Gordon, Lisa Helfer, MaryFrances Hicks and Abby Ray. Edited by Pat Wechsler.

Homepage image: Microsoft