The Internet Explorer ad featuring Inori Aizawa, via Youtube.
In a recent ad, Microsoft portrayed their Internet Explorer browser as a cute, sometimes clumsy, but generally kick-ass anime heroine, named Inori Aizawa. In a video unveiled at the 2013 Anime Festival Asia, Inori fights laser-spewing robots while dressed in a Sailor Moon-style mini skirt, her posterior emblazoned with the Windows logo. She’s more than just a cartoon character; she’s the very personification of Internet Explorer, fending off the malicious bots with her trusty SmartScreen shield and tracking her enemy’s movements via multiple open browser windows.
But this latest foray into cartoon advertising is just the tip of the iceberg in a world of web browser fan art, operating system anthropomorphism, and fictional marketing babes.
IE mascot Inori Aizawa sporting Microsoft accessories. Via Microsoft
The most remarkable part of Inori’s narrative is the real story of her creation: It turns out the official Microsoft mascot started out as little more than a piece of fan art. Singapore newspaper Today reported that Inori was originally drawn by local artist Low Zi Rong, of design firm Collateral Damage Studios (CDS). In a blog post on their website, the company explained they initially envisaged Internet Explorer as a bit of a clumsy, ugly-duckling type—“Constantly trying to handle too much and unable to cope. Especially with the multiple tabs. Constantly getting errors”—who grew up to be confident, elegant, and of course pretty. To be clear, we're talking about a web browser here.
CDS jokingly asked Microsoft to call them, and to their surprise that’s exactly what happened. A representative from Microsoft Asia-Pacific approached the company at International Cosplay Day in Singapore, and Inori was adopted as the official anime face of Internet Explorer. She has her own website and Facebook page, and has already inspired cosplayers to dress up in their own Microsoft-themed costumes.
Hikaru Aizawa, a Silverlight mascot. Via Microsoft
It’s not the first time a web browser has been given an anime makeover. Apparently, that’s actually a thing. Fans have drawn anime pin-up versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, and it was the surprising absence of an Internet Explorer character that inspired Rong to design Inori in the first place. There are even more “OS-tans” out there—anime versions of operating systems. In fact, Microsoft’s Asian offices have quite a history of personifying their software and products as anime babes (I'm yet to come across a male character).
According to Inori’s Facebook page, she’s close friends with Windows 7 mascot Nanami Madobe and Windows 8 duo Madobe Yu and Ai, and the cousin of Hikaru Aizawa, who sexes up the Silverlight tool for Microsoft Taiwan.
It’s kind of scary how humanised these figures are, with bios that could have been directly copied from online dating sites. We’re told Inori is a 1.62m tall Leo with blood type A+. She likes surfing the web, HTML5, karaoke, cats, and mint ice cream, and dislikes malware and online bullies.
She invites you to “get to know her better,” but be warned—she’ll only try to entice you into switching to Internet Explorer.