Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Metro’s manners campaign features a monster-battling Japanese pop star.
On any given bus or train, Rude Dude is never too far away. For Angelenos, at least, they now have Super Kind to save them.
The new superhero was unveiled last week as part of a new etiquette campaign by Metro Los Angeles. As the transit system continues its ambitious period of expansion, it’s an especially good time to show new riders how to avoid acting like a mannerless beast.
Unlike Seattle’s cartoon animals or New York’s human silhouettes, Los Angeles has put their transit etiquette campaign in the hands of a Japanese pop singer superhero who fights off a fuzzy and inconsiderate villain. The campaign comes from the mind of video-maker Mike Diva, known for his eye-melting neon-and-pastel YouTube videos that manage to make viewers feel simultaneously delighted and horrified.
Diva, whose real name is Mike Dahlquist, is most famous for his “Japanese Donald Trump Commercial” from the summer of 2016, in which a young woman obsessed with the presidential candidate enters a colorful dreamscape with her loving hero before he transforms into giant robot supervillain who flies away into outer space to blow up the Earth.
Sensing that this aesthetic would be just the ticket to make Metro appeal to millennials, the transit authority approached Diva earlier this year; they already had Super Kind in mind but needed Diva’s savvy to make the character work. “They let me go nuts and do whatever,” he says. “I came up with idea of it being a Japanese ad featuring a superhero-pop star hybrid.”
The campaign appears in print throughout the system but is anchored by three videos with the villainous Rude Dude committing the heinous acts of seat hogging, aisle blocking, and eating on board Metro’s buses and trains. While passengers stare at him silently and annoyed, Super Kind (played by Anna Akana) breaks into frenetic song (composed by Diva’s brother, David Dahlquist) before solving the problem at hand.
Super Kind always prevails, but Diva originally had some different endings in mind. “For the original eating one, I had Super Kind uppercutting Rude Dude into the roof. And with the aisle blocking video, we had Super Kind blasting him and his bike with a laser and then flying through the roof of the metro and destroying it,” says Diva. “I liked the idea of Super Kind causing more trouble than good.”
Diva lives in Los Angeles but doesn’t use Metro much. So far, he says, the feedback has been ranged from positive to confused. “It hasn’t quite hit its stride yet,” says Diva. “It’s hard to make people crazy over a public service announcement.” That being said, he’d like to work with Metro again. “I love doing commercials like this, where the challenge is to make something tame, like manners, into something fun.”