Mike and Jill were the main mascots for the Japanese brewerie, Suntory, who Advertised their product Beer Can from 1983 to 1985. These Commercials showed short, melancholic love stories about the two sharing a beer, with a song in the background sung by a various Japanese singer. The first Advert (also the most famous) has Jill at a pub, singing the song “Sweet Memories” sung by Seiko Matsuda on stage with some backing vocalists and another Penguin playing the song on the piano as Mike watches, he enjoys it so much it makes him tear up. The song was eventually used in the next Ad, "Boxing", though the rest of the Ads used multiple different songs in various environments.
Print Adverts starring the characters were also made, usually being simple scenes of one or more characters on a white background with cans of the beer, with other details like beaches in the background on occasion. However, there were also more detailed Ads, being paintings of scenes from the TV Commercials (the only ones found yet being based on “Train” and “Beach”). Mike, Jill, and the rest of the penguin characters with the design were known as the “Penguin Family” at this time.
These Adverts became very popular and a lot of merchandise as made of them, as well as appearing on cans and bottles of the drink. This fame even sparked a movie based on them named "A Penguin's Memories: A Tale of Happiness", released in 1985. The film told the backstory of the two, revealing that Mike was a war veteran moving from his home town, he soon meets Jill in a rural village and the two instantly hit it off and soon fall in love. However, many obstacles get in their way, from a challenging doctor, to a greedy producer, and even Mike’s war PTSD. And Mike must prove to Jill how much he truly loves her and learn not to run away from love.
The film shares many connections with the original Commercials. Songs used in two Ads “Sweet Memories” (used in the very first Ad and “Boxing”) and “Boy No Kisetsu” (used in “Jill’s Return”) are both used in the film. The Sweet Memories scene is a direct remake of the original Advert, Jill is still singing in the pub with backup singers and a piano player, and Mike still watches in awe. However Jill here sings a piano cover of the song known as the “Cinema Version”.
After the movie was released, Suntory dropped Mike & Jill from their Advertising, however multiple other brands used them and the two were given a more family friendly approach, though still having their personalties intact.
In the 90s, Mike & Jill were prominently featured as illustrations in magazines, in 1999, multiple illustrations of the two were even used to Advertise the Macintosh!
In 2001, they were now known as the “Papipu Penguins” rather than the Penguin Family, and their art director was Masatoshi Toda. In 2003, the characters even had a picture book about two child penguins and an older penguin solving problems with Mike and Jill appearing.
In 2004, Mike and Jill finally appeared in TV Commercials again for the product Kinkan, these are unfortunately lost except for pictures. Though the Ads had Mike, Jill, and the characters from the picture books having fun, they were now a family and the characters from the picture book may even be the children of Mike & Jill!
In 2006 and 2007, they were the mascots for au My Page, something to do with mobile phones. They prominently appeared on their website as well as on Billboard and Print Advertising.
In 2010, for one last Advert, Suntory had a comeback for Mike and Jill in an Advert for the “Silky Black Orchestra” Campaign they had at the time. The Advert had Seiko Matsuda herself, singing Sweet Memories again with clips of the original Ad and “Train” playing as well. A very nice homage.
Today, Mike and Jill are still going strong with merchandising. A LINE theme starring the two was released not long ago, and the designer store niko and... sells merchandising of them!