Anime featuring figure skating inspires fans to bring elements of animation to life

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/17 17:38:39

Chinese figure skater Chen Peitong impersonates Yuri Katsuki from hit anime <em>Yuri!!! on Ice</em>. Photo: Courtesy of Chen Peitong

Chinese figure skater Patton Chen impersonates Yuri Katsuki from hit anime Yuri!!! on Ice. Photo: Courtesy of Patton Chen

Zhou Nan's 7-year-old son has been interested in ice-skating as far back as he can remember. He is now taking figure skating classes at the Capital Indoor Stadium ice rink in Haidian district.

Apart from the charm of the sport, the young boy has been greatly inspired by a Japanese anime that his mother is a huge fan of.

Zhou doesn't just enjoy Yuri!!! on Ice (YOI) for herself, she also introduces parts of the figure skating competitions from the show to her son Fubao.

"From watching one of the scenes, Fubao was able to learn a move he had been struggling with," she said.

"He realized that he needed to keep his center of balance lower on his legs, and after watching the scene he was able to perform the move the next day!"

However, it is not for the skills; the beauty of the sport is fully expressed in the anime and positively influences young learners like Fubao, said Zhou.

YOI, a Japanese anime series about figure skating, has recently gained a huge following in China. The anime began airing in October 2016 and closed its first season on December 21, 2016.

Many fans like Zhou set their alarm clocks to wake them up at 4 am so they could watch each episode as soon as it was available.

Fans made artwork and wrote fan fictions based on the show's characters and plots. YOI has also inspired figure skaters to bring the anime's choreography to life.

According to people interviewed by Metropolitan, the anime is able to inspire a large number of people to take an interest in figure skating and winter sports in general. The enthusiasm falls in line with the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be hosted in Beijing.

Seven-year-old boy Fubao ice skating  Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Nan

Seven-year-old boy Fubao ice skating Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Nan

The beauty of figure skating

Zhou is no stranger to sports-genre anime. She has been watching football, baseball and other sports-themed animation since childhood.

But she was surprised that after many years she would be captivated by them again, and fall in love with the beauty of figure skating.

She is glad to see growing interest in the sport of figure skating, which is seen by the growing number of ice rinks in shopping malls in Beijing and the enthusiasm of parents who take their young children to practice.

However, she feels there is a lack of resources in figure skating culture and education in China, even in big cities like Beijing.

"For example, trying to find affordable clothing designed for competitions is quite challenging," she said.

"Some countries like Russia and Japan have a much more mature figure skating culture, but we are still working on it."

Patton Chen, a 27-year-old professional figure skater and coach, shared Zhou's observation, and told Metropolitan that from the angle of an educator, he is glad to see works like YOI are helping develop winter sports in China.

"Animation like YOI is a combination of the sport and art," he said.

Chen and his friends have created two figure skating videos of Chen reenacting performances from the anime, gaining millions of views and reposts on social media.

"As an anime, it quickly reaches the comic and anime fans, as well as a much larger group. It's very successful and I look forward to seeing more skating-related works, such as films and fictions."

Ever since Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the popularity of winter sports has spread to many cities in China, Beijing included, according to Chen.

"I feel excited that the sport I love will develop quickly, and many more people will begin to know and love it."

The anime YOI has gained a large following in China.  Photo: Li Hao/GT

The anime YOI has gained a large following in China. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Syncing the two worlds

The anime has won over some of the most well-known figure skaters in the world.

Among them are Johnny Weir, American figure skater and 2008 world bronze medalist, and Russian figure skater and 2016 world champion Evgenia Medvedeva.

Both have tweeted about how closely they follow the anime and their love for it.

For example, when Victor Nikiforov, a world champion skater in YOI, wore an outfit that featured a corolla on his head similar to one that Weir had worn, fans pointed out that this was paying homage to one of Weir's costume designs.

When Weir discovered this, he excitedly posted the pictures of him and the character in their matching outfits on Twitter.

There is a community of young Chinese who are passionate about the "two-dimensional" world constructed by their love for the anime, comics and gaming culture.

Granted the community is comparatively exclusive, they are still celebrating the fact that when figure skating stars like Weir and Chen become fans, the wall between the real and virtual world breaks down.

Another YOI addict is John Samuel C. Minas from the Philippines.

Minas, an IT professional with a background in competitive figure skating, loves the animation so much that he reenacted one of the iconic figure skating performances from YOI, "On Love: Eros."

His video has been watched more than 1.7 million times on YouTube.

Professional figure skaters like Minas find the professionalism and accuracy of the figure skating movements in the animation impressive.

"It mimics the same movements that a figure skater performs in real life. The jumps are accurate," he said.

YOI is special to Minas because the anime speaks what he has experienced as a professional athlete himself in competitive skating, covering every detail from skating movements to friendships between the athletes.

"My favorite character is Yuri Katsuki because I can relate to his struggles a lot as a competitive figure skater," he said.

"It tackles the same issues that a figure skater has. For example, losing weight from being off the ice for quite sometime after a disappointing season, the rivalry between different skaters and the struggles faced handling the pressures of local and international competitions."

Minas said YOI sparks people's love for the sport.

"I have so many comments on my YouTube video and some private messages telling me how YOI has inspired them to try out the sport. I've even heard from people who have given up skating for a long time and told me how the anime gave them motivation to get back on the ice and start skating again."

Roaming social media

Minas visits Tumblr to get his "daily dose of videos and fan art."

Numerous fan works including novels, comics and videos based on the original characters and storyline have been popping up on both domestic and international social media.

For example, the YOI hashtag has 130,000 posts and 2 billion views on Sina Weibo, with a focus on pictures and short comic stories revealing the romantic feelings between the two male characters.

You can even do a search on, China's largest online retailer, and find thousands of YOI-themed items for fans, such as action figures, cosplay costumes and key chains.

Among all the most enthusiastic fans is Shinho Shen, who has written articles analyzing the storylines, characters and the ideas behind the anime, which account for more than 100,000 words in total. 

Millions on Sina Weibo have viewed her articles, and a YOI fan group is translating them into Japanese and English, hoping that the Chinese fan community can share their thoughts with international fans.

Shen is among the millions of young Chinese who have been influenced by the comic and animation culture, which originated from Japan and quickly spread in China.

From a perspective of a writer and fashion designer, Shen speaks highly of the details in YOI as well as hints, anticipatory remarks and developments in the stories. 

"YOI shows some sort of earnestness to a degree, which would be considered unnecessary by 95 percent of people. It's what I want [in my own work]."

Shen's favorite character is Yuri Katsuki. She relates to him for being sensitive.

"Having a sensitive mind has always been considered negative in our society, but Yuri's experiences tell us that this kind of mindset is reasonable, necessary and important to his art expression."

On top of what she has observed from a professional angle, what is shared among her and all the other fans and excite them the most is the sweet and entangled relationships between the male characters they love.

Fans like Shen cannot wait to watch the next season, and many of them are expecting to see things develop with the two characters.

"Hopefully we can see the two [Yuri and Victor] get married," said Shen.

Newspaper headline: The art of fandom


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