Kenji Miyamoto on choreographing Yuri!!! on ICE
November 3, 2016 4 Comments
NOTES: This is an interview that appeared in this special edition of the Kiss & Cry Mook. As always, this translation is entirely my own, as are any mistakes or misinterpretations (though I sincerely hope there are none – I’d be incredibly grateful if you let me know if you spot any!). Following conventions in the figure skating world, all names in this interview are in first name-last name order, because Miyamoto himself was a figure skater, and because he also talks about some current skaters towards the end. —karice
Behind the scenes of the men’s figure skating anime, Yuri!!! on ICE
A genuine anime about figure skating, with a story plotted out on draft storyboards by Manga creator Mitsurou Kubo, who also designed the characters, Yuri!!! on ICE is currently being broadcast on TV Asahi and various other stations! Here, we ask Kenji Miyamoto, who choreographed the programs for the characters, about what he did behind the scenes.
Yuri!!! on ICE, the original anime series about men’s figure skating that is currently making waves. What feelings does choreographer Miyamoto Kenji hang on this work…?*
It was tough getting into the right frame of mind to choreograph for the anime!
To be honest, at first, I thought that it would be difficult to capture all the little things about figure skating, like the sense of speed, or delicate movement of the fingers and hair. But I felt grateful at the possibility that many more people would come to love figure skating through this show. Hence, when I was invited to take part in planning this wonderful project, I told them “Please let me do it!”
|Victor’s free skate is really quite wonderfully animated…|
Having accepted, Miyamoto-sensei was adamant that he would not be half-hearted about the work.
I didn’t want to do what others could have done. I wanted to do something that would elicit the thought: “Only Kenji Miyamoto could have done this.”
Apparently, it isn’t all that different doing choreography for anime characters in comparison to real competitive skaters.
The only difference is that one is animated whereas the other is human—the way I come up with a program is the same. What’s different is that, after I choreograph the program, I was the one who had to perform it. Normally, I would teach the skater the program, and then brush it up after watching them skate. When it hit me that I would be the one skating, I kind of trembled inside (chuckles).
The greatest difficulty was getting into the right frame of mind.
This was especially true when I had to choreograph two programs in one day. When I started on the second song, I had to be able to completely forget about the one that I’d just done. I had to erase that character completely from my mind and concentrate solely on the next one. Changing my frame of mind when I was resting was really difficult.
And the completed programs are something that you can actually skate in competition.
The step sequences, and the transitions—I choreographed them with the aim of getting higher scores. The choreography is something that you can’t do unless you’re a top athlete, a competitive skater who practices hard every day. You can literally use them as they are a competition.
The stories of the characters overlap with what happens in the real world.
Yuri!!! on ICE is born from the strong determination and passion of all of the staff. Upon watching the final product, what were Miyamoto-sensei’s thoughts?
One scene that left a great impression on me was at the start of the first episode. The part where the protagonist, Yūri, unable to demonstrate his actual ability, had just lost. That sense of regret for being unable to answer the feelings of everyone who’s supported you. Those around you will say “you did great,” but you would just be incredibly disappointed with yourself. The more effort you put into practice, the stronger that feeling will be. My heart really started aching when I watched that scene.
That Yūri is 23 years old, whilst the person who would become his rival is just 15, is also something that feels real.
It’s at that age that you start becoming aware of generational change. Including that kind of setting is incredibly realistic. And not only that—what the skaters think about when they’re skating, their relationships with their coaches, how they feel when they finish skating their programs, and of course, the technical aspects of the sport. The way it’s all presented in the show is strongly grounded in reality. I want viewers to see the beauty of the skate scenes, to see the programs, but I also hope that they will to pay attention to the stories of each and every one of those skaters.
His favourite character is the legendary Russian skater who calls himself Yūri’s coach, Victor. At 27, he is the same age that Miyamoto-sensei was when he retired from competitive skating, and he really empathises with him.
I myself go about my work treating each skater as equally as possible, whilst also bringing a lot of love to it. So I feel the same thing from him, I feel that he really loves figure skating. He is able to pick out what each skater is good at, shows a lot of tact, and keeps changing what he does. These are some of the things that I, too, have learned to do.
The key to the birth of a talented young skater
This season’s Grand Prix series has already began—are there any skaters that Miyamoto-sensei has his eye on?
Yuzuru Hanyu, of course, but I also think that Shōma Uno is fantastic. Besides increasing the number of different quadruple jumps in his arsenal, he’s been working hard of his expressiveness.
|Uno skating his way to victory at Skate America this year (source).
You can also catch Uno at the Rostelecom Cup this weekend, where
he’ll go up against current world champion Javier Fernandez.
Sōta Yamamoto, who makes his senior debut this season, is another skater that fans should look out for.
What sets him apart is how he generates so much speed and then converts it to spring into his jumps. He does lower his body when preparing to jump, but his jumps are very light and turn on a slender axis. But they also have a lot of impact. I want fans to pay attention to that.
Miyamoto-sensei hopes that Yuri!!! on ICE will trigger a spread in the young people participating in the sport.
I hope that this anime will bring people closer to figure skating. I want them to go to the rink and jump onto the ice. It’s fine even if they end up just trying it for the experience. And if they enjoy it, then I hope that they will continue skating.
Overlapping this year with the real life series, all eyes are on the Figure Skating Grand Prix in Yuri!!! on ICE.