AnimeFest: the Yuri!!! on ICE experience

Rushing headlong now into the main course of AnimeFest: the Yuri!!! on ICE content. There were three panels in total, and as we weren’t allowed to record anything (as usual), I spent most of the time taking notes. Here are some of my favourite moments:

The three Yuri!!! on ICE creator panels

Panel 1, on Thursday afternoon, was “Meet the Creators.” Yamamoto started by saying that they’d agreed to come to AnimeFest because they were keen to visit the figure skating club in Dallas! She also noted that she created Yuri!!! because she wanted to talk about figure skating, and that’s precisely what Yamamoto and Kubo got into—as they’ve done at several other cons now. I was a little disappointed that they only talked about the American men (Nathan, Adam, Jason and Max)—I’d hoped to hear them talk about the ice dancers as well, as North America is most definitely where most of the talent in this discipline is concentrated at present. Still, it was fantastic hearing about their love and respect for Jason and Max in particular. Yamamoto noted how Max really left her with the impression of his drive to win, evident in how willing he is to change his programs even during the season/during a performance!1

But it worked out well, for what they covered in the next section was GOLD. The three of them related how they’d first met, and their impressions of each other: yup, we got the “that ‘dufufu’ told me that she was an otaku I could trust” story straight from Kubo’s mouth! I also loved hearing from Hiramatsu that he remembered Yamamoto because of her over-the-top storyboards for Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (2002). One other highlight of this panel was Kubo saying that Hiramatsu’s presence gave a lot of credibility to what would otherwise be regarded as just the wild delusions (妄想) that women have about men. This is the comment that led to the “crotch discussion” that I’m sure everyone’s already heard about!2

Though it started 15 minutes late, Panel 2, on Saturday afternoon, was also great once we were settled in. This time, they showed us what happened through the character design process. For each character, they showed us Kubo’s initial drawings => Hiramatsu’s drawings inked by Kubo => Hiramatsu’s drawings. It was amazing, but Kubo reiterated several times that photos were not allowed, and I trust everyone stuck to that (or, if someone was naughty, that they didn’t post them online). I really hope the creators release them in some guidebook/materials collection one day, but in the meantime, here are some comments that had us all laughing. They pulled up a character design/reference sheet showing Yuuri with his eyes closed (this is unusual, but Hiramatsu did one because he thought that it might be necessary)…and the following exchange took place:

Kubo: “Hiramatsu’s eyelashes are really sexy!”
Yamamoto(?): ”This looks like his kissing face”
Hiramatsu: “I was secretly hoping you’d see it that way.”

And finally, Panel 3 was a joint one with the dub actors and director. Again, it started late, which meant that we didn’t really get through that many questions. The voice actors were the ones throwing out the questions (and I think at least one of them asked a question that was similar to something I’d seen on the board of questions in the Funimation room, but I can’t be sure), and I gained a lot of respect for Micah (aka Yurio) for his great question about the figure skating music. Still, many of us were disappointed that they didn’t ask more of the questions we’d suggested—I hope that the one-person and three-person interviews that I know took place can appease some of those frustrations…3

That said, some of the trio’s responses were incredibly good, especially towards the end. The final question was effectively about how the themes about “artistic perfection” came from them/was reflected in them. All three noted that Yuri!!! has become, in Hiramatsu’s words, a treasure that helped each of them overcome a challenge they were facing. In particular, Yamamoto’s comments about how she’d considered pulling the plug on her anime career have made me consider just how lucky we are that TV Asahi, MAPPA and Avex came through in early 2015, and that Kubo and Hiramatsu answered her call and helped her create the story she wanted to bring to the world. I hope she goes into detail about this one day—perhaps in another interview with Oguro Yuuichirou for Animestyle!

Perhaps most importantly, though…this panel was where we clearly heard the famous “dufufu”…

And finally, Kubo also had a pleasant surprise for us. She’d brought some of her art for a mini Kubo Mitsurou exhibition! No photos were allowed, as usual…and we also learned from the staff watching over the AnimeFest Art Show that she’d brought far more pieces than they’d had space for. But I was stoked to find some of the art for the bonus manga there—I happened to have brought my copy, just in case I needed to use it for the signing, and I spent a few wonderful minutes comparing them. I also heard that several lucky fans had visited when Kubo et al themselves were there—fingers crossed that she saw people interested in her non-Yuri!!! art as well! There’s a series of “this is how I work” tweets for Again!! that I’m considering translating, if it might help get people interested in Kubo’s other work. And I’m definitely going to buy Moteki when it becomes available as Love Strikes!

The fun and crazy live-drawings!

The last Yuri!!!-related thing about AnimeFest that must be mentioned are the live drawing sessions. There were two, one each on Saturday and Sunday. Basically, the eight artists at the con would first draw a solo image of their choosing…and then they’d participate in a relay draw, where each would get 1-2 minutes to start a drawing, before spending another 1-2 minutes adding to each of the seven drawings started by the others. The two live relays were definitely some of the highlights of the con, though I know most Yuri!!! fans were raving over the four show-related solo pieces that Kubo and Hiramatsu drew. Unfortunately, the fates of three of them are still unknown, but at least I’m able to present the first piece Kubo drew on the Saturday, the 「ぬっか~」(i.e. “(It’s) so hot…”) Yuuri that kimmistry took home for $6900 after the auction later that night!4

The appeal of the live draw relay, however, is that it involves artists who’d normally never meet collaborating to complete a piece based around a single theme (first theme: eating something heartily, IIRC). There are a few different results that might emerge, ranging from something that’s pretty coherent, to something that is just completely wild. And truth be told, Yuasa Masaaki’s presence meant that at least half of the Saturday pieces took the latter path. Unfortunately, my friends and I had chosen to sit on the other side of the room (so that we could see what Kubo and Hiramatsu were doing on the screen), and the raucous laughter from Yuasa’s side had me wondering if I should change my game plan for the second day. But one highlight from our side ended up being Tanemura’s reaction to the craziness that came her way: the incredulous “Ehhhhhhhh?!!!!”s that burst out of her several times that afternoon had us all in peals of laughter.

The second day’s live drawing session, however, was to die for. We decided once again to sit on the Hiramatsu and Kubo side, and despite my wavering, this turned out to be the right decision, especially for the relay. I should backtrack a little, however. After the first day, where only the artists amongst the guests had been involved, screenwriter Sato Dai and Napping Princess producer Sakurai Yoshiki led the others in plotting their revenge. They hijacked the themes that the artists had agreed on, and instead produced two lines of dialogue—voiced by Tanezaki Atsumi to music written by Tsuchie—that the artists would have to respond to. The first was “Let’s go beyond the period!” for the solo draw piece…to which Kubo and Hiramatsu both used Yuri!!! characters. Kubo’s drawing of Victor tasting a jalapeño…if that had been auctioned, I bet it’d have gone over $10,000…or even $15,000 if the linked drawing of Yuuri that Hiramatsu later did was paired with it!

But what had us in stitches that day was the relay, which was to the theme of “Please give me your (second) button!” Both Hiramatsu and Kubo started by drawing Yuuri…but in vastly different moods. Hiramatsu’s had him smiling serenely with his second button still intact (though all the others were gone)…the most memorable addition to this piece came from Christophe Ferreira, who gave him belly hair that left Kubo a little nonplussed! But Kubo’s piece probably took the cake…she drew Yuuri trying to protect his second button from something or someone chasing after him…and the others added a whole range of little creatures, including a heart-mouthed chibi Victor courtesy of Tanemura!! I’d love to know the fate of this lot of relay pieces—must admit, I’d love it if the artists decided to take them home. But if they go up for auction, there is one incredibly coherent one that I would love to bid for!

A Yuri!!! experience to remember!

And that sums up my Yuri!!! on ICE experience over those four days in Dallas. Even if I had missed everything else, I will never regret going. And in fact, it was only on the first day of the convention that I realised just how fortunate I was to have picked this as the convention that I would attend, for this was the first time we had the big three—the director, the writer and the character designer—telling us of their experiences working together. We’ve never even had it in written interviews, so hearing about Yamamoto and Hiramatsu’s 15 year history working separately and together on various projects was definitely one of the best surprises. But nothing will ever beat hearing Yamamoto Sayo, the skate otaku, letting herself go. I want to hear those “dufufus” again!

Not everything was sunshine and bunnies, however. I’ll be back again tomorrow to talk about what I know or can surmise about the problems of AnimeFest 2017…


  1. I need to find the time to go through Max’s programs in order to check this. It was quite difficult to hear what Yamamoto was saying, but I am certain that this was one of the comments that was translated incorrectly on the day. 
  2. More seriously though, what Kubo’s referring to here about the challenges that (female) creators face is really quite interesting. It deserves a serious discussion somewhere. 
  3. Cheering you all on as you get them translated and checked for publication!! 
  4. “nukka” is the expression in the local dialect of certain parts of Kyushu for “atsui” or “damn it’s hot.” You’ll often hear people saying it in summer in Japan, because it is pretty damned hot there. Especially in Okinawa or the Kansai basin ^^; 

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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