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An exclusive look inside SK-II STUDIO's first animated anthology, VS Series

With a mix of animation and live action, a group of six Olympic athletes stand against societal pressures women face every day. Brought to you by SK-II.

An exclusive look inside SK-II STUDIO's first animated anthology, VS Series

In Simone Biles VS Trolls, the world’s most decorated female gymnast takes a strong stand against online trolls. Photos: SK-II

The ground-breaking SK-II VS Series marks the collaboration between SK-II STUDIO and award-winning animation studios, including Passion Pictures, Imaginary Forces, Platige Image and C3. VS Series is a collection of six animated films based on the journeys of top female Olympic athletes: Gymnast Simone Biles, surfer Mahina Maeda, swimmer Liu Xiang, table tennis pro Kasumi Ishikawa, badminton duo Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, and the 2019 Japanese women’s national volleyball team Hinotori Nippon.

Inspired by the brand’s purpose to #CHANGEDESTINY, VS Series aims to spur women to break free from the shackles of societal pressure. These stressors can come in the form of rules, limitations, trolls, image obsession, pressure and a machine-like mindset. By freeing themselves, women take destiny into their own hands.

DEVELOPING STORIES AND THEMES

“It was very important when we worked with the directors and the athletes that we would find the best way to bring those stories to life,” said Ms Delphine Buttin, senior brand director at SK-II. “That is why we ended up with an anthology series with six different genres, from science fiction to sports and fantasy.”

In every film, the athletes face off against their personal “kaiju”, a monster that represents the societal pressure weighing on them the most.

“We borrowed a very Japanese animation concept of kaiju, which means strange beast, to bring to life the societal pressures,” explained SK-II senior brand director Yoegin Chang. “At the same time, some of the societal pressures that we are sharing in VS are sensitive and delicate, and sometimes hard to explain in real-life shoots. By using animation, we’re able to bring to life the intangibles and the drama of what really goes on in our lives that are hard to depict otherwise.”

AT THE HEART OF THE VS SERIES

Female athletes in VS Series surmount a spectrum of social pressures and emerge victorious.

Said Ms Buttin: “It was hard for the athletes to put all their stories out there, but we sat down with them and had very open-hearted conversations. The whole production was based on authentic stories.”

In Simone Biles’ VS Trolls, the five-time Olympic gold medallist Biles starts her day in an idyllic musical setting, before being pursued by anonymous little trolls that soon multiply into a monstrous kaiju spewing cruel words. Eventually, the athlete confronts and defeats the kaiju, just as she has stood firm and not allowed the online bullying to shake her confidence.

In VS Pressure, table tennis star Ishikawa’s career ascent is illustrated by a skyscraper elevator in a futuristic cityscape. The fear of failure and self-doubt threatens her rise till she overcomes the greatest opponent she has ever faced – herself.

Surfer Maeda is menaced by a wave of beauty standards that society expects her to follow in VS Rules, while swimmer Liu holds her own against a tentacled kaiju in the world of social media that focuses on her appearance instead of her ability.

VS Machines sees badminton duo Takahashi and Matsutomo strive for robotic perfection till an awakening spurs them to reclaim their humanity. Lastly, in VS Limitations, Hinotori Nippon faces off against a gigantic kaiju in an epic battle, leveraging the power of teamwork and self-belief to emerge victorious.

A SPOTLIGHT ON ISSUES THAT MATTER

Looking ahead, inspirational female characters will continue to take centre stage in SK-II STUDIO’s productions. These short films bring to the fore themes such as marriage pressure and how the human spirit rises above adversity in unprecedented times.

In Asia, women’s ideas regarding their self-worth, beauty and performance – both at home and at work – are heavily influenced by the societies and cultures they live in. Whether it’s unrealistic expectations about how they should look on social media, the pressure to succeed in everything they do or the fear of being censured for speaking up for themselves, women often feel overwhelmed.

This is where SK-II’s commitment to #CHANGEDESTINY and its brand purpose comes in – to give women the courage to take their destiny into their own hands.

To this end, SK-II has set up the #CHANGEDESTINY fund, contributing US$1 (S$1.35) for every view garnered on each SK-II STUDIO film (capped at US$500,000). The fund aims to support women who are pursuing their own destiny to create positive change.

Added Ms Chang: “The VS Series is the next chapter of our #CHANGEDESTINY campaign, focusing on the social pressures that women face day in and day out. At the heart of everything that we do in SK-II, we are rooted in the brand’s purpose of changing destiny.”

See what it’s like to seize the day and #CHANGEDESTINY. Visit SK-II CITY, a virtual city inspired by the streets of Tokyo, and watch the VS Series at SK-II Cinema – a virtual cineplex that allows full immersion in the communal feeling of sitting in a theatre, including an opportunity to explore backstage where you can access behind-the-scenes trivia and videos.

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