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RE_PRAY: ICE STORY 2nd in Yokohama

Darkness. A controller. A loading screen. Electronic music. "Do you want to start the game? YES."

That is how the Yokohama performance of the second installment from the Ice Story series entitled "RE_PRAY" started on February 19 in the Pia Arena MM in front of an audience of 7000 visitors. With interesting lighting effects, video sequences and powerful programs to video game hits such as Final Fantasy, two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu slipped into the role of a pixelated video game hero and immersed himself and his audience in fantastic worlds.

The first half of the show, which featured a screen reading the words RE_PLAY, explored the struggle against challenging obstacles and represented Hanyu's time as a competitor. Starting his program to "A Fleeting Dream" from the hit role-playing game "Final Fantasy X", which was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, Hanyu performed behind transparent cloths onto which white feathers were projected. Using breathtaking effects, he made his emotional world tangible for the audience and conjured balls of light that transformed the ice surface into a starry sky of floating dreams.

This was followed by a performance to the song "Gate of Living" by Japanese singer Sheena Ringo, in which Hanyu not only thrilled the audience with his black feather costume, but also with his emotional expression. Especially at the end, when he rose on a platform and raised his arm triumphantly, he received thunderous cheers. Next, he revisited the popular Japanese song "Ashura-chan" by Ado and rocked the audience with his brilliant choreography and steps. Another piece that earned Hanyu huge applause was his routine to "Megalovania" from the indie game "Undertale", in which he combined colorful 2D worlds and reality in one dimension with whirling spins.

Between the various programs, video sequences were played on a large screen in which the 29-year-old immersed himself in the pixelated worlds of gaming. With the controller in his grip, he "took the power to live in his hands", faced all the dangers, and was rewarded with new characters, which he portrayed in the form of costumes from previous programs.

Photo by Kiyoshi Sakamoto
The first half climaxed with "The Darkness Of Eternity", the battle theme to one of the main bosses from “Final Fantasy IX”. Dressed in a fiery red costume, Hanyu breathed a soul into the rocking piece and gave "a flawless" performance of this program for the first time, standing a 4S, a 3A-2T, a 3Lo and a 4T-1Eu-3S combo with apparent ease. "It sounds more like a competition comment, but I feel like my training has finally paid off," Hanyu laughed in the subsequent interview. "I tried every day to be flawless in all three runs. In the first half, I change my clothes every time a video sequence starts and then put on my skates, which means that I lose a lot of energy and skating feels different. The fact that I was able to deliver a flawless performance under these circumstances showed me that I was doing the right thing."
Hanyu revealed that since his debut in Saga Arena one month ago, he had been training almost six hours a day. "I got up, stretched and trained for an hour, went to training, then went figure skating for three hours, came back, trained for an hour and a half, and then made mental imagery training for another hour before going to bed. I have trained harder than for a competition."

In the second half of his show, Hanyu focused on rekindling hope, achieving freedom, and the fulfillment of his dreams with the title word RE_PRAY. Once again, he began the performance with "A Fleeting Dream", this time accompanied by a slightly melancholy piano version. In the video sequences on the screen, he explored philosophical ideas such as "Who am I? Who controls me? Who are my parents?", and filled his narrative with numerous metaphors. For instance, he used the motif of water as a metaphor for life in both the video sequences and the lighting effects. "For me, water is the source of life and I have the concept that every life form originates from water. Because there is water, plants thrive and mammals were created, so I used water as the root of the evolutionary process."

He continued on a mildly sentimental note with "Requiem Of Heaven and Earth" until he illuminated the hall with lights of hope, skating to "One Summer's Day" from the popular anime classic "Spirited Away".
By the time he finally performed "Haru yo, Koi", the audience was almost beyond words. The hall shook with excitement, particularly when he performed his Ina Bauer figure, creating cherry blossoms across the ice.

It seemed as if Hanyu didn't want to separate from his fans, as he not only performed the Robbie Williams hit "Let Me Entertain You" as an encore, but also Japan's favorite program "SEIMEI" and the last SP of his competition career "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso". In his address to the audience at the very end, he revealed that he had "put his heart and soul into every single run-through" and hoped that this day would always be remembered, even if it was only the size of "a grain of sand".

(Written by Mitsuoka Maria-Laura, photographer: Kiyoshi Sakamoto)