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France TV Promotes the Olympics and Impresses Japanese Audiences with Hokusai-Style Sumo Wrestler Animation

The long-postponed Olympics are coming soon, but the Japanese public has other things to worry about. And yet, viewers are finding themselves excited for the games after watching a video… from France?

Japan’s state of emergency is being extended and expanded, local vaccination plans are only just starting to come into effect, international travel is still out of the question for most, and with less than two months until the long-awaited and long-postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, COVID-19 rates are high and the public’s enthusiasm is low.

But the 2020-turned-2021 Olympic Games haven’t been canceled yet, and despite all doubts, it looks like they’ll be happening after all! So, in preparation for the marathon of sports broadcasting that is the summer Olympics, broadcast networks around the world are promoting the event to their audiences, and the commercial that has caught on in Japan in recent days has unexpectedly been a video from France TV. After being posted on Twitter, the video was seen by 1.5 million people within two days.

Inspired by the traditional stylings of Japan’s national sport, sumo wrestling, and the iconic print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai, French illustrator Stéphane Levallois created a video with plenty of Japanese style, showing off both classic Olympic sports and newer additions. Working with French studio Mikros Image to create imagery reminiscent of block prints or ink drawings, the artist sends the sumo wrestler on a dynamic trip surfing waves, skateboarding across tiled roofs, rock climbing, running, shooting hoops with melons, long jumping using wild bamboo, and finally making a dramatic entrance in the Olympic stadium. Backed with a soundtrack of rhythmic drums, it’s easy to get caught up in the swift-moving video.

After Tokyo the next summer Olympics will be Paris 2024, so perhaps France has extra reason to hope that all things Olympian go smoothly, with plenty of fanfare. Whatever France’s motivations, though, this particular promotional video has found plenty of popularity among Japanese internet users, especially compared to the official promotional materials featuring mascot Miraitowa released back in 2019 by the Tokyo Olympic team. Comments left by Japanese netizens expressed how the French perspective actually seemed to result in a video better suited for the Tokyo Olympic Games!

According to recent polling, public sentiment against the Tokyo Olympics is growing among the people of Japan, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major issue in Tokyo and vaccination plans for the country are inching along. But who knows, considering its popularity, perhaps this short promotional clip will bring just a little Olympic excitement back to the people of Japan.

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