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SK-II pits Olympians against toxic beauty ideals in its new virtual city

With international travel at a standstill, SK-II’s first-ever virtual city — aptly named SK-II City — couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The latest project to emerge from the SK-II Studio is an online experience that takes cues from the neon-lit city of Tokyo, complete with all the sights and sounds of the world’s most famous urban intersection, the Shibuya Crossing. You’ll even find icons like the Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji within this beautifully animated space.

What the Japanese beauty giant is looking to achieve here, however, is more than merely satisfying your wanderlust. Within the SK-II City are six ‘VS’ Series films, each a deep dive into the real-life experiences of Olympic athletes and how they’ve had to overcome societal pressures that dictate how women should look, act, and feel to be perfect.


These role models — gymnast Simone Biles, swimmer Liu Xiang, table tennis player Ishikawa Kasumi, badminton players Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsumoto, surfer Mahina Maeda, and Japan’s 2019 Volleyball team, Hinotori Nippon — certainly know a thing or two about what it means to take destiny into their own hands. 

Image obsession, rules, limitations, and trolls are but a few of the many inner demons they’ve had to face during their athletic careers. In the animations screened at the SK-II Cinema, these are brought to life in the form of a kaiju (or “strange beast”) and they have to be defeated in order for the Olympians to break through. As an additional easter egg, you might even be able to spot a kaiju in your midst at the virtual cineplex.

The animation-meets-live action films take on genres like fantasy, sci-fi, and sports, and because they’ve been worked on by different award-winning animation studios see unique styles set in vastly different universes. Original music from singer-songwriters John Legend and Lexie Liu also add to the cinematic experience. You’ll even be able to go behind the scenes and into the creation processes via the Backstage Tour.

“We are thrilled to launch the SK-II City, as we premiere our next SK-II STUDIO blockbuster ‘VS’ Series. The SK-II CITY is inspired by our Japan heritage as well as our brand purpose #CHANGEDESTINY,” shared Sandeep Seth, Chief Executive Officer, Global SK-II. 

“In these times of the pandemic, as international travel is still restricted, we want to be able to provide our consumers a gamified experience that she can gain inspiration and shop in a safe yet entertaining and meaningful way.”

To find out more about the ‘VS’ Series and learn about SK-II STUDIO and #ChangeDestiny, visit the SK-II City here.

Minnie Ongsricharoenporn
Managing Editor, Bangkok
Minnie is a distance runner and fitness junkie who is always on the lookout for her next runcation destination. Gyms, spas, and hotels are her natural habitats. She hopes to complete all six World Marathon Majors one day.
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