Although Yuki 7 unabashedly wears its map of visual influences on its sleeve, simultaneously, there exists no other series that looks or moves like it. The creative director of Yuki 7, Kevin Dart, credits the look of the microseries to various sources— from “old spy movies, 1970’s Sci-Fi TV shows, Hong Kong action flicks, and 80’s cartoons.” Additionally, it seems 60s Modernism, Low-Poly CGI, Vaporwave, Tokusatsu, and UPA influences also run throughout— Yuki packing itself so thoroughly with its inspirations that it, in turn, establishes a singular lane all to itself. Of course, Chromosphere (the animation and design studio behind Yuki 7) has spent the past decade establishing a name for itself in animation through its unique brand of gentle, lofi-maximalism. You may recognize their work from 2014’s Welcome to My Life pilot or their (entirely deserved) Emmy nomination and Peabody win for Elizabeth Ito’s City of Ghosts. Even still, Yuki 7 holds an interesting spot within Chromosphere’s filmography for how it maintains its usual affable personality yet points that appreciation at the medium of animation itself. In turn, Yuki 7 conveys itself as an energetic and eclectic love letter addressed to everything that inspires the Chromosphere team to create art, and to the process of making animation in itself.
Yuki 7 follows the titular character of Yuki— a plucky superspy— as she goes on missions with her teammates and friends, Dr. Goldpaws— Yuki‘s talking cat— and Rocket Turtle— self-explanatory (but also lowkey the best character); the three get into high-speed chases, fight against costumed supervillains and begin to uncover Yuki’s mysterious past. The series remains unabashedly cheesy throughout— always keeping its heart on its sleeve and sustaining its campy ‘rule of cool’ sensibilities in each genre pastiche, with every newly introduced character and set-piece carrying an implicit ‘wouldn’t it be fun to have this’ about it. Indeed, the series shares its pulpy sense of fun with its origins— the early short films of Kevin Dart and Stéphane Coëdel— specifically, 2009’s “A Kiss From Tokyo” and 2012’s LOOKS THAT KILL, which both feature an early version of Yuki in 007-esque vignettes. In comparison, the final series evolves its roots from suave to dynamic and spirited— narratively utilizing its new extended cast as a source of comedy while visually translating its flat, highly-geometrized action into a 3D space. Moreover, the series feels equal parts eager to show its artists’ capabilities and willing to challenge itself to learn more. A great example is how the series adapted its production pipeline for episode 3— shifting from initially using Adobe After FX and Maya to utilizing Unreal Engine as its primary software (with elements of the other programs implemented to enhance the final image).
A sense of fun-loving experimentation defines Yuki 7. Regarding Chromosphere’s aforementioned gentle, lofi-maximalism: their series typically integrate attributes of spontaneity into their fiction to reflect reality— eg. City of Ghosts utilizes the mockumentary genre and its conventions (including impromptu dialogue, handheld camerawork, and interview cutaways) to ground the audience in its fantastical world of ghosts, so it may use that wonder as a framing device to speak on real-world issues. Furthermore, City of Ghosts extends that sense of hyperreality to its visual choices, often having blocky, cartoony characters that inhabit collage-heavy, photographically realistic environments. Conversely, Yuki 7 applies a similar approach but fixates entirely on fiction; put differently, Yuki 7 takes tropes from 1970s Sci-fi television, Tokusatsu, and spy movies to efficiently convey the excitement these works achieve. The hyperreal approach used by City of Ghosts becomes a high-intensity fiction in Yuki 7— the microseries abstracting genre/artistic conventions instead of abstracting reality, leading to an aesthetic Rorschach that coalesces its influences to effectively mirror their spirit— moreover, prioritizing evocative/fun entertainment more than a cerebral narrative. Not to imply vapidness; rather, to highlight that the style of Yuki 7 is its substance— the artists collectively celebrating art by synthesizing the works that inspire them most.
The result of this synthesis is a show that expresses pervasive and inspired passion with every minute. Yuki 7 acts as a reminder of the importance of collaboration in animation; as put by Kevin Dart, “we [Chromosphere] encourage our artists to put themselves into our projects, and so ultimately, YUKI 7 is the product of a huge mix of influences, references, and inspiration.” Indeed, the interwovenness of its ideas serves as the thread that holds Yuki 7 together. It’s a series so full of ideas, made by a team excited to create something that shares those ideas— many talented artists coming together to construct a supercut of what makes animation so much fun. That reverence for creativity persists in how to open Chromosphere and its team have been about their process and experiences working on Yuki 7— including a behind-the-scenes mini-doc, released storyboards and animatics, and a seven-part write-up detailing every aspect of episode 3’s production. Yuki 7 exists as a microseries made by artists to inspire other artists— put differently, a series to help other artists rediscover how fun making art can be.