A "Hopeful" New Music Video by Performers from the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020
Passing Down the Legacy of the Paralympic Games
It was August 24, 2021, and at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games was underway. At the center of a group of 714 performers—a girl in a wheelchair.
The girl was Wago Yui, a thirteen-year old (at the time) who had been chosen for the starring role in an open casting call. Wago was born with amniotic band syndrome, and has impaired function in her upper and lower limbs due to arthrogryposis (a condition involving multiple joint contractures). Through this performance, she says, she wanted to show how grateful she was for the people around her. The performance itself was a play written by the director Worry Kinoshita, called "The Little One-Winged Plane," with Wago in the starring role, playing a one-winged plane who dreams of being able to fly through the skies. She played her role brilliantly, garnering praise from both Japanese and international audiences.
Wago says she was stunned by the response the performance received. "Everyone's role came together and we were able to give a wonderful performance. I think we were able to inspire people, and also convey the message we wanted to deliver about diversity."
Muto Masatane was another performer in the show. Muto has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an intractable disease that causes gradual loss of muscle control. He serves as the representative director of the general incorporated association WITH ALS, and works as a creator to solve various issues and educate the public with regards to ALS. About the Opening Ceremony, Muto says,
"The Opening Ceremony, to me, was a beautiful thing. Everyone brought out the individuality in each other, supporting each other and transcending all kinds of barriers to create this form of entertainment, and performed it all brilliantly. It made me want to pass this legacy on to the future in a more purposeful way."
Creating "Borderless" Entertainment
And so a new project was established. Called the "FLY PROJECT," its purpose was to create a music video for the original song, "FLY," and in doing so, offer "borderless" entertainment. The project, led by Muto, brought back many of the people involved in the Opening Ceremony, from Wago to Kinoshita. And on August 24, 2022, exactly a year after the Opening Ceremony, the "FLY" music video was released on YouTube. The project was crowdfunded, and organizers say that the funds that were raised—minus the production costs for the music video—will be donated to organizations like the Serika Fund, which funds the research and development of potential ALS therapeutics.
Muto was in charge of songwriting. Uchisawa Takahito, vocalist and guitarist for the rock band androp, was in charge of composition. Muto had previously worked with the band on music production, concerts, and more.
"Muto's lyrics make you look at things in a new way, give you courage," says Uchisawa. "We made the song so that the message in the lyrics would get through to people. We thought really hard about it. It'd be great if this sort of music could be a ray of hope for even just one person out there."
Muto says that the performance in the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games was "just the starting point." "That experience will stay with people. I wrote 'FLY' with the hope that all of these different people would be able to continue being themselves, go on and 'fly' in their own ways, with that experience in mind."
Designing "Light" Through "Eye-Gaze"
The music video co-starred Wago and Muto, with Kinoshita as director. Wago's performance in the music video was demanding at times, with her getting off of her wheelchair, crawling across the floor, and being lifted into the air by fellow performers. It showed how she had matured as a performer.
Wago says her performance in the music video was better than what she would have been able to do back at the Paralympics. "The core of Masa (Muto)'s lyrics and Uchisawa's melodies are both very cheerful, and I think what they express is hope. So I played my part to make this a music video that would give people hope."
The visual creativity of the music video is also worth noting. There are patterns of light that appear throughout. These motifs, made to look like paper planes flying through the air, were designed by Muto himself, using eye-gaze input—a system that allows him to control a computer using the movement of his eyes. Muto explains, "The idea of a paper plane as something that's able to fly through the air as many times as you'd want it to combined perfectly with the message of the song."
Director Kinoshita has high hopes for the performers, saying, "Yui (Wago) and Muto are two people that are going to change the expression of performance art in Japan. The Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games was a major turning point in my life. The people I met on that day, I want to work with as much as possible in future in my role as a director, creating new things together."
Muto hopes that "FLY" will motivate more people to work towards a "borderless" society—one in which diversity is a form of strength. Muto is hopeful about the future. "I want to keep bringing in all different kinds of people, and keep creating new works."
Watching this music video, and listening to this song, it is evident that this work of entertainment and creativity has the power to transcend any and all "borders" that may exist out there in the world.
Photos courtesy of FLY PROJECT
Translation by Amitt