Okay, you guys, you know the drill.
This is an all new On the Table post and I’m about to try to get you to fall in love with Yuri!!! On Ice (An anime) as much as I have.
First of all, I guess I should start with some context…the two of you who have been here for a while and have read some of my earlier posts are probably thinking that my “context” is usually a really long piece of narration that can get pretty boring… well you’re not wrong… and I’m sorry.
But I think that to understand where I’m coming from and why Yuri!!! On Ice is so important, you need to read this first.
I am not a novice in the Anime world. I have watched several series throughout the years and I have both enjoyed and hated the industry for a while. I was what people call Otaku for years (and yes, I did indeed learn a bit of Japanese -only the listening skill- to be able to watch anime without subtitles during the years where you had the raw episode one day and the subbed version like a week later… a moment of silence for those days) and my tastes varied according to story line, not genre.
Through the years I watched shoujo, shonen, and all the in between categories because I was only looking for something appealing to me. I watched Candy Candy, Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Gundam Wing (and all the others), Inuyasha, Ranma, Hunter X Hunter, Samurai X, Kaleido Star, Lost Universe, Orphen, etc. But then I stopped.
I can’t pinpoint when and why, because it was a process… the point is that even before the time I started college (2012) I didn’t watch anime anymore.
The thing is that I have watched a lot of shows and I kind of know how things work.
I did watch a couple of Yaoi and Yuri anime in my time… whoever says they haven’t are lying because they are the weird part of fandom you simply cannot escape.
As a queer person, I should have felt more attracted to this kind genre because of its subject matter, right?
NOPE. SO WRONG.
Yuri and Yaoi anime (Lesbian and Homosexual “themed”) are so gross and fetishizing that it is a wonder they even have plot most of the time.
To being with, some of these anime’s starting point is that one character rapes the other and that’s how the relationship begins. And in so many cases there is a marked age difference. Like 14 and late twenties…. wtf.
In yaoi (pertinent to the discussion of Yuri!!! On Ice) the “Uke” or passive character constantly gets raped by the “Seme” or active character, and is constantly rejecting the other’s advances and claiming not to be gay. This passive character is also seen saying he is not a woman, and claiming that being gay is disgusting, thus they cannot be it.
In Yuri a similar patter to that discernible in “lesbian” pornography can be appreciated, where the male gaze and fetish dictates the action. There’s a lot of oversexualization of teenage girls and gross exaggerations of common dyke/femme stereotypes.
So all of these things have made the fandom for these kinds of shows… very toxic. And I do mean that from the heart. Yaoi fandoms are comprised mostly of girls (fujoshis) who fetichize M/M relationships to the point where they are treated like an obscure kink. It is not uncommon to see these fans claiming that they are “going to hell” because of their ships and shows they watch. They claim that “gay characters and relationships” are somehow wrong and a “sin”. And you can probably tell what kind of people lurk in the Yuri fandoms.
So I didn’t ever much enjoy these shows, and to be honest I don’t think I ever finished one (minute of silence for Junjou Romantica) because in terms of subject matter and representation, they made me feel very sick.
Then I started watching anime again, because of my friend Mim. She made me watch Gekkan Shoujo (hilarious, to be honest) and Free! (a sports anime). And with this last one, I was back in Queer Baiting hell.
What is Queerbaiting? Oh, I’m so
sad glad you asked!
Queer Baiting is a thing TV shows and sometimes books/movies use to drag unsuspecting queer babies into their shows with the hope that maybe, perhaps, one in a lifetime, blink and you missed it, there is a chance that your couple might get together!
Examples of this beautiful, beautiful practice are: Sterek in Teen Wolf, Merthur in Merlin, Destiel in Supernatural, Faberry in Glee, Rizzoli & Isles in the show with the same name, Johnlock in Sherlock, and almost everyone in Free! and Haikyuu.
Of course that they’re lying to you. These people will never become a couple, but they are given scenes and dialogues that tease it, and sometimes even the actors in conventions or through social media (now) hint at the idea of a perhaps.
This practice sucks, and just makes your viewers/readers hate you… slowly but with a passion. (Just ask the Glee/Teen Wolf fandoms!)
I might write something more detailed about this later, but we all know I’m a liar… so don’t trust me.
Okay, and why/how was this relevant to what I wanted to recommend today?
Well, because Yuri!!! On Ice is, refreshingly, devoid of such tropes and faults (it does have its problems. I mean, name one anime that doesn’t) and which came in a really good time (2016 is killing us and not with kindness or softly).
So! What do you need to know before watching the show?
- The story is about professional ice skaters… so a sports anime (the renowned Queerbaiting realm).
- The main character Yuri Katsuki (get it? Yuri as in Yuri!!! On Ice) suffers from anxiety and is very self deprecating. This is super important because this is how the entire narrative is framed.
- Yuri Katsuki is an unreliable narrator.
- The Opening and Ending sequences are the best I’ve seen in a while.
- The Opening changes through the episodes, adding more color and definition to the animation.
- This anime uses social media to promote things!
- It is produced by studio MAPPA.
- It is directed by Sayo Yamamoto and written by Mitsuro Kubo (all hail Kubo-sensei)
- The figure skating sequences (like the OP and characters’ routines) are all coreographed by Kenji Miyamoto.
- Several Ice Skaters love the anime! Like Johnny Weir and Evgenia Medvedeva.
- IT DOESN’T QUEERBAIT.
Okay, now to the real talk.
Yuri!!! On Ice deals with the story of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki who, after a series of defeats on the ice decides to quit his career and go back home. As I mentioned before, Yuri suffers from anxiety and is very hard on himself, so as the story advances you are made to believe that he is indeed the worst of the worst and has no place in figure skating.
I would like to point out that that is a horrible lie, because he got to the Grand Prix Final and finished last… that means he is number six in the entire freaking world. That is not mediocre… that means he won all the other competitions to get there!
Okay, I digress.
After returning to his home in Hasetsu Yuri is confronted with the fact that he doesn’t have plans for his future (inside or outside the rink), and tries to get back in touch with his love for skating. To do this, he performs for a childhood friend the routine of the best ice skater (and his personal idol) Victor Nikiforov (who won the competition Yuri lost… and I’m sure every other competition) Hanarezu ni soba ni ite (which fans and JP native speakers have said translate to something like: Stay always by my side and never leave me… I think).
Victor sees a video of Yuri’s performance (Filmed and uploaded by Yuri’s childhood friend’s triplets) and drops everything to go to japan to train Yuri and help him win this years Grand Prix Final.
Yuri is, understandably, surprised and confused about the whole affair but after a while he starts to get used to the fact that Victor is here for him and is willing to help.
There are a lot of interesting characters, all of whom I love and respect (I hate sports anime because I need everyone to win) and the narration of the show is unbelievable.
I cannot give out any spoilers (everything I just said happens in the first episode so… not a spoiler) but let me tell you that as time goes by you start to realize just how unreliable Yuri is. You also get to see the extent of his anxiety and misconceptions about himself and the people around him, which just adds another layer to the story. And also make Yuri judge other people’s reactions and ideas of him in a very skewed way.
In case you haven’t noticed, Victor and Yuri’s relationship is a perfect example of Queerbaiting in sports anime… but that is the sweetest thing. It’s not.
When this show promises something, it delivers.
This doesn’t mean that it is exempt of sudden twists and “angst” but that it is done in a very realistic and organic way. Yuri’s anxiety of course that influences his relationships with people, and any lesser show would have “fixed him” by giving him Victor’s support. But YoI is not one of those lesser shows, and it proves that you can have all the love and support in the world but that will not make your mental illness go away in a snap. That’s just not how life works. It is frustrating and beautiful to see this portrayed so masterfully in a freaking anime.
The show ends this coming Wednesday so if you want to watch it, you are just in time to see the end with lots of fans.
The creators have teased the possibility of a second season, and personally I can’t wait.
I hope you enjoyed this On the Table, if you have any questions/suggestions let me know.