Anime

Does Yuri on Ice Reach Its Full Potential? My Thoughts on the Last Few Episodes

The simudub for Yuri on Ice ended last week, and is the reason why I tend to wait until a series is over to watch the entire thing.  I enjoyed watching the show as it aired with the blogosphere and Twitter, but having to wait two weeks for a dubbed episode to air and be two episodes behind everyone was torture!  That being said, I’m not sure if being pre-exposed to all of the spoilers and commentary on the show effected my viewing of the last three episodes (I waited for all three to be released before finishing the series) but there just seemed to be something…missing from the series for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the series, and think the characters are amazing.  But I do think there were a few missed opportunities  by series end that we could have seen happen instead of some things that did happen.  Spoilers for Yuri on Ice below!

 

My first nit pick is, why did they show us so many characters, when only three of them were important?  Or rather, they only cared to flesh three of them out fully.  I get that it’s a tournament style show, but we saw the main six skaters so many times and didn’t get any more motivations from them than their internal monologues while skating.  I loved the first half of the series, when Yuuri was still unsure of himself, and Victor had to help him overcome his fears and deal with his shortcomings, and when Yuuri was growing more confident in himself with minor lapses I thought it would have been a great time to focus more on the other skaters, off of the ice.  As it stands, the only characters we got a decent amount of focus on were JJ and Yurio, and I felt the Yurio spotlights near the end were a bit under-developed too.  The format of skate, monologue, next opponent skates wore on me in the last two episodes as well, mainly because of one thing:  JJ was getting some character development, and I found it way more interesting than the skating in the finals!
That’s my next point, the way they treated JJ.  First of all, why do we need an “antagonist” character?  Especially when the series was painted more as a compete against yourself to be the best you can be motif  from episode 1.  Plus, JJ was full of himself sure, but far from an antagonist, especially since he didn’t interact with the other characters more than saying he was going to win, which everyone was doing!  When they focused on JJ in the last three episodes, I found him so fascinating.  Those flashbacks were really great, and the fact that he obviously is far more sensitive and caring then he lets on, and uses that confident mask to keep himself a float during competitions, as shown with the flashback with his Mom was really touching to see.  So, why didn’t we get to see more of that development?  Why couldn’t we see him interact with his girlfriend a bit more?  The scene where everyone was still cheering for him after he choked got me all emotional and teary-eyed, more so than anything Yuuri was going through at the moment because let’s be real here:  His character arc was done by the final few episodes.  I would have much preferred to focus more on the side characters, more than just the throw away lines they were given in the end that seemed like the writers wanted to do more with them, but were restricted by the show’s title characters having to be in the spotlight, whether their stories were done or not.

 

I know I’m going to be in the minority with this, but I, uh, really don’t see Yuuri and Victor as a romantic couple.  Like, I saw everyone all over the internet gushing about “The rings!  The dancing on the ice, EEEE!” and that made me think that for once, the subtext of the will they won’t they relationship prominent in sports anime hadn’t happened. But, it pretty much did?  Like the rings lean more on the non-subtext side but still are subtext.  I don’t find saying they’re a good luck charm to be a declaration of love, and Victor saying that they’d be married if Yuuri won seemed like one of Victor’s I’m joking, but secretly serious lines. There was never a straight up conversation between the two that was like “Hey Victor, I think I’m in love with you” or not even something so blunt, but just a conversation about where they stood emotionally would have been a nice touch to throw any subtext out of the way.

 

What was I hoping for, you ask?  An actual conversation about their feelings.  They tip-toed around it the entire series, and in my opinion saying you want your skating coach to stay with you and help you train for next season isn’t really cementing a romantic relationship.  They said far more heartfelt things than that, but for me they didn’t bridge the gap from being close friends and colleagues to something more.  It was a really, really missed opportunity considering all of the build up, and honestly was disappointing for me by the end of episode 12.

 

This last one may be because I was pre-exposed to a ton of spoilers, but the pointless mellow drama in episode 12 was just…there.  Like, we know Victor and Yuuri aren’t going to break their coach-skater relationship, so why make all of this build up happen when it’s not going to?  Was anyone surprised when they didn’t split up at the end?  Instead of providing that senseless conflict, I would have much rather seen Yuuri go through something else.  Maybe instead of wrestling with that weird decision that he found a loophole for (which I really didn’t get because he made the initial decision in the first place) why not have his inner conflict be something else?  Or maybe not even have an inner conflict for Yuuri:  just show how far he’s come, how confident he was all the way instead of the halfway they did in the final episode.

 

I don’t mean to bash Yuri on Ice, by any means:  like I said, I loved the series, and these are all minor nit picks that stopped me from enjoying the show fully in its last few episodes.  My main complaint was the JJ character development that was super interesting to me that they just…dropped and resolved super quickly, and that got me thinking about everything else in the final episodes that made me go hrmmm.  I think Yuri on Ice is a show better to binge watch, because I really enjoyed it a lot more when I watched episodes in chunks.  Having to wait two weeks for an episode made me enjoy it a bit less then I think I would have if I just watched it in one sitting, but that may just be me and my preferences.

 

Now that Yuri on Ice has been over for a few weeks, do you have any different opinions on it than when you were watching?  Do you think it had any shortcomings, or did you love it all the way through.  Would love to hear in the comments!

Anime

Why is Yuri on Ice so Popular? A Character Study of Victor and Yuri

Every season, there’s always an anime that eeeeeveryone is talking about.  An anime that usually isn’t my cup of tea, but that I’m like well ok I’ll give it a go.  The anime this season is a particularly interesting one to me, because not only is it a sports anime, but it’s an anime that is mainly being praised for its visuals.  After reading a series of reviews, hearing a ton of History Maker covers, and finding out that it was being simudubbed, I decided to give it a watch.

And boy did it take my breath away.

I’m always skeptical when it comes to an anime being raved about, because I think it’s just the hype train chugging along.  Plus, with its main draw being visual’s to most people, I tend to be wary about watching because visuals 100 percent are not my thing.  And, in all honesty, if a story focuses on visuals alone to tell it’s story, I don’t think it’s doing its job.  Of course there will be some visual elements in anime that just can’t be translated, but as long as the story doesn’t majorly suffer from that, or someone explains later via a monologue what happened, I’m fine with it.  But, my major question with these sorts of shows is, is can it carry itself without visuals?
Short answer:  Yes.  But let’s dive into this a bit more.  Why is Yuri on Ice so special?  Look at it on paper, and it’s a typical sports anime set up:  Protagonist loses heart, has to find it again through an external force or person or group of people.  Works toward building themselves back up again, finds themselves back where they started at the beginning of the show, but better, therefore can succeed at what they previously failed at.  A typical heroes journey, with fan service peppered throughout.  Yuri on Ice isn’t free of the fan service aspects, but those small bits of fan service that happen are short, and play to the characters strengths. When Victor says something crazy, you just go “Ha!  That’s Victor for you” and it never seems like any comment, action, or reaction is out of place.  Everything is played very realistically, and I think that’s a huge plus in Yuri on Ice’s favor.

Which leads me to my next point: the characters.  In any sports anime I’ve seen, the characters really should be known as caricatures.  Granted, I haven’t watched many sports anime, but literally I’ve turned on one episode of a few, gotten fed up and stopped watching because of how one note and cookie cutter the characters are.  In Yuri on Ice, every character seems very real.  The writing staff took the time to flesh out each character, fill them with hopes, dreams, fears, good traits, and bad traits, and it adds to the charm of the show.  Take Victor, for example:

A picture of Victor
I’m too sexy for my shirt~

On the surface, he’s the typical goofball, open to expressing himself, over confident sex symbol.  Through interactions with Yuuri, however, you see a layer that he obviously doesn’t show to the public:  He cares a lot about others, about his legacy as a skater.  As soon as he sees Yuuri, he sees the potential in his skating and wants to go help him reach his full potential.  It takes someone who’s very in tune with their emotions to be able to see that in other people, and it’s obvious Victor is exactly that:  From how other character’s say he makes them feel with his routines, to how much he’s effected Yuri’s mindset from episode 5 onward, Victor is a compassionate person who hides that compassion behind the guise of confident arrogance.  Are either sides of Victor bad?  Not at all.  They’re what make him such a multi-faceted character, and part of what makes the show great.  It takes an amazing staff of writers to add this sort of depth to one of the supporting characters, so how does the main character stack up?

A picture of Yuuri Katsuki
We were born to make history!

Yuri Katsuki is the shining star in this series, and what I think is its major draw.  The figure skating is a major plus, but the fact that we’re seeing this world through Yuri’s eyes is what I think is drawing so many people, and myself in.  Yuri’s not confident, Yuri’s not disciplined, he’s the complete opposite of the typical jock character.  Yuri, in a sense, is all of us:  Because who hasn’t doubted themselves?  Who hasn’t tried their hardest, and choked under pressure?  Who hasn’t questioned their self-worth, but continued following their dreams regardless?  Yuri is a fleshed out character all on his own, but at the same time he’s what so many of us see in ourselves.  Yuri is incredibly relatable, and his growth throughout the series thus far is a shining example of why you should never give up on yourself.  Just seeing Yuri’s progress from crying after losing in episode 1, to his speech at the end of episode 5, speaks volumes to his character development and I can’t wait to see what happens by the end of the series.  I think the best part about his growth too, is that it flows so naturally.  You can see glimmers of this fierce, confident, loyal Yuri in the beginning of the series, but all of those positive traits are clouded by the negative ones he’s focusing on.  Once Victor comes, and helps him work through his issues in his own time, we see Yuri’s true self and it doesn’t seem out of place at all.  Does yuri still have relapses into his doubts and fears?  Of course he does, but all that does is make his character seem even more real, even more relatable, and it works so well when placed next to Victor in scenes.  The dichotomy of both of their alpha personalities is so interesting to watch, and makes the series all the more enjoyable.

In a lot of ways, Yuri on Ice breaks the mold of sports anime, while at the same time sticking to a lot of things sports anime does well.  The major themes of not giving up, persevering through your pain, and always recognizing that you’re never really alone are all just such wonderful themes to have in any show, and I think that’s a major reason why Yuri on Ice is so popular.  But, those are just my thoughts on the subject.

I obviously really love this anime, if you couldn’t tell XD like I said earlier, sports anime aren’t generally my thing, but this one has me hooked.  It helps that I love ice skating, too, so as soon as I saw a sports anime about it, I wanted to see what it was all about.  I’m happy to say that this anime made me rethink my opinion on all sports anime, and give them at least a few episodes to see how the anime stands up on its own merits.

Have you been tuning into Yuri on Ice?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the series.  Also, how did I do with writing this post?  It’s my first attempt at doing an analysis  like this (well, the first one I ever thought was post-worthy) so would love to know if there are any things I can improve on, any other things I can address when looking at a series, etc. etc.  I have a lot of other different types of post series I’m planning to make, but this one was really more of a spur of the moment post I really felt like I had to write.  I’m sure there will be many other Yuri on Ice themed posts on here, so look out for those if you enjoyed reading this one!