There Will Be No More Darkness
blog好き’s 2016 Anime of the Year is over. I had faith that the show would end with a solid triple axel, but it turned it into a quadruple toe flip instead. I’ve already spent twenty-five hundred words extolling Yuri on Ice‘s ability to portray normal adult romantic relationships, modern depiction of life in 2016, and the ability of the show to bring in new fans to both figure skating and anime, so I won’t do too much of that here. But I wanted to celebrate with Victor and Yuri one more time. #naughtymochipuppies
Victor joining Yuri for a couple’s skate at the end was fantastic. It is probably the best self-aware ending scene since Setsuna F. Seirei got out 00 to pilot Exia for the last slugfest in Gundam 00. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the series.
Yuri getting silver is a typical sports anime to be continued ending. Yurio getting gold is a typical sports anime our manga had ended ending. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What is important that Yuri, Yurio, and Victor are happier people at the end of Yuri on Ice than at the beginning of it. All three of them had their personal issues, some more apparent than others, but they became both happier and better human beings at the end. Winning a gold medal is just a step to that goal, but winning gold doesn’t mean happiness. The drama isn’t an external source but an internal desire to be happy and the ridiculously difficult task everyone has to deal with: identifying what makes us happy. Yuri on Ice is about being a better and happier person.
(Not surprisingly, there are no shortcuts to happiness. It is a continuous journey of self-discovery and developing meaningful relationships. Plus adopting a #naughtymochipuppy.)
The most disappointing thing (besides JJ’s performance) about this episode is the lack of the History Maker OP. It goes straight to the pantheon of great Engrish OPs with Euphoric Fields and Red Fraction. I thought that the OP referred to Yuri or Victor… but the history maker was Yurio.
Yuri on Ice features not just a lot of parents but a lot of parents invested in, proud of, and supportive of their children. JJ’s parents were there to support his villainous Canadian ass after he choked on his own aspirations. There were a lot of shots of Yuri’s family cheering him on as well as Yurio’s grandfather. The only family conspicuously (or not conspicuously) missing is Victor’s.
(Let’s compare to Hibike Euphonium where the Kitauji band reaches nationals for like the first time in a long, long time, and did any parents show up? Nope, but the band member who quit in season one did. Also, Kumiko’s sister shows up but not her parents. Then in Haikyuu, in the most important match ever where half the school shows up, the only family members present are the bald dude’s sister and the glasses dude’s brother. No wonder kids are so miserable in Japan: their parents don’t give a fuck about them.)
(It’s fun to think of JJ as a villain just because how many Canadian villains are there? Can you imagine the next villain in a James Bond movie to be from Canada? Or can you imagine The Avengers square off against a maple syrup thief? In my head canon, JJ’s a mastermind villain from Canada.)
The thing about Victor is that he seems like a lonely person. He and Otabek are the only two shown without family or friends, and Otabek wasn’t introduced until episode ten. Victor might be incredibly successful, but he never seemed to have family other than his dog, Maccachin. Taking a quote from an interview with Mitsuro Kubo in Animage translated by @karice67:
Since Maccachin is pretty old, Victor has the premonition that his last season as a competitive skater might overlap with the last year of Maccachin’s life. It’s quite possible that he prioritized spending those last few months to a year with Maccachin over his own skating career. I’d say that that’s one of the reasons that he came to Hasetsu, and when I spoke with his voice actor, Jun’ichi Suwabe-san, about it, he told me that he felt the same way.
I just hugged my puppy before she farted on me and ran away. Yuri missed the passing of his poodle because he was out skating and that ended up being a cause for his poor performance. It is interesting to consider that Victor would sacrifice his sixth medal for his dog, but I understand it. Watching Victor and Yuri train in Hasetsu, Maccachin was a large part of that. You can tell Maccachin was Victor’s only family. And anyone who loves their puppy would understand that “sacrifice” of not chasing a sixth gold medal in favor of time with their loved one isn’t really a “sacrifice.” I think a lot of people approach life as being too goal-oriented and forget that we’re only on this spinning rock for a short, brief time. I’m glad Victor is a character who understands that being the best isn’t everything.
Remember to hug your #naughtymochipuppy.
Again from the interview:
The challenge for us in episodes 1 through 4 was to endear fans to Yuri, Victor and Yurio, so that’s what we devoted time to.
We didn’t really have a lot of leeway to include episodes that took place outside of the competitions, so we figured that we could show something of the skaters’ lives during the performances.
I think they did a great job with that. They had a plan and executed on it. I wonder for a lot of other shows, do they even have a plan? With this show being only twelve episodes long and with a substantial cast, how would they be able to get us to connect with Yuri, Victor, Yurio, and the others? They did so by the skating. Even though this final episode had six free skates, each one was instrumental in bringing out emotions and characterizations. In terms of making an event more than just an event, I would have to go back to Nodame’s performance of Beethoveen’s 7th Symphony. It is something Hibike Euphorium never captured this season (to the point Kyoto didn’t even animate the final concert)– I’m not trying to rag on that show this post, but it is a stark contrast to Yuri on Ice in terms of storytelling. Everything that Hibike does poorly– romance, events, getting us to care about minor characters, use of Instagram– Yuri on Ice slam dunks. It also doesn’t help both shows air so closely to each other that I ended up watching one after the other every week.
I wished the show were five episodes longer since they put so much effort into the cast. It is the anime version of Blizzard creating such interesting designs and characters for Overwatch but provided zero stories for them (and the ones they did come up with are only slightly less dense than Dota 2 lore). With only a twelve episode series, I think the team at MAPPA did a good job at squeezing in as much exposition as possible. I really liked how they used Otabek’s free program as a narrative bridge between Yuri’s and Yurio’s but also sucks that Otabek didn’t get development. It’s a choice. I think they made the right one.
(I also would have liked the theoretical beach fanservice episode that was cut. And maybe a slice-of-life flashback episode featuring Victor in Russia.)
(I like how each skater has a preferred pet. The moping Korean likes his husky, Victor and Yuri have poodles, Phichit is literally, figuratively, positively, absolutely the Hamster King, Christophe has that bull, and Yurio has his collection of pussy.)
The take off and landing sounds of each jump? Fan-fucking-tastic.
As yet another nod to 2016, I like how Yuri’s family watched him via television while the younger skaters watched the event via laptops and streaming services. That’s a nice touch. We have exactly one anime in 2016 that gets 2016.
(Let’s compare to Hibike Euphorium where Kumiko is looking for her sister. Does she text her? Does she stalk her with Find My Friends? No, she looks at all the passerbys on the streets hoping she will walk by much like Seymour waiting longingly for Fry. Man, when The Great Passage, an anime about old men, depicts modern technology better than most shows this season that says a lot about how out of touch and in bubble anime, manga, and light novel writing still is. At least I didn’t see one ero hon hidden under a mattress this season.)
Yuri on Ice, the Crunchyroll-destroying anime, hopefully, does something no other anime since Sailor Moon did: bring in a new type of anime fan. Whenever I read a “what anime to introduce to non-anime fans” article, I cringe and wince at the same tired suggestions: Cowboy Bebop! Ghost in the Shell! MadokaGundamGhibliAkira!
Bible Black Gurren Lagann! Guess, what? You’re probably suggesting a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy and action anime to someone who likes Star Wars and The X-Files. Big whoop. Yuri on Ice brings in a new audience that is more than the Samurai Jack crowd. It has the power to bring in fans who don’t give a shit about Cowboy Bebop or Dream Festival or Gundam. Yuri on Ice is one of the few media that portrays a same sex romance without the same sex romance being the focus. Don’t get me wrong: the focus is on the romance, not the same-sex romance… there is a subtle distinction. The fact Yuri and Victor are both men aren’t a plot point but isn’t even acknowledged. That is special. That will bring in new fans to anime, and they will be sorely disappointed that nothing else like Yuri on Ice exists. Maybe it will motivate a new generation of artists and writers much like how Sailor Moon influenced an entire generation of young fans.