Friday’s Feature – Beneath the Squeals What Is Driving Yuri On Ice Fans?

Wow, it’s a Yuri on Ice post. How original. By the way if you aren’t up to at least episode 10, maybe pass on this for now but come back. Of course, if you’ve watched episode 11 things have changed again but I’m not touching that until I’ve had a bit more time to think it through.

Okay, I’m done making fun of myself but I actually kind of had to write this. I was asked by someone in the real world whether Yuri on Ice was any good and found myself gushing (something I avoid doing in the real world, not because people don’t already know I’m a massive anime fan but just because I don’t like to make people feel trapped listening to me blather about things they are only vaguely interested in). But I wasn’t gushing about Yuri and Victor or the maybe kiss or the airport scene or even the ring (though those points did come up), what I found myself gushing about was the way that the characters in this show feel like real people.

By the way, this isn’t a post that is trying to convince you to fall in love with Yuri On Ice. If you aren’t already on board then you’ll probably stay that way. Mostly, this post is just looking at what is beneath all of that pretty animation that is keeping fans up as they anxiously await the next episode.

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You mean this ring?

For me the number 1 take away from Yuri On Ice since the initial episodes where the beauty of the animation swept me away has been the treatment of these characters. Pretty animation aside, without a story or characters worth following I’m not really willing to invest all that much time and thought into something. Yet, Yuri On Ice is a coming of age or a general weakest becomes strongest (maybe) story that we’ve seen a thousand times before (though the second half of this series is definitely starting along a full blown romance pathway). So if it isn’t the plot and while the animation is appreciated and maybe the first draw but that isn’t what is making us hang around, then what we are left with are the characters.

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And while there are definitely the fan girls out there who are happily eating up a dose of mainstream shounen ai and then the fans of Victor in the hot tub, what we are mostly seeing through Twitter is that fans have really taken to these characters and it isn’t really hard to see why.

Leaving aside Victor and Yuri for the time-being, the support cast of Yuri On Ice have been fabulous in the way they’ve been presented. While one of the criticisms I’ve heard of the show is the lack of screen time these characters have had and if you watch some episodes you will know that these characters get minutes at most, and yet they pack so much into those minutes.

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I’m going to use Kenjirou Minami as an example. He’s a Japanese skater who appears in episode 5 and looks up to Yuri a lot. While you might see him as existing only to serve as a point of contention between Yuri and Victor and as part of Yuri’s character growth, in one episode Minami manages to establish himself as a person. He’s young and idealistic but still desires victory. He’s under his own form of pressure from the expectations placed on him by others though he deals with it a great deal better than Yuri does. We also see his performance. Unlike Yuri’s beauty, Minami is a high energy performer and his personality is clearly shown in his routine. This character was on screen at most for ten minutes and I feel I know more about them than some characters I’ve watched for 24 episodes.

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If we then shift to a crowd favourite, Phichit, we get a character who was spoken about long before he even made a real appearance in the show. We knew he was Yuri’s rink mate and we know that Yuri consulted with him in order to get in touch with the person who wrote his music but it wasn’t until episode 6 that this character really appeared in the anime. By then we already had a sense of who this person was and he is definitely a likeable character. One of his persistent character traits is his ongoing use of social media and this is something that really has brought him to life. Not saying that to exist you must be obsessed with selfies, but it is one of many details that makes Phichit feel like he is living in the real world and isn’t simply a scripted being. Episode 10 really highlights that Phichit is more than just moral support and friend though. He is the first to notice the rings and offer congratulations to Yuri and Victor but he is also the first to react when Victor claims Yuri is going to win gold. While this doesn’t form an actual rift between these characters it does show that beneath the smiles Phichit is definitely a competitor.

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It’s kind of the same for all of the skaters. Yeah, there’s still heaps we don’t know about them but what we do know is painting a picture of a real person with real goals and desires and approaches to getting through things. While they each might start from a simple archetypal character there have been enough details layered onto these characters to make them feel like they are a person in their own right. Those details are everything from the music and costume choices while performing to their small interactions with the other skaters. Even how they hold themselves and what they are doing before and after performing. It all adds to the rich detail making up the characters of Yuri On Ice and there have been very few moments where this element of the show have slipped.

And that is what, beneath all the fan baiting and obvious lures this show has going for it, is keeping fans hooked and coming back for more. There are plenty of shows out there featuring a cast of supposed good looking guys and while people do tweet their images and the like I’ve certainly not seen anything like the Yuri fever that has happened every week after every episode. While a lot of the attention has been on the kiss, the hand holding, the rings, the sleeping, a lot of the tweets have focussed on those more character driven moments and the moments where we learn something more about one of our favourites in the support cast. What really makes this special though is that all of these moments build on one another. That’s why this was a slow burn at the start where you might think pretty but aren’t seeing all that much more but all of those small moments and details have a snowball effect as the series goes on.

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But let’s get back to Yuri and Victor. The are they/aren’t they arguments have raged, the fan art has gone crazy (and is incredibly beautiful given the short time frames some people have worked on) and both of these characters have been analysed to within an inch of their animated lives at this point. For me these characters became amazing at episode 7. Up until then I’d enjoyed watching them grow closer and how Victor had learned how far he could push Yuri before he would have to draw back and how Yuri was starting to take steps toward Victor, but they were still just two good characters in an anime I was enjoying. At episode 7  they crossed some sort of line as they showed such an incredible depth of human emotion and their relationship became something that felt genuine. It is in that sincere expression of emotion that the audience is completely blown away. These characters have real conversations, real conflict, they don’t understand each other sometimes, they try to understand each other, they dither, they hesitate, they act impulsively; they just feel real.

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It’s really odd for me to say because normally when I talk about seeing genuine emotion or human expression it is relation to a psychological thriller or a moment in something that’s fairly dark. To talk about two characters in a reasonably feel good, rom-com, sports anime (not trying to be condescending to any of these genres) in this way is a fairly unique experience for me as generally I don’t connect with the characters in these stories the way Yuri On Ice has achieved.

I’m honestly going to say that I do not care if Yuri wins the competition. I don’t care if Victor and Yuri get married or whatever. I am watching this show to watch all of these characters grow and show us what they will do and what choices they will make. While I would be delighted if Yuri get’s a fairytale happy ending I will also be really satisfied with him coming to a sound realisation about who he is and where he stands in the world.

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When I come to review this series as a whole I have no idea what I will have left to talk about but I’m certain I will talk at length anyway given I just never get bored of these characters at the moment. But now I’ll turn it over to you; why do you think Yuri On Ice has appealed?


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Karandi James.

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27 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature – Beneath the Squeals What Is Driving Yuri On Ice Fans?

  1. YES KARANDI YAS
    People are so quick to label this a fan service brainless show, when the characters have so much personality, they just feel real, tangent!
    Minami is my cutie son, they all are, like yeees pls, give me a season for each of them!
    I think Yuuri isn’t going to win, considering his troubles, but it’s because it’s not the focus of the show tbh. It’s a coming into him, not of age considering he is 23 already, but more into his confidence, strengths and skills, so I think there’s already been such a huge leap between who he was and who he is now.
    I do want to see them duo skate and marry, but I’ll be happy with fanart whichever way, and the doujin that already exists 😹😹😹😹👌
    I think YoI appeal is all you did, characters being tangent, genuine and realistic, beautiful animation, gorgeous artwork, everything is researched to the smallest details, the sports isn’t being chucked to the side like Free did to swimming, and so we get invested. Good storytelling make us invested, as do good characters, and this has both and more 👌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of think coming of age still applies given most 23 year olds these days don’t have a clue what they want to do and are likely to still be studying, changing jobs, and finding themselves. It is interesting that adolescents and the idea of growing up just keeps expanding.

      Like

      1. / Raises hand
        I’m almost 26 and still don’t know tbh, so I do agree with you 😹👌
        I think coming of age can happen at any time, as we see people in their forties and fifties shift gears and jobs, life’s essentially, because they finally found what they wanted, which is fascinating and great to see! 👏

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well written, Karandi-san! Hats off. Fan service is apparent in this series, but I’ve felt the same thing you did. The characters feel real. They grow. They’re entities we can sympathize, and I guess this is one, if not the best, driving force of the story.

    Whereas some shows lure us in with excellent graphics, complicated plot twists and full-on mystery or horror appeal, Yuri!!! On Ice is one of those series that does really well on its simplicity and human appeal.

    Thanks for writing this post! I know you don’t mean to sell the show to non-viewers, but reading this will most definitely convince some nonetheless! *thumbs up*

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I give up. I’m gonna go watch Yuri on Ice. You have sold me on this show. Well done.

    Not really into figure skating or sports anime, but damn, I do love excellent character work, so off I go to check it out first chance I get.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe so, but you sold it. Really, really well. That’s a good thing, cause I might have passed on this due to the hype.

        Any time anything gets a lot of hype, I usually leave it alone for several years, just so I can experience it hype free. This one I’m gonna have to get in on, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s rare for several members of a main cast to get their own theme song, so for YOI to step out and grant each an anthem of their own choosing, meaning, and emotional weight, is, well, priceless. I sit in delight at all of the fan art that sifts through the feed (half of which I hold down on and hit “save image”), but there’s nothing that makes me recall each character’s struggle than their respective track(s). MUSIC is what paints the big picture in YOI, and to that it doesn’t just glide–it soars.

    I don’t have enough time at the moment to get on the WP reader, but when someone tweets posts (especially YOI related content), I jump on that train like crazy. Perhaps it’s the fans themselves that keep me coming back each week! Good write up!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree that it’s the characters. I don’t even care about the romance, because usually I don’t watch sports anime because of the blatant will they won’t they tug of war they have with the “romances” there. All the characters are so interesting, and the English voice cast is doing a great job so that’s a huge draw for me, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post…I have still not watched this show, but I am going to (it’s on my top 5 list of AnimeI plan to watch in the coming weeks). This is definitely not my usual cup of tea, but I am going to watch it anyway, simply because this show had received so much attention and love, that I just HAVE to watch it. I like what you describe about the characters of this feeling like real people. If there is one thing that I find in important in pretty much everything I watch, it’s that I usually want to have a connection with the characters of a piece. If that os not there, it can still be enjoyable, but usually it scores less for me. It will be next year before I will give the show a watch, but I am really curious about it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a good read and it was nice to see a post that channeled some of your passion for the show. ‘Beneath the squeals’ also earned a solid chuckle. I like your of your points and even though I’m opposed to some of them I think they summarize what you’re trying to say nicely. These things are likely the core appeals of the show that drive its popularity. Then again, all I ever see is people screaming about ‘the gay’ so I’m not sure how many people are watching for those other reasons. Probably confirmation bias. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Ehehehehe! Excellent, Karandi. Excellent! As you already noticed from Twitter, I’m one of the Icers who relentlessly flood people’s timelines with yoi spoilers. So you already know I’m obsessed with this show. I agree with your post. I also agree that at this point, I really don’t care that much whether or not Yuri gets that gold medal. After ep11, I don’t think he’ll get it unless he skates perfectly on the next program and the top 3 skaters so far botch theirs. In my heart, Yuri already is a gold medalist. I want a s2! Which we might get. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. We’ll see how ep12 handles it. I’ll be satisfied if he at least can stand on the podium. We’ll see. Indeed, given Yuri’s low self-esteem and confidence, the focus is more on his character development. After ep11, it just confirms that Yuri is his worst enemy. I would love to see him get past that and become more free and confident about his skating.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you hit the mark with your assessment here. The shippers, the BL enthusiasts, people happy to see same-sex depictions treated with respect, and (what I think is the smallest group here) people who genuinely love figure skating as a sport will all find different things to love about this series. What I believe they all have in common is that the characters feel so genuine to them. It makes whatever facet of the show they individually enjoy most that much better.

    It’s not just that the characters feel genuine. I could write a character that felt ‘real’ but no one would want to see it. It’s that they have so much personality that the show is able t highlight in such a skillful way that makes them great to watch. Even Otabek (who we’ve known for what, 1.5 episodes now?) seems interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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