Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 3

If you are just catching up with the rewatch you can find the previous episode thoughts here:

However this week is all about episode 3, “I am Eros, and Eros is Me?!” After watching the last two episodes I am well aware that I am still in love with this series. Rewatching hasn’t diminished my love of it over the past couple of years and now revisiting this for reviewing and even trying to be more critical of it, I’m still very much feeling Yuri on Ice. The flaws that are there aren’t enough to take the shine away. Anyway, I’d love to know your thoughts on the episode so be sure to leave me a comment at the end.

And in case you missed the results of the poll, History Maker came in as the favourite song from the series, though there were plenty of people voting writing in their own choice of songs (let’s just accept the sound track is awesome).


Episode 3:

After a very brief recap by chibi-Yuri that I’ll just ignore because I’ve already made my feelings about the narration clear, we get straight into Victor demonstrating the choreography for the Yuri’s routines. All things considered, we don’t see very much of Victor on the ice during the series, though it is worth noting that the season begins and ends with Victor skating, in episode one alone in the dark and at the end with Yuri. Still, there’s something really beautiful about the way Victor moves and it isn’t just that the anime has told me I should appreciate the world champion. He really is something special to watch and that draws you all the more to him as a character.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Victor skating Agape

What really becomes clear as we move from Agape to Eros, is that Yuri is still very much a Victor fanboy at this stage (not that I can blame him). His eyes never left Victor while he was performing Agape and as Victor prepares to demonstrate Eros, Yuri feels this is an incredibly important moment where he will see the choreography Victor has prepared for him. One of the criticisms I’ve seen of Yuri on Ice is the repetition of the routines throughout and while I kind of get that we do see Agape and Eros many times, I feel that each time something new comes out of the routine and we see where the characters currently are in their journey. At this stage, having Yuri watch the routine he will later perform, the distance between himself and Victor is still very clearly established.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri watches Victor

The moment of seriousness however is swiftly broken as Victor begins his skate and Yuko’s nose explodes in a fountain of blood in one of the most often used anime tropes. Of course, it is followed by Yuri contemplating that he might get pregnant from just watching Victor (and people still want to argue about whether there are romantic feelings in this show despite the repeated statements that imply more than a coach/student relationship). However this quickly turns to Yuri’s panic as he considers whether or not he can skate the routine. Yuri’s biggest issue is his confidence and self-image and while Victor who oozes confidence regardless of the occasion can pull off the routine to Yuri it feels like it will be incredibly out of reach.

Yuri on Ice Ep 3c

The conversation that follows between Victor and Yuri again demonstrates a very different relationship than between Yuri and his previous coach. Again they stand facing each other meeting each other’s eye and Victor doesn’t shy away about asking the most important question: Why can’t you make it happen? Even at this stage, in the few days Victor has really had a chance to get to know Yuri, he realises that Yuri is the one standing in Yuri’s way. He doesn’t know why and he doesn’t really know how to fix it, but he wants Yuri to overcome his own block and show the world what he can do.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Victor and Yuri

And that was probably what Victor saw in the video in episode 1. He’d seen Yuri skate in competition but seeing Yuri skate when he was calm and relaxed with Yuko in a rink he was familiar with and no other audience (that he was aware of) Yuri performed smoothly and without hesitation. While I’m not certain about Victor’s motivational methods, his intention is clear as he asks Yuri to practice the basics and chooses to train Yuri Plisetsky first.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri and Victor
Okay, I’m motivated.

I love the next part where Yuri is considering what Eros actually means and he talks about the story he saw in the routine. As the routine takes on minor changes and refinements, so to does the way Yuri visualises this story. However at this stage, Yuri is seeing the routine as Victor’s and so the story centres on a character who is very much the way Yuri still sees Victor. This also reveals Yuri’s fear that after Victor is done he’ll cast him aside, much as the playboy left the girl once he’d finally won her over. It is obvious that forcing Yuri into the same role won’t work and it is great that as Yuri finds his way the story modified to accommodate his view and personality.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - A Playboy comes to town

After discussing the story, and acknowledging that the way it plays out at the moment sounds more like Victor than himself, Yuri also laments that just copying Victor won’t allow him to surpass him. This is a real glimpse of the competitive Yuri who wants to come out on top even if his own doubts keep holding him back. Victor is the world number 1 and Yuri wants to do better than him. This is what drives Yuri over and over again regardless of how hard he has fallen and it is what ensured he wasn’t going to quit skating even after his last disastrous year. However, when Takeshi calls him on wanting to be better than Victor, Yuri realises the ‘audacity’ of what he has just said and quickly denies it. And yet, this is a rare case where Yuri has clearly and without his usual filter spoken his mind. Victor would have been thrilled if he’d actually overheard.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri

I also love that after the first day of training both Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky end up in more or less the same sense of exhaustion and exasperation. As much as Victor has good intentions, neither one of the Yuri’s really understands what he wants of them or how to achieve it. While this process will later allow them to rise to greater heights, right at this point in the series they are both a little bit lost. I like also how the image of them in the hotspring together compares with the image from the end of episode 2 where they were first told what they would be skating. The distance between them hasn’t narrowed at all and yet they continue to be a warped mirror of one another in their reactions.

Next we get the training montage. I’ll admit though, I really enjoy this one (though much as I observed in my original episode 3 review, there’s some really cringe worthy dialogue. Some of that comes from the fact that Yuri is using a pork cutlet bowl as his image of Eros (the entangling of the egg line still makes me crack it every time and I don’t quite think that’s what it was going for). But some of it just comes from the fact that at this point Victor isn’t really sure what he needs to say for the two Yuri’s to really find what they need so he’s just kind of spouting whatever comes to his head. The first time I watched this it was really odd and on rewatches it makes more sense in context, but it still makes for some fairly odd lines.

That said, for a training montage we get a nice richness of variety in activity watching Yuri skate, then Yurio, watching them run and do other fitness training, and cycling through the range of activities, all punctuated by short snippets of dialogue and finished with a great choice in background music that gives us a sense of forward movement and a need to hurry.

Yuri on Ice Ep 3i.JPG

They also take the opportunity at the end of this sequence, while the Yuri’s are standing under a waterfall (that will help) to fill in a little bit about Yuri Plisetsky and we see him remembering his grandfather. This is the first real step for Plisetsky is finally finding Agape, which won’t happen for awhile yet but when it does it is stunning to watch. However, what is even more noteworthy is that this is perhaps the first scene where we see Yuri Katsuki reach out and touch Yuri Plisetsky. For all that they have been side by side in a number of scenes, and Plisetsky had no trouble with kicking and then standing on Yuri, this is Yuri’s first time initiating contact and showing that the distance between them has narrowed somewhat through this shared training experience.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky

It’s important that this scene occurs because soon after Yuri asks Plisetsky to show him how to land a quad. Barely days before there was no way Yuri could have asked, blocked by both Plisetsky’s confrontational manner and by his own need to overcome things alone and not looking vulnerable, but now he wants to perform the routine Victor has made for him and he wants to do it better than Victor. Yuri is willing to ask for help and the distance has narrowed sufficiently between the two characters that it doesn’t seem like it comes out of nowhere.

The way the characters and their relationships organically grow throughout the series is one of the things I love most about it. There are small steps along the way showing how things are gradually changing even if sometimes they aren’t noticed. Though it is worth noting that he asks from across the room giving himself plenty of space. Yuri may be able to ask for help, but he still isn’t comfortable doing it.

Yuri on Ice Ep 3k

However, if we thought the slightly cringe worthy dialogue was over and done with, Yuri decides to throw his own line in there. There’s just no way to listen to someone say “the Eros of the pork cutlet bowl” with a straight face and not just burst out laughing, which kind of takes away from the rest of the tone here. I get that comedy is one of the listed tags on this anime, but I’m not entirely sure if this line was meant to be that laughably bad (though it is pretty memorable).

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri's Eros

The choosing of the costumes is a scene that is over with quickly and yet there’s a lot to think about in the sequence. Firstly, we have Yuri still showing how much a Victor fanboy he is when he remembers where each and every costume came from. Then there’s the costume he picks up that Victor explains was used to suggest both male and female gender at once. This line might be fairly throw away in the scene but it does suggest that Victor is not exactly hung up on gender norms, and more importantly it allows Yuri a hint as to how to start realigning the story of the playboy to more suit his current self. Yuri’s face as he chooses the costume speaks of the fact that he hasn’t just chosen something pretty or flashy, but something that spoke to him loud and clearly.

It’s fairly clearly in contrast to Yuri Plisetsky’s response to choosing a costume. Firstly he comments that there’s a lot of stupid costumes before he warns Yuri not to pick a costume more flashy than his own.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri chooses a costume

When Yuri Plisetsky draws close to the end of his performance, we finally shift perspectives to see how he is feeling about it. During the early stages we saw the audience reacting, we heard the commentator praising him, we’ve seen Yuri pointing out that he was an evolving monster, however Plisetsky isn’t happy at all with his performance and as he goes into the final spin he just wishes for it to end. That said, he finishes the routine as best he can but he’s aware that the lesson Victor has tried to impart hasn’t stuck at all during the performance and he wants to be better. That is probably the true genius of Victor’s motivation with these two. He makes them see their own flaws and want to be better. This drive will fuel these characters through a lot of the rest of the series.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 Yuri Plisetsky

But knowing he didn’t do his best, Victor’s words immediately after the routine cut deep and you can see it in his expression. Victor praises him for the best routine he’s seen so far, and all that makes Yuri Plisetsky feel is inadequate. Victor does this a few times during the series where he doesn’t realise the feelings of those who haven’t found it quite so easy. That isn’t to say Victor is being insensitive (although at other times that might be true), he just sometimes misreads the situation.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Victor

Then it is Yuri’s turn and he certainly knows how to get pre-performance jitters. This is something I can definitely emphasise with as I had many similar instances of freaking out before dance performances or musical performances growing up. Incidentally, as I got older I realised the nerves do not get any better, you just acquire more strategies for dealing with them and even then, freak-outs were still a pretty standard part of the preparation. But, rather than focusing on Yuri losing the plot, I’d like to focus on what he says to Victor right before he takes to the ice. It is the same thing he said to Yuko in episode 1, but the delivery is incredibly different.

Episode 1 Yuri looks slightly away and as though he is ready to be rejected by Yuko even though he’s known her almost his whole life and trusts her enough to skate in front of her. Episode 3 Yuri looks straight at Victor and speaks far more emphatically. As much as he is still worried about rejection, he’s demanding Victor’s attention and given his usual passive demeanour this sudden demand certainly catches Victor’s notice. This isn’t the last time we’ll see this scene play out between Yuri and Victor and it is again, through repetition, that we can see how Yuri changes incrementally over the course of the series.

Of course, after such a demand, Yuri kind of loses his nerve and more or less begs Victor to promise he will before hugging him. The hug does two things. One, it shows that Yuri is desperately trying to close the space between them, but it also means that Yuri doesn’t have to see Victor’s expression. He’s still worried about rejection and being cast aside and Victor returning to Russia. In short what seems like a bold move by Yuri is actually weak camouflage for his real intentions: he’s still hiding.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri and Victor Hug

In contrast to Plisetsky who lost the image he wanted to hold onto while skating, Yuri’s vision has never been clearer. He knows he is skating for Victor and between his choice of costume and then his all night practice with Minako he now knows exactly how he wants to perform this routine. While it will change and evolve again in later episodes, Eros has already given us a great insight into Yuri’s character.

Yuri on Ice Ep 3r

As the performance ends, Yuri Plisetsky concedes and leaves the rink without even hearing the official result. He knows his own performance and he saw Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s performance. It is a testament to the competitor he is that he doesn’t take this too hard but more as a chance to return and train again to get better. A battle may have been lost but the war is not yet over. Still, it does make Victor’s reactions kind of questionable when Yuri Plisetsky was unahppy with his performance, Victor praised him. With Yuri, who is fairly happy with what he just achieved, Victor immediately begins dressing him down for one of his jumps. It’s interesting how Victor’s response managed to keep both of them motivated even if they both found the experience slightly crushing.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3

And that brings us to the end of the episode where we see Victor and Yuri side by side, and totally comfortable in each other’s space with Yuri proclaiming their journey forward. While it might not be very subtle, it is highly effective at framing the next leg of the journey.

Yuri on Ice Episode 3 - Yuri and Victor

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 3

And if you haven’t voted yet in this week’s Yuri on Ice poll, there’s still a day to have your say on your favourite minor character:

 


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Karandi James

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Yuri on Ice Guide to Episode 2

Last week I revisited episode 1 of Yuri on Ice and that post may have gotten a little bigger than intended (okay, a lot bigger than intended). But we’re not stopping there. We’re onto Episode 2, “Two Yuri’s?! Drama at Yu-topia”. Hopefully you enjoy this rewatch and re-review of one of my favourite anime that I have watched since becoming a reviewer.

Before we get to that, last week I asked on Twitter who everyone’s favourite character was and the results came in proving once and for all that Victor is just plain awesome. Okay, maybe the poll proved that there’s a lot of love for lots of characters, but Victor is awesome.


Episode 2:

Once again, I’m going to start by praising the choice for opening scene this week. The old style dramatic music with Victor walking through the snow (once again on a character is crossing a bridge) pursued by Yakov, and then Victor turning toward him… It’s fundamentally attention grabbing and yet ends amusingly with Victor doing his dramatic farewell scene as though he was heading off to war or something equally dramatic when really he’s kind of just being whimsical and ditching his coach. Although we will learn later there was a bit more thought put into his departure for Japan than the audience is initially aware. This is one thing that Yuri on Ice does very well.

This mix of real character drama with just enough of a twist to make you smile without pushing into full on comedy and ultimately detracting from what should be the focus of the scene. While there are scenes that are definitely just meant to be comedy, mostly Yuri works as a character drama and seeing Victor here in this scene really helps to establish his character a bit more without Yuri’s lens that dominated every scene we had with Victor in episode 1.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

However, like in episode 1, I am going to comment that the narration by chibi Yuri really just interrupts the flow. We had Victor’s dramatic departure already softened by his smile and antics on the plane and then Minako’s arrival. We’re already back in more comedy mode without this sequence and even if this was the first time watching this series through, we really don’t need the main character to introduce himself again. The rest of the information about him being in denial about Victor’s presence we already understood because of Yuri’s expression, and that Victor has made a giant leap to come to Japan was also already established this episode so there’s just no reason for this narration to exist.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2c.JPG

Unlike last episode though, here Yuri Plisetsky’s anger is a lot easier to understand. His idol who had promised to choreograph for him had just upped and left the country without even a word. And even though Plistesky understands that Victor is pretty impulsive, he’s a teenager who was just ditched by his idol. The shouting that follows is entirely easy to emphasise with. As is the fact that a lot of his anger is misdirected at the other Yuri (then again, later we’ll get a reveal about events that happened earlier that actually make it easier to understand why Plisetsky is blaming Yuri for this one – there’s some very good cohesion in this series in that things make enough sense as is, but then as more pieces come into play it all just snaps together perfectly).

Yuri on Ice- Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

Part of what makes Victor’s character so fantastic to get to know during this series is how dynamic he is. From scene to scene, from mood to mood, he really does follow his whims and that makes him a real joy to see in action. That and his reaction to a pork cutlet bowl kind of reminded me of my reaction the first time I went to Japan. I can definitely understand the joy of having something that yummy put in front of me.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2e

Of course this scene also reveals how callous Victor can be whether intentionally or not. As Yuri and Minako explain that Yuri gains weight easily and so only ate Pork Cutlets when he won something and Victor asks why Yuri had eaten one recently when he hadn’t won anything. While it comes across as an offhand remark, putting yourself in Yuri’s shoes, when his confidence is already low and his idol has just launched that kind of sideways attack, it would definitely hurt. But you can’t really feel annoyed at Victor because there is actually nothing wrong with what he has said. Yuri hasn’t won anything recently. Which actually leaves me in two minds given on the one hand I completely agree that Victor hasn’t said anything actually wrong; and on the other hand I really want to give Yuri a hug. Possibly I’m just too attached to these characters.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

Then of course we have the scene where Yuri has moved Victor into his room and Victor gets very close and hands on with Yuri while making statements that can quite clearly be misinterpreted (and will gladly be misinterpreted even on a first viewing by those who want these two to be together, and will gladly not be by those who insist they are just coach and student). But what we see with this scene is how Victor is hands on and pushes himself into Yuri’s personal bubble. Other than Minako, every other character has so far kept a clear physical distance from Yuri, so Yuri’s reaction of scrambling away is perfectly understandable.

I’m going to be clear now, I don’t buy the “they aren’t in a relationship because they don’t kiss or do anything physical during the series” argument. For me, while I would like to see more anime move romances along, the relationship that builds between these two characters is genuine, strong, and clearly romantic, though even I will admit that most of the encounters do leave some ambiguity. That said, one snow-flake doesn’t make a blizzard but if you get enough of them… Still, at this stage (episode 2) the relationship between Victor and Yuri is very ambiguous as are Victor’s intentions so it makes sense that this scene is really open to multiple interpretations.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri

I mentioned this in my thoughts on episode 1, but right from the beginning Yuri’s relationship with Victor as a coach is different to how his relationship with Celestino was presented. Here, while we see a significant gap between the two in space, they are sitting on the same level looking directly at each other. Compared to every other relationship we’ve seen with Yuri, we see that despite Yuri holding Victor up as some kind of divine being (he admits himself he’s held him on a pedestal), Victor is working hard to be on the same level as Yuri and to understand him, even if he is doing it in a fairly uniquely Victor manner. At this stage Victor hasn’t tried to teach Yuri anything but he has been keenly observant and asked many questions slowly figuring Yuri out.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri castle

If we contrast this with Yuri Plisetsky’s recollection of asking Victor to choreograph for him, what we see is Plisetsky looking up and reaching up to Victor for the handshake. The two are never shown as being on the same level in the scene. While it kind of sucks that Victor would blow off a promise he made, while the scene has significance to Plisetsky, it seems to have little for Victor.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2i

That said, while I appreciate the use of the lief motif for Plisetsky in these early episodes (yet another nice musical touch), much like with the shouting at Yuri in the toilet, it is really hard to find a redeeming feature in a character who would kick someone in the back from behind and then stand on their head. While his anger is something that can be understood, these extreme actions which potentially are there for comedic exaggeration, damage the overall character arc Plisetsky takes because it gets the audience fairly off side. I do recall it wasn’t until my second watch through that I appreciated Yuri Plisetsky as anything more than a point of conflict and a catalyst for change.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

But, it is Yuri Plisetsky’s extremely violent and confrontational approach that finally shows us a little bit of the competitive Yuri who we will see more often. As Yuri listens to Plisetsky’s verbal abuse, he can’t help but smile at being underestimated. This is the first real spark of confidence, backbone, and competitive spirit we’ve seen from Yuri and it is something that the ongoing rivalry with Plisetsky will fuel throughout the series though that isn’t the only thing that brings out these traits. Interesting also that this is the first character Yuri is really shown to be looking down on. While I get Yuri Plisetsky isn’t a tall character, Yuri hasn’t even been shown looking down on the triplets who are children.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri and Yuri

Once again the importance of surprises comes up as Yuri Plisetsky watches Victor skate. He tells Yuri that Victor was torn because no matter what he did no one was surprised any more. For someone as spontaneous as Victor and with his personality, that had to really hurt. It also shows that Yuri Plisetsky is just as much a Victor worshipper as Yuri Katsuki, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2l

And so we get another face of Victor. This is where he starts really listening to Yuri’s family and friends about what drives Yuri and his habits. Its a small thing at the moment but it is another building block in the trust the two will build later. Yuri’s been running from Victor and Victor is working to close the space between them. This quiet and contemplative Victor who listens and absorbs information is a stark contrast to his exuberant response to food, his callous laughter and apology to Plisetsky for forgetting a promise, or even the super seductive Victor who approached Yuri just a few days ago.

Just another sidenote: how does Victor not want to pin his hair back? That fringe would drive me absolutely crazy.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

With the next day finally arrived, we see once again Victor’s desire to surprise. He plays the music for the two Yuri’s and get’s their thoughts. He waits until the decide for themselves how the music will be assigned and he overturns it with a single proclamation. Its a deliberate tease to both the characters and the audience and it lands perfectly as it fits entirely with what we’ve seen of Victor’s character so far and the overall idea of surprise that continues to be carried through this series. Now this scene could have been left out altogether and Victor could just be working with one Yuri and introduce his music and then work with the other and introduced the other song. The plot would still function perfectly well, but this scene is exactly what we need to really consolidate all three characters and the relationships that will be built on throughout the season as well as to allow this episode, like the last one, to conclude with a worthwhile surprise.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Yuri

Of course what follows Victor’s announcement is another fairly savage attack upon both Yuri’s self-confidence. Still, it does shut down any argument and allows the plot to move on without any further delays so I guess we should be happy that Victor can cut right to the point even if he does do it in a pretty savage way sometimes. Though once again we see Victor looking down at Yuri Plisetsky while Plisetsky sets the terms for the skate before Victor turns to Yuri and looks on at almost even level while Yuri merely expresses a desire to eat pork cutlet with Victor. And Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s declaration is the best smile ever complete with sparkling eyes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

The pieces are all firmly in place for the showdown between the Yuri’s with the direction of the plot hanging in the balance. Still, all the cues have been there to show which direction this is going and which coach/student relationship is going to catch and who is going to be left wanting. Hopefully you will join me next week as I take on episode 3.

Finally, there is genuinely no reason for me to include this image but here it is anyway:

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 2

This week I asked on Twitter for people to choose their favourite song from Yuri on Ice and I’ll add the results to next week’s review of episode 3. New poll is up on twitter asking who your favourite minor character is. Be sure to have your say.


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Karandi James

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Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 1

In case I’m confusing some people, last week I dropped Angels of Death and decided rather than adding another show to my seasonal lineup that I wasn’t all that interested in, I would revisit Yuri on Ice. Now I may have watched this series about a dozen times since it aired, but this time I’m casting a fairly critical and not-at-all-fan-girl swayed eye over this ice-skating bonanza (alright, I’m probably lying about the not-at-all-fan-girl part, but I’m making an effort to be a bit more level headed this time through. Initially I planned to review two episodes per week, however I went a little note taking crazy in episode 1 so decided to just cover the one episode this time around. Hopefully some of you will join me as I revisit this series.

This is going to be a new reviewing experience for me given I’ve never done episode reviews of an anime I’ve previously watched, and I certainly have never done episode reviews where I have already reviewed the episode. Needless to say, I will be discussing things that happen later in the series as I go so spoilers if you’ve never watched Yuri on Ice. I wonder how this will turn out?


Episode 1:

Right from the opening sequence, this anime really grabs the viewer. It’s so quiet with just the sound of the skates on the ice and then Yuri’s narration while the viewer is mesmerised by Victor’s presence on the ice. We see both characters as they were when Yuri first saw Victor on the ice to the present. There are so many links to events and ideas later in the show here as we see Yuri viewing Victor as something greater than a man, we see Victor reaching out toward Yuri, and we are introduced to the idea that Yuri is constantly surprised by Victor, something that he will try to overtake later in the series (for all his lack of confidence Yuri is certainly competitive). Then the opening song, ‘History Maker’ begins with its iconic beginning that even now still makes me smile idiotically just from hearing the first few notes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

Yep, definitely lying about the not fangirling part of this review.

The first time I watched this anime, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commentators. Admittedly, they did explain a few things about the skating at various points, but I was pretty mesmerised by everything else. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but this time I’m pretty determined to actually pay attention to them. And I even finally caught the newscaster’s name: Morooka. Amazing what I can do when I pay attention.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

It is however probably worth noting that no matter how many times I rewatch Yuri on Ice, I still find the transition between the normal animation style and the chibi Yuri narrator jarring. Also unnecessary. It just feels like a mismatch with the tone of the rest of the show and one that really does jolt you out of immersion. Part of me would almost prefer the episodes to be recut to remove the few instances where this is used, but the information given by these segments is actually useful. That said, there really should have been a better way to deliver the information. It’s essentially an info dump, and while it is over quickly, it is an intrusion into the narrative.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

However, I do love Yuri Plisetsky’s first appearance. His slide around the wall before leaning against it with a sigh as he watches Yuri Katsuki enter the bathroom really establishes his attitude, that of someone playing at being a punk. It’s all so deliberate and his entrance into the scene is incredibly graceful and smooth. Which makes his next act of kicking in the door when Yuri is in the toilet, all the more dramatic; exactly what Plisetsky is going for (he is a teenager after all, we can forgive him a little drama).

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

Before we get to the door kicking scene however, we have the phone call from Yuri to his family. Keep in mind, none of the viewers got to see Yuri’s performance on the ice. We know he came last out of the top 6 skaters, but we genuinely have no idea if he actually stuffed up his routine or what happened. But here we see him apologise to his mother and break down into tears. I remember the first time I saw this I wondered if his parents were pushing him or super competitive, but after the first viewing it became quite clear that Yuri’s harshest judge is Yuri himself. When he’s usually so uncertain and indirect with his words here he clearly says, “I’m sorry, I messed up.” There’s no sugar coating or uncertainty in the blame he lays on himself.

Now, I did just say I loved Yuri Plisetsky’s entrance? Well, that already happened. I less love the next sequence when Plisetsky shouts at Yuri Katsuki. Mostly because I’m supposed to be feeling sorry for Yuri who was just crying in the toilet, and secondly because I can’t imagine under what circumstance shouting idiot/moron at someone in a bathroom would actually be an appropriate social norm. While Yuri Plisetsky will grow on me as a character in later episodes, these early moments with inconsistent and fairly extreme behaviour make it harder to really appreciate his journey, that and the fact that we almost always get Yuri Katsuki’s perspective which means a lot of Yuri Plisetsky’s story will go unnoticed. Side note: the music played during this sequence is fantastic.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

It’s interesting to see the few interactions between Yuri and his coach in this early episode. Again, it isn’t something I noted the first time through, but here we clearly see Yuri walking dejectedly behind Celestino. Neither is really interacting with the other (and previously the coach just gave Yuri some fairly formulaic ignore the online comments advice). There’s no real connection between them at all either through their words or how they are viewed in these scenes. It is so different from when we see Yuri with Victor where they are almost always facing each other or side by side.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri and Celestino

Okay, I’m skipping past Yuri meeting Victor and the interactions at the train station when he returns home, mostly because I think his mother’s reaction is pretty priceless. When asked if Yuri was in a competition she calmly says he didn’t make the cut and then with undisguised enthusiasm declares that thanks to that he can finally come home. I’m not sure if this is adorable because she is happy her son is coming home, or if this is a little callous given the career he’s worked essentially his whole life for is falling apart around him, or whether it sits somewhere in between the two. Either way, it is clear she loves Yuri and she’s glad he’s going to be home (which is not something that should be taken for granted) and that fact is emphasised a few moments later when she sprints to greet him at the front door.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri's Mother

After the initial greetings and some conversation that more or less reinforces the point that Yuri doesn’t know what his next step is, he goes out to ‘practice’. After seeing him running through the town we get this shot of him running across the bridge. We’ll come back to bridges many times in this series, but I particularly like this image as it is unclear whether Yuri is running away or running toward something and that kind of matches his state of mind where he is tired of people asking him what his plans are, meanwhile he’s working hard in his own way to figure things out. I also like how the light is in front of him but Yuri is mostly a silhouette in this scene.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri

While the opening narration clearly established that Yuri has been fixated on Victor for a long time, and this was followed by Yuri’s disappointment that he felt he couldn’t stand on the same stage as Victor, the episode takes another moment to remind us of Yuri’s long-standing fascination with Victor. It does this through introducing his childhood friend and former rink-mate Yuko which leads Yuri to reminisce about his early skating days. While young Yuri is adorable, it is his growing obsession with Victor that really becomes clear from when Yuko first introduced Yuri to him through the TV and magazines, to Yuri acquiring a poodle (just like Victor) and naming it Victor. This clear obsession is actually more problematic than helpful later in the series as it kind of creates a communication block between the two characters, but at least it helps to ground where Yuri is coming from before the show attempts to establish a relationship between the pair.  And then Yuri asks Yuko to watch him skate (and I’ll get back to this in a later post because there’s a clear difference in how Yuri asks her this favour to how he asks Victor later in the series).

There is absolutely something magical about the simultaneous routines between Victor and Yuri. The musical choice is excellent, but everything about the scene just comes together perfectly. Keeping in mind, the audience has not seen Yuri skate prior to now. We’ve heard he failed and made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve not once seen him take the ice. And now, our first impression of him on the ice is that he holds his own against the world number skating the same routine and both of them perform it beautifully. Yuko acts as the audience here and her open mouthed appreciation of Yuri is everything that the audience is feeling (okay, I promised I wouldn’t fan girl, but I love this scene, it is beautiful). This also ties beautifully to the very end of the series where we see the two of them on the ice together, not just doing the same routine in different rinks.

Then of course we get the catalyst for everything that comes after in this series. Yuko’s kids upload the video of Yuri’s skate and it goes viral eventually being viewed by Victor. Where the reactions of most of the other characters are pretty much what you would expect, at this stage Victor is still an enigma. About the only clues we have about him are that Yuri idolises him and that he hesitated when asked what he was going to do next season. So his expression while viewing the video is something that is quite ambiguous and most of us will read it as we like based on what comes after. But still, I remember the first time I saw it and I wondered just what was coming next.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Victor

And then the episode brings us back full circle to the idea of Victor surprising Yuri. Just as Yuri begins another day he sees the dog and after being told it belonged to a good looking foreign guest he dashes to the bath to be confronted by his idol.

Surprise!

It’s a fantastic opening episode in that it has set up the main character, built in some of the world around him, and already begun moving the plot forward with Victor’s arrival. Whether I’m fan-girling or not, this is a very solid episode 1 for an anime series.

Hopefully you had some fun revisiting this episode and I’ll get to episode 2 next week (though hopefully try not to go quite so note crazy).

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 1


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Yuri On Ice Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

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Overview:

Yuri Katsuki is a Japanese figure skater who kind of feels his not-so-glorious career is over when Victor (his idol from Russia) shows up to become his coach.


Product Link:

Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book
Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book


Review:

Let’s be honest, this is not going to be an overly objective view. I’m going to try, but I’m going to fail, because just saying the name Yuri on Ice still makes me smile like a bit of an idiot. I’m actually going to take this as a plus/minus review because that is going to help maintain some objectivity and it will also mean I’m not just reiterating stuff I’ve already said in my over posts on this series (or at least there will be less reiteration – I’ve written a lot about Yuri on Ice already).

Plus +

The characters in this story feel real. That was kind of the main point of the feature I wrote back while this was airing. Are they the most well rounded characters in all history? Not really. Do they contain infinite levels of depth? Definitely not. But they feel real. In real life people aren’t always well rounded and depth is something that even if someone has it they don’t always show and these characters have enough depth to keep from being boring. Even the minor characters who get very little screen time feel like real people. One of the criticisms I’ve read of the show is that the support cast exist only to lose and from a narrative point of view that is kind of true. However, someone has to lose the competition (or at least not win) and given our main characters (Yuri, Victor, and Yurio) kind of only interact with their family sparingly and then other ice-skaters and their coaches, it kind of makes sense that most of the support cast are competition and that at some point they are going to lose events. I don’t actually see that as an issue with the characters and more an inevitability of watching a sports anime. I love the cast of Yuri on Ice (even JJ who is really an obnoxious braggart but is never actually cruel to the other skaters which is an important point for when they switch things around in the final competition and make you see him through a different lens). They just feel like this could be a real group of people for at least 80% of the run-time of the show.

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Minus –

While it is fantastic that we got to see a romance between two male characters that didn’t involve either one declaring they weren’t gay, acts of violence, or acts that are borderline if not totally predatory, Yuri on Ice didn’t really delve into this. Rather, it feels like they wanted to just ignore the fact that this was a male on male relationship and just tell a story of a relationship which is fine and it would be lovely to see more shows just tell the story they want to tell (so not really a minus). But while it was lovely to see the main characters just accept their attraction and relationship the fact that every other character in the story just accepts it as well and not one person ever raises the issue that they are gay or both guys or anything else, really shatters the realism that is built up almost everywhere else in this story. It is great that this relationship is accepted in the world of Yuri on Ice. It is great that they didn’t need to spend half the run-time justifying themselves. But when you have a Thai character announce to an international group of competitors and a restaurant full of customers from Barcelona that his two male friends just got married and no-one says anything except congratulations (admittedly, he did make the announcement in Japanese) you just have to wonder about the reality being presented. Certainly it would be great if this is how such announcements were greeted but for the most part I think most of us know that this isn’t how such an announcement would be taken. So, no, I’m not criticising Yuri on Ice for not being a political piece on gay rights but I am criticising it for this one critical break from constructing a believable reality in terms of the main relationship.

Plus +

This is so pretty. Okay, people who know a lot about animation and people who are more critical in general of animation than me, will point out the terrible facial expressions some of the characters have if you pause at points during their routines. They will also point to reused sequences of animation for the routines. There’s a few other parts they’ll hold up to show you that this anime doesn’t have amazing animation. Sorry, but I disagree with them whole-heartedly. This is beautiful to watch. The colours, the movement, most of the expressions, everything is just gorgeous and if a certain action sequence gets reused multiple times I’m fine with that. Outside of the skating I loved how each of the venues was shown and I love the small details are included throughout. Yuri on Ice is beautiful and for something that seems pretty simple on the surface there is an incredible amount of detail that you can find when you start looking (and my rewatch of this series only convinced me that I’ll have to rewatch it again, soon, to pull out yet more details).

Minus –

I kind of touched on this when I talked about the characters but the story is really simple. While this isn’t really a problem in a character driven show there really isn’t much going on from a story point of view. Even the other competitors aren’t really constructed as antagonists because they aren’t. Yuri is facing himself and his own self-doubts. Yurio is trying to transition into the senior competition and prove he is better than what he has shown the world so far. JJ is trying to fan his own ego. The characters are all facing some inner-demon rather than an actual antagonist or conflict. The competition is more or less just a way to show us who is winning their psychological battle at any given moment. Yurio winning overall was predictable early on and Yuri not winning gold was also nearly a foregone conclusion after Victor said they’d get married if he did. In light of wanting another season this ending was definitely needed. However, Yuri did need to show how much he’d improved and overcome through Victor’s presence so a silver medal and a world record will just have to do. Still, a lack of antagonist or real conflict won’t detract from the overall viewing experience so while from a narrative point of view this might be a minus, from an enjoyment point of view it probably won’t interere with the fun of watching.

Plus +

Can we talk about the music for a moment? Because after you get past one of the most memorable opening themes of the year what you have is a show that just throws amazing music at you. Admittedly, given each skater has two separate songs and we’re introduced to a lot of different skaters over the course of the show, it was kind of easy for this anime to hit us hard with brilliant music. However, what really sold the music was the solid link to characterisation. These skaters are revealing who they are through their music (part of that ongoing inner battle) and each piece has been perfectly mapped to the character. Some of these links are obvious with Yuri naming his original piece ‘Yuri on Ice’ and JJ naming his ‘Theme of King JJ’ but others are far more subtle and yet equally powerful. I am going to have to get the soundtrack to this anime at some point because the music is exceptionally well done.


Product Link:

 Yuri!!! On Ice (Yutora!!!) Original Soundtrack
Yuri!!! on Ice Original Soundtrack


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Minus –

This is a criticism I raised early on in the series when reviewing week to week and it is of some of the dialogue. Between being cheesy, obvious, or incredibly lame there are some terrible lines of dialogue early on (though admittedly some of this may be because things got lost in translation). The instances of lame dialogue thinned out as the series progressed but there were definitely a few face palm worthy moments early in the show. Actually, some of the interactions between Victor and Yuri later in the series border on brilliant, not because there is a stand out line that makes you go ‘yes’ but because they really develop a natural pattern of conversation (or arguments) as they spend more time together.

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Plus +

This is a truly emotional experience. Okay, that is beyond subjective but if the characters have drawn you in to their romance and their desire to win then you will find yourself incredibly caught up in the final episodes. I know I was. There were tears. Both first and second time through. They were mostly happy tears.

Plus +

Yeah, that’s two in a row, I’m cheating. While the story is pretty basic I loved how early events impact upon later ones and flash backs are used with real purpose and make you reconsider both the story and the characters. I’m not going too much into this because it is something that is better to experience but information you gain as you go will continue to change how you view the early events and this definitely helps give the basic storyline a little bit more of a wow factor.

I’m going to leave this on the positive because even though I thought I’d said everything I wanted to about Yuri on Ice before this review still just spiralled a little out of control even after multiple rewrites and edits.


Product Link:

Nendoroid No. 865 Yuri!!! on Ice: Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver.

Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver


Final thought, if you are one of the very few people who haven’t already watched Yuri on Ice (or haven’t already totally written it off because of all the crazy fans) then you should definitely give it a go. Maybe it won’t rock your world but its definitely got a solid (if simple) story with characters that moved me (and clearly thousands of other crazy fans).

Please tell me why you loved Yuri on Ice below… or tell me why it wasn’t your thing.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: It’s In His Kiss

As much as I love my action, dystopian futures, horror stories, and generally violent adventures, deep down inside I have a soft spot for a well told romance story. This comes from an upbringing of watching family friendly romantic comedies with my mother on weekends while folding piles of washing or ironing or other incredibly boring chores but the laughs and sweet stories of all those girls finding their one true love definitely left an impact. Now, if I have a choice of romance or action, I’ll probably pick the action, but every now and then I’m just in the mood for something a little bit sweeter and then out come the romances.

kamisama

However, as I sought out anime romances, one thing became incredibly clear to me. There are very few romances that fall into a moderate category. Romances either present as beautiful stories of chaste characters who blush at the mere sight of one another or they present as stories with super aggressive characters who rapidly push the age rating and most people’s comfort zones. And while every now and then we’ll stumble across a story of characters who will actually just fall in love and be a couple, the more common scenario is watching twenty to forty episodes with a couple who have barely managed to hold hands.

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Yes, it is the third season after a 13 year gap, but Sousuke and Kaname finally confidently hold hands.

What this leaves us with, however, is a story that starts reading all sorts of things into fairly mundane actions. The ‘indirect’ kiss nonsense that comes up time and again is one particular example that really makes me roll my eyes. While admittedly, characters probably shouldn’t be drinking out of the same water bottle or sharing a straw or whatever (have these characters never considered glandular fever) the sheer fuss they put up about the possibility of an ‘indirect’ kiss is just insane sometimes. These characters literally melt into puddles of stammering and half the time end up dropping or knocking over the thing they were supposed to eat or drink.

Indirect Kiss.jpg

While this sequence is cute enough in one or two stories, by the time you see it play out again and again and again (don’t believe me, check out the TV Tropes page for indirect kisses and the anime examples) and it ultimately all just gets a bit silly.

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One of my favourite anime romances, Kimi ni Todoke, suffers from being one of those impossibly ridiculous stories. Sawako is a stammering mess of insecurities and doesn’t believe Kazehaya could ever have feelings for her. As a result, when it is first suggested she should date him she flat out states it is impossible. She doesn’t give him the gifts she makes him. She eventually can’t even meet his eyes. All and all, she does everything possible to make herself a cliche shoujo heroine and the type that under most circumstances would drive me half-way up the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t because I do know that by the end of season one I wanted to slap her for not actually just kissing the guy at the shrine. Nope, you will have to wait until the end of season two before these two will actually kiss and even then, that is as far as their relationship is going. Thirty plus episodes and they finally manage a kiss. Two characters who have been in love with each other since nearly the beginning. To say the pace of that relationship progress was glacial would be being generous.

acchi

Now not every anime romance is quite so insanely slow or chaste. Still, it is interesting how much emphasis is put on the notion of kissing your partner. In some ways it is kind of refreshing and it feels nice to know that the emotional connection between the characters is getting more emphasis then the number of times they can get the characters into the bedroom. Also nice to know that there is a focus on the narrative behind the romance rather than just showing us the characters making out. I appreciate both of these things. At the same time, like with everything else, when there isn’t a variety of relationships and relationship types being shown, it risks normalising some behaviours, marginalising some viewers, and ultimately not providing options so the argument if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, ceases to have weight.

Because a great many people want to watch romance and anime. They may not be after the super shoujo high school girl who blushes to the tips of her ears when a guy picks up her eraser, but they’d like to see a relationship unfold.

takeo and yamato 3

Part of this was why I really enjoyed My Love Story. The protagonist was a male, rather then the girl, and the confession was over and done with four episodes in. The story was about them learning how to be in a relationship rather than getting to the relationship. That doesn’t mean they moved any faster given how long it took them to accomplish hand-holding and the protagonist kissed his best friend (with the aid of some cling wrap) long before he got around to trying to kiss his girlfriend but it still felt a bit different from so many other love stories.

Yuri + Victor2

It was also why I was so puzzled by the number of people who tried to play down Yuri and Victor’s relationship in Yuri on Ice. The ones who claim it wasn’t a kiss and they aren’t engagement rings. Given how little physical connections characters in other ‘romance’ anime have, Yuri on Ice was outright explicit in showing off that relationship. Those two were hugging nearly from the beginning and if hungry stares are the staple of most relationships, just watch Yuri before he starts any one of his skates as he meets eyes with Victor. The average female protagonist has got nothing on that look across the ice and if it was being directed at her she’d probably claim she’d gotten pregnant on the spot.

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Admit it, you want him to be looking at you right now.

Although, the mis-information about pregnancy and sex that comes across in some anime is also a little bit alarming. I kind of get why it happens culturally but at the same time I don’t think girls claiming they’ll get pregnant from kissing a guy really helps get the right kind of information across to people. I’d suggest you not learn sex-ed from anime in the first place, but at the very least they should try to stamp out the more pervasive myths that get flung about.

Steins Gate Kiss.jpg

However, personal thoughts about romance aside, one thing anime does very well, is really makes those rare scenes, the kiss between the heroine and her hero, truly melting moments. Maybe it is the long wait for it, the build up, the anticipation. Maybe it is the sound tracks, the soft lighting, the sparkles. Whatever it is, one thing I know is that when a couple in anime finally get together and they finally lean in for that kiss, I know I’m usually on the edge of my seat and once or twice I’ve applauded.

Question:

Who was your favourite anime couple and what episode of their anime did they finally kiss in?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Let’s Try Something Different and Build A Harem

I’m going to thank Cactus Matt from Anime Q & A for throwing this tag my way. I have never even considered building a harem and so when I was nominated my brain suddenly went a little bit crazy with the possibilities. Then of course I had to think about when I could respond to the tag and ultimately I decided just to make it my feature for the week. I think this is going to be fun if only because I decided to go all out and not think for a moment about the reality of what such a gathering would be like.

buildaharem.jpg

The Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that fit into a different harem character type. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime). If you want the full list of original rules, click here.

My Amended Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that will play a particular role within the harem. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime).

The reason for the change is I don’t really use labels from the types and tropes that this list should probably include (Tsundere, etc). I actually find these labels really limiting as they only focus in on one part of a character, much like the ‘manic pixie girl’ label that gets thrown around. So while I do understand these terms, I tend to avoid using them except when I’m being really sarcastic toward something, so I decided not to use them in my harem.

My Harem

01. The Dangerously Perfect Guy

Okay, we all know this type in fiction, though fortunately few of them exist in real life. This guy can do anything. Literally anything. And he does it perfectly, flawlessly, and looks really good while doing it. Too bad he’ll chew you up and spit you out and not even look back as he moves on to the next meal. And of course, to fulfil this role in my harem I’ve enlisted the aid of one hell of a butler, Sebastian Michaelis, from Black Butler. The one advantage of this, is by default I get Ciel Phantomhive to be part of the harem without using one of my five because Sebastian isn’t going to just join someone else’s harem. So realistically, I’ve somehow connect Ciel into it and Sebastian came along for the ride.

Ciel and Sebastian.jpg

02. The Smart and Sexy Guy

He doesn’t necessarily have to wear glasses, but why would you turn down a gorgeous looking guy with glasses who also has a brain to back up the look. He’s probably a little bit sharp tongued and he’s probably talked down to you on more occasions than you can count, but he genuinely smiles when you argue back and win a point or two in the verbal sparring match. This guy has a plan at all times, doesn’t respond well to sudden shocks, and isn’t great at expressing emotions, but he’s just too cute because of his awkwardness. So yes, I’ve selected Uryu Ishida from Bleach. He’s smart, deadly with a bow and arrow, he sews, and the guy is seriously stubborn. Plus, he really does rock those glasses.

Uryu Ishida

03. The Guy You Just Want To Hug

He’s like your little brother, only fortunately not. His smile is infectious, his tears make you melt, and all and all, this is the guy you want to hang around and spend time with. He tries hard at everything, he’s always looking out for you, and when he falls down he pulls himself back up but you just know one day he’ll need you. Yep, I had to throw Katsuki Yuri, from Yuri on Ice, on this list. Partly because I actually needed someone nice in my harem, and partly because I really would like to give Yuri a hug. It probably doesn’t hurt that if Yuri is around there’s a good chance Victor might show up.

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04. He’s In His Own World, But One Day He’ll Need You

It’s amazing how many girls in anime fall for the guy who barely know they exist and yet insist on just waiting patiently. And yet, there was one guy I thought of who might just be worth waiting for. Natsume Takashi from Natsume Yuujinchou. The guy literally lives in his own world and at times his human friends get quite forcibly pushed aside, and yet, for someone like that, I could definitely see them being worth the wait. As he slowly opens up to people, there’s such a kind and gentle soul there. Much like with Yuri Katsuki, I’d just like to give Natsume a hug.

Natsume.jpg

05. Finally, The Bad Boy, Because Every Harem Needs One

I’m going to be honest and point out that I’m not a big fan of bad boys in real life, but in stories they work beautifully. The joy of watching a rebel or rule breaker in a narrative is fun and safe, in real life they are a destabilising factor that is best avoided. But for my fictional harem, I’m throwing one in because that allows me to toss this truly gorgeous guy in, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree he belongs in the list: Shinya Kougami from Psycho Pass. He’s fighting for his sense of justice, or revenge, and he doesn’t worry about whether or not he has to break the rules to do it. His single-minded focus is attractive as hell, but also dangerous as it is likely to burn those who come too close.

Kougami

Your Thoughts:

Given I’d never put together a harem before, or even considered it, this ended up being a lot of fun. Of course, I then visualised these five guys (six if you count Ciel) in a room together and realised there is no way I’m stepping foot into that room. And with the exception of Natsume, am I noticing a trend in my type of anime guy? Definitely. Now the question would be, if this was a real harem, who would be the OTP? Karandi and…

Nope. Can’t see it. Not with any of them.

I tag (no obligation):


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Ordinary Anime Characters Who Inspire

While many an anime character has inspired me, it is worth noting that a lot of anime characters have super powers, or magic, or destiny, or some other force working for them, which makes their actions a little less applicable to the everyday life that most of us lead. This list is to the heroes (and ordinary people) who have moved me to action or have given me strength when I have needed it. That makes is a fairly personal list so I’d love to know who would end up on your list of inspiring anime characters. While it hurts that I can’t add Maka to the list this time round, the characters below are all exceptional and yet completely human.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Akito from Bakuman for standing by his friend from start to finish no matter how rough things got.

Number 5: Nagisa (Assassination Classroom)

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One might argue that none of the students in Assassination Classroom are particularly ordinary, but that is their most compelling trait. They are ordinary. They are the ones who are overlooked and cast aside, who have been down so long that they have forgotten that they even have the right to stand up. Watching Nagisa move from someone who accepts this role to someone who has a clear presence about him and is comfortable in his own skin is something that is greatly inspiring. Okay, most of us don’t have a yellow octopus for a teacher who we get to learn to assassinate, but most of the lessons Nagisa takes on board are strictly of the ordinary kind of valuing who you are.

Number 4: Kurumi (Kimi ni Todoke)

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Season One of Kimi ni Todoke introduced us to Kurumi and she was a nasty piece of work determined to get Kazehaya to look at her and to get Sawako out of the picture. After being rejected she undergoes an incredible character transformation that reminds us all that just because we don’t get what we want doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Kurumi becomes a truly great character and by the time the end of season 2 rolls around you really want her to find her own happiness.

Number 3: Kousei (Your Lie in April)

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This one might be cheating given the kid is definitely a genius. Yet, much like with Nagisa, the lessons Kousei takes on board during the heart breaking journey that is Your Lie in April are strictly the ordinary everyday ones that we all could learn from. Learning to grieve and mourn, to accept what has happened, to find a purpose, and just to find who you are. These are the things Kousei discovers throughout the course of his journey and they make him incredibly relatable and when he takes the stage in the final episode you cannot help but feel moved by him.

Number 2: Oreki (Hyouka)

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While this might seem an odd choice for number 2 on the list, there’s something truly remarkable about how this character lives his life. He has his own ideal of energy conservation and yet at the same time he doesn’t want his ideals to harm the experiences of others. He doesn’t want to let his sister down and later Chitanda and so acts contrary to his own nature on more than one occasion. This is also inspiring because while some people might see that as giving in or compromising, what it really demonstrates is an acceptance of a need for community and that it can’t always be about you. Oreki is inspiring because he finds a balance where he does have moments where he refused to do things or to get involved and other moments where he acts for the benefit of others. While I’m still not sure I like the anime, I quite like Oreki’s character and he reminds me that sometimes it isn’t all about me.

Number 1: Yuri (Yuri on Ice)

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Did we really think anyone else was going to take this spot? I almost disqualified him because being a world champion (even if he’s only in the top 6) kind of makes him somewhat extraordinary, but the only superpower he has is persistence and determination and so I let him take the top spot. His journey is fantastic and watching him stand up again and again and try to overcome his weaknesses never ceases to inspire.

And there they all are. Who would you have put on your list?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Finding Joy and Inspiration In Watching Anime Characters Succeed

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been feeling pretty down recently. After work travel followed by travel for a wedding and then straight back to work even though I had a fairly bad cold, I’ve been feeling really tired and run-down and finding it hard to really get any motivation to do much of anything. For awhile I kind of embraced this down feeling and watched anime that normally I wouldn’t give a moment to, I didn’t get around to drafting much for the blog, and I kind of just kept my head above water at work. The problem with that is that it isn’t a long term solution for anything other than eventually drowning and so I had to pick myself up one way or another.

And so naturally I turned to Yuri on Ice.

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There are so many bloggers out there who talk about how anime has saved them or given them the strength they’ve needed at a certain time in their life. Realistically, any story can have this impact if it is the right story delivered at the right time and the right way. However, for those of us who call ourselves anime fans, there’s something very special about anime and the way we connect with it and the characters. We know they aren’t real (or at least most of us do). We understand these are drawn or computer generated characters. And yet the emotions we feel while watching them are very real.

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say that watching Yuri on Ice is an experience in and of itself. Each time Yuri falls down he picks himself back up whether personally or professionally. The reciprocated respect between Yuri and Victor that ultimately becomes a truly beautiful love is amazing to watch and the scene where they exchange rings is absolutely fantastic.

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Yet none of that beats the high of seeing Yuri performing his routine, to his chosen music, at the end of the series and finally delivery an awe inspiring performance. While the relationship between the characters is great, the whole cast is interesting, and the music great to listen to, for me the biggest high watching this anime through again is in seeing Yuri’s moment of triumph.

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In a way that none of the screaming shounen protagonists have ever been able to do, Yuri’s performance inspires me, lifts me up, and makes me want to smile and cry all at the same time. It makes me want to try things and not give up and for a brief moment I might even crazily think I can accomplish anything and everything I set my mind to. About a minute after that my more cynical and rational mind kicks in and tells me not to get too ambitious but focus on the things I can in fact accomplish with just a bit of effort.

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I followed this up with a round of Snow White with the Red Hair. Let’s be honest, Shirayuki is inspirational from episode 1. She never once lets a single thing set her back for too long. She gracefully rises to each challenge she is faced with and continues to look forward on her path. There’s never bitterness or complaints or looking for an easy path. There’s no faltering just because she’s tired. Shirayuki is the kind of character that might really annoy you if you were really feeling down, but after being raised up and inspired by Yuri, Shirayuki gives you a practical approach to walking the path you choose.

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And finally, mostly for a laugh, I ended this anime recovery session by watching a single episode of Attack on Titan season 2. The one where Eren first actually kills a titan while in human form. Eren is not my favourite character and yet there’s a definite thrill and joy in seeing him momentarily celebrate this seemingly minor achievement during a battle. On a more serious note though, it does remind us to take time to celebrate the little things. Otherwise, we might get eaten by a titan before we have the chance to celebrate anything.

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So while I’m still feeling very tired and behind and like life might just be piling too many things on my shoulders just at the moment, I’m no longer seeing this as a negative. Yuri, Shirayuki and Eren all gave me a reason to look forward, to embrace the challenge, to celebrate small successes, and to remember that I can choose to continue to wallow or I can choose to try to make my situation better. I may not always succeed at what I set my mind to, but I can certainly make some progress with effort.

Once again I find myself very thankful I am an anime fan.

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So I’ll leave you with the question of which anime characters have ever inspired you? And this will probably lead into a top 5 list very soon about inspiring anime characters.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Reality in Romance

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With the Spring 2017 anime season wrapping up it is inevitable that a lot of people would be reviewing and discussing Tsuki ga Kirei. Overwhelmingly the reviews are positive and what I keep hearing again and again is how sweet the romance is, how pure it is, and how relatable and real it feels. It was a show I dropped early on but I’ve been watching double episodes over the last week to try to finish it and while I personally still find it incredibly slow moving I can also see some of the reasons why it has been held in such high regard by others, and yet it made me think about what I actually want from a romance story.

I’d like to put in here that I am not trying to actually review or critique the show.

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And that’s the key word. It is a story. Fiction. The whole get swept away and dream of everything working out happily ever after with the guy/girl/whatever of your dreams. While grounding the whole thing in reality might work for some people and the relatablility might help them engage with the story, for me Tsuki ga Kirei misses the mark. It is sweet that these two young people are engaged in a first romance and learning what that means and how to deal. It’s actually kind of adorable. But as far as a story goes it seems lacking to me.

When tension is inserted into the plot through flat phone batteries, confiscated phones, petty jealousy, third wheels, and the like it really feels like someone remembered it was supposed to be a story and that in the last twenty minutes nothing has happened other than the cute girl avoided eye contact with the reasonable looking boy again. That might seem like a harsh evaluation and certainly if you are more caught up with the characters you might not agree, but while watching the episodes I am openly checking the time in almost three minute intervals just to make sure it hasn’t stopped entirely. Plus, they were pushing the credibility of reality when they had a teenage girl let her phone go flat when she knew he was likely to message her.

But again, this is all personal preference. I don’t like the romance in Tsuki ga Kirei because it is, for the most part, very believable and (for lack of better words) kind of dull. Guy meets girl, they like each other, have a few minor hiccups on their journey and continue on (I haven’t got to the end yet so don’t know if I have a happily ever after awaiting me or not). Essentially, it is so real that it feels like I should just sit in a shopping centre foodcourt and watch it unfold around me rather than watching the show.

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Say, I Love You was another romance that I had difficulty enjoying. Despite a genuine fondness for the main character, I found the story slow moving and the character interactions mostly flat. The only reason I watched it more than once was a friend of mine quite liked the series. Admittedly, the third time I watched it through I started to really like it and I ended up buying it on DVD so all and all it couldn’t have been that bad. Essentially it depicted fairly believable high schoolers (other than the model who you have to admit was not a typical student even if her social networking issues were pretty relatable) engaging in relationships that were plagued by the usual issues of miscommunications, jealousy, and pettiness.

So what does it take for me to get into a romance?

Basically the romance needs to be one part of a bigger story. I need to feel that the interactions are moving somewhere and that there is a sense of movement in the plot and with the characters. It doesn’t hurt if the romance takes on a more fairy tale point of view either. There’s something to be said for sweet romances where people get swept off their feet and find their true love. It may not be ‘realistic’ but it makes for grandiose stories with characters I can get behind and fall in love with, at least for the duration of the show.

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This is where I think Yuri on Ice really sold itself to me. It had Yuri’s story as an ice skater and the romance was an integral part of that story. I could relate to the ups and downs and misunderstandings in their relationship and yet it moved along quickly and had that sweeping feeling of things just moving forward inexorably to a predetermined ending. Basically it felt like a story infused with romance rather than a series of events between two characters that might end up with them being romantically intertwined. I know from reading some reviews of Yuri on Ice, that some viewers didn’t really relate to Victor and Yuri’s romance and felt it was too easy, too rushed, too forced, or too one sided, and that’s where personal preferences come in and probably the reason there are so many different kinds of romance story out there.

We all like a good romance (even those people who insist they don’t will have that one story that makes them smile/cry every time they watch it). For me though, I think I’d like my romance a little less realistic and a little more fantastical. I can see reality already so what I’m looking for in a story is something that has some connection to reality but goes that little bit further to bring something truly special or memorable to the table.

That said, I am going to finish watching Tsuki ga Kirei. Who knows, by the time I get to the end I might have even learned to love it. But I’m turning it over to you and asking you how you like your romance? Do you prefer the realistic, the sweet, the spicy, the funny, the dramatic, or some completely different style of romance altogether? I’d love to know.


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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