Behind Every Great Anime Protagonist Is A Great Supporting Cast

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Previously I’ve looked at reasons why being a villain would suck and I’ve certainly looked at various characters on my blog and why they shine, but with the exception of Natsume (see the supporter battle Irina and I worked on), I seldom discuss the supporting cast and their importance in making or breaking a series. Which is something I decided I needed to change because the more I think about it the more I come to realise that great characters don’t occur in isolation.

For every character I’ve connected with or instantly fell in love with and wanted more of, surrounding them is usually a plethora of well written, developed and interesting characters. Each one holding up their end of the story and playing the role they need to play in a way that allows the protagonist to shine.

Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair
Obi is a fantastic supporting cast member in Snow White With The Red Hair. See my top 5 favourite moments with him.

However, this also highlights my general problem with harem anime (whether standard harem, reverse harem, or not a harem but using more or less the same tropes). That is, generally (not always), while there might be good characters in the anime, they aren’t working to complement each other. The focus is on each of the girls (or guys) standing out from the others with a distinct visual and personality. Their job is to carve out their own niche audience and fan group rather than support a main character or even the cast as a whole. As a direct result, the supporting characters pull attention away from what frequently turns out to be a fairly dull protagonist and because of the shared screen time none of the supporting characters ever really feels fully realised (again, generalising).

Going through some of my favourite characters, or characters I am drawn to, I can see time and again, that a lot of what makes them so amazing comes from those surrounding them.

March Comes in Like a Lion (I promise this isn’t another love letter) has Rei at its centre with the Kawamoto sisters as almost dueteragonists. Particularly in the second season where Akari becomes a major focus for a large arc. All four of these characters are fantastically written and interesting characters and honestly I’d probably happily watch them just stay inside the Kawamoto house and interact at this point.

But, that wasn’t what drew me to the show and to Rei early on before the deep connections were formed and I learned more about these characters. Whether it was Nikaido as a self-proclaimed best friend, Shimada as a mentor character, Kyoko and Goto as potential antagonists, the members of the Science/Shogi club… every single character we encounter (even the one episode rival shogi players) felt like a fully realised character that helped to flesh out the world. More importantly they gave Rei a wide range of people to respond to and react to bringing out more of Rei’s personality and pain and allowing the audience to feel that he was also a fully realised character rather than just a one note ‘tragic young shogi player’.

Yuri on Ice Episode 6
Yuri and Victor

On a lighter note, Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are amazing. No question I loved watching the two of them interact and grow closer together. I would happily watch more of just the two of them. But again, that wasn’t the immediate draw. What draws you in to Yuri on Ice are all the small touches throughout, including every supporting cast member we meet feeling like they have their own story to tell and just being fun.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

Whether it is Yurio running from his fan club, JJ and his over-bearing confidence, Yuri’s family and their support, all of the characters bring something to the mix that helps to elevate the whole shoe and provide a context for Yuri and Victor’s relationship to grow within.

However, even something like Noragami, where I genuinely love Yato, it is again the support cast that manage to bring out his full charm. Hiyori and Yuki stand with him and each brings something relatable and interesting to the story, but the other gods, the regalia, Hiyori’s friends, those who call Yato, even the phantoms, each of them add something to the story and while we may not get a huge amount of time with them, or back story, they are a delight to meet and interact with.

Noragami

Where Noragami manages to go even further is in the portrayal of Nora who remains for most of season one an incredibly enigmatic figure but one who is sufficiently built up that when she takes a more active role in season two it doesn’t feel like she’s come from nowhere. It feels like a natural extension of where her story had been heading from the beginning and it is largely through her interactions with Yato that more of Yato’s past can be revealed to the audience.

My Hero Academia Support Cast

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it in terms of whether a great support cast can make or break a show and a protagonist. Look at My Hero Academia. I like Midoriya, I really do, but he isn’t a particularly memorable character on his own. It is the zany cast that surrounds him early on that fills the anime with so much energy and enthusiasm and allows Midoriya the chance to grow into his role as both protagonist and hero. There’s almost as much fan art around plenty of his classmates as there is of him (and of some characters I’d bet there’s even more).

When creating something it is important to remember that while the protagonist will probably be the character people remember, a great protagonist on their own doesn’t normally carry the story alone (unless they are Tom Hanks in Cast Away in which case I still give the award for best supporting cast member to the Volleyball). It is the support cast that create the space and opportunities for the protagonist to be who they need to be and draw out the best of the main character.

Cast Away - Tom Hanks and Wilson

So remember, behind every great protagonist is a great supporting cast. Or a really emotive volleyball.

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DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE
DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE

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My Pirate Crew

So Lyn Sheridan kicked off this tag and it seems like it could be great fun. You know, other than the fact that I get boat and every-other-mode-of-transport sick I think being a pirate could be great fun. Is there a job for pirates who walk? Anyway, huge thank-you for the tag and let’s see who I’m including in my crew.

The Rules

  1. Display the My Pirate Crew logo and add ‘My Pirate Crew’ as a tag.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  3. Link back to the original post here (so I can compare your crews to mine).
  4. Select seven anime characters and give them a position on the crew. These are the positions you can to fill. Warrior, sniper, chef, doctor, scientist, navigator, strategist, mechanic, entertainer.
  5. Nominate 5-10 bloggers.
  6. Set sail and rule the seas!

The Crew

Let’s start out with a navigator because I’m going to get hopelessly lost. This may be a weird choice but I’m picking Homura from Madoka Magica. I’m not entirely certain about her map reading ability or even navigation but that’s kind of pointless. She can just go back and fix it if we make a mistake so I’m thinking this is the perfect choice for a navigator.

Homura Akemi Madoka Magica

Next, we’re going to need a chef because food is really important to maintaining morale, and you know, just because food is really good. I’m actually cheating here and I’m going to bring all four of the guys from Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori because food, dessert, tea and coffee are all super important.

The mechanic is perhaps the easiest position to fill. Winry from Full Metal Alchemist. Seriously, why wouldn’t you pick her? If Kaylee from Firefly were an anime character I’d have picked her but she’s about the only person I’d pick over Winry.

Winry Rockbell Full Metal Alchemist

Right, so warrior, because I probably need someone who can fight in this crew if I’m actually putting together a pirate crew. There are many incredibly strong fighters in anime but then I had to think about who I’d actually like to spend time with in close quarters and I ended up deciding Hei from Darker Than Black. He doesn’t talk all that much but he’s pretty proficient and I’m certain that electricity and water couldn’t possibly be a terrible mix.

Strategist is again and easy one to pick. Admittedly, she didn’t do so well out of her strategist in Katanagatari but things worked out for everyone else so I’m definitely picking the self-proclaimed strategist Togame. While I’m not entirely sure that her motives and mine will align, I’m certain that she’ll lead us to some interesting pursuits.

Katanagatari - Strategist Togame

For the doctor, much like my navigator, I’m not so worried about them getting it right. I’m picking Orihime from Bleach and she can just reject the damage and reverse it back to before it was. It’s a neat trick and works on all injuries. Not so sure whether its effective on things like catching a cold but I’m thinking given she’ll bring you back from being pretty much dead she’s definitely worth having around.

Bleach Orihime

Finally, entertainer, because everyone needs entertainment. I’m definitely hiring the duo of Yuri and Victor from Yuri on Ice (and please don’t point out the lack of reality of having an ice-skating rink on a pirate boat). You know what, we’re going there and if worst comes to worst they can just get drunk and have a dance off.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

And that would be my highly dysfunctional crew. I’m sure we’d have fun. Or sink. Either way.

The Nominees

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ONE PIECE: WORLD SEEKER
ONE PIECE: WORLD SEEKER

A Special Friday’s Feature: Adventures at Supanova – Brisbane 2018

Supanova Brisbane - Cyberman from Dr Who

Hi all and welcome to a very special edition of Friday’s Feature as I share a bit about my weekend when I travelled to Brisbane for Supanova. For those who don’t know, Supanova kind of covers a bit of everything. Comics and gaming seem to be a large part of the focus, but there’s a lot of sci-fi, a bit of horror and quite a bit of anime thrown in just for fun. Previously I’d been lucky enough to travel to Melbourne for the event but that was a number of years ago and so I was super-excited when I managed to save up some cash, organise some time off work, and get to the convention this year.

CIMG3846
Despite how it looks at opening, there was plenty of room and the lines were never too long.

Now, it does start on the Friday afternoon, but with travel I was only able to go on Saturday and Sunday, but I still found heaps to do and way too many things I wanted to buy. However let’s start at the beginning. Over four days (counting the Monday and the Friday travel time), I drove over 19 hours, spent nearly 5 hours on trains, and walked over 30,000 steps.

And I wonder why I was tired this week.

Supanova Brisbane 2018 - Dean Cain

I also met some incredibly cool people, picked up some amazing merchandise, got to hear Dean Cain answer questions about whether or not there were ever any accidents involving his Superman suit and Bonnie Wright talk about what it was like to kiss Harry Potter so I’m feeling pretty happy with my weekend. I am a little bit disappointed that the panel with Julie Benz didn’t go ahead, but it did mean I had plenty of time to listen to the guys who rent out Darlek’s and a Tardis for charity and have operated a Darlek on the set of Dr Who, so again, not a lot to be disappointed about when so many things were so much fun.

And yes, I did dress up for the occasion (at least on the Saturday). I went as a gender-bent version of my very favourite anime ice-skater, Yuri Katsuki. For patrons, there’s a little surprise over on Patreon to check out.

Andrew Law - Figment and Flame Artbook

Now, I spent a huge amount of time in the artists alley because some of the art work there was amazing (as were some of the key chains, dog collars, self-published books, and insect themed jewellery). Still, my favourite stand ended up belonging to an artist by the name of Andrew Law (and here is his website which links to pretty much everything else). I absolutely loved his art work. Lots of fairies and dragons and fantasy based work. Some was coloured, a lot just ink, and I’m going to be honest, it was beautiful. I ended up buying his art book and I will admit I couldn’t really stop looking at it on my way home. I really just enjoyed talking with him and looking at his work. A lot of the other stalls were more interested in just giving you their spiel or pitch or would more or less ignore you until you directly asked them a question, but he was really nice. If you get the chance, check out some of his work because some of it is absolutely stunning.

Outside of that, I did buy quite a few fan arts of Nyanko Sensei, the characters from Land of the Lustrous, and a poster from Yuri on Ice. The Sword Art Online posters came as part of a show-bag I picked up because, Sword Art Online (couldn’t help it).

If you follow me on Twitter you’ve already seen my gorgeous new Nyanko Sensei plush (oh my goodness I love it so much).

And finally, my prize from the convention, I splurged a tiny little bit and bought myself a petite character box of the Black Moon Clan from Sailor Moon including Wicked Lady. I have tons of Sailor Moon themed merchandise, but almost nothing from the villains side and I absolutely love the villains from season 2, so this was a really fantastic pick up and one I’m glad I found.

So yes, an awesome weekend and I would absolutely love to do it again, though I’m not sure when that will happen. I’d love to say I’ll go next year but it was quite hard to fit it in this year so it may have to wait another year or so before I manage to work it in again.

On a final note, I got a few odds and ends (mostly fan posters and the like) that I’m going to save up and put together for a bit of a give-away next year when my blog turns three (I’ll hopefully add to the small collection I have now to put together a couple of decent prizes).


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SPECIALS

Celebrating Megane Day

The amazing Mel has organised a small celebration for Megane Day which happens to be today. I’m going to admit, I love characters who wear glasses and so I was happy to take the excuse to revisit some of these amazing characters.

Previously I’ve given my top 5 list of male characters who wear glasses and the female list. And I stand by both lists of super cute glasses wearing characters.

That said, these lists were written in October 2016 and right after that my new glasses wearing love came along and he is super adorable.

Seriously, my only complaint is that he doesn’t wear his glasses often enough. Yep, Yuri Katsuki can go straight to the top of my favourite characters who wear glasses.

And of course in second place, from the same season of anime we were given Rei Kiriyama.

Way too much glasses cuteness in one season, and it totally made my top 5 list dated almost as soon as it was written. That said, I’m glad Mel organised today for us to celebrate because it gave me a chance to share the love.


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Karandi James

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Kamina Gurren Lagann

Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 8

At last we’re heading to Russia in Episode 8: Yuri vs Yuri The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Short Program. Victor and Yuri overcame a real hurdle as coach and student in episode 7 and came to understand each other a lot more as people but how has that prepared them to take on the competition in Victor’s homeland? Not to mention the long awaited rematch of Yuri Plisetsky against Yuri Katuski.

That said, last week I asked on Twitter which was your favourite free skate routine. Here are the results:

 


Episode 8: 

This episode opens a bit differently from normal as we don’t have an initial narration. Instead we hear the sound of a plane, we get some text that tells us we’re in Moscow and then we hear squeals as Yakov and Yuri Plistesky’s group are walking together. It’s a nice touch and a good lead in to getting some narration from Yuri Plistesky. Despite his fairly lengthy appearances in episodes 2 and 3, we really don’t know much about him nor have we heard his view on things. So the transition here is nice as is getting to see Yuri with his family. Also nice to see how Yuri Plistesky goes from being a much softer more human character when talking with his grandfather about food and then instantly becomes irked when he hears that Victor has arrived in the country. Sometimes it is hard to remember that Yuri Plistesky is still just a teenager and moments like this really help to make sense of some of his more over the top moments.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

I’m not going to spend a huge amount of time on them, but here we meet quite a lot of the other skaters at the hotel. After transitioning from Yuri Plisetsky arguing with Victor we run into Yuri Katsuki standing in front of the elevator where he is joined by Seung-gil Lee (and I’m just going to point out that if anyone ever wants to make a spin-off anime about Seung-gil I’m 100% for that). Yuri takes the moment to once again show off his social anxiety and mentally notes there is no one in this round that he’s really friendly with making it a very different atmosphere. We then have the elevator door open and are introduced to Mickey and Sala (siblings who have their own dramas that play out as a minor plot point) and Emil. Sala, probably sick of Mickey and Emil’s bickering and possessiveness makes a minor pass at Seung-gil and he turns her down flat before attempting to exit the scene. The storm this causes allows Yuri to sneak off to a different elevator and leave the scene.

You could view all of this as filler but at the same time we’re about to watch these characters compete against Yuri so it is kind of nice that we see a little of their personalities as they arrive in Russia and prepare for the competition. Much like with Minami earlier in the series, despite only appearing for a couple of episodes, each of these characters leaves a mark in the narrative and on the viewers.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

Of course, Yuri’s plan to avoid drama backfires as Yuri Plisetsky also gets on the same elevator and after a moment of strained and awkward attempted small talk from Yuri, Plisetsky essentially declares war once again. The contrast between the two characters is nicely managed here though unlike in earlier sequences neither is looking down at the other and they are standing side by side. It shows the growth they’ve both had as characters, despite Plisetsky’s sour expression. It also shows that the real rivalry between them is still for Victor’s attention even though Victor has made it pretty clear where he is interested.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

Emil, Mickey and Seung-gil all skate in the first half and there’s a bit of build up around Mickey and Sala’s relationship and Mickey’s codependency, but I’m not going to focus a lot on that here. Finally we see Yuri preparing to skate and then we cut to Yuri Plisetsky who gets the news that his grandfather won’t make it to watch him skate. Now, all the way through the series Plisetsky’s seemed like the kind who isn’t very sentimental and other than his fixation on Victor doesn’t seem to hold onto emotional connections. And yet, the look on his face and the tone of voice when he realises his grandfather won’t be there speaks volumes and given what we’ve seen on the show so far, it is clear this is going to have an impact on his performance just when he has the chance to face Yuri again.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8 Yuri Plisetsky

After the eye-catch we get a sequence at the hotsprings in Japan where we see the super cute Makkachin eyeing off some plastic wrapped offerings and you just know this isn’t going to end well. I remember the first time I watched this episode and how worried this sequence made me. Even knowing where it goes, I still feel a little sad for Makkachin as he watches the food so closely with that adorable look on his face.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8 Makkachin

But now it is time for Yuri to skate and once again we get a Victor and Yuri sequence to remember on the edge of the rink before beginning. It has been building up since episode 1 when Yuri asked Yuuko to watch him and every time since when he has been more aggressive in asking for Victor’s attention. Episode 1 he asks ‘please watch’ of Yuuko and that is the same request he makes of Victor in Episode 3. By episode 6 he tells Victor to ‘Never take your eyes off me’.

However, episode 8 takes this to a very new level of aggression and possessiveness. Possibly spurred on by the crowd cheering Victor’s name and feeling left out, Yuri forcibly pulls Victor toward him and commands his full attention as he states the performance has already begun. The sequence demonstrates where they are in their relationship as well as the uncertainty that Yuri is clearly still feeling about whether Victor is going to stay with him if he doesn’t make the final. There’s a lot of pressure riding on Yuri for his performance but he knows what he wants here. Even as he skates away we hear him thinking how embarrassing the scene was and yet he admits he’s trying to push back at the crowd and make his own stand. For someone who never had any confidence in himself, he finally wants something enough to overcome that fear and try to grab it and hold onto it.

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Yuri Katsuki follows this with a fairly brilliant performance of Eros. However, as the fourth time we’ve seen this routine, we cut away a lot to the judges, Victor’s reactions, and to Yuri Plisetsky’s preparations for his own skate. There’s a sense of melancholy surrounding Plisetsky and we see him mostly from behind and looking fairly isolated as he prepares and watches the final moments of Katsuki’s routine. However, in typical Plisetsky fashion, he speaks with hostility when he Yuri Katsuki comes off the ice. Still, it is clear the young skater is putting up a tough front here and while he’s trying hard a lot of the usual impact is lacking from both his words and expression.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8 Yuri Plisetsky

I think one of the things that gets overlooked about Yuri on Ice is that it isn’t just the people like watching Victor and Yuri. What really works for both of these characters is that they are genuinely nice people. They both have flaws and rough edges, they clash and have issues, but overall they are really the kind of people you would want in your life. This is evident when they see Yuri Plisetsky take the ice and they note that he’s found his agape and are both overjoyed. Yuri Katsuki is competing against Plisetsky and yet he is still happy to see his competitor has improved and has come a long way. This is just such a great part of the show and a lot of the reason it remains a joy to watch because it doesn’t let itself get bogged down in hostile rivalries that are actually destructive. Whether this is realistic is another story, but it is certainly a lot of the fun of watching.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8 Yuri and Victor

The final skater to take the ice in the short program after both Yuri’s is JJ. JJ is a character we’ve seen a couple of times in news updates but until now we hadn’t actually met him at a competition. If Yuri Katsuki is someone who is overwhelmed by anxiety and a lack of confidence, JJ is his complete opposite. He is oozing confidence both in the lead up to taking the ice and as he prepares to skate. I find it interesting that both Yuri and JJ have songs named after themselves, JJ for the short program and Yuri for the free skate.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8 JJ takes the ice for Theme of King JJ

Everything about JJ’s performance is big. His personality come across through his music that he created that tells his story. He inspires the audience to clap and sing along and he’s working the crowd at every moment. For the first time we see JJ take the ice he leaves a large impression as a character who styles himself as larger than life. As much as you could call him arrogant, it isn’t as though he hasn’t worked to get there, and he isn’t actually antagonistic to the other characters. Still, JJ is the kind of personality I find hardest to deal with in real life and as a result he’s a character I find it difficult to feel anything for other than a hope that he doesn’t get in Yuri’s way. Still, he creates a fairly solid contrast in personality to a lot of the other characters and ultimately he’s a necessary personality in the final mix so he works well in the story.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

For the most part, Yuri on Ice has avoided last minute cliff-hangers so it when this one came up while it did feel like a slightly cheap way of building some drama, it isn’t as though the event wasn’t foreshadowed earlier. At the end of the episode Yuri gets a call regarding Makkachin and he’s at the vet. This leads to Yuri telling Victor to return to Japan meaning Yuri is going to be on his own for the free skate. And I love this moment as Yuri desperately wants Victor with him but remembers his own pain at losing a pet when he wasn’t there and so tells Victor to leave. He does it without any strings attached and out of concern for Victor.

Yuri on Ice Ep 8o.JPG

While Victor does ask Yakov to take care of him, I think we all knew this wasn’t a great situation and wondered how it would impact on Yuri’s next performance. Not to mention, don’t hurt the dog. I’ll leave you with the final screen before the credits.

Yuri on Ice Ep 8p

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 8


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Songs From Yuri on Ice

Tuesday's Top 5

No surprise that between the Yuri on Ice rewatch and running various polls about the routines, music and characters on Twitter, that I decided I wanted to look at my Top 5 songs from the series. I will definitely be doing a Top 5 Yuri and Victor moment list once the rewatch is completed, though that may very well turn into a top 10 list the way I’m going because it seems like every encounter between them brings something to the table.

Wait, I wasn’t supposed to be fangirling about Yuri on Ice, I was supposed to be introducing this list. Okay, so these are my personal favourite songs from Yuri on Ice and it was very hard to narrow down because there were some truly fantastic music selections in this anime. However, I would absolutely love to know your picks so be sure to leave me a comment below.

By the way, I’m linking to YouTube so you can listen to the songs if you don’t know them.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention: Still Alive (no idea why I like this song given we only heard it the once in the background for a skater that wasn’t overly important, but something about it grabbed my attention).

Number 5: Yeah Yeah Yeah

Yuri on Ice Episode 10

It took me forever to figure out what the name of this song was, but I remember that I thought it was absolutely perfect when they used it in the anime. Now if you don’t know, this is the song playing when we finally get to see why Victor got it into his head that he should coach Yuri. Yuri had apparently gotten very drunk and challenged Plisetsky to a dance off and all of the skaters apparently documented the occasion on their phone (though a dance off was not the only thing going on in those pictures and where the poll came from is anyone’s guess). Still, the song is incredibly catchy and perfectly fits the sequence.

Number 4: Yuri on Ice

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri on Ice

No surprise this song made the list. I’m probably more surprised it is only number 4, but there’s so many great songs in this anime I guess it isn’t that surprising. Still, this song was written to express Yuri’s relationship with skating and his career and it does indeed perfectly capture Yuri. It is a good thing this song is amazing because we hear it quite a number of times but each time it just draws you back in.

Number 3: Minami’s Boogie

Yuri on Ice Episode 5 - Minami

Okay, you have to love this one. Minami is such a great character considering his short screen time and this song perfectly captures his fun and energetic nature. It is very fun background music though it definitely makes you want to get up and move. Really fun song and it was coupled with a really fun routine. Really enjoyed this one.

Number 2: You Only Live Once

Yuri Only live once.jpg

I’ll confess, I’m an end credits skipper for almost all shows. If there’s something after the credits I’ll skip ahead and if there isn’t I’ll usually just cut the show when the credits roll. There are a few anime that manage to do something interesting in their end credits or change the music up sufficiently that I’ll stick around, but it is rare for me to like a song enough that I’ll watch the end credits every single time. Yuri on Ice and You Only Live Once succeeded right from the first episode. It is a perfect combination of the music feeling like it perfectly fits the shows and the characters and the visuals feeling like they perfectly complement the story and the characters. But just listing to this song by itself is pure joy. It really is the feeling of the show captured in one song and I love it.

Number 1: History Maker

Yuri On Ice Title

No points for picking that this was going to be my number one. I’ve made no pretence of the fact that from the very first time I heard this song I was hooked. I started Yuri on Ice expecting nothing, the opening scene was interesting enough but it was this song starting and the OP that hooked me and made this show something I would pay attention to. The rest of the first episode did a fine job reinforcing that impression, but it is amazing what a great OP will do for a show. Even now, whenever I’m feeling a little down, clicking through YouTube and finding History Maker is enough to make me smile. A friend of mine learned how to play it on the violin and played it for me one day and I was positively skipping for hours. This is a song that truly hit its mark for me and much like You Only Live Once, it perfectly captures the spirit of the show.

Okay, I’m now turning it over to you: what were your favourite songs from Yuri on Ice?


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Karandi James

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Yuri on Ice Sheet music
Official Sheet Music Collection

Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 7

We’ve made it to Episode 7: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Free Skate. After episode 6 left us with Yuri as the lead contender in the competition we now get to see how that will impact on his very newly found confidence. It was a tricky episode but one that I fell in love with even on the first watch through, and once again, not just because of ‘that’ moment. How will this episode hold up on the rewatch though?

Last week I asked on Twitter what your favourite short program was. Here are the results:


Episode 7:

We start straight away with the opening and then into narration that recaps the scores from last episode. However, unlike previous episodes this narration isn’t intended to be comical, nor is it drawn out. It just quickly recaps where we are and what has happened before transitioning into a phone call between Yuri and Yuuko and her family. The expression on his face tells you everything you need to know about his current mental state and I am glad they didn’t feel the need to directly state that he was feeling pressured but allowed his expression to speak for him. One of the main criticisms I’ll level at the earlier episodes is that they regularly over-explain things and this is one time where they refrained.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Katsuki Yuri is feeling stressed

Never one to miss an opportunity for comedy though, we then have Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s current state. Yuri hasn’t slept and it shows so Victor, in a display of what is probably genuine concern, forces him back to bed and then lies on him (to stop him getting back out of bed of course). However, Victor is super impulsive and so we have Yuri, blindfolded and pinned down on a bed (wow, that sounds way more explicit than it is) crying out and asking if Victor set an alarm. The scene builds on what we know about both characters and so while the tension of Yuri’s emotional state is momentarily broken, the scenario plays true to both of them and ends up hitting its mark. Even if it sounds weird taken out of context.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor puts Yuri to bed.

I really do love how small details play into this story. The next scene we see of Yuri is him trying to open a water bottle, his expression frozen and hands trembling. He’s confused because he can’t open it. Anyone who has ever started cracking under pressure knows this feeling. They’ve been in this exact spot wondering why something simple isn’t working and just getting themselves into a negative feedback loop. It’s these kind of moments that really bring Yuri on Ice to life and make it really connect with viewers in a meaningful way. Also, Victor’s distance in this scene is notable as it brings us back to Yuri’s relationship with Celestino rather than the fairly close and intimate relationship they’ve had so far prior to Yuri skating. Even when Victor does close the gap by standing in front of Yuri and grabbing his shoulders, the perspective very much makes Yuri look small and powerless and as though the gap between them is massive. It doesn’t help that Victor’s words, while once again sound advice, are delivered in such a way that they aren’t going to help Yuri’s confidence any.

While a lot of the time Yuri’s family and friends in Japan feel a little added on, there are moments, like this one, where they show us that Yuri really isn’t alone. Every one of them watching the warm up on TV can see the state Yuri is in. They recognise it in the way that anyone who is close to someone as anxious as Yuri would and they are worried because they know just how hard it is to get out of that mind set once it is in full motion. It might be a brief moment, but it continues to build Yuri’s background in relationships and as a person.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

I feel bad for skipping over Guang Hong in my discussion here but to be honest he’s a character who doesn’t really come back again, so while I love the story and his thoughts while he is skating, I’m going to focus in on Yuri still. Yuri knows he stuffed up his warm up, and Victor’s glib remarks that he will do it better in the performance haven’t done a thing to reach him. Watching Yuri watch Guang Hong’s performance is almost heart breaking.

In case it hasn’t become ridiculously clear, I really can emphasise with Yuri and this was a huge part of what drew me into this anime.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri shocked by Guang Hong's performance.

In stark contrast to Yuri’s emotional implosion we have Chris. He’s a seasoned veteran and one who oozes confidence in what he can do. Even though he is second last position going into the free skate, Chris knows he can come back from that and we see it in his expression during his routine. He’s genuinely enjoying the moment and being the centre of attention. While he wants to win, as all of the characters do, for Chris there’s a genuine joy in being a performer. It creates such a different tone when we see him on the ice and provides a good balance for the viewer. As we get to the finals of the Grand Prix the different mind sets of each of the characters become more apparent and each one brings a different perspective on competition. However, it probably isn’t a coincidence that Chris and Phichit that are introduced in this round as both of their personalities contrast sharply with Yuri’s uncertainty without clashing with him (Yuri Plisetsky certainly contrasts with Yuri but there we end up with more opposition and rivalry).

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 Chris

Now I’ve taken a few jabs at Victor’s inexperience as a coach and how ineffectual he has been thus far in calming Yuri, but the one thing that this episode wants us to know is that Victor is genuinely trying. He can see the problem but because he isn’t the kind of person who crumbles under pressure he doesn’t have any ability to understand what is actually going on in Yuri’s head. He has no frame of reference to work from. But the concern is real and that is part of what we all need to love about Victor even when he does seem like an air-head sometimes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor taking Yuri to warm up.

One thing that is noteworthy about this round of watching the routines is the attention on the characters faces and their expressions. In some versions of the routines it is the overall movement that takes priority leading to some interesting facial expressions depending on where you pause the routine. However, like with Chris, when Phichit starts his routine we see his face and exactly the mental state he is when he takes to the ice. Where Chris had that small smile of confidence in himself, Phichit has the determination but even when he is focused there’s almost a sense that he wants to celebrate the music and just burst into a smile, something we hear in his voice when his internal monologue begins. Again, it is such a major contrast with Yuri’s mindset and it really helps establish Phichit more as a character. He isn’t just about social media, there’s a genuine competitor inside him and when he takes to the ice for the free skate we see exactly how determined he is to show everyone what he can do.

Though, once again, Yuri on Ice doesn’t hold its ground and feels the need to add in some fairly unnecessary commentary from Celestino about Phichit having more innate flair than Yuri. This is something that was already apparent from the routine and from the audience response. Celestino saying it adds nothing except perhaps making him feel smug that Yuri was the one he lost and Phichit is still his skater.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 Phichit

And again, my apologies to Leo, but his routine is nowhere near as important as what is going on in the carpark between Victor and Yuri, and the anime knows this as well. Where Phichit’s routine was mostly shown with a few cuts to the main characters, Leo’s routine is almost entirely off-screen.  So let’s focus on this moment between Victor and Yuri. This moment where Victor, totally lost as to what to do to shake Yuri out of his despair, takes entirely the wrong path. Again, looking at their body language as Victor begins to speak, they are separated by many steps, their backs to one another, the distance between these two has never been greater when they’ve been onscreen. And then Victor essentially throws ice water onto a sleeping Yuri’s face with fairly predictable results.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor and Yuri in the carpark

Yeah, Victor, this was a really bad idea. If I’m honest, this was the moment during my first watch that I almost fell out of love with Victor as a character. I relate too much to Yuri and just the feeling of someone saying that to me when I was in the middle of emotional turmoil, succeed or I’ll ditch you under the guise of taking responsibility, almost broke my heart in two. Rewatches have not softened the blow from this scene, however, Victor is redeemed many times over and I’ve come to love his awkward self who struggles to learn to deal with Yuri emotionally. Still think he’d have been better off keeping his mouth shut.

For an episode so fixated on faces, this sequence is brilliant in how it twists the knife into the viewer’s heart. Victor says his piece and waits. We get the long shot showing again the distance between them before the close up on Yuri’s frozen expression. Switching back to Victor, we see the first bead of sweat appear and the first hint of doubt showing in his eyes. Then tears roll down Yuri’s cheeks (using anime logic that everyone has an entire bucket of water inside their head), and Victor suddenly realises exactly what he just did but not how to fix it.

However, it does open Yuri up, albeit slightly destructively and Yuri tells Victor that all he needs to do is believe in him and stand beside him. As Georgi begins his somewhat hilarious Tales of a Sleeping Prince routine, Yuri and Victor return to the rink side by side for the first time this episode even if their expressions are still sombre and they aren’t looking at one another. I’ve mentioned this before but this relationship is what holds this anime together and elevates it to being so much more than just a story about ice-skating. At every step we see the back and forth as their relationship grows and the two bump heads, gain ground, clash, understand each other, misunderstand each other, and it all feels so incredibly authentic (if a little bit rushed given the time frame).

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri and Victor

In case the discomfort between these two after their small spat in the car park isn’t already emphasised enough in their expressions above, after a brief cut away to Georgi and his delusions of Anya returning to him, we get an image of Yuri and Victor still side by side but leaning away and looking away from another. Again, this is so different from how these two have been presented as they’ve come together in every other episode. This moment is fairly critical not just for Yuri as a skater but for their ongoing relationship both as coach and student and any foundation of a romantic relationship in the future.

Meanwhile, the sign above Yuri’s head is just kind of ironic.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri and Victor

I do however, really enjoy the sequence when Yuri prepares to take the ice as he essentially plays Victor by dropping the tissues and then touching Victor’s part, reminiscent of his actions back in episode 4. For all that Yuri might seem like the one being led along at times or weak because of his anxiety, it is scenes like this that show that Yuri has some real fortitude. Afterall, despite his severe anxiety he did rise up to get into the Grand Prix the year before without Victor. While Victor is still at a loss for what to do next, Yuri is taking charge. And this doesn’t go unnoticed by Yakov who thinks that if the student is consoling the coach Victor has a long way to go. With so much focus on Yuri’s growth and improvement, I love that this sequence turns that entirely on its head and shows Victor as the one floundering and lost and Yuri being the one to show the way.

And then the routine begins. For the first time this episode we see Yuri calm and composed. Internally, he is thinking about Victor’s failings as a coach but externally there is a real sense of control about him. Despite how busy Yuri’s thoughts seem to be, Victor notes that Yuri is smiling and Celestino remarks that he seems unusually relaxed. After an entire episode of seeing Yuri on the brink, this moment is wonderful and while Victor’s approach was still dreadful the end result is the dam of emotions Yuri had been holding back had an outlet leaving him more composed than he might otherwise have been. Having seen the routine before, we get continued cuts to the other competitors, coaches and family as we see their reactions to the Yuri that exists now. The amusement of Yuri thinking about how much of an idiot Victor is right before he executes one of his jumps is fairly priceless as is most of this routine. We’ve seen this skate before, but not like this and we’ve seen plenty of Yuri, but this is a Yuri we haven’t seen before. I think that is the strength of the repeats in this series. Rather than seeing the repeated routines as a weakness, seeing what they can bring out of each character because the emphasis is shifted each time is an absolute joy.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri on Ice

And Yuri once again shows off the theme of surprise. Midway through the routine Yuri has a sudden thought wondering how Victor would react if he changed his last quad to a flip, Victor’s signature move. While the execution isn’t brilliant, Yuri does it and blows everyone away. And so, Victor being Victor, has to surprise Yuri more and does so by literally leaping into his arms as Yuri comes toward him from the ice. And then we have ‘that’ moment. The kiss that blew up the internet. Or the not kiss for those who still want to say it is just a hug – sorry, but I don’t buy it.

I remember when I first watched episode 7. Twitter literally exploded immediately after the episode. My episode 7 review, as poorly written as it is with a typo in Yuri’s name midway along (one day I’ll edit, I swear), is still one of my highest viewed episode review posts of all times. Just as Yuri surpassed everyone’s expectations, just as Victor wanted to surprise Yuri, this moment in the show blew away all the audience expectations. Those who thought it was just going to another story about two characters who were close but their relationship was ambiguous finally realised that the relationship being constructed here was more than just yet more baiting. It was a great moment and one that was executed with perfect timing riding on the high of the routine, on Yuri overcoming his anxiety, after an episode where a rift seemed to begin to grow between the characters. All of that was just blown away in a single instant.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - The Kiss

The episode ends with Yuri gaining a silver medal but that is almost beside the point. And that is where I struggle to see this one as a sports anime. The outcome becomes almost a beside the point compared to the personal successes and growth of the characters. Still, we are now set to go to Russia for the next qualifying adventure.

And be sure to check on Twitter for this week’s poll where I ask you which routine is your favourite free skate.

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 7


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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