18 June 2017

Yet Another Guilty Pleasure: Romance and 'Yuri!!! On Ice'


... I love Yuri!!! On Ice.  It's better for me to come out and say it on my own platform rather than on Twitter or Tumblr. Oh god I can't make myself look up YOI on Tumblr or Google without safe search...

Please don't ask me to rate this. I've no clue how to rate it anyway. This isn't a review. If you want to watch Yuri!!! On Ice, go forth and watch. If not, don't watch it; that's perfectly acceptable. If you're undecided, well, don't feel the need to watch it because of me or anyone else who asserts that this is the best thing ever (SPOILER: it isn't). This is not a show you need to watch right now, because it already has deserved more than enough praise. SERIOUSLY, this show does not need any more fans and/or attention.

Yet here I am, a fan, blushing uncontrollably as I'm typing this. I am ashamed. So very ashamed. I tried to resist this damned anime, and I have never failed so spectacularly in not giving a shit.

Yuri!!! On Ice, you broke me. You fucking broke me. You have left my brain and heart at odds over your stupid existence. I want those 30+ hours and five weeks worth of repeated binge-watching back. And you owe me a million grams of insulin for the diabetes you inflicted upon me. And I need directions to the nearest volcano to throw myself into.

There be SPOILERS ahoy... if you care enough. Seriously, please don't read beyond this point. You don't need to see me at my most pathetic. Seriously, read one of my older posts instead. You'll get more use out of my badly written high school drivel than this. Please. don't read any further. I beg of you. Don't do it.

...You're reading on anyway, aren't you? Fuck my life.

*pops open a bottle of Captain Morgan and downs the whole thing in one swig*

Well, now that you're here, I might as well confess my sins in writing.

Two or so years ago when I had the energy to write for a few weeks, I had a post in my drafts ready to publish that I never had the chance to finish. It was during a time I was so fed up with modern fiction that I dove into period pieces and 19th century literature to find something to make me feel anything remotely positive. In doing so, I had my heart reinvigorated by a few adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, I knocked Jane Eyre off my bucket list, and I happily placed Elizabeth Gaskell's depressingly overlooked North and South right on the shelf next to some of my favorite stories of all time.

I can't point to one specific thing that caused me to lose so much faith in fiction that I had to leave my own century behind in the dust. To be honest, there are too many guilty individuals, stories, and parties to document them and their crimes in full here. Pretty much every genre had tried my patience, but none have made me so irrationally furious as stories that focus on love and romance.

Gag me with a spork.
Romance has been a pain in my ass for a long time. Despite rooting for some couples and ships here and there, I usually need far more than the dramas of two people getting together to like the overall story. I can blame the recent years of the radical collectivist brand of social justice warriors and their critics declaring war over every damn thing online, in real life, and in academia, but I always had some personal frustrations that have exasperated over time. The plots can be contrived and forced; the lack of charisma and chemistry can put me to sleep; or the "obstacle" is a clumsy plot device that takes me out of the world so much that I want to set it and its inhabitants on fire. At the absolute worst, the over-simplicity of the stories are torture. Apparently wanting well written stories is too much to ask the universe for, and providing an interesting romance I can latch onto seems to be even more of an impossible task.

I hate this movie so #$@%ing much it makes
Madoka Magica look like Shakespeare.
Most know Twilight is a prime example of how to not write two people falling in love in any manner or capacity, yet I can unflinchingly list Romeo + JulietToradoraTitanicSleepless in Seattle, any one of Nicholas Sparks' pieces of smut, and Silver Linings Playbook as some of many stories that make me want to bang my head against a wall until my brain turns into liquified sludge. And don't let me go on a rant about long-running shows and series (HouseThe WallflowerBattlestar GalacticaInuyashaBuffy the Vampire SlayerAngel, etc.) with romance story arcs -- especially when belligerent sexual tension is its primary appeal -- that have "progression" and "development" as the equivalent of a snake obliviously swallowing, vomiting, and then re-eating its own tail. I even quit playing Catherine about halfway through despite enjoying the fun puzzles because lead man Vincent and much of the cast were insufferable gits.

For quite a while I was undergoing a severe crisis when it came to consuming media. I wasn't enjoying fiction as much as I used to, I had a harder time turning off the analytical part of my brain, and I wanted to scream at anyone who insisted that they knew my interests better than I did. I became more cynical as I and others around me deconstructed and questioned my tastes, values, and beliefs every day for weeks and months on end with barely any story to find temporary refuge from the insanity. For the past two or so years, I was living a postmodernist nightmare. Hopefully it's slowly coming to an end because I am fed up of constantly letting myself get kicked in the face over every little thing.

North and South helped me recover a little by demonstrating how romance can be done right while allowing me to welcome older literature into my personal bubble without fear of different language and writing styles. But it wasn't until 2016 finished running its unnatural, apocalyptic course and I sought refuge in Mass Effect: Andromeda and Persona 5 after years of painful anticipation before I could finally try new things again. Then I gathered enough strength to overcome the screaming dread and panic brewing in my head and gut and watched Yuri!!! On Ice.

And thus I became the emotionally flustered mess who has typed this humiliating post for others to laugh at my expense. I want to crawl under a rock and die.

Twelve episodes of figure skating and manservice somehow managed to hit a nerve that I was ashamed of ever having due to my being born female. Yuri!!! On Ice proved to me that a medium of storytelling I feared was getting stale and dull can tackle me to the ground when I least expected it. The eleven-year-old me who started with anime through Naruto and Fruits Basket would never believe an ambitious but creatively manipulative magic girl series would nearly kill my love of the medium, only for a sports series that balances drama and comedy with as much ease as breathing to re-ignite my love for it all over again.

And my brain hates how I became addicted to this strange brand of crack I have successfully avoided until a month ago.

That's how I feel when I look back at my shitty 5/5
review of ef ~ a tale of memories.
I have gushed and squeed about many things in the past, but part of me still feels filthy for admitting that I enjoyed this show with its "average" athletically fit men, dozens of sexual innuendos, a sprinkling of BDSM connotations, and LOTS of gay subtext. Even Magic Mike didn't leave me feeling so thoroughly dirty for having fun watching fanservice that was far more blatant, unapologetic, and repetitive. This is supposed to be a sports series, and based on how many fans react -- including myself -- the average non-viewer wouldn't believe it. While I can happily say that thanks to Yuri!!! On Ice I now give enough of a shit about figure skating to watch it whenever the opportunity arises, I still end up latching onto the romance between Yuuri and Victor and squee like a child on Christmas at the expense of every other feature of the show. I swear to the God I stopped believing in in tenth grade that this doesn't normally happen. The last ship I jumped on as wholeheartedly as this was Minako and Shinjiro, but since many don't consider Persona 3 Portable canon they're not really an official couple at all. (Excuse me while I drink myself into a permanent coma just from typing that tragedy of a sentence.)

Anywho. I have known about Yuri!!! On Ice's existence since December of 2016 when a long-time reviewer I've followed since the DesuDesBrigade days, Arkada from Glass Reflection, listed the show as one of his 2016 anime recommendations. Somehow all of his statements on it -- along with a 10-15 minute follow-up describing where this beautifully heartfelt and carefully nurtured show falls flat on its face -- went through my senses, entered my brain, and failed to store in my memory banks. Because I stubbornly avoided anime for over two years thanks to Madoka, heard Yuri!!! On Ice was super-popular to the point of award-hijacking absurdity, tried to recover from the relentless consecutive traumas of 2016, and endured one too many jokes about "homoeroticism is hilarious", it took nearly five months to be receptive to the possibility of watching one episode.

I was so cynical, so distrustful, so doubtful, and so close-minded that I needed to be spoiled about Yuuri and Victor multiple times from multiple sources in order for me to hesitate enough to consider throwing up the white flag and surrendering.

Due to the highly toxic nature of discussing political stuff everywhere for any reason, I rarely talk about LGBT issues openly. There are too many landmines, too many topics, and too much anticipation for a witch hunt for me to traverse this territory with even the tiniest amount of confidence. Even though Yuri!!! On Ice has a sizable LGBT following, I still wasn't convinced to watch this show because of how everyone else kept making jokes about the higher-than-average levels of ho yay. This documentation is longer than some of my college essays for fuck's sake! (1) It doesn't help that my track record of enjoying or being interested in media with LGBT followings has been pretty dicey and inconsistent. Just because I want no one to be demonized because their gender or sexual orientation don't conform to what is "normal", that does not mean what the LGBT community loves is exempt from the same rigorous process I have in filtering every piece of media I consume. Super-duper popular stuff with loud, crazy bandwagons will always meet my skeptical eye. Whipped cream is nice on ice cream, but it won't save a melted or disgusting botched desert. A story with LGBT brownie points tells me nothing about the core soundness of the product.

I guess what I'm also trying to say is this: if there is a story with a gay romance that does not rely too heavily on drama fueled by American politics, that focuses on an actual romance rather than overly drawn-out and agonizing ship teasing, that non-LGBT individuals can vouch for it because it's just a compelling relationship, then I will try to give it a chance. Even my brain, which wants to perform surgery to figure out the inner workings of how this show makes me irrational, acknowledges that Yuri!!! On Ice fits all three categories snuggly.

Russian Yuri objects for reasons best reserved for debates
and fan theories.
Firstly, in-universe no one seems to give a shit one way or another about the mere concept and reality of two men falling in love. The only comments stem from universal issues anyone has when they "steal" a celebrity's single status and "destroy" their career prospects. Because famous people aren't allowed to have happy love lives, am I right? Then there's the occasional speculation over if and when Yuuri and Victor started banging (I sometimes entertain the possibility that they did, but I'm not too picky about when). Episode six is such a treasure trove of this stuff that I'm slightly disappointed that both the Crunchyroll subs and the Funimation dub did not capture every spit-take inducing line due to some nuance supposedly and understandably getting lost in translation. (2) The lack of diving into gender and sex politics at the expense of plot progression makes me a very happy camper. Yuri!!! On Ice struggles enough with all its ideas and characters without that volatile can of flesh-eating worms.

Secondly, despite fears of the writers teasing the audience for the first six episodes with lots of flirting, gestures, and sexual tension to the point that the Crunchyroll subtitles supposedly downplayed the gayness at times, episode seven and THEN episode ten put those fears to rest. Yes, people who are still not sure if Yuri!!! On Ice spends all its time dangling the possibility of a gay romance in your face like car keys to a baby, it's the real deal. The creators have committed to this 100%, and they have often said "Yes, Yuuri and Victor are in love" when asked (and maybe to extremes that I'm apprehensive of thanks to plenty of badly written and insanely popular stories killing much of the decent aspects of love and romance). The fact they have to keep confirming it is kinda sad.

It makes me wonder why so many writers often waste time with pointless padding. And why do so many think such delaying practices are "okay", "expected", and "normal" to the extent that any deviation is "bad", "ill-advised", or "disastrous"? Thanks to upholding a stupid status quo as gospel, a lot of potentially great romances are held back from reaching their true potential. And it makes me resent a medium enough to walk away until reforms and challenges are made. So, thank you, Sayo Yamamoto and Mitsurou Kubo, for sticking to your guns. Even if Yuri!!! on ICE failed epically, I still would have some respect for you two for flipping the bird at some conventional storytelling bullshit that plagues romances.

Needed an excuse to throw in at least one skating gif.
I won't go to the extent of claiming Yuri!!! On Ice is "revolutionary" because it requires too many hours of research in Japanese media, views of homosexuality, censorship laws, and a bunch of other culture and language-related topics I do not yet feel qualified to comment on in-depth. It requires more rigorous analysis and research than you'll find in a Buzzfeed article, but that might be the budding anthropologist in me talking. It's bad enough that there's some strange dissonance between Western audiences and Japanese audiences regarding the "ambiguity" of Yuuri and Victor's relationship that makes me scratch my head. (3) Regardless, I welcome the lack of stereotypical cliches from stories with gay relationships -- actualized or teased -- that plagues much of Western and Japanese media. Superior being(s) know I needed creators who at least try to pour their souls into making a gourmet meal rather than popcorn drowning in salt and butter. Or maybe I'm still upset that Yusuke isn't a love interest in Persona 5, and Yuri!!! On Ice served as therapy for me after nights of crying and eating buckets of various kinds of chocolate ice cream.

And thirdly, several anime reviewers I follow who happen to be men have not only given fair pros-and-cons assessments on the show's quality, but they have said with a straight face that the romance was one of the better parts of Yuri!!! On Ice. I especially have to give credit to Super Eyepatch Wolf, because his video ultimately cleared any last traces of fears and convinced me to watch the show. Him mentioning the two-sided complaint about how the anime can fail to effectively juggle a sports story and a love story simultaneously was greatly appreciated, as it painted a much clearer image of what I would expect in terms of writing quality, pacing, length, and critical reception. Above all, he convinced my brain that the feels the show induces were backed with clear forethought and my heart that it's ok to be brave by getting out of my comfort zone. If he didn't go more in-depth with spoilers and discussed his opinions clearly and informatively without gay jokes, I would still be too unsure to give Yuri!!! On Ice a chance today.

I had no choice. #sorrynotsorry
By removing all of the drama and debates regarding homosexuality in reality and in fiction and focusing on my gut and my biases, I can say I adore Yuuri and Victor's relationship. (4) I neither have experience with yaoi or shonen-ai, and nor do I plan to dive into the genre without a hazmat suit, gas mask, and surgical gloves. I don't often cheer on same-sex ships, nor do I care about gay vs straight shipping wars. This is normally not my cup of tea, mainly because it happens to be that I just don't see many same sex romances and love stories in the fiction I consume.

While some could even claim this is technically the first canon gay couple I genuinely liked in my short life of consuming fiction, sexual orientations aren't why my usually dormant ovaries exploded when Yuuri and Victor kissed. I care about them as people. I relate with their fears and insecurities. I enjoy watching them grow to trust and rely on each other personally and emotionally, the very thing I look for in any love story. I did detect them having some minor but mutual dependency issues, which painfully shows if any possibility of them being apart is brought up. Then there's that one case of poor communication and bad timing that made me scream at the screen and curse the writers for throwing in contrived drama in the last episode. Yuuri and Victor still have issues to iron out if they want their love to last, but damnit, my heart sings whenever I see them happy together. They are so fucking adorable that I needed to brush my teeth every five seconds and check into the local hospital due to my sudden infliction of diabetes.

Of course, it wasn't all sunshine and daisies at first. Yuri!!! On Ice still had a steep mountain to climb thanks to a thriving cynicism I really need to keep under control from now on. Pretty much everything and everyone had to work twice as hard to get in my good graces... with one exception. More than anything, Yuuri Katsuki was and continues to be the primary reason why I became invested in the story in the first place.

TRIGGER WARNING: lots of men crying.
I quickly gravitated to Yuuri because I share some of his traits: shy around strangers, uncomfortable opening up to others, oblivious of others' feelings, struggling with irrational and deep-rooted anxiety, and perfectionistic to the point of demanding impossibly high standards upon one's self. (Unlike Yuuri, however, I haven't found the one thing I'm good at that I love and can make a career out of.) One of the first scenes where he cried in the bathroom after telling his mother he messed up broke my heart. I have felt I failed myself and my parents plenty of times once I started college, and it's really hard to get out of that mindset sometimes. It's like being trapped in quicksand and not being able to calm down enough to reach for the hand of someone who heard you cry for help. Kudos to the writers for showing Yuuri's anxieties as real, debilitating issues rather than adorable quirks for laughs.

In fact I empathized with Yuuri so much that I would instantly go into mama bear mode when Victor would show up and shamelessly tease him. Intellectually I knew Victor felt some amount of attraction to Yuuri thanks to my being spoiled, but I was doubtful of how the writers could possibly make their relationship progress in a "natural" and un-rushed manner. Furthermore, I impulsively get uncomfortable around people who try to get to know me better in a super carefree or casual way that makes me feel they are intruders with no understanding of boundaries. Old habits and a bad case of projection die hard.

I-I am immune to your Russian taunts! >_<
Had I not known the direction Yuri!!! On Ice eventually took, I probably would have completely convinced myself that Victor was manipulative, opportunistic, and selfish, just as some speculate in-universe. It also didn't help that my mind was still trying to understand why no viewer -- fan or hater -- has raised a storm about this technically being a coach/student and celebrity/fan romance despite there being a wide enough distance between to cause concern in regards to social and power dynamics. Thanks to Victor being a pretty chill guy going out of his way to make him and Yuuri more equal on and off the ice, my concerns dissolved by episode five. I will also thank past me for not knowing about the post-credits scene in episode ten, which I did not see coming. It made me feel like such a colossal asshole for distrusting Victor as much as I did. At least it gave me an excuse to re-watch the show right away.

Watching Yuri!!! On Ice twice not only made me appreciate how much the story gripped me emotionally; it made me identify many tricks and shortcuts the writers used in order to cram two storylines and a big cast of characters within twelve episodes. Events in the narrative take place over the span of a year, and somehow the writers managed to cover more ground along the romance arc compared to the average story in such a short period of time. The part of me who hates sluggish storytelling progression is happy, especially on second viewings when characters (such as Christophe) who seemed to act creepily for one scene actually had a reason for behaving as they did only to realize they crossed the line and did not repeat that mistake again. Other times one can notice slight changes in body language between characters that show that between the previous episode and the current one, minor events or conversations happened off screen to allow character development that would have taken up more time the show barely has thanks to the dozens of other priorities it must address. This compactness along with some subtle supplemental content for observant viewers (especially in regards to the other competitors who desperately needed more screen time in general) made Yuri!!! On Ice feel refreshing. I wonder how many other details were added to the DVD/Blu-ray release, whenever the fuck Japan lets us foreigners buy the damn discs (5).

The downside to condensing story details that were not completely axed from the final product is that some things are left ambiguous at best or undercooked at worst. The actual sports part of the show suffers because the dozen or so skaters who aren't Yuuri, Victor, or Yuri get too much time dedicated to their skating and too little time to their personalities, ambitions, friendships, and rivalries. And while he gets a lot of screen time, Yurio still gets the short end of the stick. Yurio gets pushed to the background in the middle of the show and barely manages to get back to the foreground to have a satisfying arc despite being a main character. Even then, he doesn't get a satisfying send-off despite throwing his mind, body, heart, and soul into one of the most beautiful and emotionally devastating skating sequences in the entire show. The final disc release did add a brief OVA of him doing some kind of ridiculous Magic Mike-esque routine, which is weird... and kinda creepy... and involves Otabek, another character I liked that deserved more screen time... and it adds nothing to his personality, his development, or his growth. It's just not enough.

Had I not watched Yuri!!! On Ice multiple times, I would not be able to remember every secondary character beyond their nationality and appearance. The citizens of Yuuri's hometown of Hasetsu are background dressing after episode four and most competitive skaters are relegated to one or two episodes of attention. While this show focuses on male figure skating, we do meet two female figure skaters... but they don't contribute to anything. And even the Nishigori triples and Celestino, who each do one small thing that makes colossal impacts to the entire story in fundamental ways, don't register on your radar unless you really like to carefully jot down notes to review later.

They are why parents should not give their kids smart phones.
Not even the romance gets a pass; I can argue that Yuuri and Victor's relationship moves along too quickly thanks to the meager twelve episodes provided. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome that they are engaged by EPISODE TEN -- another thing I thankfully was not completely spoiled on -- but when I step back and look at a bullet point list of the romance arc per episode, I find myself struggling the most with how drastically different Yuuri's and Victor's interactions are between episodes five (where Yuuri is still not entirely comfortable with every hug and compliment) and six (where the frequency and explicitness of their flirting is mutual and suddenly shoots straight past the stratosphere). It doesn't ruin my enjoyment, but I can understand where some would come from if they claim this all happens too quickly with not enough buildup.

Once the major competitions kick into gear in episode five, barely anyone has room to breathe and take breaks as dozens of ideas are communicated in erratic and rushed intervals to the very last few seconds of episode twelve. So much information can be conveyed at once that looking away from the screen for a few seconds might mean you miss important audio or visual details. Episode seven is particularly guilty of this with the show's editing at one of its worst blunders. A heart-tugging moment calling back to two important themes to the story plays out as Victor prevents Yuuri from suffering a panic attack thanks to unmanageable anxiety brewing under his skin since the start of the episode.

Call it sappy for the dialogue or pathetic because crying ensues, but it's a beautiful scene that shows how much their bond has blossomed up to this point. The animation is so fluid and some of the best English and Japanese voice acting is right here, especially from Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Josh Grelle as Yuuri. I was on the verge of tears as Yuuri begged Victor to have more faith in him... to stay by his side no matter what... and the show nearly murders the mood and shatters the tension by yanking us away from Yuuri and Victor multiple times to show how the other skaters are performing before it's Yuuri's turn to go on the ice.

Imagine the "Luke, I am your father" scene getting interrupted by showing Yoda snoring loudly as he naps in his comfy little hut every few seconds. Imagine constant shots of parties on cruise ships spliced between clips of the infamous massacre in the ending of the School Days anime adaptation. Imagine the gargoyles from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame crashing into Schindler's List to perform a musical number every five minutes.

I respect the compactness and density of Yuri!!! On Ice's content, as anime originals tend to meander aimlessly or carry too much useless fat for much of the show's running time, but there had to have been a better way to change the order of scenes and tweak the pacing to prevent mood whiplash during scenes that should punch the audience in the gut. Furthermore, while some developments can be implied to have happened off screen, one of the most important conversations that should have happened doesn't occur until the beginning of episode twelve, which causes the show to end in a rushed, clusterfuck-y manner. As a result both the romance and the competition storylines feel uneven in terms of their overall execution thanks to their numerous heights of near-perfection and pits of contrived stupidity, and the show suffers for it. I know there are plans for a sequel, but Yuri!!! On Ice should not be exempt from criticism when it fails to end on a satisfying and technically polished note. It's lucky it became absurdly popular or else we'd be left with a show that tried to be a groundbreaking work of art and ended up covered in bruises from falling down the steps a few times.

Yuuri! Yuri! Call an ambulance for Yuko, you dumbasses!!
So, no, I have no problem calling out this anime on its faults. My brain patronizes my heart to not give into the hype of Yuri!!! On Ice being a flawless masterpiece. Objectively it is NOT the best anime of 2016. March Comes in Like a Lion is a much stronger candidate with a sturdier narrative, better pacing, more consistent animation, and more effective emotional punches, but no one watched it compared to this overrated internet juggernaut. It probably deserved two awards and maybe two nominations, but not all seven awards it qualified for, especially "Best Animation" which is absolutely absurd. Yuri!!! On Ice fails too many times when it matters most that it does not deserve the sheer amount of high praise it gets. I don't care if the team brought in professionals to help guide the animators and capture the movement of figure skaters; it doesn't change that 1/6 of the sequences are breathtaking, 1/6 are good, 1/3 are ok, and 1/3 are sloppy. Stone me in the streets for speaking such blasphemy, but this is NOT a perfect, bulletproof show that should be exempt from all forms of criticism. This show is so overhyped, so overrated, and so absurdly popular that I want to punch it in the face.


My brain cannot completely convince my stubborn heart on everything. I like much of the cast to the point I remember their names and faces clearly. I want many of the skaters to come back -- especially Otabek, Phichit, Seung-Gil, Christophe, and JJ -- in the movie or maybe a second season so they have more interactions and opportunities for comedy shenanigans. Yuuri's rival-in-name-only Yurio gets pushed in the background too often despite being a main character, but the kitty who wants to be a tiger still managed to hog the spotlight whenever he needed to... even if it involved threatening to shove the lovebirds off a cliff. Even with the crappy editing, the sudden cuts to new scenes, and some of the inexplicable suddenness of some behaviors and events, I laugh and smile at least three times per episode, even on my first viewing. The English dub isn't perfect; half of the cast has accents which either adds to the character's comedic appeal (i.e. pretty much every Russian character) or makes them more insufferable (i.e. JJ and Mickey). Despite that and the inconsistent choices of who gets accents and who doesn't, I was happy to hear Josh Grelle after Tales of Xillia 2 and Micah Solusod after Soul Eater. And I could not help but be overwhelmed with joyful nostalgia in hearing Jerry Jewell for the first time in what feels like forever.

One of the funniest scenes does represent the show quite well.
Poor innocent babbies Leo and Guang-Hong.
I enjoy the fanservice without my opinions of the characters being threatened (well... Christophe tries my patience the most). And while it doesn't go as far as Clannad and Clannad: After Story with portraying and exploring a healthy, normal relationship without making it boring, Yuri!!! On Ice did give me Yuuri and Victor. I couldn't ask for a better romance from an unexpected place.

This damned anime won me over so quickly, so suddenly, that I was doomed to like it by the time I finished episode four. Worse, I fell hopelessly in love by episode seven. Congrats, Yuri!!! On Ice, you grabbed the sentimentalist in me by the hand, promised to enchant me with skill, grace, and fanservice, and did so with an unapologetic heart-shaped smile. Now my rational self has to clean up my shattered reputation and conflicted feelings for simply mentioning you at all, let alone saying I like you. And I think my soul needs twenty lifetimes worth of showers.

All snarking aside, I have no idea how long I will enjoy this series in the future, but for the time being I am grateful I watched Yuri!!! On Ice. I do know that I will save up some money so I can buy the blu-ray box set and memorialize it with other shows, movies, books, and games that have moved or challenged me. This show has raised my expectations to even more absurd levels of un-obtainability, and the bandwagon finally served me some humble pie. I accept defeat and all the humiliations and consequences that come along with loss.

More than anything, however, I think I am mature enough to acknowledge at least one good thing that came out of 2016 and made me completely and unreservedly elated from beginning to end. And it was pretty easy to find "History Maker" and "You Only Live Once" on iTunes (6). So thanks, Yuri!!! On Ice. I'll support you financially. Consider me a fan.

Now please give me the Blu-rays, Japan, before I succumb to my inner hysterical toddler.


(1) - In fact this show is so gay that Tv Tropes had to cut the Ho Yay page into two; one lists all of the possible moments between various characters, and the other documents every single bloody instance of shipping shenanigans between Yuuri and Victor. ... The dedication of this fanbase terrifies me.

(2) - Until my comprehension improves to the point I can watch anime in the original Japanese without subs, I will take alternate perspectives and interpretations like this with a grain of salt.

(3) - I have noticed some debate in some circles regarding whether or not Yuuri and Victor are actually a couple. That the "ambiguity" -- meaning the lack of "coming out" scenes/conversations, explicit addressing of "gay issues", the obscured kiss, and other concerns -- proves that this show is "queerbait". Personally, I don't entirely agree. If this were a straight romance and we focused exclusively on the "milestones" rather than orientation and genitals, it'd be no different than a Disney romance, only with more blatant sexual innuendos. While I do wish there was more breathing room in the second half of the show or more episodes to allow more quiet, intimate scenes with Yuuri and Victor that do not involve figure skating, I think Yuri!!! On Ice did the best it can to balance the two main plots overflowing with content that sadly had to be cut and/or rushed.  Maybe I'm the kind of person who prefers less "conventional" and "socially acceptable" ways of couples expressing their love for each other, but Yuuri and Victor are so affectionate with each other so often that at some point the "they're not gay" argument will implode as easily as "Earth's sun is made of cheese and oreo filling".

That said, the fact we have to wait until the movie or a second season to further address the "ambiguity" or that there was enough room for ambiguity in the first place is kinda annoying. I do put some blame on cultural differences, like the meaning behind hand-holding with intertwined fingers (or 恋人繋ぎ or the lovers bind). At the very least it seems far fewer Japanese audiences found the romance confusing or ambiguous than Western audiences did.

(4) - I will go so far to say that I love Yuuri and Victor so much that Yuri!!! On Ice effectively and permanently killed any chance of me ever watching Supernatural. I have always been frustrated with writers teasing ships with no plans to commit to "yes" or "no" -- be they straight or gay -- but Yuri!!! On Ice has made me even more intolerant of such nonsense. It's baffling how Destiel has far more homoerotic subtext than all of Yuri!!! On Ice, and yet the writers committed to Victuuri as soon as they noticed the characters took a life of their own and wanted the plot go down a different path. Sometimes it's better to commit to something than be wishy-washy.

(5) - WE GET THE DISCS ON FEBRUARY 8, 2018!!!!!!!! BLESS YOU FUNIMATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(6) - Those two songs have been stuck in my head for weeks, and I had to buy them. No regrets.

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