「超超兆がんばらんば！！グランプリファイナル直前スペシャル」 (Cho cho cho Ganbaranba!! Guranpurifainaru Chokuzen Supesharu)
“Gotta Supercharge it! Pre-Grand Prix Final Special!”
If you had told me that Yuri!!! on Ice would give us one of the best depictions of a gay relationship in anime when the premiere aired, I would have told you to stop dreaming. But the dream is real, and nine weeks later we’ve reached a point I never thought possible. Let me just say I am so glad this show exists. So so glad. For all those who thought it was going to be nothing more than baiting (which I believed in the beginning), look where we are now! Victor and Yuri essentially got engaged. Now, I know that some people are going pick it apart and say Yuri didn’t ‘technically’ propose, but you’d have to be blind and screaming with your fingers in your ears if you can’t see that these two as a couple.
This isn’t wishful thinking any longer; these two are in love and it’s amazing to watch. I didn’t expect an anime like this to come out for at least another 5 years. I’m just not used to a decent depictions of gay men, whether you include yaoi/shounen ai or not. The fact that Yuri!!! on Ice isn’t (and shouldn’t) be classed as such is why it excels where others tumble: It treats these characters like people; their sexuality isn’t the point of their existence, but feels natural and fits with the story rather than the story being about it (though a story about gay romance isn’t a bad thing, if it’s done well).
The way I see it, Yuri!!! on Ice has the potential to start new trends in anime. Not only with a fair depiction of gay men and relationships, but in the way that it feels so modern and of this era. No anime channels 2016 like Yuri!!! on Ice, and that’s because nothing else is really trying. Unless something else of this ilk comes along, I think this show will encapsulate anime’s take on the 2010’s – not necessarily in terms of quality, but in authenticity and approach. This feels like a truly globalised show that appeals to a worldwide audience, and anime need to tap into that if it wants to expand. I hope the impressive sales and immense popularity of the show gives the industry something to pay attention to. I’m not asking for an array of Yuri!!! on Ice replicas in the next four years, but I’d like to see anime shift in the direction we’re seeing here. As I tweeted out earlier today: “I can’t believe Yamamoto Sayo saved anime.” – I meant that as a joke, but perhaps there’s some truth to it. She’s one of the leading visionaries of this generation, proving that young female directors are paving the way (along with the likes of Matsumoto Rie and Yamada Naoko) for the future, and while imitations of her works shouldn’t be attempted, I think this progressive, well-researched, and exuberant style of storytelling should be something to aspire to.
As for the episode itself, it’s much less filler than some seem to think. Sure, there may not be the ice skating adrenaline like we’ve gotten these past three weeks, but this is the breather we needed, and we got everything we wanted, and then some! I appreciate Victor’s POV, as we finally get to see what he thinks of all of this; his scenes with Chris are fun, and his analysis of the situations with Yurio, Yuri, and everyone else were a nice change from Yuri’s narration. There were early parts of the episode that almost felt like a recap, but even if that’s how t continued it’d still be one of the better recap episodes I’ve watched.
The truly great stuff comes when it’s all about Victor and Yuri. As I said, they’ve essentially got engaged (the papers at the shop even said Yuri bought wedding rings!). He placed the gift on Victor’s right hand (which is Russian tradition), and my heart exploded. It’s hard to me to articulate just how amazing this is to watch – almost as amazing as Phichit’s celebration. As writer, Mitsuro Kubo, said on Twitter, this is a story that accepts and celebrates the love these characters feel for one another. The real world may be darker and less accepting, but that doesn’t affect Yuri!!! on Ice. If you’re hoping for realism, that’s not what you’re getting, but what we are getting is moments that feel true to the spirit of the series, and depictions of a romance that anime often scoffs it, ignores, or treats as a running okama gag. It’s refreshing, it’s honest, and it’s a big fucking deal.
And then there’s the updated ED sequence which explains… so much! Who would have thought it was Victor who fell in love with Yuri first? That Yuri was the bad boy from the Eros story all along? Victor thought his husband-to-be remembered their first proper encounter, but the drunken Yuri recalls nothing. It’s an amazing and totally believable twist that puts everything into context. While this may seem like fanfiction from time to time, now we know there was foundation for this relationship to blossom in the way it did. It’s just that Yuri, and by extension the audience, was unaware of the beginning of it all. Not only is it hilarious to watch, but knowing where it’s brought these characters now, it’s so damn satisfying. Yuri!!! on Ice has excelled at everything it’s attempted so far, and I cannot see that changing in these last two episodes.
ED: 「You Only Live Once」by YURI!!! on ICE feat. w.hatano