Today is an odd day. It’s a mix of hung over, exhausted from lack of sleep, and walking on air from euphoria. It’s still kind of hard to believe I woke up (not that I slept much) in a world where the Cubs are World Champions. Just doesn’t seem believable somehow, but here we are. The batteries are almost run down now (though I’m sure seeing the celebration in Chicago tomorrow will recharge them) but anime does still exist. And I guess it’s fitting that I jump back into it with a sports anime, even if I barely have the energy to type.
It would be hard to imagine a sports anime more removed from the world of professional baseball than Yuri on Ice. It isn’t even a series one thinks of as a sports anime first, but an episode like this one goes a long way towards reminding us that our perceptions can deceive us. If the measure of success for a sports anime is how closely the act of watching a fictional competition mirrors the feeling of watching that sport in real life, this episode was a smashing success. This week is a dream I still haven’t woken uo
I don’t watch much figure skating outside the Olympics, but watching Yuri and Minami skate brought out exactly the same reaction – a nauseating tension springing from the risk of a fall at any time. It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment because (when it’s the Olympics anyway) these skaters have so much at stake that can be dashed away in an instant – so much work and sacrifice and study. That makes watching the sport sort of exciting, though I don’t know if I’d say enjoyable – and that’s what this ep was for me. These skating sequences were really beautifully done (and splendidly animated).
Speaking of Minami, he’s Minami Kenjirou (Murase Ayumu, who’s pretty much a type-cast at this point), a teenaged kouhai who idolizes Yuri. Minami-kun – fang and all – is pretty over the top, but he kind of represents the shameless goofiness that makes Yuri on Ice good fun rather than insufferable. He’s the most important, but Yuri’s competition in the Japanese event are all kids much younger than he is, and it does call to attention again that for him, the clock is very much ticking. This is the level of competition he simply has to dominate if he’s going to be successful as a skater.
That said, Minami’s routine is a blast – a swing jazz routine perfectly suited to his impish persona. Like Yuri he’s not all that as a jumper, but he does have the ability to draw the crowd into his routine. As for Yuri, he’s still to an extent captive to his own limitations with jumps – which is exactly why Viktor tells him to ease off on them for the moment (cutting back from three quads to one) and concentrate on the artistic impression side. It’s sound advice but Yuri has become rather rebellious, and proceeds to ignore it – and pays a dear price with several falls and botched landings in his free skate (one especially bad one results in a bloody nose).
Is it realistic that a skater could have that many technical deductions and still finish so far ahead of the field? Frankly, to my limited knowledge no – even if the competition isn’t world-class here. But that’s a quibble, really – this is really just the jumping-off point for the rest of he series. The other headline moment here comes when Yuri more or less confesses his feelings for Viktor – though he does describe them as “not romantic” – and in the process, disses everyone else he’s been close to pretty hard. I don’t know whether Yamamoto is going to continue to dance around this or embrace her, but at least she isn’t making a joke out of it, and that puts her ahead of just about every other anime that broaches the theme.