Yuri!!! on Ice – 12 (End) and Series Review

yuri-on-ice-12-1I enjoy twitter, most of the time anyway.  But one thing I’ve definitely noticed over my time in that world is that it’s an absolute minefield for two things – anime spoilers and sports results.  Goc help you if you DVR a live event and forget to avoid your twitter feed, because it’s a sure bet you’ll know the result without ever turning on your TV.  And as for anime spoilers, I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on that here.  That made today a double-whammy twitter day, because Yuri!!! on Ice (like any good sports anime) combines the worst of those two problems.  I just avoided the place all day, but in the end if I had seen the results of the Grand Prix Final, I don’t think I would have been much surprised.

yuri-on-ice-12-2I wonder if Yuri!!! on Ice might be the TV anime that’s had the biggest mainstream crossover since Shingeki no Kyoujin.  It might well be, especially in the West, and that’s because many in the figure skating world have embraced YoI in a big way.  For the finale, the show added Stephane Lambiel for some verisimilitude – he’s the Swiss skater-turned-coach who joined the “broadcast” of the final event on Japanese TV.  Lambiel also happens to be the coach of Deniss Vasiljevs, the 17 year-old Latvian rising star who’s made his appreciation for Yuri!!! on Ice known on twitter. And so the circle closes.

yuri-on-ice-12-3There was always going to be a lot of drama in this final episode built around the free skate, but it did face an interesting narrative quirk.  With Yuri in fourth place, the rules are the rules – if Yuri!!! on Ice was going to maintain any semblance of realism Yuri had to skate third.  That meant there would be three skaters after him, which begs the question of whether it would be possible or advisable for Yuri’s program to be the dramatic high-point of the episode.  In skating terms I’d argue it was, and I’d also argue that it did rob the episode of a bit of its narrative momentum.  Once Yuri had skated flawlessly, it was always going to come down to he and Yurio – which rendered Chris and Otabek’s free skate largely anti-climactic.

yuri-on-ice-12-4That’s not to say the other skaters didn’t have their moment – they did.  But most of the time and (clearly) most of the budget was spent on the two Yuris.  J.J. started it off, and as I’ve come to rather like him I was pleased to see he got the chance to redeem himself a little (as well as show off his Eric Cartman outfit – a last-minute returned homage?).  He missed the start of his music and mildly muffed one jump, but gathered himself and did what J.J. does – skated easily the most difficult program in the division and suck up points.  That’s J.J. Style!

yuri-on-ice-12-5Phichit was never going to beat that score even if he skated perfectly (and he did) but then, this was obviously never really about scoring for Phichit.  He was there to entertain the crowd and make a statement on behalf of his country, and he did those things very well. It says something about him that his dream wasn’t to win the Grand Prix or Olympic gold, but to create a “Phichit on Ice” show – clearly to showcase Thai culture.  He’s a sweet kid, but if anyone was ever a winner just by being in the competition, it was Phichit in the Grand Prix Final.

yuri-on-ice-12-6So, then – Yuri.  This was the Yuri I’ve come to enjoy as a skater, the guy who has a swan-like regality and contained athleticism that makes him seem different than all the other skaters.  His step sequences have always been more graceful than anyone else’s, but this time around he finally embraced the moment instead of running away from it.  He nailed every one of his jumps, even changing a couple of them (including adding Viktor’s signature Quadruple Flip as the cherry on top).  It was a beautiful and refined program animated beautifully (though a few sequences were looped, and I don’t mean a triple-toe) and it broke Viktor’s free skate record (his short program record having already fallen to Yurio).

yuri-on-ice-12-7I’ll get to the narrative dynamics of Yuri’s performance in a sec, but let’s finish with the actual skating.  Otabek was obviously the odd man out due to dramatic imperative, and that’s a shame because he may be my favorite skater in the cast now when it comes to the actual skating. He’s embraced his culture as Phichit has, but there’s a passion and elegance to his skating that Phichit lacks.  It’s a shame that after he skates almost flawlessly Otabek misses the podium, but that happens a lot in figure skating – difficulty is a huge factor in scoring, and guys like Otabek and Phichit have huge hurdles to overcome before they ever take the ice.

yuri-on-ice-12-8Our little Yurio took the ice in skates with lightning bolts on them (of course he did), and proceeded to prove that it wasn’t ostentatious.  He did stumble out of one quad but skated a hellishly difficult program perfectly the rest of the way.  Yurio doesn’t just land jumps, he lands them with more difficulty than the others.  In the old days when “Artistic Impression” was a formal part of the judging, I suspect Yurio would have suffered from his relative lack of, well- artistic impression.  But he did just enough – and I mean just enough –  to win the gold.  Yuri takes silver, and J.J. sneaks onto the podium for the bronze.

yuri-on-ice-12-9I said earlier that it would have been kind of a cop-out for Yuri to win, because I didn’t think that’s what his arc was really about.  But there was a more direct reason why he shouldn’t win, because that would have deprived him of the motivation to keep skating.  I was fine with Viktor coming back or not coming back – what more did he have to prove, really?  But I suppose the Yuris breaking his world records is a motivator, and for Yuri, skating his best and being true to himself but still coming up short was what really needed to happen to give his arc closure.

yuri-on-ice-12-10I’m generally pretty satisfied with how things were left here.  Yuri will soldier on (perhaps going back to his old coach), and Viktor will come back to challenge the two students who threw down the gauntlet.  That works for practical reasons (more on that shortly) but also narrative ones.  I think Viktor and Yuri as coach and student had run its course (I think Viktor knew this too), but Viktor and Yuri as a couple certainly has not.  It speaks to the fantastical nature of the world Kubo-sensei has created that the two of them could skate as a pair in the exhibition – both the world at large and the world of figure skating are still far too bigoted for that to happen without causing a huge scandal.  But it’s nice that it can happen somewhere – I mean, better in an anime than nowhere at all.

yuri-on-ice-12-11So then, will there be a second season?  I’ll take Kubo at her word when she says she and Yamamoto conceived Yuri!!! on Ice as a one-shot, but I don’t think either of them expected it to be the (likely) monster commercial success and pop cultural phenomenon it is.  Plans change – and if indeed those two want to do a sequel, they’ve certainly left the story in a fine place to pursue it.  The Olympics?  The World Championships?  Yuri and Viktor’s wedding?  Yurio struggling with being on top of the sport?  It’s a world of possibilities, and there’s no inherent reason why a second season couldn’t work just fine.

yuri-on-ice-12-12I won’t say Yuri!!! on Ice came as a total surprise to me, because it came from a strong studio and featured a talented director (albeit one I sometimes don’t care for) and staff.  But no doubt about it, Yamamoto-sensei stepped up with her best work here.  The infectious love she and Kubo share for skating was obvious, and YoI‘s depiction of a kind of idealized world of tolerance took on a real charm.  And of course, the ground Yuri!!! on Ice broke in showing a gay male couple courting in a matter-of-fact  and non-exploitative way can’t be overstated – that was a very big deal.  In was a fun, goofy and sometimes thrilling ride, and if the train comes around again I’ll be happy to hop on-board.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

18 comments

  1. C

    Hi Enzo! It’s always so nice to read your reviews.
    Just a short comment on the skating order. This year I happened to watch the Grand Prix Final, and Yuzuru Hanyu who was 1st after the short program didn’t skate last. So I don’t think that the free skate always follows the rank order. Also, his FS scored third but ended up winning gold because of the point gap he earn with his SP. Just like Yurio. So it’s pretty realistic. Not always the most memorable FS wins the whole competition.
    I’m not really happy with Yurio winning. I guess I wanted him to grow more before taking gold at the GPF and also it feels he just won for the sake of a 2nd season. I don’t think it was necessary to motivate Yuuri to keep on skating as he clearly stated he wants to keep on skating forever but he was willing to retire just for the sake of Victor’s skating career. Which leads to my second disappointment… Victor returning to skating? After all we’ve seen in the last couple of episodes. Even in this one! He looked like he was conceding to Yuuri’s wishes instead of his own and was way more thrilled to learn that Yuuri wanted to continue skating. I guess I just don’t understand his motivation. Does he want to take back the WR? Is it perhaps a wish to skate with this new outlook he has on life and love? To compete against Yuuri? Or just for the sake of another season of the show? Is this the original ending they’d envisioned at the very beginning or did they changed it when they’d realized this was a gold mine? I feel conflicted.
    Another point of confusion or maybe it’s the subs… Didn’t Victor announced he wanted to go back to skating while remaining Yuuri’s coach (kind of impossible) in exchange of Yuuri becoming a five time World Champion? :S All three of them were in Russia at the very end so maybe it’s really like that or maybe Yuuri is now training with Yakov, too?
    Anyways, it was a nice episode, sweet and heartwarming but it felt a bit rushed. I wished they’d had one more episode to tie everything up and also I really wanted to see Yuuri’s FS completely. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it (conflict inside and everything).
    Did anyone else think Victor was really manipulative? The timing of his announcement to Yakov seem just right to shake Yurio and push him harder into wanting to stop Yuuri from winning and retiring. And then him taunting Yuuri with the silver medal… Hmmm.

    Some highlights:

    *Yurio looking up to Yuuri from the beginning and kind of dedicating his whole FS to him because he doesn’t want him to retire. So sweet. The message was delivered Yurio!
    * Michele clapping and crying after Yuuri’s performance. 😀
    * Minako sensei!
    * The EX program… I didn’t think they’d actually pull the couple skating routine! LOL Kubo sensei!

    I hope we get to see them again!
    Thanks for the review.

  2. You’re very welcome. As to the GPF:

    “The skating order for the long program (free dance for ice dancers) is the reverse order of their placement in the short program or short dance, unlike other competitions where start orders are determined by a random draw.”

  3. C

    Yeah, I know! But as I said, this year that wasn’t the case. If not Yuzuru should have skated last. The creators went for the usual order. Makes more sense anyways.

  4. T

    This ending left me a emotional as hell. While it didn’t end the way I thought it was going to end (Both Yuuri and Victor retiring) it leaves room for my desired ending to happen if a future season does happen. If with any luck more money and episodes will be added to this wonderful show that has brought me so much joy in my life.

    It was a nice surprise to see Yurio actually was angry at Yuuri for not skating the best of his abilities because he genuinely sees him as a rival with so much potential and of course Yuuri being the most unreliable narrator ever is not even aware of his positive attributes.

    Overall this episode certainly didn’t feel like a finale, but the duet between Victor and Yuuri was so fucking beautiful!!! If a season 2 does happen I trust kubo sensei and Sayo Yamamoto (I have always been a fan of her work anyways). On february 11, 2017 there is going to be an all night screening of all 12 episodes plus a talk with Kubo sensei and the three main seiyuus so if there is any chance of a 2nd season happening they will surely announce it there. https://twitter.com/yurionice_PR/status/811632329856876544

  5. I would say there’s more than any chance – Stalker says YoI will top 20K. If there’s no second season it would be a bigger upset than Phichit winning the gold medal.

  6. H

    I’m certainly sad that this is finished, but the show ended on such a perfect note that I won’t be dissatisfied if indeed we never get another season. It would be a shame though not to continue the momentum. The final message of “See you next level” gave me hope that there may be more. I was super happy that Yurio took the gold even if it wasn’t surprising in the least, and Yuri getting silver was great since he skated that perfect program he is capable of doing that I have been waiting to see. There were so many wonderful little moments throughout and such beautiful animation I could go one praising it for a while. One of the highlights for me was watching Yuri and Viktor skating as a pair. It was a touching scene to be sure. I’m so happy that the show maintained their relationship in such a positive way without falling on a bunch of unnecessary drama to try to shake things up. This may be a gay relationship presented through rose tinted glasses, but I’m not complaining in the least. After all, why can’t we have one show where there is no contention concerning a gay couple’s relationship? It was lovely to watch and this is definitely one of the best shows of the year IMO.

  7. H

    I think YoI is so successful internationally because it is what most people who don’t usually watch anime want anime to be instead of what it usually is. It is so non-anime in the way it treats its main relationship, its comedy and other aspects, but at the same time it still has all the stuff people actually like about Japanese cartoons. Anime voluntarily secludes itself as a purely superniche medium, but there is every chance for it to find mainstream success if it goes against its worst instincts.

  8. e

    It was a good ending, as full as it felt content-wise. Just five more minutes of breathing space would have been very welcome but still, it was good 🙂 .
    I do have some reservations about the podium placements – and their significance in terms of characters’ arcs -.
    TL;DR : 1) felt like Otabek was robbed of a medal and of an acknowledgment of his hard work and passion.
    2) Yuuri losing gold to Yurio doesn’t make the best sense to me if that was the original ending they envisioned. Kiddo had already made history with his WR, found friendship and a pseudo-family, has certified genius/monster status, surpassed both Viktor and the other one rival he had been keeping an eye on all along – they pulled a little episode 10-style upset on us again with that flashback , heyyy. Such a tsundere way to show your love there Yurio – . What’s next, skating on the Moon? XD.
    The athletics perils of puberty looming and the pressure to stay at the very top a-la Yulia Liptniskaya could be a good drama and development fuel in s2. Silver lining to his gold medal at least.
    As a spring to a most likely second season this specific podium placement and score allows for Yuuri to chase that gold ( or are they five golds now? :p And back-on-ice-still-fiancè Viktor. And Yurio XD. And viceversa) with much more confidence. So his supposed full Ai Katsu ending is just being delayed rather than undercut XD. Allright. As Viktor said: darling there’s no sense for me to return to the ice if you are not there. And seeing as you didn’t nab that gold you’d better make up for that and make it extra worth it XDD.
    3) There was a small window left for Viktor to return to the ice as a competitor – and it was mostly tied to Yuuri’s wishes and feelings. All of that gelled only at the kiss&cry this week for both of them – .
    Again, imho it works here if they are going for a second season, otherwise not as much. Because in a self-contained season scenario after episode 10 and losing both his WRs – but also winning and surpassing himself in a way as it was his two pupils who did it and his presence/influence was integral to their achievements – he could have just as well opted for a coaching and coreaographer carreer and perfectly fine enjoying the ice and love and life that way. But we are going to get more YOI aren’t we? So it’s ok… ^_^
    —–
    —–
    —–
    And now the rest 😀
    – Lambiel cameo! As a basically last minute recording addition it was cool. Although part of me wished they had allotted that precious screentime to the main characters’ interaction.
    – Johnny Weir got referenced again via Minako’s red roses crown for Chris.
    – Phichit On Ice needs to be a thing XD. I am rooting for an OVA XDD.
    – JJ’s bronze felt like a nod to ‘Chanflation’. My poor Otabek. His Beethoven FS was fantastic.
    – Ending duet theory ad pair skating confirmed! Wished it was longer and without the St. Petersburg run&meeting montage cut in but it still delivered. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
    – The dialogue itself and/or the translation were a bit fuzzy during Yuuri and Victor’s silver medal scene: if we piece together the meaning with the other scene with Yakov and Yurio he is going back to competitions for sure. But then he is also continuing to coach Yuuri apparently *sweats* . Conflicting loyalties notwithstanding… overachieving, much? :p
    – Relatedy: at the end Yuuri Yurio and Victor are together in St. Petersburg – the city bridge they are on has even been identified by name by the fandom XDD – . Heavily implied he’s training there and seeing how Makkachin is running by his side there’s a subtle but heavy inference he was running (and possibly late) to meet them from Viktor’s apartment.

  9. e

    P.S: given the brisk pacing they still managed to convey a lot of emotion in the final episode. Starting from the very begiing fo the episode with their talk in their room – nice counterpoint to episode #7 parking lot crisis&tears scene too – to the very last second. I bow to the staff. They pulled it off.
    And in terms of all the different kinds of love for the sport and for and between people this has been a joy to watch and listen to, then discuss and read about with both anime and non-anime fans. Pretty much like in the show it manage to connect a lot of people and that definitely added to the experience. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. So much gratitude.
    See you next level!

  10. Y

    Even without the OP and ED this finale felt painfully short. Now I’m really hoping for a season 2. And if we do get a season 2, I hope Kubo-sensei and Yamamoto Sayo will be allotted more episodes, because 12 is simply too short (there’s so much left unexplored in the YoI universe).
    -I was expecting Otabek to beat JJ… really liked both his FS and SP. Besides, I felt like it’d be an interesting development for JJ if he ended up 4th, missing the podium by a small margin.
    -I was not expecting my predictions last week to come true, considering half of them were made jokingly, but I guess that just shows how much of a sports series this is.
    -I loved the exhibition, but halfway through I kept waiting to see if Yurio would join in (with the music cutting to another piece)

  11. K

    I may be in the minority but, this ending left me kind of empty. It felt like such obvious sequel bait that I feel it did a disservice the ending. The whole Grand Prix was kind of a let down in general. Yuri on Ice kind of succumbed to the too many character syndrome. They were fun and likable, but not enough time for all of them. The best part of the show is still those 4-5 episodes where it was tightly focused on the dynamics of the main trio.

    Speaking of which, I’m sorry but the this show was praise for Yuri and Victor and in the end it felt like bait. Unless season 2 becomes more explicit in what this relationship, I’m disappointment that in the end Yuri and Victor don’t seem to know what’s going in this relationship. The “engagement” that everyone lost their minds over, really wasn’t one. It just felt too ambiguous for a show that was praised for being ambitious.

    That is not to say I didn’t enjoy this show. I’m totally down for a season2 and 1 was a great ride, but maybe not completely head over heels like some are.

  12. d

    hmmm….I’m not sure where u r from, but there is a very good twitter thread: https://twitter.com/S_Scribe/status/811963769349881856 that defends the way the amazing YOI creators choose to interpret Viktor’s and Yuuri’s romantic relationship. It basically boils down to censorship and in which cultural perspective you’re watching it. The Japanese LGBT+ community feels very respected and represented by the YOI creators. I remember being in Shanghai and I, my Korean and Japanese friends being utterly shocked how much physical contact and intimacy there was between Shanghainese couples in public. And all they did… was holding hands, and leaning against each other in subways. That kind of intimacy wouldn’t fly in every Chinese city either. And tbh, I don’t see any other way than to see their relationship as a romantic one; I’ve never two platonic male friends or brothers behaving and caring for each other like that.

  13. T

    If you literally have not been following what Kubo-sensei has been saying about this show and hell watching the very obvious genuine love and healthy relationship building that has been literally happening for the past couple of weeks than I don’t know what to tell you. If you need the literal “I love you” or “sex” than you have literally ignored every powerful moments in this show that displayed how much these two love each other far beyond that basic checklist.

    Honestly Jacob Chapman sums up my thoughts on the whole matter.

    http://fencer-x.tumblr.com/post/154856409311/ive-gotten-several-the-ending-was-not-gay

  14. K

    Those are all fair points. Though, I don’t understand the “You needed sex?” defense. No, I didn’t needed sex to be the thing that says “look how much of a couple these guys are.” All I wanted really, was for something definitive on Yuri’s side. The last episode makes particularly confusing where they end up. If it had ended with episode 10, it would have been perfect. Sadly we get episode 12 where Yuri still doesn’t really even acknowledge the whole marriage thing. Again don’t need super explicit stuff. I just don’t care for the defense of this show that immediately jumps to needing them to make out on the ice.

  15. K

    But I do see Jacob’s points and will reevaluate my thoughts as time passes.

  16. A

    I’m confused, is Victor going to remain Yuri’s coach even though he’s making a comeback?

  17. There seems to be a lot of confusion about that generally. In practical terms it’s effectively impossible, but maybe in the fantasy bubble Kubo has created nothing is impossible. Personally I’d rather not see her go in such an implausible direction, though.

  18. B

    Yes, Victor is making a comeback, as well as serving as Yuri’s coach at the same time. To be honest, I don’t know how he’s going to balance the two.

Leave a Comment