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Why I feel that YoI betrayed its own narrative - part 4

DISCLAIMER: I love Yuri on Ice. No, listen, you don’t understand, I! LOVE! YURI! ON! ICE! Deeply! It’s very special, extremely important to me. It has touched my heart in ways that few stories have, it’s one of my favourite things across any media. I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. There’s not a single character I dislike. I have cosplay plans. My phone’s ringtone is History Maker. Every night before bed I read fanfiction. I ordered the official soundtrack. Currently on my desk sits my mini christmas tree sporting an acrylic charm of the main trio and Makkachin. I’m wearing Yuuri on my shirt as I write this. Ok? We’ve established this. I love, adore Yuri on Ice, and I wish I could be feeling for the finale the same levels of pure joy the episodes have been giving me every week since it aired. But I’m not.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: Victuuri is god tier OTP. Words aren’t enough to properly express how much this relationship means to me. I never questioned canon status, I was even sure it would be achieved before it actually happened. I’m not questioning the canon status, I’m not questioning how important it is that we got a realistic romantic relationship between two men in a wildly popular sports anime. I’m looking at this purely from a narrative analysis angle when I say that Victuuri is one of the many elements of this anime that deserved better and was screwed over by the finale. 

  1. Yuuri Katsuki’s character arc
  2. Yuri Plisetsky’s character arc
  3. Victor Nikiforov’s character arc
  4. The resolution of Victuuri
  5. Missing pieces and inconsistencies

HUGE THANKS to @soobaki for doing the beta on this monster and for the constant emotional support as I wrote it!

Warning: this is a long post.

Victuuri - on inspiring each other and meeting halfway

When analyzing the progression of Victor and Yuuri’s relationship one must keep in mind that we’re actually following two very different stories that happen to have a series of points where they converge.

There’s Yuuri’s story.

And there’s Victor’s story.

And it’s not just their beginnings that are drastically different: Victor and Yuuri are on completely different wavelengths when it comes to their relationship during the entire run of the series.

This would not be a bad thing if, instead of “during the entire series”, it was “for 11 episodes of the series”. But alas, the finale robbed us of having a proper romantic resolution, which would be the point where their individual stories would meet halfway to form the first chapter of a new beginning for them. The finale probably thinks it delivered that, but it didn’t.

It really didn’t.

Which is a shame, because the progression of Victuuri is amazing! It’s honestly one of the best written romantic relationships I’ve seen in media… up until a point, where the progression just seems to stop. And derail. All the while giving off the illusion that it continued to advance as it should have through the use of meaningful visual metaphors that actually don’t hold nearly as much weight as they should have because they do not correlate with the characters’ actions. It’s frustrating, because they almost got it right.

Again, I am NOT questioning the legitimacy, importance, or canon status of Victuuri. I am questioning its unsatisfying resolution, because it deserved way better!

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Why I feel that YoI betrayed its own narrative - part 1

DISCLAIMER: I love Yuri on Ice. No, listen, you don’t understand, I! LOVE! YURI! ON! ICE! Deeply! It’s very special, extremely important to me. It has touched my heart in ways that few stories have, it’s one of my favourite things across any media. There’s not a single character I dislike. I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. I have cosplay plans. My phone’s ringtone is History Maker. Every night before bed I read fanfiction. I ordered the official soundtrack. Currently on my desk sits my mini christmas tree sporting an acrylic charm of the main trio and Makkachin. I’m wearing Yuuri on my shirt as I write this. Ok? We’ve established this. I love, adore Yuri on Ice, and I wish I could be feeling for the finale the same levels of pure joy the episodes have been giving me every week since it aired. But I’m not. 

Yuri on Ice is one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life. It’s brilliant and beautiful in many ways but the writing in particular has always stood out for its cleverness, realism and heart and how it was masterfully building up a carefully crafted narrative full of underlying themes for 11 episodes. 

Episode 12 on the other hand felt rushed, anticlimactic, out of character for our main leads and not at all up to par to the quality of the writing in previous episodes. There was a clear direction the story and character arcs were moving towards that suddenly shifted so abruptly I have to believe this was not the originally intended ending and was instead a rushed job of a sequel bait. If it was the intended ending…that means they lied to us for 10 episodes.

Getting it out of the way, I still stand by everything I said here. The story was building up to Yuuri winning gold. The screenshots I collected in that post aren’t even all the instances of the story reminding us that it’s building towards gold for Yuuri. It’s been a constant and steady progression. 

This is my breakdown of why I felt ultimately disappointed with the YOI finale. I’m going to go through the entire series to explain exactly why I think the ending we got was not the one we were supposed to get (much less the one the narrative deserved). This is a gigantic analysis so I’ve decided to divide it in parts. It’s going to go like this:

  1. Yuuri Katsuki’s character arc
  2. Yuri Plisetsky’s character arc
  3. Victor Nikiforov’s character arc
  4. The resolution of Victuuri
  5. Missing pieces and inconsistencies

HUGE THANKS to @soobaki for doing the beta on this monster and for the constant emotional support as I wrote it!

Before we start, I just want to leave this screenshot here and I want you to keep this in mind as we go. Because this is what we were promised. 

Warning: this is a long post.

Yuuri Katsuki - on learning that he is good enough and proving it to the world 

YOI starts with Yuuri at this lowest, physically and mentally like he says. At a pivotal moment in his life and career as a professional athlete, his beloved pet dies, he binges on food to try to heal the hurt, his insecurities get the better of him and he ends up suffering a humiliating defeat at the Grand Prix Final, locks himself in a public bathroom to cry, apologizes to his mother over the phone for failing, gets yelled at and told to quit by the junior gold medalist Yuri and, when he finally crosses paths with Victor, his idol and inspiration, he doesn’t even recognize him as a fellow competitor. It’s a rough start for Yuuri, but that’s because his journey is one of growth, more than any other character’s.

While we have our three main characters whose stories are tightly woven together, Yuuri is the true protagonist of YOI’s central narrative. It’s his journey we follow most closely, it’s his POV that we see most of the episodes through, the very title of the series is his free skate’s music. That said, it’s important to point out that Yuuri, unreliable narrator that he is, does not identify himself as the protagonist of the story. He is the top male figure skater in Japan, yet refers to himself as a nobody, just one of the “dime-a-dozen” skaters competing in the Grand Prix. He doesn’t acknowledge his achievement of making it to the six Grand Prix finalists as such, he only sees his failure in placing last. He is severely lacking in self-love and self-awareness. Anxiety will do that to you.

Still, he is willing to take action to change. Contrary to what Yuuri himself will constantly tell us, Yuuri is not weak. He is stubborn and brave and he persists, even in the face of defeat.

Victor shows up at a point where Yuuri is willing and ready to take action to get his life and skating career back on track (after all, as we are told and will later witness, Yuuri is a competitive person and hates to lose) but is not sure on what exactly he should do. People keep asking him and all he says is he needs time to think about it. Victor decides for him - they will win Yuuri the gold medal at the next Grand Prix. Note that while this was a goal decided by Victor it is a goal that Yuuri will eventually embrace. This is the story goal - getting Yuuri a gold medal at the Grand Prix final. It’s a story goal that the series reminds us of every single episode. Yuuri’s character goal, which ties into the story’s, is to achieve self-love and self-actualization, and in achieving both his character and story goals he would prove his own self worth, not only to the world but to himself.

So what is the conflict then, in Yuuri’s story? What must Yuuri overcome? Primarily, it’s his own anxiety. 

Spelled out for us, the only thing Yuuri is lacking to finally WIN, is confidence. Yuuri has the skills, he has the experience. So the series spends the rest of the its time building up said confidence to get Yuuri’s emotional wellbeing in peak condition to match his physical skills. I must emphasize, everything so far is about getting to the story goal of Yuuri winning the Grand Prix Final.

Going back one episode though, to episode 2. The ending of episode 2 is the first time we see him openly and firmly express a desire out loud, with none of the unsureness that was present when he told Yuko he wanted to get his love for skating back, and that is to win the Hot Springs on Ice match and to keep Victor around. 

This is Yuuri answering the call of the narrative. This is when his journey towards the story goal truly begins, when he admits that he wants to keep on winning.

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Why I feel that YoI betrayed its own narrative - part 3

DISCLAIMER: I love Yuri on Ice. No, listen, you don’t understand, I! LOVE! YURI! ON! ICE! Deeply! It’s very special, extremely important to me. It has touched my heart in ways that few stories have, it’s one of my favourite things across any media. I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. There’s not a single character I dislike. I have cosplay plans. My phone’s ringtone is History Maker. Every night before bed I read fanfiction. I ordered the official soundtrack. Currently on my desk sits my mini christmas tree sporting an acrylic charm of the main trio and Makkachin. I’m wearing Yuuri on my shirt as I write this. Ok? We’ve established this. I love, adore Yuri on Ice, and I wish I could be feeling for the finale the same levels of pure joy the episodes have been giving me every week since it aired. But I’m not.

  1. Yuuri Katsuki’s character arc
  2. Yuri Plisetsky’s character arc
  3. Victor Nikiforov’s character arc
  4. The resolution of Victuuri
  5. Missing pieces and inconsistencies

HUGE THANKS to @soobaki for doing the beta on this monster and for the constant emotional support as I wrote it!

Warning: this is a long post.

Victor Nikiforov - on learning to let go and finding happiness

Victor is the first character of our three main leads that the audience is introduced to. If Yuuri starts the story at the bottom and Yurio starts getting ready to take his place at the top, Victor is the one standing at that very top, the highest you can possibly go. He has just won his fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final gold medal and there he stands, with one the fakest, most empty smiles we ever see out of Victor. Which is saying a lot, he is the king of fake smiles.

I need to start by saying that we’re going to go through Victor’s arc the way the narrative presented it to us. As in, the episode 10 plot twist will only be fully acknowledged once we reach episode 10.

There’s not a lot of Victor in episode 1 though. We are strictly following Yuuri’s perspective and for now these two are worlds apart. Really, we don’t get much insight on Victor until episode 10, which is why we have to take special attention to the glimpses we get of what’s going on underneath with him. Victor the skating legend, Victor the coveted bachelor and Victor the idol and inspiration of Yuuri is quickly established to us through the little time we have with him. We see Victor win gold at the Grand Prix and the Worlds, we see Victor acting charming towards his fans (Yuuri included because…way to not pay attention to your competition Victor), but overall he gives off this very cool, collected and untouchable aura.

However, something I’ve always found significant is that the very first time we see Victor out of the ice, out of the celebrity persona, as himself, the one thing he’s doing is offering Yurio advice on his skating. You know, coaching.

There’s also the matter of Victor’s reaction when Yuuri rejects him by walking away from his photo offer.

Victor is a man that most likely is not used to rejection. Yurio will mention one episode later how Victor had “the world in his hands”, Yakov says Victor “never did as he was told” and was “always thinking only of himself”. Probably comes from standing at the top for so long. Yuuri’s reaction to him probably intrigued him in a way. As a side note, remember this was before the banquet, but it’s also probably what made Victor pay special attention to Yuuri at said banquet too.

I will further explore this in the Victuuri section but it’s important to point out that, just like Victor kickstarted Yuuri on following the path of his character arc, Yuuri did the same thing for Victor. Even before episode 10, I never thought that Victor’s actions at the end of this episode were done on a whim or impulse. Not when we see him like this.

That’s a look of concentration and deep thought. We’re made more aware of what was going through his mind in later episodes, but still, Victor is clearly thinking very deeply about whatever it is he sees in Yuuri’s video before his look shifts into one of determination over making his decision to act.

Victor’s character is as complex as the role he plays in the overall narrative of Yuri on Ice. He plays many parts for different people and for most of the series we’re seeing him through the biased perspective of other characters. He serves as both mentor and love interest, he is both a rival and the ultimate ace, an aspiration and inspiration. He affects nearly all other skaters in the series just with his mere existence and status as the undefeated number 1 skater in the world. Still, Victor is one of our three main characters so he must be more than a device to advance the narratives around him. He must have his own narrative, his own character arc. It will only be explicitly spelled out in episode 10 but we have several hints pointing towards what exactly that arc is.

Starting with the fact that Victor starts this episode kissing his fifth consecutive gold medal as he poses for the cameras like the undefeated legendary ice prince he is, and 20 minutes later he is standing naked in a hot spring in Hasetsu, making a dramatic announcement to Yuuri that he will be his coach and make him win gold at the next GPF. I think it’s clear where he looks genuinely happy and where he’s faking it.

But the one thing in episode 1 that really helps define who Victor is as a person and where his narrative is going, is Stammi Vicino.

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Why I feel that YoI betrayed its own narrative - part 2

DISCLAIMER: I love Yuri on Ice. No, listen, you don’t understand, I! LOVE! YURI! ON! ICE! Deeply! It’s very special, extremely important to me. It has touched my heart in ways that few stories have, it’s one of my favourite things across any media. There’s not a single character I dislike. I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. I have cosplay plans. My phone’s ringtone is History Maker. Every night before bed I read fanfiction. I ordered the official soundtrack. Currently on my desk sits my mini christmas tree sporting an acrylic charm of the main trio and Makkachin. I’m wearing Yuuri on my shirt as I write this. Ok? We’ve established this. I love, adore Yuri on Ice, and I wish I could be feeling for the finale the same levels of pure joy the episodes have been giving me every week since it aired. But I’m not.

  1. Yuuri Katsuki’s character arc
  2. Yuri Plisetsky’s character arc
  3. Victor Nikiforov’s character arc
  4. The resolution of Victuuri
  5. Missing pieces and inconsistencies

HUGE THANKS to @soobaki for doing the beta on this monster and for the constant emotional support as I wrote it! 

Warning: this is a long post.

Yuri Plisetsky - on learning humility, bonds and being himself

In great contrast to how Yuuri starts the story at the lowest of the low, Yurio is standing at the top. He is introduced to us as the Junior Grand Prix Final gold medalist. Later in the same episode he is referred to as a rising star and already assumed to be a future champion in his upcoming senior debut, alongside Victor. His confidence is peaking, he is a skating prodigy, he is younger, more talented than Yuuri, everything is going fantastic for Yurio.

So how do we, the audience, meet Yurio? He follows Yuuri into a bathroom, stands outside the stall listening to his crying, kicks the door, then proceeds to yell in his face that he should quit because two Yu(u)ris are unnecessary in the senior bracket and Yuuri is obviously the inferior one.

It’s quite the character introduction. Certainly leaves an impact.

Next time we see Yurio, he is firmly rejecting the attempted advice Victor gives him on his skating, dismissing it as not mattering because he won anyway. He then proceeds to tell Victor to stop nagging him and right after that purposely ignores Yakov lecturing him.

The last time we see Yurio in episode 1 is with this scene.

This is how the narrative decides to establish Yurio for us: an overconfident rude brat who has no respect for his seniors, his coach or his fellow competitors, who slacks off his training, and who believes he’s good enough that anyone trying to even help him is doing nothing but annoy him and waste his time. Just in case we weren’t sure of just how high Yurio’s levels of confidence reach, episode 2 spells is out for us.

Yurio is 100% confident that he will win the Grand Prix Final at his senior debut, all he’s missing is the right tools for the job: AKA Victor’s choreography. At his side, Yuuri is even a bit shaken by just how sure Yurio is that he will win. He doesn’t talk about attempting, he doesn’t talk about wanting to win, Yurio takes it for granted that he will win. And he’s a 15 year old willing to fly to another country, by himself, on a blind chase for the man he thinks will help him get there.

And that’s Yurio’s personal goal, to make a brilliant senior debut by winning gold at the Grand Prix Final, and do it specifically with Victor choreographing his programs. I can already hear some of you saying that, if Yurio shares a similar story goal to Yuuri’s, then isn’t him achieving it just as justified as Yuuri achieving it?

It’s not, because while Yuuri’s story goal is linked to his character goal, as in his wants are connected to his needs, what Yurio needs for his character is the opposite of what he wants.

When you have a character that starts off like Yurio, at the top of the world, extremely arrogant, believing himself to be above everything and acting dismissive of everyone, you don’t build him up further. That does nothing for character development. So what’s Yurio’s story about then, if it’s not about him winning the Grand Prix?

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