Last night I ended up chatting with @yanumii and prior to that, there were loads of Yuri on Ice meta, head canons, etc that kept showing up on my Tumblr dash. Those things really made me say in the chat what I love about Otabek and Yuri, and Yuri on Ice in the way characters are fleshed out and how the story flows.
This particular post is focused on the Welcome to the Madness manga, which I love so much because we see more of Yuri and Otabek, as well as the other skaters. Considering that this is just 20+ pages, the interactions seem to speak so much about them.
As Miya and I chatted about the WTTM manga, I blurted out some things that seemed to be parallel in Otabek, Yuri, Viktor and Yuuri’s characters and stories.
Otabek has looked up to Yuri for inspiration and strength, similar to how Yuuri looked up to Viktor. These people lived far apart and yet they were the ones who gave so much strength for these skaters to keep on going.
Otabek and Yuri were in training when they were kids, like 13 and 10. He saw how graceful and flexible Yuri was. But it wasn’t just that admiration for Yuri’s dancing skills that got stuck in his mind. It was also Yuri’s determination. After all these years, he couldn’t forget Yuri’s eyes - they were like a soldier’s. Otabek didn’t just see the things that he lacked in Yuri. I think that he drew more from the observation that Yuri gave it his best during the training sessions.
Yuuri has looked up to Viktor for his grace and how he would surprise the world with his skating. Viktor was someone he watched from afar. He watched how Viktor won his competitions, how he moved from one program to the next, always bringing his creativity into the programs. Yuuri knew that he didn’t have Viktor’s build, but he had the willingness to practice as diligently as he can.
Otabek and Yuuri trained so hard to catch with Yuri and Viktor, respectively.
Otabek mentioned that he only recently returned to Kazakhstan to treat it as his home rink. Yuuri was training in Detroit with Celestino for five years. They both wanted to improve and the resources they needed were outside their countries but they were committed to reaching their goals.
Otabek offered Yuri his friendship; Viktor offered Yuuri his coaching. They saw something in them and they sincerely wanted to see their growth.
Otabek and Yuri met again in Barcelona. After five years. Otabek rescued Yuri from his fans and they went to talk in Park Guell. He then offered friendship. And in WTTM, we see that Yuri definitely accepted the friendship wholeheartedly. There’s so much more in the WTTM manga that shows how much Yuri trusted Otabek as a friend. It’s probably because Otabek saw him as an equal, a fellow teenager who has the same dreams of winning gold. Sure they are rivals. But still, he didn’t expect him to be Yuri Plisetsky the prima ballerina type or the junior world champion. He wanted to be friends. A friend is what Yuri sorely needed. He’s been isolated by his focus on figure skating and winning. He had rinkmates but it was not the same as being friends. It seemed in WTTM manga that Mila was treating him like a little brother, it wasn’t quite the same as having another friend that he could goof off with or go on crazy adventures with. (Imagine when he followed Viktor to Japan, he was by himself. I mean if he had lots of friends, he’d probably dragged one with him? But no, he went off to Japan by himself.) And in the manga, Yuri bared his soul to Otabek when he asked for help in the exhibition skate. Otabek listened and Otabek gave him the help he needed. Otabek didn’t pressure him into conforming to other people’s expectations. I think it was then that Yuri really felt that he could be himself, his awesome self. And that there was an assurance that there was at least one person that who’d love to see him be himself on the ice.
Viktor offered his coaching to Yuuri after watching him recreate his routine (and of course, we also know what happened at the banquet before). Yuuri has been isolated from his peers because of his anxiety and how it ate him up so badly. Celestino seemed to have faith in Yuuri but maybe something didn’t jive in terms of methods used in coaching and the issues that Yuuri battled internally. Viktor, despite being a newbie coach, he was able to motivate Yuuri. I could imagine how nerve-wracking it was for Yuuri to be mentored by Viktor. But at the same time, having your idol assuring you that he sees the beauty in you (even if you tried to shut him out whenever he approached you before), that would help motivate and boost someone. Viktor could be very blunt with his criticism but he was also generous with his praise. He saw flaws in Yuuri but he praised him as well when he did something so well. He even had this child-like enthusiasm when he’d do it something. Maybe this helped Yuuri because Viktor didn’t really tread on eggshells when it came to him (except maybe episode 7 sorta, when he didn’t know how to motivate Yuuri). Even then, Yuuri also saw how Viktor was flawed as a coach and yet he still had enough trust to tell Viktor that he just wanted him to have more faith in him, which Viktor did give.
Yuri and Viktor carried the weight of being champions on their shoulders, Otabek and Yuuri are giving them a bigger picture of life outside those expectations.
Yuri and Viktor have probably been carrying the weight of being part of the Russian figure skating team so heavily all this time. Yuri is still young but you could see with how determined he is that he wants to prove himself to the world. Viktor has been around for a while and he seemed to be running out of ways to surprise the world.
When Yuuri asked Viktor be his coach during the banquet, he probably had no idea how much he has affected Viktor. Until after his leaked video doing Stay Close to Me (thanks to the Nishigori triplets), he didn’t know. Actually he couldn’t even believe that Viktor would go to Hasetsu. When Viktor got there, he saw what the conditions that Yuuri lived in, grew up in and it expanded his perspective of what it is like outside Yakov’s tutelage, the competition and all that. It might have been the one of the few times he had a long time to do whatever. Sure he was there to coach Yuuri, but he also ended up getting to know the people around Yuuri. And being a coach made him see things differently especially as Yuuri kept growing and surprising him. In a way, I guess it rekindled his love for figure skating. There’s something about Yuuri’s freshness and the discovery that he could do so much that could inspire anyone, to be honest. And Viktor had the privilege to witness all of that up close because he was the coach. Yuuri might not have said anything directly about showing Viktor a new world or anything (because Yuuri was really more worried about failing Viktor) but in the process of him learning how to open up to Viktor, Yuuri did bring life and love to Viktor. (To think it started with an invitation while he was drunk though ahaha…)
As for Otabek and Yuri, the fact that he wanted to be friends with Yuri was enough for Yuri realize that there is someone who sees his worth as a person, regardless of his status as an athlete. Otabek approached him and didn’t flinch. He has been known as the Russian punk, a temperamental teenager who flared up so badly when he gets annoyed. Otabek didn’t care about his status or his facade. Otabek was resolute in that aspect and he wasn’t intimidated. Yuri found that he could talk about anything with Otabek and that Otabek could do the same (see WTTM manga for this). There is life outside skating, is what he seems to be discovering with Otabek. And that he could enjoy this kind of life too. He is not just Yuri Plisetsky the figure skater, he was Yuri. Plain and simple. Whover Yuri is right now and whoever Yuri could be, Otabek seems fine with that. He wants Yuri to be himself and he wants the world to see that. In turn, as Yuri opens up his true self to the world, he also gets to know the world more. In the manga, he had to ask other people for help in locating Otabek. He saw that they did care enough to help too. Maybe his friendship with Otabek could open doors with regards to how he could relate with the other figure skaters. Who knows? This could totally be an interesting thing to see.
It’s just me rambling and trying to process all the feelings. I still have to rewatch the series all over and see what else I might not have realized before. I think this anime is one of those that I could watch a whole lot of times and still be fascinated with it.