Lethargic Ramble: Yuri!!! On Ice and defining a romance

Fully realised romances are a rare thing in Anime. They’re something that many viewers, such as myself, always want to see happen. But for one reason or another, characters in Anime very rarely end up together, and when they do, it tends to be surprising, even in the romance genre.

And as you would expect, same sex romances are even more uncommon, barring the Yaoi and Yuri genres which are more or less made for the sole purpose of catering to their associated demographics. But the romances depicted in those shows often feel forced or overly fetishised to the point they don’t feel genuine.

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So naturally, when Yuri!!! On Ice came on the scene, a lot of people were pleasantly surprised. The ice skating phenomenon shook the Anime world by not only incorporating a supposed romance between the two main characters, but a same sex romance between the two main characters.

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Tumblr exploded. Twitter blew up. DeviantArt got flooded with fanart. It was insane. It remains insane because it’s all still happening. On a daily basis. Yuri!!! On Ice has become quite the unforgettable phenomenon due to its supposed unique forwardness when it came to depicting a same sex romance between two of its primary characters.

But I’m here to get something controversial off my chest, because once again I’ve been attacked for having an opinion that nobody agrees with and I feel the need to explain myself.

I don’t think Yuri!!! On Ice is a romance. In fact, I don’t think the show has any real romance in its story at all.

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No. I’m not saying this for the sake of being contrarian, nor am I saying this out of a hatred for same sex relationships. I wanted Yuri!!! On Ice to have the implied romance that it continuously hinted at over the course of its story, but with what the show presented in its 12 episodes, I have no real reason to believe that there is any.

I already covered the infamous kiss scene that set off the fangirls and fanboys way back when it first aired. I was adamant that it wasn’t a kiss, because it didn’t remotely look like one, but by then it was too late. People who had been praying since the first 3 minutes of episode 1 for this series to be a Yaoi had already seen enough to jump to conclusions and declare the show to be a romance.

And that’s fine. I still feel the show has some genuine romantic feelings in there, but they’re never fully realised or ever made apparent for me to consider the relationship as anything but “really good friends”.

If Yuri and Victor kissed one another, why do we never see their lips touch? Why does Victors arm obscure the entire shot? Why is it left ambiguous and never properly shown? Why is it never brought up or mentioned afterwards by any of the characters?

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There is absolutely no need for this ambiguity. If Yuri!!! On Ice was aiming to present a true, genuine, same sex romance between Victor and Yuri, it would have gone all out. It would have shown us something genuine instead of dancing around the subject and being nothing but completely suggestive.

And this rings true for every single “romantic” scene in the show. There’s a part in the series where Victor and Yuri are outside a cathedral and they exchange rings with one another in what feels like a moment of genuine romance. It’s very symbolic of a wedding ceremony and it seems really honest and heartfelt. Yet when they exchange the rings they talk about some kind of weird “coach and student” relationship that alludes to a romance, but never openly says it is a romance. It’s no less suggestive than the sort of things we were seeing from the likes of Free! or Black Butler, neither of which were romances.

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I wanted Yuri!!! On Ice to be a romance. I wanted Victor and Yuri to enter a fully realised, romantic relationship with one another. But all I got were suggestive shots accompanied with innuendo that amounted to very little.

It’s frustrating because I want to get on board with this Victuri thing. I want to sail the ship, but I honestly can’t see a real relationship here. It’s incredibly artificial, and I feel that the consensus opinion of “there is a romance” stirred from the fact that many people had instantly decided this was going to be a Yaoi as soon as the show started airing.

If the goal of Yuri!!! On Ice was to represent the homosexual community, I feel that, in my eyes at least, it failed to do so. Clearly it hasn’t for everyone else, as I seem to be the only person that see’s the show this way, but I just find it strange that everything has been left ridiculously vague and obscure.

If you’re trying to showcase a romantic relationship between two characters, same sex or not, you don’t have the entire cast ignore the presence of said relationship. You don’t have the very people in the supposed relationship dance around the idea of having genuine feelings for each other, you have them fully embrace their feelings for each other in ways that clearly present them to each other and the audience. You don’t obscure a kiss, you show it.

This is a kiss:

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This is also a kiss:

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This is not:

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Yuri!!! On Ice is a Sports Anime with sprinklings of romantic undertones, and until a second season proves otherwise, I will continue to view the show as such.

I’m fine with people embracing the idea that the show is a romance. Go for it. Have fun. Do what I wish I could do.

But don’t have the audacity to say I’m wrong for having a different perspective.

I just can’t see it as a romance. Perhaps one day my perspective will change.

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Interested in my scores for Yuri!!! On Ice and other Anime titles? You can find them on my horrendously incomplete MyAnimeList page.

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15 thoughts on “Lethargic Ramble: Yuri!!! On Ice and defining a romance

  1. I agree that the show isn’t a romance per se as it’s mainly about getting better at skating, but I think the romance elements are there also. Why the ambiguity then? Not telling something directly makes fans scratch their heads, offer theories and argue what really happened and if the show provokes that, it just gets more fans and ultimately benefits from that. On the other hand, shows with the same sex romance aren’t that popular overall with the general public so I guess being vague is an option to both please (to some extent) people who come for the romance and not to push away people who want only skating, especially knowing that Japan is a rather conservative country in this regard. Not providing anything for sure and teasing with actions that might or might not have implied something – is it that different form a usual romance anime? I think the creators just wanted to play safe, look at the reaction of the public and then if everything went (and it did) smoothly, probably try going deeper with a new season.

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  2. I am so glad that you wrote this post. I agree with you 100%. The show isn’t some pinnacle portrayal of same-sex romance, and it wasn’t meant to be; it also isn’t BL. Calling it that is an insult to the complexity of the men’s relationship. It isn’t catering to a market. It’s more than that.
    The kiss was shakey at best. The engagement that wasn’t was PACKED with emtotion, but they aren’t a couple exactly. The fact that the show so very much ISN’T a typical romance anime is what I love about “Yuri on Ice.” I LOVE the ambiguity. Every single thing that they feel for each other is passive and misunderstandable and unexpected and summed up ON ICE.
    After watching the first season there was so much that I couldn’t pin down. I relayed my thoughts in an article of my own. I’d love to talk more about this with you and to rewrite everything I thought (very much in line with your idea that this is not a typical romance) would not make logical sense. (http://wp.me/p7NcpK-1hu)
    Their love is Agape and Eros, but that doesn’t mean that Yuri fully understands or accepts what he feels or is willing to label it. I find that neither is the case when it comes to the title character’s outlook.
    Gah. Anyway, great post. People try to label the characters a lot and pidgin hole then into a lot of roles but the truth of the matter is that I’m simply over here hoping that season 2 *doesn’t* clarify everything.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wait… Someone else agrees with me on this? Nice one!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      I agree that it’s more about the complexity and portrayal of Yuri and Victors relationship on the ice than it is about the two of them being romantically involved.

      Now that you mention it, the ambiguity is a good thing in a way, due to how it portrays the themes of the show on the ice as opposed to just being a simple romance. I like your perspective here, and I may just assimilate it myself 😛

      And oh, nice one! I’ll take a look! Sounds like a fun read!

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      I’d totally be up for talking more about this, since it’s an interesting topic to me. Feel free to chat about it sometime!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I will do!
        I do think that the men have romantic feelings for each other and that it *is* a point of the show, but I also think that they’re very complicated, multifaceted feelings that defy a simple label and don’t have to be physical–the point of the show is that their love is more than that and it is soooo~ encapsulated, so summed up on the ice. It’s best friends and lovers and coach/competitor and rivals: all of it and none of it.

        ❤ GAH I LOVE THIS SHOW.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I disagree. I think the show is very romantic (but that’s probably because I don’t think a relationship has to be portrayed physically to be a romantic relationship). There’s sufficient inference as well as emotional connection between Yuri and Victor to see them as romantically involved by about episode 5.
    The show definitely doesn’t go for an explicitly romantic relationship and if that is where you define romance then you are right, Yuri on Ice doesn’t go there (even if it was a kiss it wasn’t on screen).
    Thanks for sharing your views.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I said before, that’s cool with me. I can see why people think as such, but unfortunately for me it was too suggestive and not made explicitly enough.

      It’s not even the lack of psychical interaction that bothers me so much, but more the dialogue and how the two define their relationship as “coach and student” as opposed to actual lovers.

      Of course that’s just my interpretation though!

      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t agree with you but I can’t argue that yours isn’t a valid interpretation of their relationship.

    As for me, I do think it’s a romance and has thought so even before the much-contended kiss on the ice. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching stories where the romantic element is drastically different from those in the more explicit Western romances. I’m used to reading love in roundabout words and tender gestures rather than in overt declarations or physical displays. Then again, the latter two aren’t lacking in Yuri on Ice either.

    It’s not explicit. You’re right about that. But the way I see it, there’s more than enough evidence to support that Victor’s and Yuri’s feelings are of a romantic nature. And for the record, I do think the kiss was an actual kiss, mostly because of the conversation that followed but your mileage may vary.

    Either way, great post. I like how you’ve organized your thoughts so candidly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to see that despite not agreeing with me that you’re able to understand my perspective.

      I can definitely see where you’re coming from, especially if you’re accustomed to a storytelling environment where non-explicit romance is more common (I’ll admit I’m pretty inexperienced with such stories, often preferring heavily explicit romances).

      Thanks a lot for reading and for your own thoughts. I find this topic really interesting, so it’s nice to see some discussion being made! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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