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Victory on ice: why Yuri!!! on ICE deserves to be Anime of the Year

On Saturday, Yuri!!! on ICE was pronounced Anime of the Year in Crunchyroll’s first ever Anime Awards. But while voters and non-voters alike celebrated its win, certain people got a bit upset. Some said it didn’t deserve the acclaim, and that if not for its gay main characters, it wouldn’t have earned so many votes from the so-called “yaoi effect”. Our friends on Twitter will probably have seen our response to that homophobic nonsense. If you click through now, you will also notice that Crunchyroll’s tweet announcing the series’ win has since been deleted. I can take a good guess as to why. It’s the very same reason this show deserves to stand representative of the otaku community’s best and most memorable experiences of the last year in anime.

Now, I’m not agreeing that the all the gorgeous gay is the only thing making the show worthy of its breakthrough success. Sayo Yamamoto’s elegant direction on pro skater Kenji Miyamoto’s choreography remained a thing of beauty even after the animation quality dipped, which in itself was understandable given the frantic production schedule. It also retained its inspiring and aptly-timed moral of love giving strength, and being the best weapon against adversity. It could easily have made its central relationship between Yuri Katsuki and Viktor Nikiforov ‘queer bait’ to attract LGBTQ viewers to that moral, or tossed it by the wayside as an incidental sub-plot to cash in on the current popularity of boys’ love. But it chose to be daring, deliberately placing their romance centre stage, to celebrate seeing what two men in true love could accomplish with its power.

Image result for yuri on ice kiss

This love could overcome any obstacle

The beauty of this anime is that its message made some uncomfortable with its resulting popularity. Some of these people were the same arguing against its status in Crunchyroll’s community. The very same who claim that they don’t care who you fall in love with, as long as you don’t ‘rub it in their faces’. Who say that legalised gay marriage is an abhorrence to archaic, heteronormative laws that excluded queer people from expressing their love freely. These people hide behind ‘having an opinion’ only they deem as valid, pretending that gay characters are the show’s only advantage over others from 2016, and is therefore a sham act desperate to appeal to the fujoshi vote. Because heaven forbid that anything be made for female viewers in the first place.

Such accusations only prove a despicable ignorance of the full extent of the show’s reach and impact. Straight and queer people of all genders, pro figure skaters, fans and newcomers to the sport were communicating, befriending and supporting each other, and continue to do so now as we ride the shockwaves of Yuri!!! on ICE the cultural phenomenon. It helped all who watched to feel free and positive in their sexuality and gender expression. We ladies who do love the guys might have found our hearts pounding with a kiss on the ice, but at the same time we knew there were marginalised fans seeing something that, perhaps for the first time, let them recognise themselves as someone beautiful, powerful, empowered.

Yuri on Ice - Victor.gif

Feminine, beautiful, powerful

Yuri!!! on ICE may not have been our anime of the year, but it is the show that best signifies what we need from our media right now. And while I agree with everyone who believes it would have been successful without the gay relationship, such comments undermine that being queer and successful should be embraced as one of its greatest achievements. In showing us the best of what fandom is capable of, inspiring reams of pieces about LGBTQ representation and challenging the gender binary, it gave us hope that love between all kinds of people can conquer all, even as hate and fear seemed to be winning. It brought people from across the globe together through the love of a show, and in support of the love of a gay couple. But perhaps most importantly, it created a paradigm for complex, respectful depictions of queer love that can and will be accepted by the masses.

12 Comments on Victory on ice: why Yuri!!! on ICE deserves to be Anime of the Year

  1. I think that Anime of the Year title is a bit off-putting in the first place because there’s no real way to determine what would make something an anime of the year. That said, given the impact Yuri had on social networks and that the airing of the final episode and people trying to watch it immediately lead to Crunchyroll crashing, whether it is the absolute technical best anime or most well written really seems like a silly question. No other anime had that level of impact last year. Anime of the Year is the one title people should be contesting when it comes to Yuri on Ice even if it wasn’t their favourite anime.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 1, 2017 at 7:23 pm // Reply

      Too true, all we can go on with an award system like this is which show gets most votes, true quality aside. But in most cases we fans are more considered in our opinions than we’re given credit for at times. The people have spoken and it was the most positive outcome there could have been, considering YOI’s themes. But still, some people whose favourite didn’t win in a popularity contest will always be grouchy about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, and totally agree with the things you wrote. I have not seen this series myself yet, but I do know that a lot of male viewers might be upset to watch it because of the gay theme. I am straight myself, but have no problems with watching a show like this. I have heard only very positive buzz surrounding it (well it was pretty much impossible to miss it in the first place lol), and as such am very curious to see what this is all about. Unfortunately we still live in a world where certain things will always be frowned upon, and that is why I think it is great that a series like this has become so succesful. Let’s hope that this might be the first sign that things are changing for the better 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found myself explaining to people that were on the fence about this series, specifically because of the relationship between Victor and Yuri that the series’ appeal extends far beyond any possible LGBT statement that was being made. That there isn’t any explicit physical display of such a relationship, and that there is never even an outright admission on any character’s part about being gay.

    I said these things to mollify concerns over watching something that I believed to be a great series, but I always felt a little compromised having to do so. While it’s true that viewers never actually see anything, there was at least an implied context to their relationship. Why can’t that be an integral element, woven in with everything else that made this a great story? Why would I have to underplay its significance to get someone to watch this series?

    Because what Yuri on Ice did that makes it so noteworthy in terms of cultural impact is that it got people to talk about it. The anime community reflects the greater population to some degree, which includes a predilection toward fear of things that are different. Equality will never come from brushing anything under the rug or by practicing blissful ignorance. Regardless of my own sexual orientation, I will never learn to truly accept someone else’s if I never have to deal with it.

    Being part of another group that sees a lot of public maligning these days, hearing and reading about bigotry doesn’t make me feel good at all, but at least it’s creating awareness. It gives the people who support fairness and equality a chance to stand up and be an example to everyone who feels marginalized, and show haters that this is not an issue that’s simply going to go away.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 6, 2017 at 2:20 pm // Reply

      It is a real shame when you feel you have to explain something like this away, the fact that a show has gay characters shouldn’t be a reason for worry or suspicion. So it’s wonderful that this show got people discussing things exactly like this on a worldwide scale.

      Like any fan community, anime fandom can show up fan culture’s worst face. But those few people couldn’t do anything against all the love being shown towards Yuri on Ice. That alone speaks volumes, and it’s all we fans can do to be aware of bigotry and speak up for the things we love when we get the chance. It’s tough to do sometimes, but it’s our responsibility to stand up for the best of our fandom against the worst.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is wonderfully written. I absolutely loved this show and I never thought that it would have the impact it did on me. For the first time in my life I found myself rooting for this type of love, and I felt so happy while watching it. I will admit that about 2 years ago I wouod have labelled myself as homophobic, which i truly regret. Recently, I’ve realized how wrong I was, and watching this show made me realize I truly have moved past that ignorant mindset.
    I’m really glad they took took the risks they did because it made the show so much more than just your average all-male cast sports anime. And it has inspired me to take up my old dancing hobby through seeing how much those characters enjoyed their passion.
    I think this show deserved the awards it received, and more people should realize it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm // Reply

      It’s so good to hear that you’ve recognised your prejudice and put it right. In the end, that’s what sets us apart from people who can only express their beliefs through hate. No matter who we are, chances are we’ve experienced or absorbed things that make us prejudiced against one community or another. The important thing is noticing where that lies in yourself, actively righting those views and apologising where you know you’ve been wrong.

      Through all of that, it’s wonderful to hear that you could enjoy something you otherwise wouldn’t have. And I’m happy you’ve rediscovered something you loved because of the show. I hope you stick with it, both the dancing and believing what’s best, for you and others who need the support 😊👍

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very nice post.
    I watched Yuri on Ice at my older son’s (insistent) suggestion. He absolutely loved the show. He is also an out, gay teen.
    Much of what he loved you touched on in your post. Yuri on Ice wasn’t a winking nod to LGBTQ fans like other sports anime can be with the suggestion of a gay relationship between the characters, it had an actual open relationship. It also didn’t suffer (according to my son) from what a lot of Yaoi or BL stuff does, which is sometimes controlling or unhealthy depictions of same sex relationships. He loved it because it was natural, healthy, and sweet.
    I watched it and loved it. It made me tear up at points for how sweet it was. I wish I could convince more of my non-anime viewing friends to watch it. Because even beyond the relationship between Yuri and Victor, it was a beautiful show about figure skating as well.
    As for “Anime of the Year”? I can see why and am not only okay with it, but happy that it did get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm // Reply

      Oh, most excellent 😄 It’s great that the two of you can share in enjoying a show in which your son could recognise himself. Just like I said, bringing people together in love and understanding 😊 It is *so* sweet, and truly worthy of the outpouring of support for opening doors to more sensitive, truthful and honest depictions of same-sex love.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post.

    I have yet to see YoI but I will soon. Even what I’ve heard of it from others has impressed me and words can’t express how happy I am to see an lgbt+ anime that’s not just ‘bait’. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that kind of anime but it’s great that they made a mainstream anime with a gay couple and even greater that it was such a hit. Now, I’m queer so I’m happy about this phenomenon for my own reasons but as you said, it makes my blood boil when people try to pass off blatant homophobia as opinions or prudishness. All in all, I love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. theanimeprince // February 3, 2017 at 10:24 am // Reply

    Hmm, I think to start off, the reason for white YOI got so much hate on this subject is honestly because the anime awards were just executed poorly by Crunchyroll.Though, the question is: Did YOI deserve it? I don’t know. However, I could make a variety of arguments against it while thinking about other anime that deserved this spot.

    If you are saying said “homophobics”, as you addressed them, stated that this anime is only popular because of something called: “the yaoi effect”, then I would have to agree that they are wrong. Because YOI did do other things right. I would even say YOI was 1 of the best anime of this year in terms of cinematography, something I personally think is overlooked in a variety of different anime.

    I’ve stated before that every anime has a place and is needed for all audiences of anime. YoI is no exception, however it is also NOT any superior. The reason I, at least used to, appreciate YOI’s existence (despite making fun of it quite often) is because it made a niche audience happy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, that’s why I LOVE anime and why I am so damn proud of this community. Yeah it isn’t perfect, however, nobody can really “hate” on something like YOI even if they did watch it and didn’t like it. Crunchyroll’s attempts at making the “anime awards” ruined that. Because it gave YOI a bad reputation simply due to popularity votes on what clearly seemed like handpicked nominations.

    The truth is: I think the fact that this anime is so gay is too defined by both sides of the spectrum. I do not think gender and sexuality is anything more than a characters’ personal characteristic. It should not depend so heavily on how successful an anime is or even be in the argument. This is something that should be more normal than it is. In other words, I don’t care if the characters are male or female and I certainly do not care about their sexuality. What story they tell should be told by deep meaning behind the story and plot, even if it is a romance.

    To summarize, I just think forcing an anime awards show was unwise and is bound to create a rift in the community.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree. It deserved any awards it received, especially for breaking all the rules, norms. The diversity needs to be applauded, and there was no Anime with such a big impact as YoI last year. Even skaters, pros, watched and loved it.

    I also scoff that it only won on being “yaoi” /”fujoshi bait”(hate this term). There has been no yaoi, BL or shounen ai that has won any awards on CR, so I don’t know what they’re talking about. Smh.

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The Moyatorium

Fun anime listicles, in-depth analyses, and the occasional lyric translation

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