Happy February, my dear folks! I’m super excited to kick off this month’s OWLS Blog Tour. For the full schedule of tour stops by all the participating members, click here. I hope you enjoy my tour post. Thank you.
Yuri on Ice “Flight” Blog Tour
An individual takes flight when there is a goal, a dream, or an ambition that he or she wants to achieve. However, for this blog tour, we are going to look at “flight” in different lenses: the underdog’s dream, the possibilities that Yuri on Ice allows viewers to think about, and also the dangers of greed and ignorance that can influence one’s dream.
In this tour post, I’m going to take a flight towards a dream, not only as an OWLS member but also as a human being, that all LGBTQ relationships are accepted normally and equally. I’ll discuss the representation of gay love in Yuri on Ice, focusing on my interpretation of Yuri and Victor’s relationship and how the other characters react to their intimacy. I’ll also address some of the most common critiques including how YOI is “not gay enough”.
The way I see it, Yuri on Ice is living the underdog’s dream of a fresh anime representation of a same-sex relationship, where the focus is on pure love and emotional support instead of simply a sexual relationship. Yuri and Victor obviously love each other, but unlike other yaoi series, they aren’t fucking in every episode. Their complex feelings for each other aren’t downgraded to mere lust. What’s more, their relationship isn’t the only one driving the story forward. An equal, I daresay even a greater importance is given to Yuri’s character development and his struggles and triumphs as a figure skater.
One of the things I love about YOI is how the other characters accept the intimacy between Yuri and Victor like it isn’t a big deal. Some characters like Phichit even seem to support it.
In regards to YOI’s portrayal of Yuri and Victor’s relationship, I want to share my underdog dream for all LGBTQ love and relationships to be accepted normally and equally. You don’t kick a fuss over heterosexual couples, so why make a big deal over a same-sex couple? I know. Homophobia still exists, unfortunately. Perhaps this is why I love Yuri on Ice so much. It doesn’t feature homophobia.
Possibilities Yuri on Ice Allows Us to Think
An interracial, same-sex couple
I think that Yuri and Victor are the perfect poster couple for a group like us OWLS. We promote acceptance and tolerance of all human beings. Gender and racial background are non-issues for Yuri and Victor. Love is for all and shouldn’t only be limited to select groups of privileged people.
BL can also be mainstream
I’ll use the term Boys Love (BL) instead of yaoi because a few people argue that since there are no explicit confirmation that Yuri and Victor are in a romantic or sexual relationship, YOI couldn’t possibly be yaoi. With the figure skating sports at its core, YOI managed to rise into mainstream status and enjoy internet-breaking popularity worldwide. It has also successfully appealed to non-fujoshi viewers, most notably actual figure skaters such as Johnny Weir and Evgenia Medvedeva, just to name a few.
The Power of Subtext
Even without express confirmation by words, we feel the love between Yuri and Victor. Whether theirs is a man-man love or just a mentor-student love, we are still not 100% certain. However, the generous fan service have not deprived us with hints pointing to a romantic relationship. Love is universal and can be felt, even without words.
No villain is still exciting
YOI has proven that an anime can still be insanely exciting and wildly popular even without a hateful villain blocking the protagonist’s way. Yuri P. and JJ, even Yakov to some extent, started out from the antagonist path, but they were quickly humanized and we sympathize with them, even loving them as much as Yuri and Victor. And in the case of Yurio, many of us love him the best.
The main antagonist is Yuri’s personal demons. He’s riddled with insecurities, lack self-esteem and confidence until Victor started coaching him. Despite YOI essentially becoming a “battle against one’s self” type of anime, it’s still super exciting.
It’s okay to like all the characters
I don’t know about you, but I like all the characters. Of course there are characters that annoy me such as Yurio and JJ at the beginning, but I didn’t outright hate them. On the contrary, I quickly loved them! Yes, even JJ. Go Canada!!! You might think that an anime filled with nothing but likable characters is boring, but surprise surprise, YOI successfully achieved this feat. Awesome, isn’t it?
Critiques of Yuri on Ice
Critics say that Yuri and Victor’s relationship is too ideal, too unrealistic. Victor coaches Yuri and suddenly he becomes this sexy thing with slicked-back hair, erotically licking his lips before his performances.
Yes, I agree that a lot of its elements are unrealistic. It’s a freaking ANIME, for goodness’ sake! If I want “realistic”, I’ll watch a reality show, although I bet that even these supposed “reality” shows are scripted. YOI, at its core, is a feel-good sports anime shamelessly littered with fan service. It proved that BL can also be mainstream.
No homophobic abuse
Neither Yuri nor Victor said they were gay. Perhaps they’re both straight who are only attracted to each other. Maybe they’re bisexual. We don’t know. We don’t even know 100% that they’re in a romantic relationship. YOI excels at dropping hints that could be interpreted either way. I personally would like to believe that they’re romantically involved, and I’m writing this tour post using that perspective.
Critics argue that YOI is too unrealistic because if it’s true that Yuri and Victor are a couple, then they’re not getting any backlash for being in a gay relationship. Other characters seem to accept their intimacy without batting an eye, even celebrating their relationship, like how Phichit mistakenly congratulates them on their “wedding” when he sees their matching rings. “Where’s the homophobic abuse?”, demand the critics.
Love is love, gay or not.
My goodness. What bloodthirsty sadists! I already mentioned how I love the absence of homophobia in YOI. Certainly it’s unrealistic, especially since real life figure skaters who came out like Johnny Weir have been subjected to homophobic abuse. But I argue that instead of treating YOI as an unrealistic mirror to reality, I prefer to see it as a vision for an open-minded future where same-sex relationships are accepted normally without making a big deal out of it. Love is love, gay or not.
Not gay enough
This critique is probably the one that frustrates me the most. YOI excels in subtext, dropping hints that could be interpreted in different ways. There was never an explicit “I love you” or “We’re a couple” admission from either Yuri or Victor. But the hints are there. That kiss. The rings. The intense intimacy between the two of them whenever they hug and look at each other.
Critics argue that since the kiss was covered by Victor’s arm, it didn’t happen. They also say that the rings are not a symbol of their love for each other, but mere promise rings to achieve Yuri’s dream of winning a gold medal with Victor as his coach. They explain the intimacy as mere closeness between mentor and student.
On one hand, I understand their points. After all, the kiss was indeed blocked and the rings weren’t explicitly exchanged with the words “Will you marry me?”. However, I’m dismayed how people can be so dismissive about any romantic possibilities between Victor and Yuri. Do they not understand subtext? Did they look at the blushing reactions of the other characters during the blocked kiss? Did they notice that the two exchanged rings near a church? Does everything need to be spelled out clearly like a boring manual for them?
I think that the lack of clarification regarding Victor and Yuri’s relationship works to avoid the trap of being labeled as “yaoi trash”. (By the way, I don’t have anything against yaoi because I have some strong fujoshi sensibilities myself.) There’s so much more in YOI besides the attraction between two men. Their feelings for each other are complex, not just lust that are sated by fucking every episode. Their relationship is not easily categorized as “lovers”. That’s why so many anime viewers declare that Yuri on Ice is not a simple queer-bait.
Dangers of Greed & Ignorance
We, OWLS, are greedy in a way that we want to achieve our dream of acceptance and tolerance for all human beings. That includes members of the LGBTQ community and their relationships. Despite this, we can’t eliminate the fact that some of us are still ignorant about LGBTQ issues. Although we support the LGBTQ community, not all of us belong to it. Generally this should be a non-issue but to us who are heterosexual, we can’t fully know or understand the experiences and struggles of gay people or anyone belonging to this community. Because of these, we as OWLS members, are in danger of being accused of hypocrisy, preaching a vision that we don’t fully understand. Our greed for a better world where all human beings are accepted equally regardless of gender and sexual orientation may also be construed as immoral by more conservative groups. We are also in danger of being targets of haters and anti-gay individuals.
Also by using anime such as Yuri on Ice as a medium to raise awareness and promote acceptance of same-sex relationships, I may be called naïve and shallow. Why use anime for something as serious as this? My answer is because I can…WE CAN. We’re otaku warriors fighting for a cause. I may not be gay, but I don’t have to be gay to support the gay community. I grew up surrounded by gay people. Many of my mother and her sisters’ best friends are gay. Growing up, I count some gay people as my honorary aunts and uncles. I love them! LGBTQ members are human beings just like the rest of us. Thus, I believe that they all deserve the same level of rights, freedom, and respect as the rest of us.
ONE DAY our dreams will come true.
It seems that the world is not fully ready yet for same-sex love. This makes me terribly sad. I want to see a world in this lifetime where all members of the LGBTQ community are accepted and treated equally and gay relationships are seen as normal. I want to see relationships like what Yuri and Victor have, where they can freely express their love for each other without being targets of homophobic abuse. Certainly it is unrealistic and too ideal (for now), but I believe that ONE DAY, we’ll be able to achieve this.
Thank you very much for reading my tour post. I greatly appreciate it. I learned a lot by writing this post. Who knew that Yuri!!! on ICE could inspire a blog tour like this? Please tune in for the next tour stop over at Remy (The Lily Garden) this coming Monday. Click here for the full schedule of tour stops in our Yuri on Ice “Flights” Blog Tour this February.
For more information about our group Otaku Warriors for Liberty & Self-Respect (OWLS) or to inquire about membership, click here. Also don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @OWLSbloggers. Thank you very much. Have a great day! Here’s to a future of freedom. Cheers!
Free to be ME,
Arria (OWLS Secretary)
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