Yuri!!! on Ice: A Love that Surpasses Gender

Yuri!!! on Ice: A Love that Surpasses Gender

Suppression in the World of Figure Skating

Figure skating is a hugely popular sport in Japan. It’s a world of showiness and strong impressions. And yet, discrimination and prejudice still exist in such a world.

That grim side to figure skating was discussed in the Feb. 18, 2014 issue of Newsweek in a special feature article titled The Suffering of Figure Skaters Tied to ‘Manliness’.

"It’s something skaters understand well, regardless of their sexuality.
Judges, sponsors, and TV audiences alike expect the same thing: lovely female skaters, and manly male skaters.

The reality, though, is different. Skaters like England’s John Curry or Canada’s Matthew Hall and Brian Orser came out either after retirement, or after their peak as performers."

According to this article, while there are many gay or lesbian figure skaters, few come out while they’re still competing. Former American figure skater Johnny Weir aimed for a feminine skating style and came out in his 2011 autobiography, saying that he faced cold reception from the U.S. Figure Skating Association as a result of his feminine style and looks.

Yuri!!! on Ice, Expressing Eros That Goes Beyond Gender

Yuri!!! on Ice is currently airing on TV Asahi, the first anime with a focus on figure skating as a theme. It has attracted the attention of a large number of anime fans (particularly women) with its unique characters and beautiful skating scenes.

However, the art isn’t the only reason for attracting attention. It’s the love stories between different characters that have stolen the hearts of countless viewers. Women may be the main target audience, and it’s easy to imagine it as a so-called work of “BL” (the genre “boys’ love”). As stated before, there’s clearly a suppression of homosexuality in the real-life world of figure skating, but no such feeling is found in this anime. Many expressions of BL are written by heterosexual women, established in response to the needs of women, perhaps making them a kind of fantasy.

This series, though, is hiding something beyond a simple and idealistic fantasy about men by women. Male writers almost never feel eros, or love, when consuming BL written as fantasy, yet it can be experienced without a doubt in the skating scenes of this anime.

This writer thinks that Yuri!! on Ice has successfully expressed love and eros that goes beyond the sexes. Take Yuri’s provocative expression when he begins to skate, followed by his flexible and smooth movements (the pictures recreating this are another amazing feature), and his face after he comes to a halt, utterly entranced. Whether a man or woman, anyone watching can’t help but be fascinated.

The Diverse Kinds of Love that Color the Ice

The main theme of Yuri!!! on Ice lies in the expression of love. This is mostly illustrated as the love between teacher and student, in the form of protagonist Katsuki Yuri and his coach Victor Nikiforov. Still, gestures reminiscent of romantic lovers have been deliberately used in the depiction of this relationship, perhaps the most obvious of which being found in Episode 7.

Just as Yuri feels as if he is about to be crushed by the pressure, Victor seems to push him away, making Yuri cry. Their exchange following this is just as if one between lovers. This portrayal implies that Victor kisses Yuri in an embrace, but their connection is still but that of teacher and student. And yet, they have both dedicated their lives to the sport through this link. As a result, their bond goes far deeper than a typical relationship between lovers.

One major highlight of this work is the magnificent performances by skaters from all around the world, but the love visibly put into their skating is also a point of great interest. Yuri and his rival, Yuri Plisetsky, each receive songs from Victor themed around Agape and Eros. One skater expresses a platonic love for a younger twin sister, one expresses a love for a lost lover, and another expresses a strong self-love. Katsuki Yuri’s love is Eros. This is expressed towards Victor, and so Yuri frantically practices ballet’s feminine movements to gain that kind of expressive power.

In Yuri!!! on Ice, generally there's no skating that’s tied to masculinity. Some characters do perform with an abundance of masculinity, but both Yuris and Victor actively thrust forward a beauty free of gender.

Yuri!!! on Ice's Power to Change Society

There’s a harsh reality to homosexuality in actual figure skating. This series might be nothing more than an idealistic fantasy, but it could also have power that won't just end at women who love BL. As mentioned before, that image of Yuri skating on the ice has a sexuality that reaches even heterosexual men. This work successfully expresses love and eros that goes beyond “for women” and “for men.”

Mizoguchi Akiko expresses a hope in Theories on the Evolution of BL that BL will bring about an evolution in society.

"BL's transformations might be changing society bit by bit - is that a surprise? And the same for saying that modern BL subjugates homophobia in Japan's real-life society, heterosexual normativity, and misogyny. Can't you feel irony in the fact that heterosexual works that women are most active in aren’t the same works that overcome misogyny?"

Yuri!!! on Ice's expression beyond gender might give us a hint of how to overcome such issues.

Johnny Weir has also been getting interested in this series. Johnny has fought with this forced masculinity, so what does he think of this anime? If this anime has contributed even a little bit to resisting prejudice against homosexuality, and forced masculinity and femininity, then that’s something truly precious.

Source: Spice

Yuri!!! on Ice: A Love that Surpasses Gender 1

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