TV World {Yuri!!! On Ice}

Glittering and gasp-worthy. Some observers might describe the figure skating world this way, but it would also be an apt summary of Yuri on Ice, the figure skating anime that’s taken the interwebs by storm.

Credit to YOI creators and Honeyfeed.fm

Never in my adult life did I imagine my nerd-doms would collide in such a charming series. And never did I imagine so many others would be taken by it too. However, whether you were a figure skater or not, you’ll be drawn to the story of Yuri Katsuki, an elite Japanese athlete who needs some help getting back up on his skates. Like in many competitive sports that favor youth, hitting your early twenties in figure skating usually leads to the sunset of one’s amateur career. Yuri is twenty-three, and his crisis of confidence doesn’t go ignored by Viktor Nikiforov, a silver-haired Russian star in the field. Love-is-love deniers beware, there is a sweet romance brewing between the two that anyone would have trouble saying it’s not endearing. Thankfully, the promise of more isn’t far off as a second season is in the works due to the surprise popularity of Yuri’s debut.

You’ll meet a vibrant cast of supporting characters whose personalities and motivations are memorable and distinguishable. I don’t know how the animators and writers managed, but in relatively short twenty-minute episodes, I find myself empathizing with not only Yuri but his competitors whom he also deeply respects. My favorite is Phichit Chulanont, the Thai wunderkid who’s trailblazing as an elite skater from Southeast Asia. I just can’t wait to see how many country jackets may be seen at Anime Expo, where there will for sure be many cosplayers of Yuri Plisetsky, the relentless Russian star, or maybe Otabek Altin, the prideful Kazakh stud. This room for bold and maybe even melodramatic characterization is something that the medium of anime lends itself well to. With a blank canvas or screen, there’s no excuse not to go all-out. Need I remind you of Naruto?

Most importantly, the figure skating world is painstakingly and lovingly rendered in 2D, and as a former rink rat, I was impressed by the details I saw even in the background art. For example, at most rinks people skate counterclockwise, and in YOI, I saw a sign in the background with kanji indicating “to the left.” The real marvel is the actual animation of the figure skating. Skeptical at first, I changed my mind when I realized I felt like I was watching the real thing. The intro alone is a work of art, and I often held my breath when a skater attempted their third quad jump in the routine (program, as we formally call it). The skater fell, and I felt for them much as I would watching live figure skating with real medals at stake.

Credit to YOI creators and gamenguide.com

Beyond the movements, the stresses, struggles, and surprises of the figure skating world were outlined faithfully. Yuri Katsuki is a small-town hero in a nation that now often stands at the top of figure skating podiums (search Yuzuru Hanyu, be amazed), while Yuri Plisetsky, his chief rival, comes from a nation with a long history of champions. So it would make absolute sense for the figure skating world to be shocked when the Russian prince Viktor takes a break at the height of his career to coach a Japanese skater. This is about as far-fetched as the series gets though, and it’s necessary since it gives Yuri K. new and intriguing (sparks! fly!) motivations to skate well. As for me, I will never be able to think about a bowl of savory katsudon the same ever again.

However, the happiest aspect of the series for my fellow former figure skater viewing friend (say that five times fast!) and I is how sportsmanship is depicted in the anime. I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I watched Prince of Tennis, so I don’t have a recent point of comparison. I can say that in YOI, everyone’s biggest competitor is truly themselves, and rather than cut their fellow athletes down, they want them to do well to make for interesting competition. In a show about figure skating, whose athletes aren’t immune to the temptations of doping or even clubbing another’s knees to get ahead, it would have been easy to capitalize on this history of scandals to make for cliffhangers that would keep people watching.

Don’t be swayed by the crazy costumes in this series (indeed, I think they’re one of the best parts) and give a different type of sports-based show a try! As the Russians would might say, davai!

After, After, After, Always

December 28, 2016 | kickin’ and screamin’

My childhood home will soon be rented out and eventually sold. I am a millennial, although I’m also slowly creeping towards the middle of the age bracket. We are often described to be itinerant and unattached. Seeking the next place to move our careers forward, for those of us lucky enough to be on that path. Swiping right and either unable to decide or decide so quickly that we hope to forget the next day.

So perhaps it’s slightly against my generational grain to feel so strongly about this old home as to bare my feelings to the Internet. You’re welcome, since I originally envisioned this as a poorly made film, or conversely, I’m sorry. I haven’t lived full-time in this house since I left to go to college where people wear UGGs un-ironically. However I quickly learned that the truly useful footwear was a pair of those hilariously named “duck boots.” This house protected my family for so long, but a few years ago when another one of us left, they never came back. (Note to self, I pledge to take my last breath somewhere other than in an ICU.) I’ll never be an iconoclast just for the sake of it, but in this case I can’t help but be very, very attached.

I will always remember the sounds of my backyard gate and garage door, for they meant saying goodbye to guests sure to return or hello to my parents coming back from work. I like to think they enjoyed me sticking my face up against the glass as a greeting.

I will always love the carpet that my mom kept so clean because of all the couches and beds I could lay on to read, I always ended up on the floor. This Christmas, I made sure to lay down a yoga mat at least.

I will always treasure the light pink walls of my bedroom, soon to be occupied by another lucky child, because my parents kept their promise that after we moved out of the townhouse, I’d get my pink walls. I regret removing the Rainbow Fish border.

I will always be impressed with the kitchen even though it doesn’t boast granite countertops or brushed steel appliances. That’s fine because if I’m eventually able to afford these in my own home someday, it’ll make me feel like I achieved intergenerational prosperity. Boo-yah!

I will always worry about the little crannies where I know spiders and other crawlies…crawl out of. When I killed my first spider in the house, I grew a little but also might’ve pee’d myself. Although I’m sorry, spider sir or madam, I panicked and forgot about the paper and cup technique that time.

I will always think of the quiet and peaceful park further up our street. And the pecans my grandma and I pilfered when fall came around. I probably owe some of my cavities to her candied pecans. Worth every one.

I will always wish I can hear my dad’s snoring in the master bedroom again. It’s the most comforting thing to know that you can be sitting and reading in another room, but not completely alone.

I will never forget turning onto this street after a long while away, after a dinner at Outback, after a day at the Galleria, after playing at a friend’s house, after a shitty day at my top-rated and therefore very competitive high school (go Rangers!), after, after, after.

And so I will always remember and love this house. This home. I hope the next family or non-family living unit cares for it like mine did. I hope it treats them well, much as it did my family. As I come upon my second year of the Rooster (quelle horreur), I know it’s time to finally write this and let it go.

Goodbye house, and thank you.