January 2017 Update: What’s With All the Hate against Yuri on Ice?

yuri-triplets

WOW, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Even this monthly update post is almost a week late because I was away on a trip. I don’t even have any excuses for the radio silence, really, since it wasn’t like I’ve been particularly busy last January. I’m still in holiday mode, to be honest.

In any case, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Translations

I completed two translations in January. The first was an interview with Sadao Tsukioka, one of the first truly great Japanese animators of the TV anime era. He’s best known for his extensive work on Ken the Wolf Boy (狼少年ケン), which was the first TV anime ever produced by Toei Animation. This was way back in 1963, and Tsukioka is still active as a lecturer and teacher of animation today! In the interview, which I translated for the animation blog Ontheones, Tsukioka talks about his experiences during the early days of the anime industry and also shares his thoughts on Chinese animation and where he thinks the industry is headed. It’s a really fascinating interview, so I hope you read it!

Part One

Part Two

tsukioka1

I also translated an interview with Koichi Kikuta, the chief animation director of Konosuba. Kikuta is a huge pervert, but he has some really interesting thoughts on animation. For those who assumed that Konosuba was a low-budget, low-effort project, think again!

At the moment, the translation is only viewable for patrons of Wave Motion Cannon or The Canipa Effect, so I’ll link it again when it’s available for everyone. While I’m here I should mention that I’m a supporter of both Wave Motion Cannon and The Canipa Effect. I’d also like to thank Karice for checking my translation and offering helpful feedback.

Speaking of translation checking, I assisted with @wickedfighting‘s translation of an interview with Makoto Shinkai about Kimi no Na wa, where he talks in-depth about the themes of the movie. I also checked Karice’s translation of an interview with the Yuri on Ice music producer, which sheds light on an often neglected aspect of the anime production process.

At this rate, it looks like I’ll be stuck doing interview translations for the foreseeable future, but it’s all very interesting stuff, so I don’t mind in the slightest.

Crunchyroll Articles

I’m back from my Christmas and New Year’s back with some new articles for Crunchyroll. This month, I wrote about:

The last article, which was published on January 31st, came only a day or so after Yuri on Ice was crowned the winner of the Crunchyroll Awards, a development which surprised nobody but angered many. Since this is my blog and I get to call the shots here, let me talk frankly about my feelings on Yuri on Ice for a bit.

yuri-skating

Yuri on Ice was not my favourite anime of 2016, but it was still an anime that I enjoyed enough to mention on my shortlist of faves for Crunchyroll News. I do think that there were better contenders for the category awards, namely the “Best Animation” awardThat said, the backlash is way overblown. Yuri on Ice certainly had its production problems, but not only were its lows not nearly as low as some other high-profile 2016 anime that I could name, the people pointing at the in-between frames in order to make fun of the animation display their ignorance of animation.

But the comments about Yuri on Ice that particularly annoy me are the ones that insinuate that the show only became popular because it had a gay couple, or whatever. I liked Yuri and Victor as much as anyone, but their relationship was actually the least compelling part of the story for me. There were so many other things that made this anime so great to watch, like the attention to detail and the colourful characters, but this all gets ignored when the show is dismissed as “fujoshi bait”. It seems like yet another case of online anime fans getting sniffy at shows that have a vocal female fanbase.

I’m saying this even though some parts of the Yuri on Ice fandom freak me out, if I have to be completely honest. I’m talking about the people who harassed the series co-writer Mitsuro Kubo, or who edited Yuzuru Hanyu’s Wikipedia page to make out that he’s Yuri Katsuki. When real-life public figures get harassed over a fictional story, you know that the fandom wars have gone too far. To some degree, I can’t blame people who think an anime is not worth watching simply because some parts of the fandom behave badly.

But in the end, Yuri on Ice really is a damn fine anime in its own right, and I hope that it makes history for the right reasons. It’s the first full-length TV anime about men’s ice skating, and in its loving depiction of the modern world of ice skating, it shines brightly as a testament of director Sayo Yamamoto’s passion and ambition. I actually bought a copy of Yamamoto’s earlier series Mitchiko and Hatchin because I enjoyed Yuri on Ice so much, and I’ll be watching that soon-ish.

What did you think of Yuri on Ice?

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Posted on February 6, 2017, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. As someone neck deep in YoI fandom, I have to say that the extremists terrify me. They’re really rude and disrespectful, and it’s a handful of harassers who end up making something fun seem so messed up. The rest of the fandom, obsessed as it is, isn’t this creepy, thankfully.

    I definitely agree that there were better contenders for “best show”, but it was a popularity contest. That’s it, no big deal. Seeing all this vocal hate that calls the show “fujoshi bait” really makes the feminist in me want to punch a wall. It was first and foremost a sports anime, and a really engaging one. Anyway, Kairi out; hell calls.

  2. Yuri on Ice looked bad for a lot more than in-between frames. I liked the show and I won’t comment on the fandom as I didn’t keep up, but it wasn’t a very technically impressive show I think. Technically ambitious maybe? I wish it had more polish on the skating it had and less skating in general. It managed a mix of good and bad. I found myself skipping through some of the skating scenes by the end of the show.

    The animation thing that irritated me the most personally was the reuse of animation. Too much of the show was focused on the skating for recycled animation to do the job. Reused animation with glaring detail problems just makes those details stand out that much more.

    I think the biggest reason people make such a big deal of Yuri on Ice’s animation issues is that it did nothing to hide them. They were front and center of the screen every time they happened. One skater would look fantastic and then the next would look terrible all within the same episode. That kind of focus and contrast did the show no favors.

  3. Now as someone who sits with four girls everyday, girls who’s only passion in life is going on Tumblr and looking at memes, I of course would have to see YOI whether I regularly watched anime or not. These were the girls who have been on the phenomenon since it first started so they kind of forced me to watch it. But still I did like YOI. It was entertaining and I loved the characters, but unfortunately there was nothing in the show that clicked with me. To me it didn’t have that personal connection, that one thing that makes you fall unconditionally in love with a show flaws and all. But you know what, even though I didn’t think it was the best thing ever of all time that doesn’t mean I can go bash those who do and declare Konosuba as the undesputed best anime of 2016.

    Even if I’m not a part of it, I think its a beautiful thing seeing a group that unconditionally love the same thing come together from all corners of the internet (especially the dark corners) through that very passion they have for that show. They found that something in the show, that flare of passion. Through it they found joy and happiness, and I believe no one has the right to take that away (even if that passion can definitely go too far sometimes, then they need to chill).

    But has YOI made history? We just need to wait and find out. In my little corner of the world it’s definitely still going strong with my friends. P.S before you start thinking I have a harem going on in my life and I’m some oblivious MC, its not like that. I’m the perverted best friend who has no friends after MC graduates, alone with angry wolves. Thats my life.

  4. I’ll be frank: I didn’t like Yuri on Ice.

    The reason behind it is not that I was disturbed by the main couple since I dropped the show on the third episode or so. It’s much more trivial to most viewers, but way more important to me.

    Animation in YoI couldn’t express to me what ice skating is.

    I am not a massive fan of ice skating, but I did grow up on watching Olympics and some major tournaments, so I had pleasure to watch perfomances of many talented skaters, both males and females. As such, I had certain expectations to what kind of angles to expect and how the camera should move. More importantly, I am a bit capricious when it comes to animation capturing the speed of the skater.

    Let me go on a little tangent here and talk about the show where I first saw animated ice skating, namely Death Parade. After watching it and loving the show to death, I was pretty sad that the weakest part of the animation there for me was ice skating scene. Despite all the efforts put into it, despite all the emotional links to the story, it felt hollow. There was certain lack of speed in the overall motion, although the female grace was certainly depicted well.

    That’s why I was very cautious when I first heard of Yuri on Ice. Male ice skating is very very difficult to adapt into animation. It is not as graceful as female skating, and there is a lot of emphasis on the skater’s technique and jumps. And, of course, male skaters are very fast. All things considered, the future didn’t look bright.

    First episode in, my doubts were all but confirmed. The animation was certainly impressive, but it lacked the punch. Too clean, too slow.

    Third episode in, I couldn’t bear watching it. It was not what ice skating was to me. It was wrong. My source of fanservice was not good enough.

    As for Crunchyroll awards, I am pretty disappointed by them. Best animation, in particular, did not even have Sound! Euphonium 2 nominated despite it having the most detailed animation in 2016. Mob Psycho 100, despite being the most visually impressive anime of the year, did not have as much care put into the body language. flying watch had the most elegantly animated scenes of the year. Haikyuu!! S3 was better in expressing the speed of the movement and camerawork.

    Overall, I don’t feel the hype for YoI, and looking at the debates I am glad that I am not invested in the show.

    • I’m mostly neutral on figure skating (I enjoy watching it but I’m not a fan, never mind an expert) but I felt a similar hollowness at the skating scenes in YOI. Technical issues aside* it all just felt soulless. And while I’m sure it didn’t help that I wasn’t connecting with the show so I couldn’t get the emotional “high”, halfway into the show I was actually feeling the urge to fast-forward skating scenes, they just felt boring and pointless.

      The same core team (director, chief animator, choreographer) did an anime short titled Endless Night for the Animator Expo, which also had a full skating routine (it’s basically a music video), and that I think had more soul and creativity than all of YOI’s skating scenes, even as the animation itself was more limited.

  5. A lot of the anger that arose in the wake of the Crunchyroll awards was as much about the (deeply, irretrievably) flawed selection and ‘nomination’ process as it was about *Yuri* itself. Even absent that, the simulcast community isn’t really ready to accept the notion that a critically acclaimed show (and well deserved from what I read, I didn’t watch it) could be more worthy of an award than any number of shows whose main attribute was their popularity. The audience in general skews younger and routinely confuses “popular” and “good”. (Unless the anime in question is SAO – there runaway popularity seems to mean “garbage”.)

  6. It does seem to me that, running parallel to the “it’s just fujobait” stuff, there’s also the general backlash that comes when any anime gets really popular (see: Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan). Shows getting big and starting to appear everywhere and being celebrated constantly always seems to produce a large and vocal crowd of contrarians. Not speaking for other parts of the internet, but to me it looks like the majority of comments against Yuri on Ice on your piece and elsewhere on Crunchyroll are this same trend, just with the fujobait line of reasoning grafted onto it (where with SAO it was power fantasy and Attack on Titan in was mainstream Western plebs).

    And, to some extent, I do have to say I can empathize with this kind of exhaustion over the constant praise for Yuri on Ice and its pervasive presence in stuff like the Anime Awards, having found it lacking in a number of ways. One thing I think we might not think of from our end as fan critics deeply embedded into the conversations in the anime community is the commercial aspects of a big hitter like YOI – when Crunchyroll or Funimation or whoever sees a show is becoming a hit, they (logically) begin to double down on the marketing. This is a business industry, after all, and with shows that are obviously becoming as big as YOI got, there’s of course going to be an effort to a) make it bigger, and b) engage those fans. For people who are just kind of absorbing what these marketing apparatus send them (rather than through other channels like peers/critics), it’s easy to see where the burnout comes from.

    And then, if you didn’t connect with YOI or found this “critically acclaimed” show lacking from a critic’s perspective, the ever-present specter of “why is Concrete Revolutio” (or Orange or Re:Zero or whatever) getting this treatment. And bitterness can follow easily after that.

    • Frog-kun doesn’t offer a ‘like’ button, so consider your reply liked…

      And I presume you actually meant “why isn’t” in your last paragraph?

    • On a tangent, I remember watching a nerdwriter1 video (a Boston College grad that does excellent weekly format criticism, analyses, and commentary on art, politics, and popular culture), and being pleasantly surprised that Crunchyroll sponsored one of his videos. My mood turned more sour when Crunchyroll decided that Attack on Titan was the show they decided to highlight out of all the site’s offerings. It’s a relatively low-brow show for a Youtube channel that tends to put out relatively high-brow content. As a person who wants anime to be increasingly seen as both sophisticated art and popular entertainment, it’s a little disheartening to see the ambassadors of anime to international audiences advertise only what’s popular in every advertising opportunity they set up for themselves.

  7. I didn’t like Yuri on Ice weirdly enough – I’m squarely the target demographics and on paper I should’ve been all over it, but I didn’t like the characters (most of all Viktor who grated on me to no end), I didn’t enjoy the humor and the overall tone, I wasn’t blown away by the animation (maybe they touched it up for the disc release), and I prefer my fanservice more subtle than “naked dude! skinship!” regardless of whether the homosexuality is canon or not. And I admit that I am, to a certain extent, bitter at all the in my opinion undeserved praise and overwhelming attention it gets. But basically the show just didn’t do it for me. There’s nothing wrong with it but I simply don’t think it’s that good, never mind the groundbreaking trailblazer some people seem to see it as. (However, I loved the Endless Night anime short by the same core staff. I wish YOI had been more like that.)

    And yet – still I find myself defending it all the time. Partly because my subjective tastes aside I wholly support the show’s existence, but perhaps more importantly because the “fujobait” thing and all its condescending, sexist implications annoy me more than YOI ever did.

  8. YoI: Great in the beginning, so-so in the middle, great at the end. I didn’t feel the chemistry between Yuri and Victor (with very few exceptions). Things made more sense after the twist near the end, but by then it was too late. I wonder if I’d enjoyed the show more if they’d forgone the twist and given us the information from the beginning, playing dual point-of-view throughout the show. Maybe, maybe not.

    I don’t care much for figure skating in real life, and the competition aspect was completely lost on me as a result (I don’t care about difficulties, or how often someone jumps into the air or spins or both). I did enjoy some performances, for example the tap dance number by the little guy who was fanboying over Yuri.

    I’m fairly certain the praise-exhaustion that bless mentions affected me, too. “It’s good but not that good,” is a mildly negative feeling that has a cumulative effect on enjoyment. It’ll wear off, though. My over-all impression of the show is still pretty good.

    Finally, I preferred Keijo over Yuri on Ice, and I saw people suggest it’s a matter of female assets vs. homesexual relationship. Nope, it’s absurdist comedy played straight vs. decent but unexceptional sports show (which is not my genre). People on both sides need to stop playing the gay card. It’s not that important to everyone, and if it’s important to people then that’s a valid reason, too.

    Yuri on Ice seems to reach people outside the dedicated anime community, though, and if it helps combat prejudice against the art form then that’s all right with me.

  9. I haven’t seen YoI but I’ve been considering it, and balanced commentary like this is only reinforcing the idea that I should.

    I agree that the fandom reaction is highly disturbing, and like you think that there’s an element of gatekeeping going on here. Which I’d wish would just stop. :(

  10. I didn’t enjoy the show, for many reasons, but mostly the first one:

    1. I absolutely hate ice skating. It is my least favourite winter sport. Whenever I watch the Winter Olympics, I go for the Snowboard and the Ice Hockey, like every other hipster does.
    2. This whole playing the ‘gay card’ is just pathetic in the fandom. Fujoshi is not new in anime, and people should learn that.
    3. While I respected Yuri as a conflicted character, Viktor annoyed me to high heaven. I wanted to punch him in those perfect teeth of his so many times.
    4. I agree with the fact that, once a show gets super-popular (eg. AoT, SAO, Madoka Magica), the fans get louder and sometimes more toxic. Episode reviews, canon couples, fanfiction/fanart set in AU, cosplay, and more, all get slapped down because of their ‘inaccuracy’. It can have the capability of turning into one huge Tumblr mess, like the Steven Universe fandom.

    The extremists can bitch to me all they want; they won’t change my mind.

  11. To be honest, I think this sort of behavior might just be par for the course whenever a fujoshi show becomes as high-profile as YOI did. When KyoAni first announced Free! a few years ago, many male otaku were annoyed or even angry with the studio for supposedly pandering to fujoshi. There were also a lot of fujoshi who exhibited bizarre behavior, like getting mad at the revelation that the show would have a girl character in addition to all the muslclemen. (I don’t recall the creators of Free! ever getting harassed though.) And then there’s the whole other shitstorm when it comes to people wanting more or less LGBT representation.

    I’m sure things will get better as more shows targeted towards women and fujoshi are made. But I won’t be surprised at all if, whenever the next Free! or YOI comes along, we see another wave of hate from male otaku and more crazy behavior from fans.

  12. I’m not participating in the fandom for Yuri on Ice (or any other specific anime title, come to think), so I can’t claim to know much of what’s going on in that field. Personally though, I adored the show. Is it the be all and end all of anime? Nope, but that didn’t make my enjoyment any less.

    Personally, I think at least some of the hate for the show probably comes purely as a backlash against its popularity. As soon as you get anything making waves like that, it practically guarantees an anti-following of one kind or another. No doubt there are other other reasons too, but some people just enjoy attempting to take things down things a notch.

  13. Personally I get irritated both by people claiming YoI only won or became popular because it was fujoshi bait and people defending it by focusing on anything but the central, gay relationship in the series.

    Because that relationship, and the ways in which it wasn’t just your average BL cock teasing but an actual, adult relationship between two adult men, that it wasn’t all about treating this as something daring or taboo but like a “normal” relationship, is one big reason why YoI was a serious candidate for the best anime series of 2016, whether or not you personally disagreed or not.

    The other part of it is how modern YoI is: not just the Instagram snapshots in the ED, but in the way it told its story, in how the characters look and act, the cosmopolitan cast and willingness to go beyond traditional anime plotting. Animation wise it did a whole lot better than you’d think if you only look at surface details like the repeated audience clapping shots. It has great moments of visual storytelling.

    Most importantly, its own popularity is also a reason to consider it one of the best anime of 2016. It managed to reach a new audience for anime in a way an Attack on Titan did, but did it with something that wasn’t a teenage orientated action sci-fi/fantasy show. That’s rare and worth celebrating.

    As icing on the cake, it seems to have kicked off a hype for intelligent, female orientated sports/performing arts shows: I’m certainly looking forward to Ball Room e Youkoso frex.

    • “Because that relationship, and the ways in which it wasn’t just your average BL cock teasing but an actual, adult relationship between two adult men, that it wasn’t all about treating this as something daring or taboo but like a “normal” relationship, is one big reason why YoI was a serious candidate for the best anime series of 2016, whether or not you personally disagreed or not.”

      But what you’re describing is, in fact, BL. By default, BL has stories that go beyond “cockteasing” and make the relationships unambiguously homosexual including the physicalities and expression of romantic feelings, and (in most cases, BL is not a genre, after all) not treat it as something daring or taboo. BL is about relationships between guys, that is its definition.

      In fact, the romance in YOI would play out exactly like a (rather generic, to be honest) BL story except it keeps pussyfooting around the actual details and keeps using subtext (very, VERY obvious subtext, to be fair) to get things across. It didn’t show the kiss openly (and I think the creators then said “it is what you want to be!” or something along those lines instead of clarifying that yes, it was indeed a kiss) and the characters keep using skating as analogy for talking about their relationship instead of actually saying the word “love” and whatnot out loud. In this sense, even vanilla BL shows like Gravitation, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, etc. are more unambiguously about romantic relationships between two men – there’s love being openly mentioned, there’s kissing, there’s sex, there’s talking about how they feel about each other. And even non-BL anime had the courage to show male characters kissing or even making out or talk about how they feel about each other without feeling the need to hide it or to use analogies.

      Which is actually one of the reasons why YOI disappointed me. With a director like this, and a theme like this, and the will to “go there” I hoped for a mature approach, but instead got something that, while went beyond “cockteasing” didn’t seem to have the courage to go the extra mile.

  14. I’m still frightened to hear my name called lovingly by another guy….
    I’m still unable to find the courage to watch the anime especially with imouto around.

  15. Oh man people thinking YoI is only popular because of their relationship are crazy. Famous skaters aren’t watching it because it’s gay ffs.
    I love the show, but I didn’t vote and I don’t care, but people dismissing it because it’s for girls/LGBT, because you can’t tell me the shit terms like fujoshi bait and queer bait aren’t about slamming and dismissing us fans.
    No anime impacted 2016 as much, so it deserved the award just by that. I wouldn’t have thrown shit fests, like I saw some do, if it hadn’t won smh

    • I’m m sorry but no. The award should go to the best show, not the most popular. That’s why it’s called a best anime award. Especially when 2016’s best anime (Rakugo) was not only the best show of the year but easily top 5 of the last 10 years. It’s an amazingly good show that was ignored in favor of the flavor of the month. Yes, I’m bitter. And I’m saying this as someone who liked YoI a lot, but Rakugo was vastly superior in every aspect.

      • All the Crunchyroll Awards were literally decided by popular vote, though. I’m not sure what you were expecting.

      • And best is a subjective term, what’s best for me isn’t for you and vice versa, so it’s impossible for everyone’s fave Anime to win on that term. The award should be called favorite Anime of the year or most popular, or most impactful. Nobody can doubt YoI didn’t become a cultural hit, even people that never watched Anime, watched it 😹
        Rakugo sadly didn’t gain enough presence, I’ve heard good things about it and I wanna watch it 👌
        My comment is more targeted to people that were bashing YoI, saying it only won because it was bait and etc.
        But in the end, these type of awards are a popularity competition, otherwise it wouldn’t be fans voting 😹

  16. I get the feeling many people who go “fujobait” are the same type of people who “otakubait” or whatever the equivalent would be. If you look at pretty much any show which has a character/setting/whatever that is “pandery”/something they don’t like the comments will flood in even if the thing they’d complain about is really just a small part of it. Sure, at times there is anime that only have these pandery bits but people are far far too quick to term anything they don’t like “bait” and then they go around watching a show that is bait but with the other prefix and laud it as the next coming of Jeebus.

    In my case I feel that YoI wasn’t bad but I can certainly see why people didn’t find it worthy of all the awards. People even mentioning it’s fujobait are shut down with the label sexist within half a second of making the comment and I’m sure that fuels quite a bit of anger too. Do people jump straight to calling anyone sexist whenever they voice an opinion critical of the typical otakubait shows that KyoAni regularly puts out? I’ve not noticed it but maybe I’m just not observant enough

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