Friday, 20 January 2017

On Anime 1: Yuri!!! On Ice

I love Yuri!!! On Ice. Which I suppose doesn't make me anything special. But, since I introduced my sister to it a couple of weeks ago and she didn't understand what I liked about it, I'm going to make a list of the things I like about it.

  • It has beautiful music, animation, and choreography.
  • It's a sports show in which training is shown relatively realistically.
  • It's about a chaste romantic relationship between two young men, with obvious respect for personal boundaries.
  • All the characters who want to harm women, even when they've convinced themselves they have good intentions, are portrayed as the creepy bastards they are.
  • All the characters who appear in the last three episodes have complex personalities. You know exactly why each of the competitors, even the creepy bastards, want to win, and they all think they have good reasons to do so.
  • Yuri's only actual rival, Yurio (Russian Yuri), is not a creepy bastard. He becomes sympathetic very early on, and we get to see him grow up and become disciplined and, in spite of himself, kind.
  • The competitors are from all over the world. While only Phichit, the Thai champion, has dark skin, it's great to see Canada represented separately from the US, and Kazakhstan separately from Russia.
  • Victor is incredibly sexy. He uses it to his advantage, and so do the writers. I did not particularly care about men's figure skating before watching this show. Now I care, because Victor asked me to care.
But the thing I love most about Yuri!!! On Ice is none of these things. I love Yuri!!! On Ice because it gives me a way forward.

I am Katsuki Yuri. I share his anxiety, his frequent inability to tell that people don't hate him (and that he's even an inspiration to others), his fear of being terrible at the one thing he's good at. I share his inability to tell himself that the Grand Prix Final is just another competition: on the day I defended my master's thesis, I was just as blind scared and certain I would do everything wrong, in spite of having explained my research to just about everyone I'd met in the preceding months. I've spent the same kind of time in a rut while I apply for job after job. I have the same patchwork of coping mechanisms, from the proven-useful (mindfulness meditation and spending time with people) to the denialistic (Youtube comedy playlists). And like Yuri, I sometimes wonder if it's all worth it, whether I'll ever achieve the thing I want, whether it would really be so bad to just give up.

But Yuri didn't give up, and his work finally paid off. His performance of Victor's routine caught Victor's attention, and prompted Victor (and his poodle) to travel halfway around the world to be Yuri's coach. The moral of this first part of the story is that miracles happen, but only if you work for them. The only way out is through. My Victor, my miraculous job opportunity that'll solve all my problems*, won't see me if I don't keep skating. So I keep skating.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

On A Video Podcast

Last month, a few of my online acquaintances met to talk about one of my favorite books, The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, in a Twitch livestream. The host of the stream needed volunteers to be talking heads--that is, actually in the stream as opposed to in the chat--and he picked me. And we had fun. And when we were done recording he said something like "I hope you can come back for future episodes, so that it's not only white guys talking." And I said I would, because I'm always happy when someone wants my opinion, and to bring what diversity I can to what discourse I can. So now I'm a regular on a video podcast book club.

I will add episodes to this post as they happen.

1. December 2016: Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic
2. January 2017: M. H. Boroson, The Girl With Ghost Eyes
3. February 2017: Stephen Hunt, The Court of the Air