Yuri!!! On Ice on Social Media and Ephemerality

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I began watching Yuri!!! On Ice in a hotel room in Oakland, California during a month-long business trip covering the 2016 League of Legends World Championship. Perhaps that’s why Viktor Nikiforov’s phone case of his own outfit caught my attention — I had seen a similar occurance in professional LoL. SK Telecom T1 superstar Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, the best player to ever have played the game, also owns a phone case of his own likeness*.

Both Viktor and Faker are superstars beyond comparison in their respective fields, despite the former’s existence as a fictional character. Faker is an intelligent, courteous, and confident young man who would never say or do anything that would affect anyone’s perception of the SK Telecom T1 brand. All of his social media is handled by his organization, and he eschews having his own Twitter account — fellow teammates Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-hwan both partake in Twitter, especially the latter. Faker is still in the prime of his career, on the cusp of winning a third World Championship title. By contrast, Viktor is eccentric, whimsical, and expressive above all else.

yuri katsuki viral video skating to viktor's program, viktor watches yuri skate to his program yuri!!! on ice, yuri!!! on ice viktor nikiforov watches yuri katsuki skate to his free program viral video

We meet Viktor in the prime of his career. As he’s presumably wondering what to do next, he stumbles across a viral video of Yuri Katsuki performing his program. Yuri’s performance inspires him to travel to Japan and become the failed Japanese figure skater’s coach. Viktor’s social media presence is ubiquitious. His SNS (presumably Instagram due to the interface) selfie at Hasetsu Castle tips off up-and-coming Russian prodigy Yuri “Yurio” Plisetsky — and Viktor’s legions of fans — to Viktor’s whereabouts, confirming the rumor that he traveled to Japan.

viktor nikiforov in the bath naked, viktor naked in bath at yu-topia selfie, yuri on ice viktor naked in bath, yuri!!! on ice naked viktor bath selfie

Viktor seemingly keeps his social feed continously updated with pictures of what he’s doing and where he’s going. In the series’ third episode, he proudly holds out his phone — still decorated with the image of his latest professional outfit — and asks Yurio and Yuri to take a photo of him in the bath so he can upload it onto social media, showing the large role that it plays in his everyday life.

Yuri!!! On Ice also uses social media as the framework for it’s ending animation sequence. Interspersed with poses of Yuri, Yurio, and Viktor playing with sparklers and fireworks are various Instagram updates posted by ancillary characters like Thai figure skater Phichit Chulanont — just introduced in the series’ fourth episode as Yuri’s former rinkmate — in addition to Yurio and Viktor themselves.

phichit chulanont instagram yuri!!! on ice, yuri on ice ED phichit instagram post, phichit+chu instagram thai figure skater yuri on ice

These posts take on a bittersweet ephemeral quality, especially against the backdrop of Episode 4, which tells us in no uncertain terms that this may be both Yuri and Yurio’s respective last chances. Yuri is 23 in a profession where the average age of an olympic medalist is between 19 and 20 years-old. Yurio, only 15 years-old, is concerned with imminent puberty and whether it will affect his performances going forward.

Their mentor and idol, Viktor is rapidly approaching retirement age at 27 years-old and is choosing to spend what could possibly be his final year as a professional coaching the hapless Yuri Katsuki. Viktor’s endless stream of social media posts continues to promote his existence and attempts to grasp and acknowledge what fleeting moments he can.

v_nikiforov instagram post yuri on ice ED sequence, yuri!!! on ice ED viktor's instagram time fliesv_nikiforov on instagram time flies post yuri on ice, yuri!! on ice ED sequence viktor nikiforov instagram feed

One of the more emotional sequences in the ending is a post from Viktor (v_nikiforov on Instagram). He sits on a train with Yuri and the photo is captioned “time flies so fast.” Two posts following, there’s a wonderful backstage shot of Viktor lovingly brushing Yuri’s hair taken by the Nishigori triplets, who also leaked Yuri’s initial viral video. It’s a private scene where the audience almost feels like they’re intruding, returning to the transcience of the moment.

sukeota3sisters instagram yuri!!! on ice viktor brushing yuri katsuki's hair, viktor and yuri together yuri on ice instagram sukeota3sisters, yuri!!! on ice ED viktor and yuri togethersukeota3sisters instagram yuri and viktor private moment backstage viktor brushes yuri's hair, viktor and yuri instagram picture in yuri!!! on ice ED, viktor brushes yuri's hair yuri on ice ED instagram

Part of Yuri Katsuki’s journey is that he needs to start making decisions for himself instead of deferring to others because he’s too scared to do things for himself. More than beating out Yurio for the Grand Prix title, this is what Yuri must learn. Until Viktor pushes him, he’s always allowed his coach to pick his program music. He generally goes along with what others do if it means that it won’t cause a fuss.

Yuri’s self-effacing and generally shy personality is also reflected in his complete lack of social media presence. Unlike his rival Yurio — who posts updates of himself in various animal attire — Yuri has no SNS brand outside of what the Nishigori sisters have constructed for him, a seemingly conscious choice by the series that furthers our grasp on his character.

*image courtesy of the SK Telecom T1 Twitter account

10 comments

  1. It’s interesting on Twitter, how clear the distinction is between “this account is run by a social media team” versus “this account is run by a single human being.” I wonder if Faker’s account feels much different from his teammates’.

    This post touches on something I’ve often wondered (or, maybe “stressed over” is a better phrase) when it comes to stories set in the contemporary: How do you incorporate social media and the Internet? Yuri on Ice seems to show that it’s not as difficult as one might think, that one’s social life is an extension of oneself in any dimension– in fact, maybe it needed to be a Japanese story to emphasize how simple it all is.

    1. This is a really good point and one that I didn’t actually think that much of while writing this piece. If Faker were to have his own twitter account, it would likely read very much like the SK Telecom T1 account, or be run by the SKT account. By contrast, Faker’s teammate Wolf is far more affable/joke-y/outgoing and his twitter account is unmistakably him (it’s full of memes and partying with his friends). Just like Viktor’s account is unmistakably Viktor.

      Yuri!!! On Ice is the first anime narrative that I’ve seen use social media so casually. Other series have used social media to express specific points about social media itself (Gatchaman Crowds comes to mind immediately) but none have used it so instinctively in a way that seemed genuine. Yuri!!! On Ice isn’t trying to make a point about social media other than the fact that it exists in our world which I found really refreshing.

  2. This is an interesting post. I knew that Yuri on Ice had really incorporated modern social media but I hadn’t really given it much thought before reading this. Now I’m going to pay a bit more attention to that aspect of the show. Thanks for sharing.

    1. One of the things I didn’t touch upon in this post is that the Yuri!!! On Ice actual Instagram account has kept up with the series, and even made a post based on Viktor’s in-universe #ninja post at Hasetsu Castle. It’s pretty interesting how they’ve also managed to incorporate it into actual social media for the series without being overbearing or obnoxious.

  3. Woah, this is very brain-tickling stuff. I didn’t even take into account the credits as a final promotion of sorts. One thing I did notices was that despite its theme of “time flies by,” “all things pass” sort of thing, it hasn’t failed to enlighten us that at the tail of each moment there exists motivation and inspiration to try something new. This became apparent to me with the Eros and Apage swap, the moving-to-Japan journey, and the coaching experience. I’ll have to keep my eyes more peeled for its more ephemeral nudges now!

    1. I think the fact that these posts are placed in the ED against Yuri dancing with fireworks was what really got me. Just the ephemeral quality of each post and each moment really drives home that these characters have a really limited timeframe, but it’s still not “too late” if that makes sense. It’s very bittersweet and poignant.

      1. Ah, no, I get where you’re coming from. It’s that spur-of-the-moment split-decision-act to decide to partake in making memories–that brief magical moment with friends just doing what friends do never fails to enchant me.
        I, too, felt inspired to write up a little piece regarding Yuri!!! On Ice’s third episode and its allusions/symbols of “love.” If you don’t mind, I’ll leave it here in case you’re interested. Thanks for the great read again!
        https://animecafehost.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/eros-and-agape-behind-the-lovely-ice-skating-veils-cafe-talk/

  4. Great post, really makes you think of the series in a new light. It is about the fleeting nature of the times we want to hang on to, and that’s reflected in the nature of information online. It’s there, then it’s gone, and you can’t possibly experience all of it, or even everything you stick a pin in to view later. Had no idea that a figure skater’s career was so short, and that just adds an extra level to the show’s meaning.

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