Another Frame of Reference (Yuri!!! On Ice and Social Media Part Two)

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“I still have videos of what happened.”

-Viktor Nikiforov to Yuri Katsuki, Yuri!!! On Ice, Episode 10

Yuri!!! On Ice is the first series I have seen that integrates various uses and consequences of social media without specifically making a commentary on social media — Gatchaman Crowds comes to mind as an example of this — or its effect on the populace.

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Prior to Episode 10, the series focused on the moments captured on various members’ SNS/Instagram feeds. Yuri!!! On Ice‘s first ending sequence was composed entirely of public selfies and stolen moments, like the one of Viktor Nikiforov quietly brushing Yuuri Katsuki’s hair, courtesy of the Nishigori triplets under the account “sukeota3sisters.”

Preceeded by a quiet moment of Viktor and Yuuri on a train with Viktor’s added caption, “Time flies so fast,these images carry an ephemeral quality that frame’s Yuuri’s attempt at a Grand Prix Final gold medal and his inner doubts about his relationship with Viktor. Yuuri isn’t getting any younger and neither is his unbeatable idol-turned-coach, Viktor.

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“I don’t know how long Viktor will stick around, or how long my body will hold up. So please, god, give me Viktor’s time, if only for now.”

-Yuuri Katsuki, Yuri!!! On Ice, Episode 4

The triplets were also somewhat responsible for Viktor’s initial arrival — they secretly filmed and out-of-shape Yuuri skating to Viktor’s program and posted it on their mother’s YouTube account. The video went viral, and everyone in the figure skating world saw it, including Viktor himself.

Up until Episode 10, Yuri!!! On Ice was always told through the eyes of Yuuri. Receiving all of our information from Yuuri gives us a very specific and immovable lens. Yuuri doesn’t think much of himself and this shows in his interactions with everyone, especially Viktor whom he has held in high esteem for years. He can rarely look beyond his wall of self-loathing and admits as much in the series’ fourth episode. Yuuri reiterates this again while announcing his theme of “love,” saying that he’s never fought alone, but he wasn’t able to take advantage of the support others gave him until Viktor showed up.

yuuri looks at viktor, viktor and yuuri, yuuri at his preliminary national qualifier, yuri!!! on ice, yuuri katsuki skates yuri!!! on ice viktor

“Whether Viktor was with me or not, it would still feel just as tough. Keep it simple. I’m the only one who can skate this program with this much appeal.”

-Yuuri Katsuki, Yuri!!! On Ice, Episode 9

It makes sense that Yuuri expresses himself best — we often hear his inner thoughts during his skating programs — on the ice. This is also primarily where he allows himself to let go and accept his own feelings for Viktor. In his programs, Yuuri pleads for more time, is possessive of Viktor, and analyzes his own emotions with nuanced introspection. It’s also no coincidence that the first time we hear Viktor’s perspective is when Yuuri skates his free program for the first time in competition.

That being said, Yuuri’s perspective means that his personal growth is always presented through his interactions with Viktor. It’s true that Viktor’s presence and subsequent relationship with Yuuri helped Yuuri tap into his previously-locked potential, yet Viktor’s arrival is almost too convenient. Viktor’s treatment of Yuuri is very forward, and while he obviously warms up to Viktor as the two grow close, his skittishness around Viktor is also unnerving. All too often, Viktor is a white knight who has decided to grace Yuuri with his presence on a whim — becoming his coach after watching a viral YouTube video. At the end of every episode, this is capped off by a series of photographs that constantly remind us that their time together is fleeting. This is Yuuri’s last season.

This is how Yuuri sees him. This is what he fears in their relationship.

viktor and yuuri rings, viktor and yuuri engagement rings viktor shows yuuri grand prix finals banquet pictures yuri!!! on ice, yuri!!! on ice viktor and yuuri rings

Episode 10 changes everything by shifting to Viktor’s perspective, once again allowing Yuri!!! On Ice to show off its social media savvy in the process.

Viktor reveals that it was actually Yuuri who loudly — and in an overtly sexual manner — propositioned Viktor first by drunkenly asking him to become his coach if Yuuri won a dance-off at the previous year’s Grand Prix Final banquet. Yuuri remembers nothing from the evening — thereby explaining his continued skittishness. Out come the smart phones with video and photographic proof.

With Yuuri as the initial aggressor, many things regarding their relationship fall into place. Viktor is not a white knight riding to Yuuri’s rescue and coaching him to victory. Instead, it was Yuuri who planted the idea of coaching into Viktor’s head and Viktor is following up on whatever spark he felt that evening. Yuuri’s drunken revelry is immortalized on not only Viktor’s phone, but the phones of a number of skaters who attended the Grand Prix Final banquet.

This time, the ending sequence displays exactly how Viktor came to know Yuuri.

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Rather than displaying random snapshots from various Instagram accounts showing the transient nature of life, the new ending shows off photo rolls of Yuuri’s antics from a number of phones, including Viktor’s, Christophe Giacometti’s, and rival Yuri Plisetsky’s. It doesn’t skip around from individual to individual, showing slices of their lives, but shows the same events of one specific night — Yuuri drunk at the Grand Prix Final banquet in Sochi — from the camera rolls of a variety of skaters.

All of them tell the same story. Yuuri, drunk on champagne, challenges Yuri to a dance-off, and does a nearly-naked pole dance with Christophe before grinding against Viktor and asking him to be his coach.

Not only does this reveal a hidden depth to Viktor’s feelings towards Yuuri, it also supports something that Viktor has told him all along — Yuuri has never been alone, no one thinks that Yuuri is weak, Yuuri actually has a tight-knit group of friends who care about him immensely.

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Throughout the various events leading up to the Grand Prix Final, the skating community is presented as an ambitious, sometimes dramatic, and close bunch. They keep up with each other via Instagram, and are constantly posting pictures of their whereabouts or get-togethers. The more popular skaters — including Viktor’s — are tracked on social media by fan groups.

In the same episode as the drunken banquet reveal, Yuri!!! On Ice also shows Yuri Plisetsky’s budding friendship with Khazakstan’s Otabek Altin tracked by his fan group “Yuri’s Angels.” Their photos of him slipping away with Otabek on motorcycle instantly go viral.

It’s a miracle that photos and videos of Yuuri’s raucous night didn’t make it out into the public. This speaks more about Yuuri’s group of friends than anything else in the series — his dances would have certainly gone viral, yet they refrained, presumably out of friendship or embarrassment. Yuri Plisetsky would certainly brush this off, saying that he wouldn’t want to pick on the pathetic, or that he wouldn’t want others to know that he too, participated, but even someone as bristly as Yuri or someone as flashy as Christophe managed to keep Yuuri’s wild night a secret.

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Yuuri has never been alone. His friends have always been there for him, and it was his own actions, not a random Viktor Nikiforov whim, that inspired the star to become his coach. Episode 10 also gives us the moment where Yuuri and Viktor are effectively engaged to be married, cementing that their relationship is not as impermanent as the first ending sequence would suggest. It’s only fitting that further use of smart phones and social media frames this next step in their relationship.

5 comments

  1. The one part of this that was a little unbelievable is that no-one had shared those photos with Yuri previously given they all had them. Still, this show has been brilliant at how it has integrated social media into the character’s lives and as a result made the characters feel like they are actually part of the larger world rather than existing only in the story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think another key use of social media is at the start, when Yuuri is checking his social media feed after waking up. Upon seeing photos of Victor which Chris he doesn’t react negatively in any way. Considering his anxiety and previous fears of only having Victor for a time, this is pretty good. They have a healthy relationship and that’s a key thing there. You also see him stopping for longer on the picture with JJ displaying his engagement. Did that give Yuuri the idea to propose or was Yuuri going to do so anyway and it was a ‘huh, you too?’ moment? Who knows. Still interesting.

    1. Didn’t the show mention way back that Yuuri doesn’t use social media, at least in comparison to most other skaters? The only other person in the skating world he was kind of close with was Phichit, who wasn’t at the banquet. So, even if people did post pictures of the banquet he probably wouldn’t have seen them. The fact that he is actually checking social media now and caring about what the other characters are doing is a huge sign of character development. As he is getting closer to Victor, he is more willing to be closer to others too.

      1. He doesn’t use social media a lot himself, but he seems to check it semi-regularly, especially if he’s feeling fidgety or lost. As early as Episode 4, he calls Phichit after seeing the Thai skater’s social media feed (which then leads to seeking out the music for his free program). I definitely agree with you that he checks it a lot more regularly now and has grown closer to all of the other skaters (including Phichit, with whom he was already friends).

        Yuuri wouldn’t have seen the banquet pictures (he was hiding out from the world at that time) but I would have thought that someone would have brought them up to him during his return. If they had made their way out into the world, there’s no way that zero media outlets/fan groups wouldn’t have pounced on those immediately, in my opinion.

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