Relationships on Ice

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Yuri on Ice has many themes and elements: identity, love, perspective, and of course ice skating (and more). This analysis is focused on love as displayed by three different relationships of the following pairs of characters: Yuuri K. and Viktor; Michele and Sara Crispino; and Georgi Popovich and Anya.

These are not all romantic pairs.

This analysis does not touch on all representations of love in the series.

Just a reminder!
Now let’s get to it!

Viktuuri represents a healthy developing romantic relationship, Michele and Sara represent a dependent platonic relationship, and Georgi and Anya represent a toxic romantic relationship.

Viktor and Yuuri

Healthy Romantic

It should come as no surprise that the central couple is a representation of a healthy developing romantic relationship. They both start with a limited understanding of one another and a measure of idolization of what they know. Yuuri more literally than Viktor.

We as viewers are well aware of Yuuri’s idolization of Viktor as a role model on and off the ice, one he’s had since he was a child. That kind of idolization has mellowed over time, but never faded. To Yuuri, Viktor was perfect and the ideal person as well as skater.

But Viktor also idolized Yuuri to an extent. He seemed honest and down to earth, but also an accomplished skater who genuinely respected Viktor.

With their one interaction when Yuuri was drunk at a party and a viral video, Viktor had a simplified version of Yuuri is in mind because he didn’t know him well enough to know better. What they did know about each other interested them, and they both wanted to know more.

That’s the dating phase, when you’re seeing someone but not going steady, so to speak. It was under the guise of training (like a regular study session with your crush), but they were getting to know each other better. This was the beginning of their growth from idolization to intimacy.

But that intimacy doesn’t change their relationship, it builds on what was already there. They get closer, but they still have the foundation of what they had in the beginning. They surprise each other and learn from one another.

And those surprises mean so much to them both.

But sometimes this means getting hurt, and Viktuuri is no different. Surprises mean you always grow and learn, but you also make mistakes. As you do in any relationship.

They are not perfect, and showing how they handle that is what makes them healthy.

When they accidentally hurt one another, they continue to talk and make things right. They communicate what they did wrong and why, even if they don’t do it right away or it takes time to understand.

Viktor made a mistake with Yuuri in the parking garage in season 1, episode 7. He tried a tactic that likely worked on him – motivation through the threat of loss – but hurt Yuuri to the point of crying. But he apologized immediately.

And that made Yuuri actually voice his thoughts and fears, even when he knew they weren’t true.

It’s another surprise, a tough one that requires communication, understanding, and patience. All of which each of them showed even though the situation was emotional and it was easy to be hurt instead of being supportive. That’s their health, and it’s a healthy part of any relationship: the ability to resolve conflict.

And Yuuri also makes his mistakes, the largest being at the end of season 1, in episode 12. Instead of sharing his thoughts, he assumes that Viktor wants to return to the ice and training Yuuri is the only thing holding him back.

Rather than talking to Viktor about his concerns, Yuuri decides for himself what the best course of action is for Viktor and even says as much that he’s “making this selfish decision” – thinking he’s doing a good thing for Viktor without realizing how much he actually hurt him.

It’s only when he’s pushed to that point that Viktor communicates in turn why he’s so angry at what Yuuri did.

They had to be hurt to be honest, but they learned to compromise even when they were hurt by one another. A healthy relationship of any kind can handle the good times with the bad, and Viktuuri doesn’t shy away from showing the reality of that (particularly in romance).

Mickey and Sara

Dependent Platonic

There are a few things that merit mentioning with these two that is different than how most fiction represents their relationship type. First, it’s platonic and other two are romantic (and platonic relationships are rarely more than a backdrop in fiction). Second, it doesn’t take nearly as harsh an approach as many stories do with this type of relationship.

While the healthy relationship (Yuuri and Viktor) is purely positive in representation and the toxic one (Georgi and Anya) is canonically acknowledged as creepy, Michele’s dependence on his sister and her dependence on him in the past is portrayed as misguided affection.

She still loves him dearly and always will, just as he loves her. She simply saw before he did that they needed to be more distant from one another to be self-sufficient people. Everything he did, he did for her – leaving him with no sense of self and her with no independence. And that wasn’t good for either of them.

But instead of making him out to be clingy and desperate, they showed him as supportive but overbearing. He wasn’t demonized, as many people in dependent relationships are (particularly the one who struggles to let go, like Michele). Typical of Yuri on Ice, this is very forward thinking and humanizing, not condoning, of dependent relationships.

By his performance when he thinks she’s not watching, the English dub has his thoughts as:

“It’s over now. I have to accept that. I’ll show you how much I love you… By letting you go.”

And when she hugs him after to congratulate him on beating his personal best score, she says she’s sorry that she said such mean things earlier. But ultimately, she’s glad she did because:

It shows a dependent relationship mended so it can continue as a healthy, self-sufficient bond.

And it echoes the message of Viktuuri in that all relationships are about compromise and understanding. Just because their relationship could not continue as Michele wanted it to didn’t mean it couldn’t continue.

His willingness to let go and understand what Sara asked him to do for both their sakes combined with her willingness to come back to him and apologize (but maintain that she was right) is what allowed that relationship to become healthy for them. That’s the kind of depth and consideration I expect of Yuri on Ice, and they definitely delivered here.

Georgi and Anya

Toxic Romantic

Lastly, we have Georgi and Anya as a representation of what can happen in a relationship when it’s over but you can’t let go.

Georgi can’t let go, not like Michele did. He’s stuck on Anya and almost everything he does is for or about her, even things he used to enjoy on their own – like figure skating.

Even when he’s doing well and succeeding in his performance, the only time he doesn’t think of her is to think about his desire to make Viktor feel lesser than him.

So he’s really not in a great mental place as an individual. He lives for Anya and the morsels of attention she gives him, even the cruel kind. Think on her actions here too: she has a fiancee and a new life that she’s happy in. Why did she go to her ex-boyfriend’s performance, sit where he could see her, and bring her future husband? Just so she could do this where he could see it and his resulting emotional distress would potentially ruin his performance?

There is a kind of addiction to someone so lost in you that they can’t find themselves anymore that is a hallmark of toxic romance. She has another romantic partner and seems to be well and truly over Georgi, but she goes in person to his shows and acting in such a way to make it harder for him to move on. She hasn’t even blocked him on social media or had her fiancee do it because that way, he can see how her new life is without him.

In fairness, Anya doesn’t get equal representation here. She barely shows up and hardly speaks. Her opinion is not wholly represented, and I know this. We only have her fleeting screen time and Georgi to go by (and he is admittedly not a reliable source as far as opinions go, only what his mental state reveals about her).

But even then, she creates an environment where he’s still there to be desperate for her attention, any kind, and he’s so wrapped up in her that all Georgi wants is to be her protection.

Much like Michele wanted to protect Sara, only Michele saw that his truest expression of love was letting her go.

Georgi and Anya did not let go of each other, they don’t communicate, and they don’t respect each other. She treats him like filth and goes out of her way to do it, and he treats her like a possession.

But even then, Yuri on Ice comes forward to give Georgi good points and even subtly explain how this came to be between them. Or at least how it was possible for Georgi.
Yakov describes Georgi as follows:

He’s so receptive to what others tell him that Georgi won’t make opinions or decisions of his own. If Yakov tells him that a routine is better his way or to take a jump out or to practice in one arena over another, Georgi will just do it.

Even if that arena he was in was his first arena where he trained for years and felt most confident, he’d do what Yakov said. That’s what makes it one of his greatest weaknesses too.

Once Georgi learns to respect himself enough to stand up when he needs to, he’ll be able to move on (probably) and find someone to respect him back. The writers of Yuri on Ice give him that potential just by having Yakov think that about Georgi.

Thank you for reading!


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Character Study: Viktor Nikiforov

Hello, everyone!

I see a lot about Viktor in context of other characters, but nothing on the man himself.

Here to change that, I bring to you a close analysis of Viktor!

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Actually, I want to start with his name. Names do have meaning both in IRL language and in anime in particular.

His full name is:

Viktor Nikiforov

His first name, Viktor, refers to victor, of course, as in victory.

His last name, Nikiforov, has its prefix rooted in Никон (Nikon), the Russian name referring to the Greek word for victory.

Looking further, I need to establish some background in Slavic naming structures. Suffixes containing -ov, -ich, or -ev in Russian are patronymic. <Source>

Let me put that in casual speak. His last name, Nikiforov means “son of Victory”, leading to his first and last name to mean “Victor, son of Victory”.

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And of course his last name is passed down from his father, grandfather, etc. Continuing with the high expectations on people in the Nikiforov family.

Combine all of this together, and you get a picture of what Viktor’s family life was like and the expectations placed on him since birth. You don’t name your son “Victor, son of Victory” if your dream for him is to be average.

It’s safe to say that Viktor grew up with immense pressure on him to succeed at whatever he chose to do. He had that choice, and I have no doubt that his parents were both been loving and supportive. They did want him to succeed, after all.

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But this meant that Viktor was raised with good enough not being good enough. His accomplishments became who he was above all else. As a result, his close interpersonal skills such as keeping promises are rather weak (Yurio’s senior debut, anyone?).

But his presentation as an accomplished person was important. Compare how he acts with fans to how he acts and is treated by people who know him personally.

Public Viktor is charismatic, playfully flirtatious, free-spirited, calm, confident, and decisive – and his pride is in surprising people as a skater. He has a reputation for treating fans well, and he goes out of his way to do so.

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But you talk to people he knows, and the impression changes. He’s insensitive in emotional situations, forgetful, and a bit callous.

Yakov is the best source in seeing the changes from public to private Viktor, since Viktor had been trained by Yakov and grew up under his study.

He said Viktor only cares about himself, and yet he calls him Vitya from time to time, an affectionate name for someone you care about. In light of Viktor’s upbringing for perfection, it should be no surprise that his coach, Yakov, was like a father to Viktor in that sense.

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And looking beyond that, consider how Viktor reacts when Yurio shows up in Japan. He’s casually dismissive about having promised a debut to him, and he turns it into a contest between the two of them.

Yes, it was in their best interest as skaters, but not the most personally supportive thing to do. That’s a side effect of how Viktor was shown affection growing up – if someone loves you, they help you grow in skill. Your feelings come after.

Hence, this gem of a line:

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But speaking of his connections, what makes his connection to Yuri special to Viktor? First, you needing know his other bonds.

Yurio admires him, but only so he can overcome him on the ice. Yakov’s interest in him is in the context of skating, even going so far as to tell Viktor not to talk to him unless it’s to beg to return as a skater.

Then there’s Yuri. The first time Viktor noticed him, Yuri was drunk, granted, but he was honest and open with liking Viktor. Keeping that in mind for Viktor’s mental state, when he saw the viral video of Yuri’s performance of Viktor’s routine, the most surprising thing Viktor could do was to find this person he’d been interested in and work with him.

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And that video hit right when his accomplishments, everything Viktor lived for, were starting to feel stale to him. He was at the peak of figure skating at 16 years old, and at the start of the anime, he’s 27.

Viktor had won five consecutive World Championships, five consecutive Grand Prix finals, and several European championships. 11 straight years of non-stop success and “Viktor wins again”. Unsurprising, and then in comes Yuri with an opportunity to do something surprising.

This is subtext talking, but I also think that stagnant feeling made Viktor think about the rest of his life. If 11 years was enough to make him feel stagnant, what would the next 40 years be like? Would anyone be at his side if not for his skating?

I think he was craving an emotional bond that was for him, as he was, not his accomplishments. All the more reason to leave the ice and find a way to spend time with Yuri in a way he wouldn’t refuse. He doesn’t even ask Yuri if he wants Viktor to train him, that’s how certain he was he wouldn’t refuse.

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But what interests me about this is that Viktor was still expecting to succeed easily as he had for the past decade. The goal is an open, honest relationship. And if you watch the early episodes, you can almost see Viktor going down a checklist.

See if he’s single or in love.

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Know a lot about the other person.

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Have trust between you.

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He’s treating the relationship like it has clear criteria and a grading system. That’s what Viktor knows and he’s treating this the same way he would any other goal he has.

And when Yuri scuttles back in the scene above, Viktor is surprised he backs off. Viktor is attractive, and he was smooth. What did he do “wrong” is his internal question.

As Viktor trains Yuri, he actually starts to earn the closeness he was trying to get on his checklist earlier. He transitions from trying to achieve the relationship for himself to focusing on Yuri. During training in Yuri’s home rink, Viktor says, “My job is to make you feel confident in yourself.”

Not to make him the best skater, or make him love Viktor, but help Yuri be confident. This is not something Viktor has experience in – deep emotional connections – but he’s learning through Yuri how to do the right thing by his heart, not by his successes.

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And as he learns, he starts to feel secure in their relationship. That he has truly earned what he was after, and he’s succeeded where it truly matters. Aaaand then episode 12. (Just need to watch the beginning in the hotel room, but feel free to continue, haha.)

 

Line by line analysis:

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Viktor finally lost something and there are no clear rules to win it back. And he was unprepared in every sense. He’d developed the ability to be close and trust, but he’d fallen short in communicating that to Yuri, who stepped on every landmine without knowing.

I’m curious to see how they go with their decisions, and the end of last season did seem very promising! But hopefully this gets you more insight into why Viktor acts how he has thus far.


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Thank you for reading!