That’s what she said?! Kubo Mitsurou and the kiss(?)
March 1, 2017 3 Comments
Today, I’m going to look at what Kubo Mitsurou has said about the scene at the end of episode 7, where Victor had a surprise greeting for Yuuri as he came off the ice after his Cup of China free skate. Well, I’m stepping right into a minefield here, so I might as well just take the plunge:
Personally, I believe it was a kiss, for reasons I’ll go into below. That being said, I fully support anyone who believes otherwise, which brings me to my next point.
What I’m really concerned about is the view that “Kubo implied that it was obvious”—especially when this is used to bash fans whose interpretation of Yuuri and Victor’s relationship is not the same as the dominant one.
A brief history of what Kubo actually said
It was not a surprise when social media erupted after this episode. In particular, numerous overseas fans reached out to Kubo to ask whether it was a kiss or a hug. But despite an early tweet about something “synching” with the popular Japanese drama Nigehaji: We married as a job—where the lead couple kissed for the first time that very week—Kubo spent the next few weeks deflecting the question. The creative team wasn’t, she maintained, going to compel anyone to read that scene in a particular way; instead, she kept asking everyone to decide for themselves.
- “Is it just me or was there something that was synchronised with this week’s Nigehaji?” (twitter, Nov 17, 2016)
- “We don’t want to force people to read it in a particular way. Please be courageous and decide for yourself.” (Yuri!!! on ICE special, Abema TV, Dec 8), which she then reiterated on Twitter later that night:
- “In the end we’re not going to tell anyone what to think, or rather, compel anyone to interpret it in a certain way. So please decide it for yourself.” (twitter, Dec 8, 2016)
(Note: my own translations)
In the first interview published after the show ended, however, Kubo said something more:
“It’s kind of interesting, because Japanese people never asked about it, while foreigners straightforwardly ask ‘so which one is it!?'”
(Note: translation by toraonice)
It did not take fans long to claim that “Japanese fans didn’t need to ask because it was obvious!” You can still find this claim in discussions and arguments today.1
What is Kubo’s message?
But I don’t think that’s the point Kubo was trying to make. The creators may indeed regard it as obvious, as a lot of people in the fandom do—the comment about “synching with” episode 6 of Nigehaji only seems to confirm that.
|p.s. I’m loving this show—it’s really cute, but also incredibly heartfelt!|
However, the idea that “Japanese fans didn’t need to ask because it was obvious”—and the related “Kubo implied that it was obvious”—is, once again, an interpretation born in the Western fandom. Time and time again, Kubo has laid out a different logic behind their decision not to clarify exactly what happened: they want fans to decide for themselves what it was.
But why would they do that? Viewers have come up with a range of explanations, including concerns over media censorship, the desire to appeal to as many people as possible and the straight out charge that the creators were, indeed, queerbaiting. Many people have already addressed the merits and demerits of each of these explanations far more articulately than I would be able to. Hence, I would like to bring the focus back to a second tweet that Kubo posted on the night of December 8 instead.
“No matter what real people think about this anime, within its world no one is ever going to be discriminated against because of what they like. And that is something I will always protect.”
(Note: translated by toraonice)
Most fans probably remember that tweet very well. Tanslated within hours, it quickly made its way around the fandom as proof that Yuri!!! on ICE takes place “in a world without homophobia.” The idea itself seems to be well-supported by the show itself, given that we never see or hear anyone, not even a side-character, give an “OMG! That’s so gay!” reaction.2
What’s really interesting about that tweet, however, is that it was made following some angry and frustrated replies that Kubo received to her earlier comment about “letting everyone decide.” As toraonice also pointed out, people were accusing her of being “vague on purpose ‘to keep the fanservice on the level of queerbaiting without confirming anything serious’,” and this second tweet may have been, in part, Kubo’s answer to some of those complaints.
Personally, there was one specific reply that caught my eye. I won’t post exactly what was said, but there was a heated comment that referred to the discrimination that a certain group of fans face in Japanese society. I suspect that this line may have been the final trigger that prompted Kubo to talk of protecting a world in which “no one is discriminated against because of what they like.”3
|Unlike Kae from “Kiss Him, Not Me.”|
In other words, Kubo wasn’t specifically talking about homophobia in that tweet; rather, she was talking about the issue of discrimination a bit more generally.
Kubo, Yuri!!! on ICE, and the issue of discrimination
This brings me to the real point I want to make. To be honest, I actually do not have a problem with fans arguing “it should be obvious.” As I noted above, I personally believe that it was a kiss, and not just because of the Nigehaji tweet. Narratively, given how much skinship there had been between them by that point, I just can’t see Victor thinking that anything less than a kiss would surprise Yuuri. The bigger question is what the kiss actually means, but there, I’m going to take the creators’ stance: everyone should interpret it for themselves.
The more important message, however, is that everyone should be free to interpret the show however they want, and no one should be discriminated against for doing so. In other words, everyone can believe what they want about the kiss and about the relationship, but no one should try to force their own interpretations on others. And this includes not only the fans who believe that Yuuri and Victor ended up being engaged by the end of the show, but also those who believe that they didn’t. It also includes those who are ecstatic about their interpretation, and those who have serious reservations. As far as I can tell, there are viewers across the entire spectrum.
|By “romantically involved,” I’m referring to what the average person means by a romantic relationship: an exclusive, sexually intimate relationship.|
What worries me is that fans who don’t place themselves near the top right of this chart have been and are being attacked for their beliefs. I don’t mean congenial discussions that end with “let’s just agree to disagree”; rather, I’m referring to personal attacks involving name-calling and slurs such as “homophobic” and “dumb.” I’ve been subjected to such attacks myself, though nothing compared to what other friends have experienced. I normally respond to everyone who engages with me on this blog, but I’ve chosen not approve those particular comments because they attacked me directly instead of addressing what I’ve written or said. Instead, let me say a few brief words here.
I don’t believe Yuuri and Victor are in the kind of romantic relationship most of the fandom does. I’ve been quite up front about it even as the series was still airing, right from episode 7. But why should that necessarily mean that I—or anyone else not in that top right quadrant—am homophobic, or dismissive of LGBTIQA issues? As I mentioned to a friend last week, the way I interpret Victor and Yuuri’s bond would fall under “that’s a queer relationship” to some people but not to others. However, laying it all out requires a more detailed discussion of both sexual orientation and romantic orientation, so I’ll leave that for another time. Let me just say the following:
I love the relationship between Yuuri and Victor. I love that they inspired each other to continue skating. I love how we saw them growing closer, so close that they both decided they couldn’t live without each other. And I love that Kubo has indicated that they are “soulmates.” But above all, I respect Kubo for what she wrote about discrimination on December 8.
When I started doing research for this series of posts, I honestly did not think that looking at “what Kubo has said about the kiss(?)” would have me touching on how fans are behaving towards each other. A couple of friends I sounded out advised me to focus on how people have started attacking Kubo because of the fandom has previously misinterpreted what she said, and I fully intended to do so. But as I dug deeper into certain parts of the fandom, I increasingly felt that her tweet about discrimination was linked to behaviour I kept coming across, and I wanted to address it.4
I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone in particular. I just hope that people across all fandoms recognise the behaviour I am referring to, and, where possible, work towards making sure it doesn’t happen around them. A disagreement over how to interpret a fictional series is not something that should lead to personal attacks and acrimony. I’d much rather enjoy media and experiences that make me happy, or otherwise add something to my life, wouldn’t you?
In any case, this was the second example of “what Kubo actually said” that I wanted to address. As Kubo herself has said multiple times, everyone are completely free to interpret Yuri!!! on ICE how they wish, so please do not attack others who don’t see things as you do. Please also take care not to misquote the creators or take their words out of context—if you disagree with them, it’s probably best to ignore them instead. And with that, there’s just one last case to go—I should be able to get to it within the next two weeks.
NB: This post was edited on March 14, 2017, in order to make my argument about Kubo’s second tweet clearer. —karice
- Recently, Kubo revealed that she later heard from some Japanese people that they’d had arguments with their friends over this. Nevertheless, it seems to have happened far less often than in the English-speaking fandom. I will not venture to explain why this is, because I don’t know the female anime fandom in Japan all that well—one consequence of where I lived when I was there is that I was only ever able to observe it from afar. Tora has written a few posts on her own understanding of it if you’re interested. ↩
- There is a whole other debate about (1) just how realistic this actually is, and (2) what this means for just how progressive the show actually is. But this is not something that I wish to address at this point. ↩
- If you manage to identify the tweet and thus figure out what I’m actually referring to here, then I suspect that you’ll raise some concerns about how much I’ve simplified the point that person was making. I can’t deny that, as it involves a debate that I am not comfortable writing about, at least right now, given my relatively shallow understanding of all the serious issues involved. I did, however, come across a blog that covers issues regarding LGBTIQA representation in Asian media. I won’t link to it directly, but if you have an active twitter or tumblr account, feel free to reach out to me on either of those platforms if you’re up for a more in-depth discussion on it. ↩
- edit (2016-03-08): The issue that Kubo was alluding to is actually slightly different to the one I’ve observed in the Western fandom, though the foundation on which it rests is, I would argue, quite similar. Please see this post for a little more discussion on it. At the moment, it’s increasingly looking like I’ll be addressing the issue in more detail in my next post about “what Kubo really said.” ↩