Recap/Rewatch, Yuri on Ice Episode 12: Gotta Super-Super-Supercharge it! Grand Prix Final Free Skate

First off, I have an announcement to make: we have a winner for the Rafflecopter that has been running alongside these recaps: Maedhrosussandol, who won by answering the poll asking with whom would they pair skate…and the partner who led her to gold was, no surprise, Victor Nikiforov. Congrats, Maedhrosussandol! I will be emailing you shortly to talk to you about how to get you your prize!

Victor dips Yuri during the pair skate

Thanks to everyone who played along. If you can believe it, you are EVENLY pair-skating with Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov. Seriously. Well played, guys. Well played.

All right, we still have one episode left to recap, so let’s not waste any time. Let’s dig right in.

Remember this is the episode so chock full they stripped out the opening AND closing credits, playing the opening theme behind Stéphan Lambiel’s announcements. That’s how much this should have been episode 12 and 13, but they didn’t get that luxury, so here we are. Before we get to the free skates, though, first we have to sit with the whammy Yuri threw at us at the end of the previous episode, his “let’s end this” after the final. Now that we’re not just having a cliffhanger, we get Victor’s reaction, which is basically ours: what the hell, man. Shock.

Victor regards Yuri's announcement of retirement with shock

Except Yuri is not trying to shock Victor. He’s quite serious. He speaks carefully, having thought this through and prepared his speech, and after declaring Victor has done more than enough for him, Yuri thanks him for being the reason he was able to give his all to his last season. He bows, formally, and thanks Victor in what I’m sure Yuri feels is a proper acknowledgment and goodbye.

And then as his head is bowed, he sees Victor’s tears hitting his feet.

Victor closeup crying

We’ve seen Victor cry once before in this series, though it was subtle—the night he arrived and Yuri rejected him in every way possible, not even allowing him to sleep on the floor of his room for companionship, he cried himself to sleep, in private. Otherwise while we assume Yuri and Victor have become close enough to spar with each other—and we saw some of it in the shopping episode—we have not seen Victor cry in front of anyone, and Yuri’s reaction makes me think he has never seen Victor cry, either. Victor cries too as if he cannot help it, as if these tears are simply flowing out of him, unbidden, unstoppable. There are no tears in his voice, and he keeps speaking as if he’s attempting to grasp control of the conversation, but his tears tell another story.

He swears and says he didn’t know Yuri could be this selfish. Yuri replies that yes, he made this selfish decision on his own—whether he’s being deliberately obtuse or still failing to understand his partner is unclear. But when Yuri says he’s retiring, Victor’s tears spill faster, as if this is the true pain for him.

It’s interesting that there’s no mention that they must separate from one another, that they can’t still be a couple if Yuri doesn’t compete. But of course, unless Yuri follows him around, or Victor remains retired as well, it would be difficult to stay together. Also it’s clear, this scene driving it home, that their skating is such a huge part of their relationship, both coaching and skating itself, and Victor and Yuri both acknowledge this. What Victor is reacting to is that Yuri seems to be saying, despite Victor thinking he was proposed to, that there was in fact no proposal at all, that this was only ever a momentary thing and that all they had built was for a moment and nothing more. Victor is not ready to let this go, and he is hurt, deeply, that Yuri has decided to do this without consulting him.

 

Yuri looks at Victor in confusion

Yuri, meanwhile, is genuinely baffled that Victor is so upset, that he has been reduced to tears. He seems both stunned and fascinated and lifts Victor’s hair to get a better look at his tears—this doesn’t go over well. Now Victor is angry. And the, so is Yuri. “You’re the one who said it was only until the Grand Prix Final,” he points out, and Victor counters, “I thought you needed my help more.”

Yuri zeroes in on the elephant in the hotel room. “Aren’t you going to make a comeback?” Victor, furious now, asks how Yuri can tell him to return to the ice while saying he’s retiring. And in that exchange, you have everything about this episode.

Yuri is fixated on the fact that he knows Victor must return to the ice, that he cannot, must not remain only a coach.

Victor cannot bear the idea either of having Yuri retire at his peak of glory nor can he conceive of continuing to skate without Yuri on the ice with him. They are, it seems, at an impasse.

The real issue, though, is that they aren’t communicating, but I don’t know that they’re able to say anything more with words. So they agree to discuss this after the GPF is over—and now, somehow, they are supposed to get through Yuri’s skate. We introduce everyone and their standings, Stéphan interviews Victor…and notes that he’s not looking great. Which is the truth. Victor is not looking his usual shiny self. He’s tired, he’s not as put-together, and he appears worried.

First skater is JJ. Basically he starts to flub and then gets his shit together and recovers enough to get a decent score. Points to family and girlfriend for being way supportive, and love the South Park nod with baby JJ. Other than this, mostly my reaction here is, why in the hell does he have to beat Otabek? What’s the narrative purpose here? Because he recovered? I dunno. I think he should have settled on fourth and Otabek should have had bronze. Better podium family.

Phichit and his friends perform an ice show in his imagination

We do get some nice commentary from the others as JJ skates, there and at home, and then it’s Phichit’s turn. His skate was always going to miss the podium, but we get the perfectly wonderful peek into his dream of Phichit on Ice, his Thai ice show, and we are all here for it, Phichit. Let’s do this.

Now it’s time for Yuri’s free skate. Strap in.

Yuri and Victor are still awkward with one another, not really talking, remembering old conversations and basically not having the pinnacle moment they should. Rinkside Victor makes one last gasp, telling Yuri don’t worry, he can do it, believe in himself, and Yuri says, screw that, don’t start acting like a model coach now. He wants to smile for the last time on the ice.

Victor whispers to Yuri at the ringside

I always feel like this next part would resonate better if I knew Japanese, but maybe not. What we get from the visual and the Japanese translation is this: Victor grasps Yuri’s hand—ring glinting—and says, “Yuri, listen to me. I debated whether I should tell you this now, but…I took a break after becoming the five-time world champion to coach you, so how is it possible you still haven’t won a single gold medal? How much longer are you going to stay in warm-up mode? I really want to kiss the gold medal.” Then he hugs him, and though they draw back, they stay in close and regard each other—and Yuri laughs, closes his eyes, and hugs Victor again. In fact they tremble as they embrace each other tightly, and the announcer remarks that Yuri looks as if he might be crying.

Then they draw back, clasp their hands bearing their rings together, and Yuri’s voice over says, “I’ve already made up my mind about my goal.” As their hands pull apart—more to the point as Yuri pulls apart, Victor’s grip lingers as Yuri goes to the ice.

So what does this mean? What did they actually say to each other? What made Yuri cry?

First off, Victor says here he took a break to be a coach, implying he too has already made up his mind, that he already knows he’s going back, either because Yuri pushed him or because he was going to all along. Yuri says he’s made up his mind too—and from the way he monologs during this skate, it’s clear that goal is that he is done, that this is his final skate, no looking back, no future.  Victor, though, clearly is saying, give this skate your all, get the gold, give me something to kiss, but don’t stay in warm-up mode. He’s giving him a lecture, not at the kiss and cry but at the gate.

It’s actually the same commentary from the beach: you’re not weak, Yuri.

So Yuri goes out to the ice, knowing this is goodbye—to Victor, to skating, to everything—and he has decided to make it the best damn goodbye he can.

His monolog echoes the opening of the show, saying he’s nothing special (very Japanese), and off he goes. As he skates, we see his performance layered over Victor’s own, from his youth in particular, but also his adulthood, and Yuri thanks him for taking him all the way here, for everything he’s given him. He acknowledges it’s not only Victor he has to thank, that it’s also Yurio, and a flash to Minako. He tells us he’s changed the difficulty to be the same level of Victor’s—without letting Victor know—as a present to him, an acknowledgement to him. He acknowledges as he skates that he doesn’t want it to end, but if he does, it means slowly killing Victor as a competitive skater, and he can’t do that. And so he’s saying, look at the Victor who lives on inside of me. This wasn’t a waste of your time. Once again, he says he’s the only one who can show this to Victor—you see, as the viewer, that this whole program, this whole journey has ever been for Victor. Yuri is skating in front of an international audience and an arena full of people, but the only person who matters is the person in the kiss and cry, who came to Hasetsu to bring him back to the ice, and who he is bringing to the ice again now.

Victor beckons to Yuri in episode one

Yuri points at Victor in the same way Victor pointed at him when he arrived at Hasetsu

We find out that Yuri has cracked Victor’s record, the same as Yurio has with the short program—both Victor’s records are gone now. Victor congratulates Yuri as his coach and acknowledges it stings as a competitor. Excited, Yuri asks if that means he’s decided he’s coming back. Victor doesn’t say anything, but the answer is yes, he is.

They enjoy a lovely moment in the kiss and cry, hugging and mugging for photos, distracting Chris from his free skate. Victor asks for a commemorative photo—ha—on his phone. Chris doesn’t do well, and we don’t need to say much more here.

Otabek skates now, and he’s basically a backdrop as Yurio gets ready and Victor finds Yakov to say he’s officially coming back to the ice and Yurio freaks out, saying, “Wait, what, does this mean Yuri’s retiring?” Victor says he’ll make his own decision, then basically grips Yuri in this intense hug.

Victor hugs Yurio in a tight embrace while Yurio looks stricken

It’s worth notice we have not see Victor hug Yurio before, ever. And he doesn’t give him a “good luck” looking hug. This hug looks like desperation. And Yurio looks like someone has hit him with a brick. During this whole skate too, Otabek is telling everyone in his mental monolog to find your own path and skate your own dream.

Meanwhile, Yuri is looking for Victor, and instead finds Yurio going out to the ice right after Otabek is robbed of his place on the podium. And now we get Yurio’s free skate, and his amazing monolog.

Essentially in Yurio’s free skate we learn he has always admired Yuri and wanted to see him do well, but he has also been frustrated by Yuri’s inability to skate without mistakes. He’s captivated by his step sequences and can sense his potential, but when he saw him letting his defeat get to him, he was angry. Also remember, Yurio has demonstrated over and over again he’s basically unsocialized (his first friend was Otabek, made ten minutes ago) and has obvious anger and communication issues. He’s easily hurt, and he’s just been told Yuri is leaving the sport. Congrats, he’s getting Victor back—except Yuri doesn’t just want Victor in the sport again. He wants them both. He’s shocked, hurt, and pissed. And he intends to make this skate his message to Yuri: don’t you dare think you get to leave.

Yuri watches Yurio's FS and is overwhelmed

Now, he makes some mistakes in this skate, possibly because he’s skating in anger, but he also does some amazing recovery, and the main point is, he does what he intends to: he reaches Yuri. He isn’t Victor, he has never been Victor, but remember how Yakov saw his short program and whispered, “Vitya”? Well, it seems Yuri is watching this and seeing something that calls to him as well. Yurio spends himself dry in this skate, edges over Yuri to win gold—and nabs something even greater: he keeps Yuri from retirement.

Victor asks Yuri what will excite him

When Yuri presents his silver medal to Victor, Victor declares he won’t kiss it unless it’s gold, then teases Yuri saying he really had wanted to kiss Yuri’s gold medal, and does Yuri have any suggestions, an idea of something else that would excite Victor? He’s backed Yuri over the rail, and you think for a minute Victor’s going to kiss him.

Yuri panics, then pushes Victor to the ground, tossing his medal aside as he sits astride him and says, with passionate conviction, “Please be stay with me in competitive skating for one more year! This time, I’ll win gold for sure!”

Victor implores Yuri to stay in skating for more than one year, with Yuri on his lap

Victor, melting with excitement, tells him not to stop there. Picking up the silver medal to place it around Yuri’s neck, he says, “Even I’m worried about making a full comeback if I’m also staying on as your coach. In exchange, I’ll need you to become a five-time world champion, at least.”

Think about that statement for a second. Victor is saying, in addition to acknowledging it’s going to be hard to keep his title as best in skating if he’s also coaching, that if he has to choose between that title and Yuri having a shot at going for the same, he wants to support Yuri. Remember the beginning of the episode, where Yuri couldn’t bear the thought of Victor not returning to the sport and Victor unwilling to do so without Yuri? This is the compromise, and Victor is underlining it. “I will no longer be the champion,” he’s telling Yuri. “You will have to be. And you will not be allowed to retire anytime soon.”

Nodding, and weeping, Yuri cries and embraces him again. They remain this way together long after the arena has cleared out.

Now we have the end of the episode, the very, very end, which is Yuri’s exhibition skate. He would have skated this anytime he placed at a competition—so he would have at the Cup of China but not at Rostelecom. Normally he skates “Stay Close to Me” solo, but tonight, this time, he skates with Victor, a surprise for the audience, in a pair skate.

This pair skate is one of my favorite things about the show. On the BluRay you can watch it without the credits, and I do, often. It is so breathtaking, not only the song and the composition but the meaning it has. The journey these two have undertaken. The image of two men skating like this, so clearly in love, swapping roles in the dance. That moment when they stroke each others’ faces and the camera slows down to let us see, the lights full up, the colors saturated. The bookending of “Duetto” and “Stammi Vicino,” letting us see Victor first empty and Yuri desperate/lost and then the two of them joined and happy together.

Then, of course, finally we cut to Yuri in St. Petersburg, running across the bridge with Makkachin, we presume on the way to training, or something, and he’s meeting Victor and Yurio. Yuri’s hair has grown; time has passed. He’s hurrying to Victor, he’s eager to meet him, and when Victor sees him coming, he smiles, bright and full of life, and he calls, “Yuri!” and the episode ends.

See you next level, the screen taunts, and so we wait for that now. The movie first, and hopefully then season two, whenever each will happen.

Every time I finish watching the series I feel joy and hope and a tinge of sadness, hating that its over, warm and safe and satisfied because it ended well and because I know there is more. Of course, there is so much more online, in fandom and fanfiction and community in general, and more official story to come.

I have met so many incredible people because of this show, all over the world. I’ve gained readers for my own work, different readers than I ever would have made. I’ve watched other anime I never would have considered. Above all, though, this show gave me back hope. Hope in so many things, but mostly hope, period, and these days however we can get hope, that’s a good thing.

Here’s to Yuri on Ice, whatever it means to you, whatever it has brought you so far and whatever it brings you in the future. I will remain here, carrying on about it, until they kill the internet or I am dead, and even then I think I will still manage it.

Thank you to everyone who has read through this recap adventure! There will be more anime and manga reports to come in the future, so watch this space, and more giveaways too. See you next level, indeed.


Cover art of Heidi Cullinan's novel, Antisocial. Manga style cover with two young men standing in a manga panel, looking up through cherry blossoms. One is in a suit, no tie, the other in a plaid shirt. The cover is pink and very soft.

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

Recap/Rewatch, Yuri on Ice — Episode 11 Gotta Super-Supercharge it! Grand Prix Final Short Program

Of all the episodes in the series, this one is my least favorite for several reasons. It doesn’t really have much of an arc, because it’ can’t: the whole purpose is to watch the six finalists skate and to set up the last episode, the latter which should really be two, or better yet three episodes. Even this episode would have been better as two with the skates spread out and some plot put in. There’s zero plot: it’s just, “here is skating, please watch.” Then JJ’s dive, and the total depression post-credits.

I guess we get a subtle plot thread, and I’ll follow it here. But it’s weak, man. Very weak tea. Anyway, let’s dive in.

We get an announcer overview of everyone, beginning with Yuri, and his clips include his lip-licking at Victor and Victor kissing him on the ice. Everyone else gets a pretty normal intro, and basically we’re all psyched for the event to start, yay! Following this we get the fancy opening with extra colors and the finalists superimposed over the background. This is the last time we get either the opening or end credits, honestly, because episode twelve eats everything so they can make time. I think (we’ll check next time) we get a tiny bit of the opening in the background while people are introduced, but that’s it.

The actual show goes right into the programs, and it’s Yuri skating first, with Victor kissing his ring and everyone getting excited for him. Victor’s not wearing gloves so as to better show off his ring. Yuri is psyched and ready to do his best, knowing he hasn’t landed this jump but determined to do so. We get a little flashback where he and Victor discuss this, and also a super cute GIF where Victor jumps into his arms as Yuri taunts him with the image of him succeeding at making it.

You have to love how relaxed they are together there, how in sync they are.

So now Yuri’s trying to bring the magic, to land this quad flip in the Eros program and beat JJ. Victor is nervous for him, so into it that he does the flip with him in the stands. Which is also an adorable moment.

Except Yuri doesn’t quite execute the move. He would have had a higher score if he’d have just killed it like he had in Russia. If he’d have been jealous and upset. Of course he wouldn’t have beat Yuri or Otabek, but he would have fared better. He wasn’t into it, though—he went backward, too focused on execution, everything Victor warned him in episode five not to do. Yuri is upset, and Victor is upset with him, not knowing how to console him.

I really empathize with Yuri here, and I think all artists can. I feel this is what creating art is a good 90% of the time, maybe more. You have a dream for what something is, you try to push it into that place, and maybe you do okay, you have some success, but you rarely execute your project in the way you want it to land. Something always goes wrong. You attempt to push one aspect and inadvertently fuck another. You get one part right and something else goes haywire that you didn’t anticipate. Sometimes the mess up is beyond your control. Sometimes it’s someone else fucking you up. Sometimes you’re your own enemy. It’s always so frustrating, though, because all you want is to delivery this art, which in your mind is so pure and right, and you know if you could just get it out there it would be a good thing—and when it fails to land, all you can think is, if that art had been handed to someone else to pass out, maybe it would have worked out.

Dejected Yuri rests head on ice

Art is so hard. Skating is art too. I feel for Yuri in that moment, when he collapses on the ice in frustration.

Anyway, after Yuri is Phichit, and he’s gorgeous and happy and just pleased to have made it to the GPF. His score comes in under Yuri and it becomes pretty clear he’s not winning gold, but he doesn’t mind. He’s already won his prize. We also get some of his backstory, how he ended up in skating, which I love. I also just straight up love Phichit.

Now we have Yurio’s skate—and he absolutely nails his Agape, finally. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, both in skill and emotion. He’s not fighting anything anymore. He’s found everything he needs to be in this skate, and he’s grown an athlete, an artist, and a human. It shows in his performance. Yakov, watching, sees glimpses of Victor.

Victor, watching, sees something, but we don’t know what. Longing, for sure. For his past, for the days of skating, for his youth—what exactly isn’t told, and I don’t think it needs to be. I’m sure it was complicated, that moment. Even if he were competing, that would have been tough to watch, because Yurio is too much like him (even as he’s also nothing like him). But Yuri sees Victor in this moment too…and makes some dangerous inferences that align with his own plans.

Chris skates, Victor watches and has more nostalgia—which Yuri also sees and notes, packing away into his decision.

Yuri watches Victor watching Yurio

This, by the way is another red flag of someone with anxiety. Anxiety and depression both like to whisper things to the person who has the condition, and unless actively resisted, that person can end up believing an alternate reality. My husband has clinical anxiety (and is open about it) and I cannot tell you the number of times our arguments have been centered on unpacking something he believes I think, which I do not think, but he has decided based on something his anxiety built up around some subtle movement, a word, an action. So the idea that Yuri has been cataloging gestures and smiles and silences from Victor and deciding this means he wants to/should go back to skating? Oh yes. I buy that all the way as something he would do. He doesn’t mean anything malicious by it, either. In his mind, he’s being helpful. Never mind this isn’t at all what Victor actually wants, that listening to this nag from anxiety over unpacking Victor’s own yearning and need for connection is cruel. The man so clearly has decided he cannot function without Yuri, will be an empty shell without him and that yes, he wants to skate but would rather die than lose Yuri—but Yuri can’t see this. He can only see himself and the projections he has made of Victor, at least in this matter. Because this is his anxiety over his failure rearing its head, wrapping around him, warping reality. He isn’t aware he’s doing it. He is eating his own happiness without understanding that’s what he’s doing.

Everyone outscores Yuri—Chris, Otabek—Otabek kills it, honestly, and Yurio is there to cheer him on from the stands. Everyone is impressed with Otabek, and we get his backstory too, of how he clawed his way here and made himself into what he is now.

And then, to my joy, we get JJ and his total choke.

I already wrote up why I love JJ’s choke so I won’t do it again: why the section (and JJ) are present in the plot are to show him falling and give Yuri a chance (which he doesn’t take) to understand that failure is part of performance. That everyone, no matter how great, will have moments where they break, especially if they cling to the idea of not failing. In many ways JJ and Yuri are the same; JJ is arrogant and obnoxious, but think of how Yuri behaved with Minami in episode four when Victor scolded him. He was cold and unconnected. JJ isn’t cold, he’s cruel and sharp, but he’s unconnected.

JJ mental image of falling away from his competitors from a cliff

Earlier in the episode Victor talked about how he used to think he had to win on his own, but now he knows that’s wrong. Even Victor has grown through this season, this time by not skating but by helping Yuri, by being unable to skate and only help others. He realizes everyone needs that help, that they must take it. Yuri doesn’t see that yet, but when he watches JJ he at least acknowledges that everyone falls, that he and JJ are one and the same. They both came to the GPF and crashed. Yuri had been arrogant enough to think he was special, that only he could do such a thing. Now he understands everyone can—though in truth it’s most likely that unconnected people like he and JJ can, people who put themselves on pedestals of either idolatry or isolation. The name of the pedestal is irrelevant. The point is, you stand on it alone.

JJ’s family and fans rally him through his skate, but he gets a shit score and is in last place now. The score rank has Yuiro first, Otabek second, Chris third, Yuri fourth, Phichit fifth, and JJ sixth. This is how we end the official section of the show, and now we hear the closing credits for the last time, so enjoy them.

And now it’s time to be depressed as hell.

Victor damp in a fluffy towel

After the credits we get the announcer giving the rankings and we see everyone going to bed in Japan and people going out to celebrate in Spain, mostly via Yuri’s social media feed. Yuri and Victor are in their hotel room, Victor looking sexy as he towels off after a shower. They chat a bit, looking happy and soft. Then Victor says, “Oh by the way, what did you want to talk to me about?” Yuri gathers his courage, clenches his fists and says, “After the Final, let’s end this.”

And then the damn episode ends.

The difference between the opening of this episode and the end was the starkest ever. Still high from ep 10, as we sat down to watch we were bouncy and happy, ready for more awesome. When this episode finished, you could have heard a pin drop. My daughter and her friend didn’t speak for a long time, and we all wandered around depressed. The people who had made me their advance watcher shepherd had to be told not to watch, and a whole bunch of people panicked that the end wouldn’t be happy, that they would in fact split up.

I doubted this. I had faith in them, even though I couldn’t say why. The narrative was there. It didn’t feel like it as angling toward destruction. It felt as if they were soaring toward hope, not hell, so I kept the faith, though I did have a bit of worry, which isn’t all bad when consuming story. I wouldn’t have minded knowing it was a romance genre and therefore the HEA was guaranteed, but I did know this was the dark moment that had to happen and it was right on schedule.

And as I said, it fit, utterly. It was right on par with Yuri and his deciding what the reality was and what Victor needed. Despite his generally being very good for Victor, this is his flaw, his inability to see, and he cannot see Victor here because this is his blindness, his worry over his own failure. He is about to would Victor deeply…and this is what people in love do to one another. Hurt them, because no one else is close enough to do this so well.

But they will fix it, and it will be glorious. And we are almost to the end of this! Sigh.

I will do the last episode Monday, as I’m out of town tomorrow and tonight. The Rafflecopter as of right now has about 34 hours (as of the time I’m typing this) so don’t mess around if you want to enter. I’ll announce the winner during my final post.

Thanks to everyone who came on this journey with me! And yay for Yuri on Ice.

 

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

Recap/Rewatch, Yuri on Ice — Episode 10, Gotta Supercharge it! Pre-Grand Prix Final Special!

Obviously I have been nothing but excited, waiting for this episode. Not a lot new jumped out at me while I watched it, but there’s just so much loveliness it’s not like I’m going to have any difficulty talking about it for thousands and thousands of words. So let’s dig right in, shall we?

We shall.

Victor floats in a pool thinking about life and love

So of course this is the episode which, after having nothing but competitions since episode five, we pause to not only have a slice of life, we also get, for the first and only time, an exclusive look at the story from Victor’s POV. He tells us, now famously, he’s been neglecting his life and love for twenty years. He’s swimming in the rooftop pool, but it’s cold up there, and only Chris is fool enough to swim with him, which he does. They goof around and take photos of each other, tease one another.

Victor also gives us some nice monolog about Chris, how he’s sexy on and off the ice but he used to be a sweet little Swiss boy when they first met, how he couldn’t imagine a season without him. We switch over to Yurio as he arrives, gives lip to Yakov, tries to swear his fans but Lilia is all I don’t think so, child and he poses for pictures instead while Victor does voiceover and tells us about Yurio, about how he finaled right off at his senior debut, talks about his visit to Japan, his nickname, his fan group. Then in real time Yurio throws down with JJ and his girlfriend, the latter who is being a catty bitch and has it coming. Victor follows up with monolog about how JJ is some Canadian skater, he thinks, who is performing well but nobody seems to connect with.

Phichit and Guang-Hong taking an excellent close up selfie together

He intros Otabek too, and we get Otabek and Yurio’s hotel lobby meet cute, which doesn’t seem to go well here but we now know was just a misunderstanding. Then of course Phichit is adorable AS EVER and goes off for sightseeing, and then Victor talks about how he’s Yuri’s friend and great at selfies.

This takes us, finally, to Victor talking about Yuri, who he calls his sleeping beauty. He relates how they’ve spent the time since Russia practicing, and he also talks about how much he’s enjoyed spending time with Makkachin, indulging in the baths, eating katsudon, and learning about life and love with Yuri. Yuri has shown him a world he’s never known before.

The characterization 180 this episode does never ceases to amaze me. It’s actually all there, laid out in plain sight, but we all buy the red herrings and see what we want to see in the pretty boy, playboy setup because it suits what we want to believe. And it’s like only Yuri ever knew who Victor was, maybe even from that hair flip on the ice when he was young. Yuri didn’t fall in love with his hot body or even his skating. He fell for Victor. For all of it. For the up, down and sideways. The rest of us were blown away when this episode peeled away our preconceptions and made us see that, actually, Victor didn’t get out much. Playboy who? Who was he playing with? The only night on the town he had the whole show was when he went out for ramen after Yuri said his eros was katsudon. He’s not jumping Yuri’s bones, ever—he’s patient, solicitous…huggy, but gentlemanly. He’s not shy, but he definitely puts up a false front to hide his true self. He’s kind of a geek, really.

Chris and Victor leaping wet onto Yuri in bed

Yuri wakes up from his nap while everyone else is out running around and checks in to verify this on his phone. He then descends into anxiety about the GPF, calls out for Victor, and as if summoned he appears—wet from the pool—with Chris. They leap onto him in the bed to warm up, and he’s certainly not worried now, not about finagling. He’s more concerned with being surrounded by wet, cold men.

Then we’re at the rink, where everyone is finishing up practice, and Victor recommends rest but Yuri says hell no, bitch, take me SIGHTSEEING. I do have the BluRay and so can see the new edit where he winks at him when he says this, but for these I’ve been watching Crunchyroll for subs, so no wink for me this round, alas. I absolutely adore watching the lightning round of their day around Barcelona—night around? Anyway, I love all their poses and shouts. They’re cute as hell. And then Victor spinning because he’s so happy shopping? And his internal monolog worrying about Yuri because this isn’t like him, noting that this is clearly some kind of nervous reaction? Then deciding he would buy him a suit for his birthday, obviously to distract him? Rushing off hopping, holding his hand?

This fucking episode does nothing but one-up itself in adorableness. And then it just blows itself up. I believe I’ve written about this already, but when we watched it the first time, my husband came into the room twice to ask why the hell were we yelling so much. We told him to either watch with us or go away.

While Yuri and Victor are competing in the cute Olympics, Yurio is being chased by some seriously creepy fans, and he’s rescued by Otabek on a motorcycle and taken to a famous sightseeing place (the name of which I cannot remember and am too lazy to look up) where Otabek confesses he’s been wanting to connect with Yurio because they actually trained in the same place before, and Otabek has long admired him. They become friends, and Yurio’s really excited about it because it’s his first one. Seriously. WHAT do they do to these Russian skaters?

And now. Back to Yuri and Victor and that moment.

First we have Yuri freaking out because he can’t find the nuts, Victor tries to calm him down—fake smile alert—and Yuri gets pissed and then Victor stops fake smiling and is just like, chill, babe. They take a walk to do just that, and then they both keep trying small talk to get the mood back, both kind of misfiring but they’re also clearly trying to reconnect too. And then. Then Yuri sees the jewelry store and goes to buy the onamori. The omamori which are also a pair of matching wedding bands.

Yuri buys onamori at a jewelry shop while Victor looks on, shocked

The look on Victor’s face—on the first watch through we hadn’t seen the credits to this episode yet, but the second you know that score, you’re in on the know that this man has been in love with Yuri for over a year and now Yuri is buying him a wedding band. Call it a charm, call it whatever—Victor has spent the episode relishing in life and love that Yuri has given him and now it is getting fucking sealed. Yuri doesn’t just present it to him in the store, or on the street. He takes him to the cathederal and makes it a proposal. Blushing and all. Victor just looks stunned as Yuri puts it on him. But then he rallies when Yuri stumbles and gives him what he needs. Because that’s what they do for each other. And then they are practically wrapped up in each other like octopi as they walk away.

But I love, love how we come back from the food break and Mari is screaming. Every time I see it I’m just like SAME, MARI. FUCKING SAME. Anyway. Mari and Minako are literally pressing their faces to the window outside the restaurant where Otabek and Yruio are having a nice quiet dinner, and they beg Victor and Yuri to take them in and make them part of the conversation, which leads to the huge table full of skaters plus those two weeping quietly in joy. Which, face it, would be any of us but replace skaters with YOI creators.

And now we come to…the banquet reveal.

Everyone is eating and chatting, and Yuri is marveling about how different everything is this year, since last year he couldn’t even talk to anyone at the banquet, espcieally Victor. Then Victor spits his drink, and everyone else laughs, and reveals how Yuri in fact got drunk off his ass, challenged everyone to a dance battle, and pole danced half naked. They produce video, which as Yuri tries to suppress, shows off his rings, which Chris notices, and when Yuri tries to supriess that, Victor shows his off too. “They’re a pair,” he boasts. Phichit is STUNNED, calls a spade a spade and congratuatdes them—loudly, to the room—on their marriage. Everyone claps, Yuri freaks out, and then we get my favorite shot of the damn anime. If I weren’t so in love with my Yuri avi I’d make this my avi.

Victor whips out his ring, declares it to be an engagement ring, not a wedding ring, and announces they’ll get married after Yuri wins a gold medal. Yuri is like, the fuck, Victor, and everyone else gets their back up over the idea of Yuri winning and not them, and then JJ comes in all chotto matta, I’m gonna win, and suddenly everyone has to call it a night because nobody wants to be with JJ.

Like I’ve been saying.

Victor admires his ring on the beach

Now Yuri’s sleeping again, but this time with bling on his finger, and Victor’s on the beach admiring his ring against the sun when Yurio comes up and kicks the shit out of his back and declares him to be dead.  Victor is like, “you wanted to compete against me?” He’s smug at first, but then Yurio starts getting really bratty and insulting and it starts pissing him off and he grabs his face. And then his monolog starts back up and he acknowledges if he’d stayed in Russia, Yurio wouldn’t be motivated to fight…and neither would he. And he says Yuri has given life and love to more than just him.

Then we do the wind up before the actual GPF, everyone lining up and sitting down and setting up their livestreams, Guang-Hong with his awesome pink curtains, and then, finally…we get the closing credits with a peek inside everyone’s phones and the record of what actually went down at that infamous banquet.

Honestly the first time I watched this ep by the time we got here I was so dizzy and what the hell I could barely breathe, and then they throw this at us. At first you’re like, holy shit, Katsuki, you had this in you? I mean, it’s one thing to be a little more lively when drunk, but it’s when he’s arching through those spins with Yurio and standing on Chris while pole dancing that you’re like, shit. But the most intense are those dances with Victor. How sweet, how playful, how tender they both are. You’re watching both of them fall right there—or rather you’re watching Victor fall and you’re seeing the love Yuri has had for him all along unhindered. They mesh so well, blend so flawlessly. You think, aw, wow. What a pefect way to end the show. Yuri, how could you forget this!

AND THEN. Then you get the fucking coda. Drunk Yuri, pantless, tie on his head, wiggling his hips and begging Yuri in Japanese to come see him in Hastesu, and then in English to come be his coach. And Victor’s eyes widen, and he makes that little gasp. The same look we watched Yuri have when he fell in love all those years ago.

This episode is one of the greatest gifts on earth. I had been in such a depression until I found this show, but when this episode landed, this is when I feel like my life burst open again. I will love it forever. For. Ever.


Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Yuri on Ice Review/Rewatch — Episode 9, Yuri vs Yuri! The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Free Skate

Well here we are at episode nine. As has been tradition during this journey, I have seen and discovered new things and thought new thoughts.

This time my wayback machine reminded me as this episode opened how, when we were having the eternal wait between 8 and 9, first how I became Great Shepherd Heidi of the lambs (the ones who read my blog/were my readers) who had watched the show because of me or knew I watched it and was recapping it live and heard it was intense and basically were using me as a barometer as to when they could begin watching again, as in, they would wait to watch eight until they could move through to a happier pause. Which was fine, but it was at that point I began to realize With Great Blog Came Great Responsibility, or at least with blog people were paying some attention to maybe you should stop just shooting your mouth off and slow your roll and think before you speak (words to live by and yet which, I will likely die not being able to put into practice). I also remember being convinced there was no way Victor really would go to Japan for a damn dog (I know, I’m sorry, the sacrilege of my thoughts) and that Yakov would laugh in Victor’s face (please do not throw me out of the fandom), and basically I was wrong in every way.

Which was super fun, because I’m almost never wrong with stuff like this.

The first few times I watched this ep, though, it was hella painful, because this was mostly the episode where they were separated and I sat there angsting waiting for them to reunite. Having watched this…lots of times now (dude, we’re not going to count. It’s been legion, okay?), it doesn’t give me the nervous feels that much, but it’s still not my favorite episode. I mean obviously the last bit with the airport is fab, but it’s no episode ten.

Before we go much further here, I have to acknowledge the timely introduction of this Tumblr post, which says a lot more than this and you should read it, but the pertinent bit for this discussion is that it posits that Victor is quite likely depressed and then unpacks all the ways he has been mischaracterized by people early on in the show. The latter part I knew, and it was my headspin after episode ten, but the part about him being depressed really rang with me. Whether or not he has clinical depression is hard to say, especially since he has so little POV in the show, but there’s certainly plenty of evidence for that interpretation in the matieral and there’s no reason someone can’t make that reading. Absolutely I agree with the characterization argument, and I’ve always had a difficult time with Victor as the playboy and the sweeping, leading man. One of the joys, at least for me, of writing fanfic is playing with characterization and turning the same characters over and over in your hand in different ways, and yet I find I keep basically holding to the same archetype, which if you want to know how that will end in my unfinished fics, read the finished one.

Anyway. I bring that up now mostly because I stumbled on it today, and because I feel like there are some relevant points to be made in this ep, though we will discuss that more in the next episode. And oh Christ I already have 900 words and I haven’t even started in on the show. Damn.

Victor hugs Yuri goodbye as he goes back to Japan

So Victor leaves, looking stressed and worn out, and he basically says, “you can do it you’ll be fine, hug Yakov bye” and takes off. And then the very next thing we have is confirmation that Yuri and Yakov aren’t interacting, that Yuri is doing this on his own.

I don’t know that I blame Yakov here. I doubt he took much initiative, but who can blame the guy, and Yuri was probably trying not to be a bother and also falling back into old habits, and in the end you get him…well, falling back into old habits. He says he’s fine, that he’ll do what he always does with Victor, but we know this is not going to go well.

Yurio, meanwhile, grumbling about why did Yakov even agree to this, goes to meet his grandfather, who has come even though he doesn’t feel well—his back hurts, because a certain fifteen-year-old jumped him at the airport—but he made Yurio some special katsudon piroshkies, and he wishes him well in his free skate.

Emil is skating his cyberpunk skate, and while that’s going down Sara tells Mickey she’s not coming to cheer him on, he doesn’t need to do that for her either, because they need to stand on their own, and by the way she’s going to date.  He flips out, but she won’t let him cling. She grabs his chin and tells him, basically, to man up. I feel like this moment is both very Japanese (from what I’ve experienced, anyway) and also Italian. It’s kind of an interesting moment. It felt very Moonstruck but also very Seven Samurai. Maybe the point here is tough women are universal.

Sara Tells Mickey to get it together

However you slice it, Mickey is gutted, Sara leaves him to it, and Mickey watches Emil’s last half of his skate as he runs out of steam and crashes and burns. Not an accident, that timing. That would be the kickass direction of Yamamoto-sensei. I truly love both of these women equally. Kubo brought the heart and Yamamoto brought the spine. Both are required for a great story.

Emil is officially out now, unless everyone crashes and burns too (they will not), and Mickey is up to skate. He gives a brilliant performance, which would have been incredible if we weren’t also being creeped out by how much he is thinking of his sister in a way that feels…well, creepy. But we were all over that last episode: the point here is, he’s letting go. He knows he must, and so he says goodbye. It really is goodbye too, because he won’t final.

Mila sitting next to Sara, the YOI lesbian ship of dreams

What I would like to draw your attention to, though, is Mila sitting next to Sara, the seating arrangement that launched one hell of a ship. I captain this ship. Please, senseis. Give us Mila-Sara in the movie.

Mickey’s goodbye to his sister, his success because of their separation, is that foil business set up again. They do well without each other, because while they’re siblings, they’re not soul mates. They aren’t our main characters. “We’re better apart after all.” They’re there to make you think, gosh, is that the fate of Yuri and Victor? Obviously not, but it makes you worry. Which is the point. Worry is conflict, conflict is good.

Poor Seung-Gil, though. His whole role in these two eps was to be the wooden guy who fucked up.

Yurio gets ready to perform his free skate

Now we have Yurio, who comes out to kick serious ass, and he does. The grit and determination, the power and skill on display is intense. They poured a lot into this animation too, and it’s great to watch. But Yurio pours all of this into his skate, so much that he all but collapses after…and because we are not watching this for the first time, we already know…it will not be enough. Yurio is not at the end of his arc yet. He doesn’t have all of his pieces. He’s not skating for the right reasons. He’s skating to beat people, to stand on them to be on top. He’s immature, he’s unfinished. If he were to win this way, he would become a monster. The only way to maintain himself would be to keep beating people. Not simply being better but beating them, and ruining himself.

Notice he doesn’t even look to his grandfather here, though—he wants Yuri to see. But Yuri is already on the ice—and he really isn’t even there, either.

Yuri looking not well before he begins his free skate

I feel like this skate is the most painful thing to watch, because it’s the second to last time he’ll skate it, but it’s the worst skating we see from Yuri the whole series…because Victor isn’t there. We see here, I think into a window of what Yuri was like before Victor. Inconsistent. Unsteady. Full of doubt. Drowning in his own thoughts with no anchor. And he’s probably still better here than he ever was before Victor too, because at least here he’s able to anchor to memories of Victor. But what we witness here is the polar opposite of Mickey and Sara: Yuri is not better without Victor. Yuri without Victor is heartbreaking. He rallies a little here and there, but he can’t maintain it.

As Mila says, “It makes you wish you could see it if Victor were here.” Because everyone is in on the game now. Yuri needs Victor.

Yurio tries to cheer Yuri but asshat JJ stops him

During the skate, Yurio sees this too, though he doesn’t recognize it at first. He simply tries to egg Yuri on, upset that Yuri is pancaking, but of course he’s cut off by JJ. I think it’s that moment that I am pretty much ready to slice the Canadian at the neck, because he interrupts that encouragement, because he’s so clueless, because he’s that self-involved on top of everything else. I know people soften for him because he chokes later, but unless and until he starts carrying water for Yuri and Yurio, a changed man, he’s just an asshole who had a breakdown to me.

JJ skates, he’s arrogant, he’s a fuckhead, he wins, I’m over it.

Yuri squeaks into the GPF, which is what matters, and after everything is over, after zombie hugging everyone, he stands at a bridge thinking about how he really wants to win gold now and how he has a lot to talk to Victor about. He also affirms in his internal monolog how he’s going to let Victor go afterward no matter what. He hinted as much to Yakov in the kiss and cry, but he says it again here. Yuri has clearly been thinking about this for some time. It makes you wonder when he really made that decision—was it that he’d decided this earlier (he had mentioned it) and never wavered, or did he too notice Victor’s longing and wanted to give it to him? Did he always mean that he could never keep his idol from the ice and Victor’s naked yearning only confirmed it?

Hard to say for sure. In any event, his musings are interrupted (with a kick) by Yurio, who tells him not to be moody and gives him the katsudon piroshkies for his birthday—and a beautiful smile. This the first real overture of friendship we have seen Yurio make to Yuri…except the last episode will reveal to us Yurio has been an admirer of Yuri all this time, it’s just that he never learned how to treat people as friends. (What in the world ARE they doing to these Russian skaters?) Yuri, being Yuri, eagerly accepts the offer of friendship (and the food) and we all feel warm and fuzzy.

Yuri and Yuri share a cutlet piroshki

But we’re about to feel fuzzier.

Yuri goes home to Japan, and as he gets off at the airport, he’s thinking again about everything he has to say to Victor. This is the same airport he got off at before, the one where, after a five year absence, no one met him and the only person to greet him was Minako at the train station, the next leg of the stop. Not this time. He’s not even to the doors and he hears Makkachin bark. He looks up, sees Victor…and well, you know.

 

Does anybody get tired of watching these two run along the glass to one another? Does anyone’s heart not melt? And HOW ABOUT when Yuri does that impatient side step as he waits for the doors to open? And then the way he leaps into Victor’s open arms?

So much happiness.

We spoke a lot during Yuri’s free skate about how Yuri clearly couldn’t function without Victor. This wasn’t exactly a surprise. What we saw here at the airport was our first confirmation that Victor couldn’t function without Yuri. Let’s run through the facts. Victor left Russia, a major finals competition, to be with his sick dog. The fact that his dog is now healthy should mean he is over the moon with happiness here. You would think he would be waiting at Hasetsu for Yuri. Certainly if Yuri’s own family didn’t come and meet him after five years Victor could wait at the resort for less than five days.

No. You get the sense here that even if Makkachin were unwell at the house, Victor would have come anyway. But he did come, with the dog—and yet he hasn’t bothered to comb his hair. He looks as if he has barely slept—and you don’t get the idea it’s because Makka has been demanding. Victor has been unwell because he too has been unable to function. He has not had his Yuri with him.

Gone are all of his artifices now. His fake smiles. His real ones. His winks, his flirtations—he is nothing but his need and his yearning as he runs for Yuri and opens his arms.

Rough looking Victor

He speaks first too, and he tells Yuri he’s been thinking about what he can do as his coach from now on. We’ll never know what he was thinking—if he was feeling inadequate, if he was going to apologize for not being there for him, if he was doubling down, or what, because Yuri interrupts him and does the very formal, “Please be my coach until I retire.” Which we all know Yuri means to be until the end of the GPF, and we also know Victor wants to be forever, which is exactly what he tells Yuri as he kisses his hand and looks like the princess who just got asked to the ball by the prince.

Yuri asks Victor to stay by his side

Yuri must have thought he was being facetious or something. But no, Victor was dead-ass serious. I mean, he’s already talking about marriage proposals.

Which, speaking of. REMEMBER WHEN we first saw that preview at the end of ep 9 and they said “something round and golden” and everybody wistfully wished they meant wedding rings and we all said, “guys, chill, they mean medals” and then it was fucking wedding rings and we all about died?

Episode ten, as my teenager says, is going to be lit.

Lord I am far too old to say that sentence. Sumimasen. I will not do it again.


Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Review/Rewatch, Yuri on Ice Episode 8 — Yuri vs Yuri! The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Short Program

I was going to do Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-Kun yesterday, but yesterday got away from me. I think I’m going to get through the rest of YOI through Labor Day, give myself a rest, then continue joyfully telling you all about anime because honestly I love to do that. Definitely there will still be prizes in the footer, though, sometimes Bookfunnels and sometimes Rafflecopters and sometimes who knows, I get wild hairs. But for now, let us continue on with our episode.

It’s striking me how much new stuff I’m seeing when I go through this, and this episode is no exception. Eight has always given me a bit of a struggle, though, because I feel like there’s more to it than I’m seeing, and I still haven’t found it all. I’m going to try to gnaw a good hunk off tonight.

We start with the Russian team at the airport, Yurio getting mobbed by his fans and then bailing the hell out of there. Let’s start with this, because it doesn’t get addressed enough. Yurio does not want his fans. I think he’d take fans if they took him more seriously, but they’re all otaku as hell, and they see him as a kitten, not a tiger, which makes him crazy. There’s a lot about his character here, a lot of juxtaposition of who he is and who he thinks he is, about the cusp he rides on as a teenager. One second he’s a moody asshole sticking Mila with his luggage and monologuing about being the ice tiger who’s going to kick everyone’s ass, and then he’s leaping onto his grandfather like an excited little kid and effusing about the foreign food he tried when he was in Japan.

Yurio hugs Grandpa P and about breaks his back

I also really love Grandpa Plisetsky’s car. At the rate YOI is going they’re going to make merch of that too and fuck if I won’t end up buying it.

So Yurio’s grandpa drops him off at the hotel, where Victor has already arrived and is being interviewed—wearing sunglasses in the lobby, Extra™ all the way—about Yuri. Well, no. He’s being interviewed about himself, and he keeps trying to shift to Yuri, saying he won’t talk about himself until after the GPF, and please pay attention to his boyfriend Yuri Katsuki because he’s amazing. And then they ask, don’t you want to skate against him if he’s that amazing? At which point Victor says nothing, just sort of lingers there with a pregnant pause and then says, “OH LOOK, IT’S YURIO, LOOK, IT’S YURIO, DID YOU SEE THE SHORT PROGRAM I PUT TOGETHER FOR YURIO?”

Victor hugs Yurio in front of the press

Now. Let’s stop and talk about our silly V. Nikiforov, King of Extra for a moment.

He so clearly was already thinking about going back to skating here. I don’t think he had made any decisions, but he was thinking about it. That pause was because he wanted to skate against Yuri but would never jeopardize Yuri’s career that way. If that’s not enough evidence for you, please pay attention to all the million times this crazy Russian CANNOT STOP talking to the press. About himself. Before he was doing a bit better, but now he’s not doing so great. Before he was talking to the press about Yuri and being a coach—still about himself, but focused on coaching, like he’d decided he was going to be a coach and so there it was, a done deal, decided. But now he’s got the sunglasses on and he’s playing them, clearly enjoying the attention even as he tries to turn it away. And then Yurio shows up and he’s so excited to show him off too—hey, look at my other protégé, isn’t it great how many people I’m inspiring now?

But Yurio is of course having none of this, and in front of the press, he dresses Victor down. Which has to play so great in front of the cameras, if you think of it. What hay they must have made. What does Victor do, though? Smile, smile, smile. You can track this terrible smile through the anime. This is not a great smile. This is the Victor Nikiforov I-Am-Faking-My-Shit Smile.

Victor smiles a fake smile as Yurio yells at him

Now we have Yuri, who is going to the hotel room, but on the way he encounters Seung-Gil, Sara, Emil, and Mickey. And what a hot mess that is. Seung-Gil is an asshat, Mickey is a different kind of asshat, Emil is a clueless nitwit, and poor Sara is stuck with the lot of them. Yuri escapes the entire scene and provides the internet with one of my favorite GIFs ever.

Yuri glances back with a smirk as he gets in the elevator

In the elevator he runs into Yurio, or rather Yurio gets into his escape elevator, and when Yuri tries to wish him good luck at the competition, Yurio wishes him a fiery death. So, Yuri officially has only Victor as an ally here…which is pretty much fine by Yuri. He’s back in the place he does best: convinced the world hates him and wants to take Victor from him, or rather, convinced the world hates him for taking Victor from them. Plus he knows if he doesn’t place here, everything is over. Game is on.

We get the run down from the announcer of the skaters on deck and where they stand in relationship to the GPF. I admit I didn’t understand any of this at all on the first viewing and only sort of on the second. I have watched it a lot more than two times now, let me assure you, but I still study this section dutifully trying to suss out exactly how the placement thing works and why Phichit’s entrance depends on other people and…I don’t get it. I just go on faith that it works out in some way.

We also meet JJ in this intro. And in this episode. *heavy sigh* If you are just tuning in to this blog, I do not like JJ. I warmed to him somewhat because of Joe Johnson on Twitter, because the voice actor for him is so great, and because we were at JJ’s Homestead when we saw the eclipse on our trip (yes, really), but I still don’t like the dude. If you like him, good for you. I never will do more than tolerate him.

Now watch them make me love him in the movie/season two. I’m fully prepared.

Anyway, where were we.

Everyone tries to log in remotely to watch, and Seung-Gil does his robotic, emotionless tango skate. I will never be able to watch this without seeing him as that feather duster meme, unfortunately. I like Seung-Gil a lot, though, and I hope they soften him next season/in the movie. I loved him flirting with Nishigori in Yuri on Stage. Gives me hope…

JJ baits Victor backstage

Anyway. Next up is Emil and his skate. I remember watching this for the first time and basically wondering what in the hell was going on, how this was what followed That Kiss, why we weren’t having Relationship Moments and more kissing and discussions about the kiss and basically I forgot that this was a skating anime not a romance anime and I was quite sad. It was at this point I began wanting to write fanfiction. (I didn’t, not right way. But eventually I did. My first stuff since I was twelve.) While Emil skates and Mickey glowers, backstage JJ tries to goad Yuri, who has his earplugs in and is too busy focusing on how much the world hates him for taking Victor and channeling that into his routine to give a shit about the Canadian fuckjob. So JJ has to settle for baiting Victor instead, who essentially looks at JJ like he’s something disgusting he found on his shoe and can’t seem to get off.

Then Emil desperately tries to get Mickey’s attention while Mickey makes love to his sister’s hand and creeps the hell out of the entire western audience.

Having watched a pile of Japanese anime at this point, I can tell you this is A Thing, this brother-sister bond thing, and while I still find it strange myself, it does seem to be a meme. I don’t know enough about the culture beyond anime to speak to it, but while it feels weird in YOI because YOI is so universal in every other way, it really does fit.

Also, it serves the anime, especially in this episode. Because we go from Sara worrying that she needs to find a way to separate from her brother, thinking they are too dependent on one another, to Victor tying Yuri’s boot and Yuri looking down at him with an almost crazed expression on his face.

Victor ties Yuri's skates

I mean on the one level, yes—this is a hot as hell scene, and there is so much packed into the gesture that people have written about: the trust Yuri places in Victor to tie his skates for him, because they have to be tight and just the right kind of tight, and you have to really know someone to understand where that balance is. The subservience in the gesture. The companionship of it. The kind of worship that goes on between Victor and Yuri in this episode. The way, once Yuri gets on the other side of that wall and Victor’s attention is pulled away by the fans (more on that in a second), Yuri forcibly yanks it back to him. But at the same time, while this confirms our giddy excitement that they are yes, a couple, that The Kiss wasn’t just high spirits, it meant something  big, it also raises the question Sara just raised about her and Mickey. Is it okay to be this intense?

Yuri with an intense expression

We may never know how much the creative team was told to limit the same-sex relationship development in this show, but speaking as someone who writes same-sex relatioships for a living, the way they had to write everything in subtext was so brilliant that I’m almost glad. Because they had to use Mickey and Sara here as their stunt doubles, the same way they had to use Georgi in the episode before. They keep showing other skaters as foils to Yuri and Victor, usually showing unhealthy relationships and asking subtle questions about those couples—is this okay? And to those couples we say, no, it is not, for various reasons.

But for Yuri and Victor, the answer is always the opposite.

Before we go into that, though, we have to pause and address Yurio, because he is also an important force in this episode, and not as a foil, more as a contrast. He has been waiting for his grandfather, hoping he would come and watch his Agape, because it is thinking of him which has gotten him this far. He thought having his grandfather present would be his magic bullet, the thing that would push him over the top. Yet as he gets ready to skate, he realizes his grandfather isn’t coming, and he begins to wall himself off. Gone is soft Yurio, our kitten. Ice tiger it is.

Yuri has his motivation, though, and how. There he is, inside the rink getting ready to skate, and the crowd is wild—for Victor. It’s like they think his coach is skating, not him, and his damn coach isn’t helping one bit. Victor is grinning with his heart mouth and waving back at them, egging them on. And Yuri has had enough of it. He gives us, then, the second incredible GIF of this episode. The tie-pulling GIF.

Yuri yanks Victor to face him by his tie

I used it last episode, but I’m using it again. It’s that good. I remember everyone saw it in the previews for episode 8 and lost their minds, and even though the end of 8 had us all going bananas, we were all like, at least we have the tie-pulling GIF. I love Yuri’s face before he does it, like he is fucking done, and I love Victor’s face mid yank, like he is shocked as hell and a little bit turned on. Also note his face when Yuri goes out and starts to skate after blowing Victor a kiss. Fucking blowing him a kiss in front of God and country. Victor looks like he has been ridden hard and put away wet and he’s still breathing hard from it.

Honestly I’m doing this rewatch and I no longer question why in Driving Mr. Katsuki Yuri tends to top. I do not subscribe, really to the theory of anything but switching for most people and I tend not to get too invested in such things, but man I have difficulty seeing Yuri as anything but aggressive in the bedroom. He gets way too into this, and Victor looks way too pleased by it.

And while we’re talking kinks, Yuri’s really got a thing for being despised by Victor’s fans/the world. He’s monologuing while he skates, thinking perhaps not just the whole of Russia but the world wants to see him fail so Victor comes back to skating, and thinking that sends chills up his spine. At which point he goddamn nails his program, so much so that Victor all but makes love to him in the kiss and cry and does, in fact, make love to his skates.

Victor kisses Yuri's skate in the kiss and cry

For real. I do not question where my fanfic comes from at all. Apparently its source is episode eight.

Once again, though, he doesn’t look happy after his skate. He just looks like he survived it. As I feel like I’m going to have more to say about this in episode eleven, so we’ll leave it at that. I’ve already racked up over two thousand words and we still have a significant chunk of the episode left. (God, I remember when I used to do TWO OF THESE AT ONCE. Jesus.)

So. Now it’s time for Yurio to skate.  He tries to go all tough and tells Yuri to get out of his way, but Yuri and Victor go all Proud Dads on him and piss him off, which fucks up his skate and makes him miss a jump he never misses. Now: please note that Yuri just skated Eros the best he wil ever skate it, and Yurio skates Agape better than he did before, but it still is not great. He is still evolving, and his internal monolog especially leaves a lot to be desired. He has decidedly not found Agape, not in the way Yuri really did find Eros. Yuri freaking lives Eros in that skate—he is jealousy and possession and sensuality. Yurio keeps trying to skate this piece like a pissed off kitten, and it doesn’t work. And it doesn’t get him the score he needs.

Yurio struggles with his Agape

To add insult to injury, first he gets kitten ears tossed on his head, and then JJ is there to greet him and call him a woman.  Honestly, the guy can die in a fire. But first we have to watch him skate.

The only thing that makes this tolerable is his outfit looks like Yuzuru Hanyu’s, and Hanyu is kind of showy too. I don’t know. I’m reaching. The dude just pisses me off. Please get prepared. I always cheer for his demise in episode eleven.

His parents piss me off too. They look so smug. I have a hard time believing he’s Canadian. I see him as coming from some entitled section of Texas or something.

Anyway.

This skate is finally over…and Yuri can’t find Victor. It took me a few watches to figure out the reason Victor wasn’t there was that he had already been called. He knew Makka was already in trouble and was trying to process this. And of course he wasn’t going to leave. He was just mourning the loss of his dog. But then here comes Yuri, insisting he go home to be with him. Insisting, at his own expense. Knowing what it would cost him, knowing it very likely would cost him his final.  Knowing it much, much better than Victor knew. But he did it because he has already realized what Victor figures out while he watches Yuri skate without him in episode nine: that he loves Victor more than he loves skating. That the man means more to him than the coaching, than the sport. And look who witnesses that whole exchange. That’s no accident. That’s directing. And that’s Yurio picking up the missing piece of his Agape.

Yuri tells Victor to go as Yurio looks on

This is why the Eros routine doesn’t bring Yuri joy, either. He’s just holding onto water, keeping Victor close to him for another moment. But in this moment, with Makkachin on the line, Yuri doesn’t hesitate. He knows what the dog means to Victor, knows what it means to lose a pet. He wants Victor there with her. I think they both assume she is dying. For Yuri, this is letting Victor go say goodbye, the goodbye he didn’t get. He has been skating Agape all along.

And so though this is a skating anime, this whole episode was, in fact, about The Kiss after all, was about relationships from end to end. Sara and Mickey were the foil; Eros was the distraction. This moment was the real test, and they are passing it. They aren’t unhealthy. They know exactly when to separate, and they will make it through, because they aren’t thinking about how to stay together. They don’t think like that at all. They only think of each other. Victor was going to sacrifice his happiness for Yuri’s. Yuri insists his potential career and his perceived connection to Victor be sacrificed for Victor’s love of his dog, who he knows—because he is such a fan, because he watched them be together all summer—is the only constant he has.

At first I thought the dog eating the buns was a silly plot device. I do not think this any longer. I think, in fact, it is brilliant.

And of course we close with Victor begging Yakov to be Victor’s coach for just one day. Which we all thought he would refuse to do…and then, surprise surprise, softhearted Yakov takes him on.

You just fall in love with this show all over again every time you watch it. Every damn time.

Ep 9 tomorrow.

SIDE NOTE: In the Rafflecopter below I am, you probably know, giving away among other things, an Eros Yuri Nendoroid. I GOT MINE TODAY. I have taken approximately 1.5 million photos of him and put several on my Instagram. Here is one of them. And also below that is the contest. I hope you win!

A photo of Heidi's Yuri Nendo checking his phone while wearing glasses, looking very happy.

 

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) I’ll add another blog link which will hopefully help you leave comments. 

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links  Also available in audio


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

 

Recap/Rewatch of Yuri on Ice: Episode 7, China’s on! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event! The Cup of China Free Skate

Ah, here we are at last. That episode.

At Animefest Kubo cited this episode as the one when she understood they’d truly done something big, mostly because she couldn’t keep up with her social media any longer and a great chunk of it was international fans wanting to know about The Kiss. The Kiss isn’t the only great moment in this show, but it certainly tipped us all into crazy town for so many reasons. It’s a fabulous moment. It’s a gay as hell moment. It’s the kind of climax you’d expect of a show at the end of a season, not at the midpoint, and so all you can think is, where in the hell are they going next?

Well. Little did we know.

We know now, but man is it fun to watch this with nostalgia on. This episode is so fantastic for so many reasons, and I had a great time watching with an eye to catalog them here. And so we shall begin.

The first thing that struck me this rewatch is how Yuri seemed perfectly calm when he thought everyone hated him—he thrived, even—but when his family is cheering him on and telling him they’re all fired up, he’s practically decomposing under the pressure. Everyone is happy for him, but also has high expectations for him—and this is a bonfire of hell for Yuri.

Yuri is nervous while on the phone with his familyThis is straight up how anxiety seems to affect the people I love—and I mean the clinical kind. It’s a weird beast on its best day, but if it has anything consistent it’s that bad news is often a kind of relief (though not always) and good news/encouragement can sometimes be the worst thing you can do. With the bad news thing it seems to be more of “that’s what I thought, it’s good to have my doomsday confirmed,” but with good news it’s more “I don’t trust that, where’s the fine print?” And the more it fails to turn up, the more anxiety it produces. We eventually learn here that’s not the case with Yuri, that he has a different freak out planned, but it’s still the same general principle. Every time I watch this all I can think is, “this is anxiety on parade.”

And you know, for as much hell as we give Victor, he’s really trying and not doing a terrible job of mitigating it, or attempting to. He’s not calling attention to it: he’s trying to get Yuri to rest, which would help, not adding anxiety and not diminishing Yuri’s fears either. My favorite thing Victor does is how he keeps shielding him from people’s gazes when his freakout gets too intense, but also while he does this he doesn’t, not in front of people or in private, get impatient with Yuri. Think about this. He doesn’t have one moment of exasperation. I will confess, I get exasperated, and I’m not always the best partner/parent to my anxiety loved ones. It is a tough thing to live with at times and I’m not always the most patient. Victor, however, is a saint. He just keeps thinking, “How can I help Yuri?” and he keeps trying to help.

More on that in a second. We need to talk about Guang Hong.

Guang Hong skates his free skate

I’m so bummed Guang Hong doesn’t get to be China’s hero and that he’s done here at the Grand Prix. I mean, I know only so many can go to the GP and I certainly don’t want him to take Phichit’s place, but…I really need him to do better next season so I can see him. Can we have more finalists or something? (I know. We can’t. But…I need everyone…)

Chris’s performance is good, and I love his monolog both because we get to see Victor being so soft and protective, also past Victor (and baby Chris), but I am not a fan of this song. I always skip it on the soundtrack. True fact.

I do love how he somehow things him winning the GP would bring Victor back? I mean…okay? Whatever. And stop cumming on the ice.

PHICHIT, THO.

Phichit skates his free skate

I’m so glad Phichit gets his moment here, that he kicks such intense ass, that he wins the whole thing, that everyone loves him, that he makes it to the GP final. Phichit is so amazing on so many levels. I would straight up watch Phichit on Ice. And I don’t mind his songs even though they get crazy stuck in my head.

So back to Victor and Yuri. We all make fun of Victor for being cruel for shattering Yuri’s heart and saying he’ll quit, but…honestly, it worked, so, he wasn’t wrong. I can’t even say there wasn’t a better way to do it. The guy was spiraling so hard, he needed to be cracked. It reminds me of when my daughter was supposed to go to her preschool graduation (I know) and it was basically “walk down this aisle to be with the other kids” and she got scared, but she wanted to do it, and she couldn’t do it but wouldn’t sit out, and she was in this crazy loop and it was a mess and in the end I had to take her somewhere private, pick her up, and not shake her, but basically startle her out of her freak out. She was so surprised that she stopped crying and blinked at me, and I immediately calmed and used a quiet but stern voice saying she needed to make up her mind and decide what she wanted to do. She walked down the aisle. She was fine.

Victor doesn't know what to do with upset Yuri

I feel like this is Victor’s version of that. He was out of options and Yuri had himself so fucking ramped up he needed his cork popped. Now, Victor didn’t know what to do with the mess that came out, and he freaked out too, but he accomplished the goal and Yuri calmed down. Victor in the end kind of needed more consoling than Yuri, because even though his efforts accomplished precisely what he hoped they would, the tears really wigged him out, as did Yuri’s confession of what he needed from Victor. “Just have more faith than I do that I’ll win.” He doesn’t want kisses or assurances that Victor won’t quit—he knows he won’t. He only wants Victor to believe for him.

That’s another interesting point though: Yuri seriously does have clinical anxiety, because people who have anxiety are not clueless regarding the fears anxiety whispers to them. Yuri knows Victor won’t leave him over a loss or that his family would disown/hate him. Yet that doesn’t stop him from being anxious about those fears. Rationality doesn’t enter into anxious thoughts. You cannot reason your way out. You can remind yourself these are anxious thoughts and not facts, but it’s a parallel processing thing, and it’s about as much effort as someone who hears voices reminding themselves those voices aren’t real, at times. It’s difficult to convince your brain what it’s perceiving isn’t real. We are not logical creatures, not really.

None of this is new stuff for me, these observations, but what I did notice this time was how incredibly put-together Yuri was this whole time, despite his meltdown. Though he seemed a mess, he actually had himself in control. His breakdown helped him bleed off tension, but he might have been okay despite it. Absolutely he’s three hundred percent more put together once he has his explosion—Victor is the mess then, unsettled by Yuri’s outburst and what he said, and clearly feeling inadequate as a coach. He’s in over his head and he knows it. He’s got to be thinking, how can I be good enough for what this guy deserves? What have I done? Have I led him here only to fail him? How can I get better at coaching in like, three and a half minutes? How can you learn coaching? Is there an online course?

Victor tries to think of a new plan while Yuri blows his nose

And then Yuri, as if sensing his freak out, consoles him with a tease. Because he’s fine.

These two.

Now we have this skate, which is honestly my favorite. I know the one in ep 12 is the one that gets him the huge score, but this is the one where he finds himself, where he stops seeing Victor as a god, where he hasn’t had enough sleep but still skates a killer program, where he’s just enough out of it that he forgets to give a fuck and mostly just skates and is crazy enough to do things like toss in a jump he has never fucking done before in the middle of a competition which would be the reason he could qualify for the GPF. I mean, that is the fucking opposite of someone gripped by anxiety. He is literally just skating for Victor here.

Victor is stunned by Yuri's skate

Which is what Victor senses. His student is lost to the beauty of skating, out here dancing just for him. Being amazing and powerful and incredible just for him.

Yuri's dramatic final pose

Of course he goes out there and kisses Yuri.

But Yuri doesn’t know this is coming, because as the skate ends, he wakes up, and now he’s like, shit, what did I do? Is Victor pissed? I can’t tell, how do I tell? And then he sees Victor is coming for him and he gets so excited—still not giving one shit about the rest of the world, which is watching him—and skates toward him, as excited as a little boy.

Victor, meanwhile, would like to fuck this man on the rink, I think, or at least blow him, but he knows that’s a bit too far, so he makes his calculations and dials it down. This guy has just given him an incredible gift. This guy has made him love skating again. This guy has just made him terrified and uncertain of himself and he’s just stood there thinking for the first time in his skating career that he has really fucked up, and in the span of three minutes now his heart is in his throat and Victor, king of surprises, is shell-shocked, and the guy he fell in love with at a banquet and then flew to Japan for has done this for him and is now skating across the ice at him looking fucking adorable, and Victor takes a deep breath, looks him in the eye with this calm smile and just look at him. He’s thinking, “I am fucking going to kiss you right now, and you don’t know, and boy are you going to be surprised.”

Victor ready to kiss

Which I still want to know, Victor and Yuri, have you been kissing before this?!

This is going to be one of my first questions when I die, if there is someone present to whom I can pose questions. I mean we can fan argue this all day long, but until Kubo or Yamamoto come clean, it’s all speculation.

Anyhoo.

So Victor kisses him. And you know, that kiss is never old or bad or anything but awesome. I love the way they took the music out while it happened, the way they cut to the ceiling first, disorientating us. The direction is so killer. And then that Victor cradles his head, all the way down. I will never get over that. I will probably still be talking about that when I die too.

Yuri’s face, first the shock, and then the softness and the, “Oh, you are so sweet, the love of my life.” No blushes and awkwardness. Just smiles.

Victor and Yuri smile at each other after the kiss

THIS. SHOW.

And then everybody gets their medals, Victor cuts into the press conference with his heart mouth (he really does have a thing about press conferences), and then Yurio gets furious and threatens to make Yuri into borsct. And then we get the tie grab in the preview.

HUZZAH.


 

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) I’ll add another blog link which will hopefully help you leave comments.

 Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.


Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

Yuri on Ice Episode 6: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Short Program

This episode is the one that drew me into the show, so it has an extra special space in my heart, though I love it for its own sake too. It was stills from this ep that caught my eye and made me watch, but it’s a fabulous installment, and this viewing made me see all kinds of new things which I can’t wait to talk about.

There’s of course the opening gambit where Victor admonishes Makka not to eat the buns, which now we’re like, dammit, dog, if you would have listened what kind of score would Yuri have gotten in Russia…but then no airport scene, so okay. I also love that Yuri is the one nagging Victor to get going, to stop trying to order champagne on the flight and let him sleep. But man, that seat they’re in! They’re in the back of the damn plane. I don’t know if this was because it was easier to draw or they liked the image or they were saying no, Yuri really got the shittiest seat in the whole plane because he’s that broke. But I think Victor’s okay with this because it meant he got to snuggle.

Yuri and Victor snuggle on the plane to China

I also like how okay Yuri is already with the snuggling. At some point during their summer he became totally okay with Victor’s constant touch. Damn, but I wish we could have seen that. Did you know that end credits scene with them on the beach was meant to be an episode?

*Heavy sigh*

Anyway. I hadn’t paid much attention to the other skaters before, not with any detail, but there’s Otabek in there with Guang Hong and Leo.  And Emil with JJ and Yurio. Yurio is seriously cranky here, which now we know why. I just hadn’t paid much attention to all this before. I love these little details.

I also am still perplexed by the way Victor draws Yuri away from the press interview when they’re asking him about his program. He didn’t interrupt this time, or brag Yuri up, just tried to end it. When this didn’t work, he tried to talk to Yakov, who insulted him, and then he put on his fake smile and grabbed Yuri to go get dinner. Where he got very drunk. I still don’t know why he didn’t want Yuri to talk to the press, why he was being flighty. I wonder if this was the first tells of his own desire to be a skater again?

So now we’re at the now infamous hot pot restaurant, Victor eating everything in sight and Yuri eating barely anything, worrying about how much he shot his mouth off at the press conference. Maybe that was why Victor got him out of there? Victor is trying to get him not to think about it, to just eat, but Yuri won’t, because Yuri is a champion worrier.

Then of course Phichit shows up. And invites Celestino—I love Yuri’s “not really, I don’t really want to see him,” but Phichit invites him anyway. I also love that Yuri switched sides to sit by Victor. Whose idea was that? Victor’s? Yuri’s? I mean there was no reason that had to happen. They just did it.

Cute Guang Hong blushing at the idea of meeting Victor

Now we have Guang Hong getting his crepe, and Leo coming up to him. First of all, they’re so cute together. Also, I really want to know how Leo is supposed to interpret for Phichit. What languages does he know? And then then how Guang Hong is fanboying over Victor. And Georgi is all dismissive of the younglings.

Victor naked hugging Yuri at hot pot while Phichit tries to encourage his passed out coach to keep it together.

The drunk coaches at the table, though. Celestino with the…drool? The whatever it is out of his mouth, and of course naked Victor hanging on Yuri. And Yuri not drunk but blushing as his coach tries to do him in the booth. And gets entirely naked. In a restaurant. And throws his underwear all over.

Phichit's social media post of him looking on devilishly, hand over his mouth as a naked Victor wantonly embraces a freaked out Yuri

And God bless Phichit and his need to post everything on social media.

Yuri worries that everyone will think he was fooling around before the competition…and we’re like, have you been fooling around, actually? I mean, there’s nothing saying the episode seven kiss was their first. We all want it to be, but it might not have been. (I think it was. I’ve decided it was, in my version of the YOI world. But you never know….)

Chris gives Yuri a ribbing about his master keeping him in shape, and Victor shows up, happy to see Chris. Everyone fanboys and fangirls them, hinting that Victor shouldn’t be a coach, should skate, and that his coaching Yuri is a joke. And Yuri hears all this.

Phichit's short program final post

Now we finally get to see the programs from the other skaters—and I never get tired of the ones shown at the Cup of China. I love Phichit so much, on and off the ice. Even though “Shall We Skate” gets stuck in my head. Guang Hong is great too. I love how soft and sweet he is. Leo’s skate isn’t my favorite, and Georgi is… Georgi, but I do love seeing them. From this episode on, it’s Grand Prix, and it’s so exciting. I also love how excited these guys get for each other, how they cheer each other on, get excited for each other’s accomplishments.

While Guang Hong skates, though, we get Yuri having his snap moment, where he acknowledges everyone here wishes he hadn’t taken Victor and it doesn’t matter how good he does, that’s who he is, the guy who took Victor. I feel like we keep failing to acknowledge what a trap he steps over here: he could have felt the pressure of that and faltered, but instead he says, oh yeah, then fuck you and decides he’s going to use that pressure to push himself forward. He declares to himself, I want to be hated as the man who took Victor from the whole world! He paces back and forth the whole time before his skate, getting himself psyched up.

Yuri laces his fingers with Victor and presses his head to his

Then when it’s his time to skate and Victor gently tries to nudge him off his training wheels, saying he doesn’t need to imagine pork cutlet bowls or his mental script about being a woman to do his routine, he can just be himself—Victor then gives Yuri’s hand a little stroke, like he’s being just a bit daring. Yuri steamrolls over that, lacing his fingers with Victor, saying, no, no little bit daring, I’m going to be clear that I am coming on to you, and then I’m going to press my forehead to yours and look you aggressively in the eye as I claim you and give you a command.

Don’t ever take your eyes off me.

Remember he’s doing this in front of everyone. Everyone sees this—this is part of his plan, claiming Victor in front of everyone before he goes off and skates. I feel like this is why, when I write YOI fanfic, I tend to write an aggressive Yuuri and he leads a pining Victor around—this scene (and the tie-pulling in 8) starts that for me. All Yuri’s skates do that for me: this is where his dominance shines. The two of them together as such an amazing fluid pair, bringing out each other’s strengths, helping each other be stronger and better. I can’t wait to see Yuri help Victor skate too. I am aching for that movie and season two. I’m so glad they’re taking their time and doing it right.

Anyway. Yuri’s going to skate Eros now, and he’s going to kill it dead.

Closeup of Yuri skating Eros

His confidence, his exactness—he’s delivering this to Victor, this skate, and he doesn’t miss. I love Victor’s reaction, his blushes, his joy, his love watching his student and the man he loves skate. There’s just so much here, as always. It’s so great to watch this performance evolve and grow. And Yuri’s so beautiful—also, I love and appreciate so much that Yuri as a character looks so Japanese. Sometimes it’s odd as hell to be watching Japanese characters who don’t look like their nationality because of the way anime characters are drawn. But there are frames in his skate where he is so Japanese looking, and so handsome and incredible. It’s the best. This show is just the best.

Victor hugging a stiff Yuri in the kiss and cry

I also love how Yuri isn’t ecstatic after this skate. Victor is, and he can’t stop making out with him in the kiss and cry, but Yuri is kind of stunned and awkward about his performance, which he should be excited and proud of. He did what he set out to do, even made Victor excited, but somehow it didn’t seem to give Yuri what he wanted.

Now Georgi. You know, he’s such a weirdo, so intense, but having watched Yuri on Stage and discovering the guy who voices him is so great and is the guy who sings the end credits…I can’t laugh at him as much. Also, the more you watch the show, the more all the characters are like family, and he’s just weird cousin Georgi now. Who you would like to stop being a stalker and to use less eye makeup.

I like Leo a lot, but his skate has never done it for me. I also think I’d feel more for Leo if we saw more of him, but we need more content for that. They just have so many characters and not enough time. We need so many more episodes, man. But I do enjoy that Guang Hong so obviously has a crush on Leo. I’m here for this ship.

Victor hugging Yuri while they watch Chris skate

Last, we get Chris, Mr. I-Come-On-The-Ice Giacometti. The butt-grab, the super sexy skate…All I can think of now is the guy at Animefest who cosplayed pool Chris, Free Skate Chris, and I think maybe another version of him—he was a great Chris. Also, the voice actor for Chris I swear is Chris. He really is the best wingman for Victor when writing fanfic, though, as good as Phichit is for Yuri. And during Chris’s skate we get to watch Victor hug Yuri possessively.

And then we have the end of the episode, where we find out that Yuri is in the top spot and we get that incredible shot of Victor and Yuri standing beside each other looking soft as hell together.

Yuri and Victor with his number one ranking

We all know what episode is next. I’d start it today if I didn’t have so many other things to do. Tomorrow, no question, man.


Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) I’ll add another blog link which will hopefully help you leave comments.

 Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.


Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

A voice in support of our current and recent RWA boards

Please pardon the inside baseball, but I am feeling moved today to make a public statement. On Twitter there has been a rumbling of talk of some people feeling that an organization of which I am a member, Romance Writers of America, has been moving in the wrong direction. I spoke up on a private board loop in my support of this board, but I am still moved to voice my support and so I have modified my comments to be public comments so I may share them here as well.

As a member of RWA since 1999, I would like to express my support not only for this board but the last several boards as having made a significant turnaround in the direction of this organization both for me personally and for taking RWA in a positive move toward a publishing future authors and readers alike want to see.

When I joined RWA, publishing was a radically different environment, and none of us were prepared for the changes about to befall us. As an author writing about diverse issues and as someone who was slowly coming to terms privately with her own orientation, I had my own battles to fight, and I will speak plainly: there were times when I was uncertain whether or not RWA was with me. But even in those dark moments, such as when RWA attempted to define romance as between one man and one woman, I also saw my fellow members rally, stand up and say, absolutely not, we will not have such things in our organization. I learned to see that RWA was never one thing, that no one voice could speak for me or silence me. I discovered too that I had many friends within the organization, in places I hadn’t thought to look.

There are things about those early days of my RWA I long for, but they are not many, because the past is the past, and I remember all the parts of it, not only the rosy things which my mind has shined with age. I also know that I am living in the here and now, with the real struggles of publishing and economics and environment before me. I know that my books would never have seen the light of day without the changes this century has brought to my industry, and even if there are people within this organization who would wish my books not to exist, for people like me not to exist, I know there are also a majority of people who are glad that I am here and that people like me are here. I do not write about one man and one woman. I know I have moved readers and that they in turn have affected me. I am here, and these things have happened, and they cannot be undone. I don’t think my RITA final was a degeneration of the award. I think I earned every inch of that honor, and I will not allow anyone to sully that moment or any moment of any other queer finalist—or winner.

But I know that right now in fact RWA as a board has no interest in sullying this. I know the leadership we have in place in fact has taken pains to make amends for the injury I and others have endured by statements and actions of the past. And I am now on a committee whose job it is to work to help make RWA a more diverse and accepting place. I actively encourage my authors of queer romance to join RWA and increase our numbers. I work with other diverse authors and chapters to try to help them thrive as well, to find ways to cross promote. The amount of good things happening right now within this board—set in motion by past boards—is incredible. I am proud to have been asked to be even a small part of it.

This board, however, has done more than simply make me feel welcome. At the AGM I made a point to be present and I thanked the board for their help earlier this year by soliciting legal advice on the Samhain Publishing Modification Agreement. As a Samhain author with thirteen books with them, these books comprising the main source of my income, with Samhain having spent the past year selling over twenty foreign subrights for these books, some of which extended ten years, I was in a legal tangle which compromised both my writing and my income. While the letter from Elaine English didn’t magically make everything better, it did save me an incredible amount of money in my own legal fees and made my negotiations with Samhain quicker and smoother. I’m not ashamed to tell you that I cried like a baby when I found out about what RWA did and that I wasn’t able to thank them without tears in my eyes.

There is of course always room for our organization to improve, and I would like to continue to be a part of that. I did not put my hat in the ring to run for the board this year because I am still trying to get myself sorted out with half of my catalog still out of print, and because I am committed to my committee work. There is also no need for me to stand with so many qualified people running who wish to take our organization forward. I look forward to supporting them and this organization.

I know there are romance authors, particularly romance authors of diverse backgrounds and who write diverse topics who hesitate to join RWA because they fear they will not be welcomed. I am here to tell you that you will be welcomed by me and this board and many members. And I am reminding you that if you join, you increase our diverse numbers and you allow us to vote in diverse members and retain these boards who have done so much work for us. As someone who has been a member for almost twenty years, I can assure you there are voices inside who work for you. I am one of them.

Here’s to the future. Let’s go seize it together.

 

Yuri on Ice Rewatch/Review: Episode 5: Face Beet Red!! It’s the First Competition! The Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu Championship

Sorry that there was such a long break in these manga/anime reports. The spoiler is I’m going to keep doing them well past the end date for this Rafflecopter, and I’m going to do more Rafflecopters, so, see you next level, I guess.

Anyway. Yuri on Ice, episode five.

As I tweeted today, after being at Animefest, I will forever hear “History Maker” and hear huge crowds of world-wide fans singing along and then cheering as the YOI team enter the room, which is what happened for every panel. Also at every panel either Kubo or Hiramatsu videotaped the room going crazy and Yamamoto brandished an American flag, waving it at us and then tucked it under her name plate. They were as excited to see us as we were them. Kubo said hearing us sing “History Maker” like that fulfilled a dream of hers. I think I mentioned in one of my posts (probably the angry one about how crappy the organizers were) that the YOI people stayed hours and hours past the one hour scheduled signing time every day. They were just so full of love. Truly the most wonderful people. Hiramatsu and Kubo wished we would order their books—Kubo’s manga are getting English releases this spring—and I’m probably going to buy his book even though I think it’s all in Japanese just to support him because HE IS SO NICE. They’re all so nice. I hope they are all having trouble walking to their front doors for all the money in the way.

Where was I? Oh yes. Not even through the opening credits. Sorry.

So the thing that really struck me this time watching this episode was how important it is. I feel like before I’ve always felt like I sort of endured it to get to the Grand Prix, but there’s actually a ton here that sets up so much growth for both Yuri and Victor individually and as a couple. Like we start out and Yuri is still crazy critical of himself, obsessed with the fact that he had to go first, that he’s the oldest guy there, that he fucked up last time, that he’s been practicing with Victor but he’s not sure about himself. Meanwhile there’s so much going on around him and he’s completely oblivious to it—things which by the end of the series he would never miss, not ever again. Victor eventually points this out, about how Yuri doesn’t support Minami, but it’s deeper than that. Yuri is shutting out everything, focusing like a laser on his likelihood of fucking up, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yuri covers face with hands after being selected to go first

I don’t know how much the creators of the show meant this to be a narrative about anxiety, but man, this is the episode where they really start to hit those notes well, I feel. I’ve written several books about people with anxiety but most notably live with two people who openly talk about their anxiety as part of their lives, and what Yuri goes through is exactly what my husband and daughter experience as people with clinical anxiety. It’s like this second skin, this third person you have to watch out for, and if you aren’t careful, it will drive your bus. It’s very much driving Yuri at the beginning of this episode, and the way things are initially set up, it’s going to continue.

Yuri is stoic and Victor exuberant at their first press conference together

Victor, meanwhile, is debuting as a coach and I think he is about as nervous as Yuri, but he shows it differently. He comes off as a dingbat, and I’ve written about him as such, but I think this is an act, in hindsight. I think Victor is scared. I think he wants to do well by Yuri but doesn’t know how, so he tries to keep it light and goes for his knee-jerk which is to play the ditz. Except as usual with Yuri this doesn’t work. He can’t fake his way with Yuri. Yuri just ignores him—literally just blanks him. I mean, Victor tries to shake this off by interrupting Yuri and talking for him, lending his confidence, but Yuri interrupts back and says no, I’ve told you, I was a mess and will be a mess most likely, you don’t understand. So Victor dresses up, to distract, to be professional, to make Yuri hot for him—all of the above? But no dice. Yuri is too set on being a mess. Victor tries to give him a cheerful pep talk and Yuri just walks off.

The only thing that works is for Victor to literally grab him. To hug him, to embrace him and whisper seductively in his ear and remind him, not in his ditz voice but in his real voice, what he should do. And while Yuri skates, we hear this is the voice Victor has used in practice. This is their private voice.

Victor whispers seductively into Yuri's ear

Now, also notice that as soon as Victor does this, Yuri changes. Suddenly this is a private performance. Yuri is sassy to the audience, and he remembers private times with Victor, as if the competition has faded away and there is only Victor and their time at Hastesu together. Even when he makes a mistake, he remembers Victor holding his hands in onsen and telling him his body makes beautiful music. It’s not his best performance of Eros, but it’s his personal best of his skating career so far.

Yuri performs Eros

They’re still learning each other, though—Victor reprimands him for not doing his best, which isn’t the right way to go—Yuri needs praise. And then he fucks up more, telling him to focus on his performance and lower the jump levels. None of these bits of advice are wrong, mind you—they make all the sense in the world. But Yuri is stubborn, and he doesn’t want to lower the jump levels. He wants to do both at once. So he’s frustrated with Victor all over the place. And then when Yuri is interviewed and doesn’t answer right away, Victor leaps in to speak for him, lending his confidence again. This might be for the best as Yuri doesn’t seem to know what to say for himself yet. But it’s not ideal, and it seems clumsy.

Yuri is also screwing up, with Minami. Minami is so eager to please Yuri, to show him his skating, which is modeled on a performance from Yuri’s past, but Yuri is too obsessed with his own past mistakes and potential for screw-ups now that he can’t see he’s being idolized the same way he did Victor. So he steps on Minami’s feelings and his motivation and misses a chance to lift himself up too. It’s just a mess.

Minami despairs over Yuri ever noticing him

Victor sees this and scolds him, which initially upsets Yuri, but he seems to eventually figure it out and then encourages Minami. This isn’t enough, though. He starts to watch Minami, with Victor’s words in mind, and he finally sees himself in the younger skater, both skills and flaws. And between Victor and Minami—both of them are required—Yuri finally finds himself. When he arrives for his free skate, he arrives. He is, at last, the Yuri Katsuki we will know throughout the Grand Prix, the one who will eventually get his moment on the podium.

I love the moment when Yuri stalks down the aisle to meet Victor—love Victor’s admiration of his costume and how beautiful Yuri looks in it, the lip balm, the embrace. The embrace in particular caught me this time around. It’s more than just a good luck hug, I think. Victor acknowledges Yuri has overcome his demons, that he’s gotten his shit together and is ready to do this thing. He doesn’t need to be propped up this skate. He’s just going to fucking skate.

Victor watches Yuri skate

I love too that we get Victor’s narration while Yuri skates. I remembered while I watched what it felt like to watch this skate for the first time, to feel that tension. It’s so wild to watch it now knowing everything I know, having seen it so many times. To know what Yuri’s added, where this skate took them both. I love all the cuts to Victor’s super-blue eyes. I love the way Yuri looks so uncertain still, how this really is him still refining the skate and you can tell.

I also love knowing we’re getting a fucking movie full of skating. And that Victor will skate too.

Yuri skates to Yuri on Ice

There’s something so sweet and still about this ep, though. The calm before the storm. The brilliance of this competition is the same as the inclusion of episode four. We need to see them here before they take off. And we need that damn wall nosebleed too. I love that Yuri gets a nosebleed not as an anime stereotype for Victor but literally a nosebleed, for effort. And that Victor rejects his embrace because of it. I’ve loved that this whole time. And the next time they do this skate…

Sigh. So much happy sigh.

Confident Yuri at his final press conference

We end this skate with Yuri not nervous and eaten by his anxiety but giving autographs and reporting he got lost in his skating because it was the most fun he’d ever had at a competition. Then he gives his press conference and basically declares, to the world, that he loves Victor—not just loves him but loves him in this complex, important way only the Japanese language has a word for, and he does it with the exact opposite of feeling as he was radiating when Victor had to step in and finish his sentences for him. He is confident and powerful and amazing. This is our boy, our Yuri. This is why Victor, and all of us, love him so much.

Oh, tomorrow is episode six. Except tomorrow is busy with a lot of stuff, including my birthday, so I might not be able to get there until Saturday. But we will get there. Make no mistake.


Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.


Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

The road trip recap

Me dressed as Kobayashi-san, Anna as Tohru the dragon maid, and Becca as Kanna the child dragon

My goal is to sneak in a recap of Yuri on Ice episode five yet tonight, but before I got there I needed to give a full report of my week with two teen girls on the road to and from Dallas, with a stopover in Kearney, Missouri for an eclipse.

So I’ve only been planning this trip since last winter when I heard Yuri on Ice was coming to the convention–as soon as I saw the tickets were up, I bought three. Anna was psyched to go, because she loves anime as much as I do, and Becca, who watched Yuri on Ice with us as it unfolded, was happy to come along for the ride. What began as a plan to dress up in YOI cosplay quickly became a snowball, and by the time we were all said and done we had cosplay for every day of the convention. We thought we were pretty clever, but it turned out it was weirder to not be in costume than it was to be in it.

We did make some of our costumes, but most of our stuff I’ll admit came courtesy of the fine residents of China who have this stuff down to a brisk business and science.

The three of us dressed up from Black Butler

Ciel Phantomhive, Grell Sutcliff, and Finny

I mean, I don’t know how you go about making Ciel’s coat, or Grell’s. My mom did help us put red bias tape on the collar and cuffs of Finny’s shirt (thanks, thrift store), and the pants came from Amazon, as did the hat. Anna’s shoes turned out to be a real find as they doubled as her dragon maid shoes PLUS will be her favored band/concert/dress shoes from now until sometime mid-college. Becca ended up with rain boots she didn’t know she wanted for I think seven dollars at Walmart. But the wigs and the lion’s share of the costumes–especially the dragon maids and skater jackets–came from Amazon. Normally my money every month goes into formatting backlist, but for August it went into costumes and trip. I figured after a year of killing myself it was time for something fun.

And we did have fun. The drive down was pretty much a rain-soaked shitshow, but we had a great time listening to Antisocial audio. I’d asked the girls if they wanted me to start over at the beginning, they said no they were going to do their own thing, but Iggy is compelling and they got caught up in half a chapter and insisted we keep listening. They declared it “a roller coaster of emotions” and Iggy to be a genius. I knew that last part already. But I did feel pretty glowy having the harshest critics approve my book.

We did the full 11 hour drive in one day, barely stopping and so we made it in time for the raffle for Kubo’s drawings, which we did not win. But we were so glad to be out of the car it still felt like victory. There was a small panic in that our room smelled like smoke and this freaked Anna out, but her mother is no wallflower, and while the girls waited for our dinner to arrive in the restaurant I made arrangements for us to get an identical room sans smoke. Somehow we had a suite, which was nice–I guess I was feeling flush when I booked us? It was pre Samhain closure, after all. The extra space was fantastic for getting ready and laying out our gear.

I didn’t sleep the first night but for a few hours, because I was so nervous about getting an autograph, or more to the point delivering my gift to the YOI creators the next day. See my previous post for that fiasco, but I’m one of the rare few who was lucky enough to get through not only to the autographs but to the panels as well. I credit this with the fact that I am no slouch when it comes to cons and that I am a total cynic when it comes to human beings and I never trusted anything the organizers said, so I showed up anyway and when lines formed early I was present, then texted my girls and told them to join me. I usually adopted several people in line around me, but you can only help so many people, and anyway, it really was a mess. Every day because of that blog post I get messages from people devastated because of how far they came and how they got to see nothing of the people they came for, and I feel so badly for them. Honestly the US could support a major YOI only event without issue. Probably a two day weekend event with spots on each coast and a center stop in Chicago. Maybe, though, they stay the hell away from Dallas?

The three of us dressed as Yurio, Yuri, and Victor

Yurio, Yuri, and Victor (and Makkachin!)

Anyway. We had a great time despite the crappy treatment of the YOI fans and the poor organizing. We toured the dealer room, where they had all manner of anime merch and then some, and the artist’s alley, where we bought all kinds of prints and postcards. Anna and Becca checked out a few anime in the viewing rooms on the third floor, but mostly they found things they liked then went to our room and watched them on my laptop. They went to a Kobayashi meet up, which I was nervous about as I didn’t go and I worried that they would get hassled as two high school girls, but they were fine and nobody bothered them–though Anna takes no shit and would have noped out of there so fast if they would have. I also met with some patrons, which was lovely, and I got some ideas for an upcoming story simply by being at the con.

Getting to give my book to the creators was the biggest goal, and that was accomplished on day one–I even got to use my Japanese, which Sara helped me set up and which I sort of memorized but mostly read off from a sheet. Anna said they looked really impressed but honestly, I didn’t see, I was so focused on not fucking up and not getting kicked out of line by an organizer because they’d made such a deal of making us rush. I said to them, essentially, may I give you a gift (they said yes), and then I explained here is a book which I dedicated to them, because I’d been depressed but YOI got me out of it. I hoped they kept making anime and I would keep watching.

Kubo smiled at me and said thank you. Hiramatsu did the same. But Yamamoto got up, gave me this intense look, and grabbed my hands. Later I would learn that she felt so depressed/disconnected with anime that she basically stopped working and just watched ice skating, then began working on YOI and everything changed and she got her happiness back. So we understood each other, basically. It was such a circle closure. I have no idea what they will do with the books, and it doesn’t matter. I have made my offering. And now I will just keep enjoying the hell out of the show.

Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist cosplay

Fullmetal cosplay! (and the infamous autograph line is in the back left)

There was so much great people watching at the event. The YOI cosplay was intense, but so many other anime were represented. I was geeking out all over the place. Anna found some great cosplayers too. We were pretty much taking turns freaking out. Becca found her favs as well, though we often went up and asked for her as she was our shy violet.

The YOI panels were wonderful, my apologies to those who couldn’t get to them. The first one was all about how they three got together to make the show, how they connected with each other, the second was some behind the scenes of the character concepts (some amazing stuff there), the third was a live draw where Kubo’s now infamous “So Hot!” was drawn right in front of our eyes,” and the last was a huge panel with the YOI creators and English voice actors. Anna had an extra special treat at the first panel where Kubo herself, when the creators were tossing out soft merchandise, chucked a Phichit pillow right to Anna. It’s now one of her most treasured possessions.

Anna hugging her Phichit pillow

On Sunday though the con had events well into the afternoon, we left mid-morning to head back home, though we would stop at Kansas City to meet Dan and his parents and catch the eclipse on Monday. We stopped and had Waffle House on the way out of town first, and Anna did some relief driving in Oklahoma–we were slower coming home, and more tired over all, but we got there. It was about 8:30 when we made it to Kearney (just north of KC), and we were very glad for our hotel bed.

The next day it was a bit stressful as the skies were first overcast and then outright rainy. But we ended up having a break in the clouds in time for the eclipse which we watched, if you can believe it, from a place called JJ’s Homestead. Anna kept playing the “Theme of King JJ” on her phone while we waited, because how do you not?

Eclipse at totality

The eclipse at totality was something else, I have to say. It was full dark outside, at 1PM. The sun was just this black circle with a white ring. It was a full ten degrees colder. But the second the moon began to move and we had so much as a sliver of sun, the brightness came back like it wasn’t an eclipse at all. Madness, I’m telling you!

You can see two totality videos here at my Instagram, plus a slew of trip photos and videos. And in case I don’t get organized enough to post a review of episode five tonight, I”m going to post the Rafflecopter stuff here below and go add another link to it now so you can enter even if I lose my mojo.

But I will keep posting more manga and anime recaps, and other things, so watch this space. I am not, though, leaving home anytime soon. Well, okay. I am. There’s a patron meet up Labor Day weekend and I’m going to Denver in October. But right now I’m staying home.


Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)


 

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

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Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.