How different languages work in Yuri!!! On Ice
Other than being endearingly heartwarming and setting my OTP feels ablaze, one of the best parts about this scene (as another post points out) is that Victor has no idea what Yuri said.
There’s confusion among fandom regarding whether or not Victor knows Japanese and what his primary communication language is. So on Twitter this morning I shot off a few tweets about how languages are handled in YoI and I’m coming here to explain myself more fully.
Since episode 2, I’ve been completely in love with the voice direction given to Suwabe-san that helps demonstrate Victor’s foreign-ness via auditory cues. Of course, it’s not going to be readily apparent to non-Japanese speakers, but it definitely stands out to the native speaking audience.
Basically, whenever Victor is “speaking Japanese,” his speech is foreigner-accented. His pronunciation is off in places and the rhythm isn’t that of a native or solidly fluent japanese speaker. The sentences are a bit less complex as well. My favorite example of this is from episode 3, when he was in full gaijin mode lol.
Anyway, when Victor is speaking a language that he’s fluent in (likely English with Yuri Katsuki or Russian with Yuri Plisetsky), Suwabe-san drops the “foreigner-accent” and delivers the lines fluidly.
The best example of the “language switch”, perhaps, is in episode 4 when Yuri calls Coach Celestino. Celestino also has a foreigner-accent when speaking to Yuri at first, but then when Victor gets on the phone Celestino’s accent drops and he too speaks fluidly.
So, an Italian-American and a Russian speaking to each other…? English is 99.9% likely to be their common language.
And just to clarify, there’s no continuity error regarding language in the scenes from episode 2 when Victor goes to Minako-sensei and the Nishigoris to get more information about Yuri. He has no foreigner accent in these scenes as well, so he’s speaking in a language he’s fluent in. But we know now that Yuko-chan speaks English fluently and it’s likely that Minako-sensei does too since she had an international ballet career.
- When Victor speaks Japanese he sounds like a foreigner and native/fluent Japanese speakers will pick up on that change.
- Victor and Yuri are communicating with each other in English. (Smooth, complex conversation with no accenting.)
- Victor maybe has rudimentary Japanese skills, but not enough for him to understand or participate in complex discussions. (Example: ep 4, when he has to ask Yuri what everyone is talking about.)
- Every person Victor has had an in-depth conversation with so far has good English skills.
- And an injection from reality– most high level international athletes use English as a commonality language anyway.
There’s a genius Yuri!!! on Ice Combined Dub that uses audio from the sub and dub versions to distinguish when people are speaking Japanese vs. when they’re meant to be speaking English.