Yuri!!! on Ice is a 2016 anime that has captured a global audience through its beautifully choreographed animation, a strong emotional story, and compelling gay representation. Animation Studies 2.0 blog contributors Jacqueline Ristola, Mihaela Mihailova, Caitlin Casiello, and Evelyn Hielkema came together to discuss the show after it finished its run in Japan to dig deeply into the series’ impact as a whole.
Animation and Direction
Jacqueline Ristola: In a recent interview, co-creator Mitsurō Kubo said that animators were assigned by character, rather than by cut. While the latter is usually the more economical and time-saving choice, I appreciate the attention to character detail that Yuri!!! on Ice provides.
This also connects to the rougher aspects of television animation. Anime is notorious for stressed staff and rushed production times, and director Says Yamamoto is no different. As an artist, her ambitions are always groundbreaking, which is always appreciated, but it also means she stretches the anime industry in ways the industry is not always prepared for, particularly in the age of streaming. Western fans noticed that some of the animation differs between the Japanese broadcast, as the major anime streaming site Crunchyroll gets the animation a day before it airs (in other words, a day without the extra polish), to subtitle the series for same day release with the Japanese airing.
In terms of the direction, one thing I always appreciate from Sayo Yamamoto’s work is the appreciation of bodies and embodiment. Her characters, from Mitchiko in Mitchiko and Hatchin, Fujiko in Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (2012), to her guest episode on Space Dandy (2013-2014), all relish in the sexy bodies of their characters. The framing of such bodies in Yamamoto’s work both serves to illustrate character’s ownership of their own bodies, and makes for delectable fan service for audiences. In Yuri!!! on Ice, men flaunt their bodies both on and off the ice, certainly for fans of show, but also as an expression of their athleticism, and it is this syncretism, I believe, that has drawn such a strong and wide audience.
Caitlin Casiello: Jacqueline, that does seem to be a major connection between YOI and Yamamoto’s other work: she loves the bodies, the physicality, the movement, the muscles and flesh. Regarding the realm of animation, there’s been a big fandom argument about it in the past week or so. YOI won Crunchyroll’s poll for Best Animation of 2016 and also every other category it was nominated for, beating some more deserving shows like Mob Psycho 100 just by virtue of having a lot of fans. There might have also been some vote spamming/bot intervention, but YOI fans really pushed the polls on tumblr and twitter as a chance to show support for the series and, well, there are a lot of YOI fans. This prompted many snarky comments from people on the sloppy parts of YOI’s animation—bad smudges, awkward faces, clips where they cheated on the motion. I’m not an animation expert by any means, but most of these struck me as issues most shows have and not ones which make their animation “bad.” Television animation is extremely rushed (and underpaid!), and it’s now standard for adjustments to be made furiously up to the deadline and then again when the show is released on Blu-ray/DVD. It’s not just Yamamoto’s ambitions that force this, but labor problems endemic to the nature of animation itself and economic forces in the industry, in which television animation has essentially always been viewed from the business perspective as little more than marketing tools for the other products in the series line and so shows have always been undersold and animators underpaid.
Some of the YOI programs definitely fall into sloppiness and obvious CG—Minami looks like a little CGI puppet, a lot of the later side characters’ programs are a mess. Yet, I think the show’s animation comes through where it counts: showing emotion and character development in the two Yuris’ programs. I think they also very cleverly use repeated skating movements/animated sequences as a labor-saving technique which also reinforces character development and connections between characters.
A lot of the strength of YOI’s animation is also difficult to see unless you’re familiar with figure skating movements. The animators of YOI made a serious effort to depict the body as it moves in figure skating both accurately and artistically. A friend of mine who skates said that she can tell from the beginning of a jump in YOI if the jump is going to be successful or not, just like how an expert watching skating can see if a jump is well-executed from the take-off. They patterned movements on choreographer Miyamoto Kenji, who, according to his interview in Animage January’s special YOI insert, skated every program (except Yurio’s, who was performed by a Japanese female skater) in a two-week period for the animators to copy. Tumblr users have been using YOI gifs to explain and demonstrate figure skating moves and, in the slowed down gif in that post, you can clearly see how the animation hits every key element to the jump. But this sort of animation detail isn’t obvious if you’re not looking for skating detail. It’s also, as another friend of mine pointed out, a level of detail in some respects more difficult to animate than the fight scenes which were so stunning in Mob Psycho 100. Super-powered fight scenes can accommodate a level of unrealism or cartoonishness which wouldn’t work for the realistic depiction of skating Yamamoto was going for. So Yamamoto’s real ambition, in my opinion, was a serious devotion to trying to animate something only the figure skaters would be able to recognize immediately.
JR: In terms of how people make fun of YOI’s animation, often people on Twitter or other social media forums post screen caps of in between frames of the series for comedic effect, but they ultimately miss the point on why the series has good animation, as focusing on these smaller moments fails to capture the beauty of the movement – the illusion of life essential to animation – that propels YOI to aesthetic excellence. You can read more about my take on this phenomenon here, but I’ll end by noting that when people post screen caps of silly frames of animation, it’s often an instance of viewers focusing on smaller details (that often go unnoticed by the viewer when watching), instead of looking at the big picture, that is, the realism conveying through the movement of the animation.
Evelyn Hielkema: Though Yamamoto has tackled both overtly fantastical material and slightly more grounded material in the past, YOI poses a unique problem because of its more naturalistic approach to portraying sports. The problem is that the competitors perform on a uniformly lit ice rink surrounded by darkened crowds. Keeping the audience’s visual interest over the longer term in those conditions (of production and in terms of the goals they set) is a challenge that has to be overcome not just with animation within frame, but also through good moment-to-moment editing and scene sequencing.
While the opening uses ice as a blank space, as a place for expressive projection of colors, fluid motion, and highly stylized editing, the actual show tries to adhere to the format of a sports broadcast. You have a vocal play-by-play announcer, mostly plausible camera angles (excluding certain close-ups) and sequences that play out the same way over and over again. During the competitive performances, we’re situated with the television audience, making the characters watching the events on Russian streaming sites or on TV our stand-ins. This means that we expect the skating to be as naturalistic as possible, and whenever the budget or design slips in these performances, the results are damaging. Many of the side-characters’ routines appear ragged, with awkward perspective problems and jerky movements (at least on the streaming version I saw). In a sense, the gap in animation quality between the main characters’ routines, which are repeated over and over again, and those one-shot performances cues the audience into the people we are supposed to care about. The choreography itself is varying degrees of excellent, which means that economizing measures––the repetition of long sequences of animation, in particular––are less of an immediate problem. The broadcast commentary narration also compensates for some of the awkward moments by more-or-less explaining what each character’s theme is and how their jumps and movements express it. It also allows the show to mask exposition and reinforcement of themes in a style that feels natural if you’re a frequent viewer of Winter Olympics skating, or any sports broadcasting.
Despite, as Jacqueline notes, all of Yamamoto’s work having some thematic and visual focus on bodies––which is not an uncommon preoccupation in animation––YOI is not immediately recognizable as a Yamamoto joint. This is mostly because her work has ranged widely in genre, style, and subject matter. For me, it is the least visually appealing of her shows, mostly because its naturalism and its budget crunch up against each other a bit too often and my tastes are more on the expressive and abstract side of animation. That said, it does a reputable job of communicating both the artistic and gymnastic side of figure skating while having a strong enough core design to make character moments work. It is utilitarian in some ways, but it works.
Mihaela Mihailova: I want to touch upon the topic of YOI as a sports show that Evelyn brings up above. While discussions of this show often (rightly) point out its careful and reverent approach towards the intricacies of the sport, to me YOI is as much a show about skating as Grey’s Anatomy is a show about medicine. That is to say, YOI’s focus is on the skaters (and their relationships, personal dramas, etc.) more than the skating, with the latter ultimately serving as a beautiful backdrop against which both inner character growth and interpersonal relationships play out. This is not an argument against the show; I don’t mean to suggest that it is a weakness, as I will explain shortly. I have been struck by the ways in which the direction and editing of the skating sequences turns them into a whirlwind collage of flashbacks, reaction shots, inner monologues, and subjective POV shots that all serve specific narrative and characterization purposes, such as taking a relationship further, signaling an internal conflict (or its resolution), or even simply providing background information on a minor character. For this reason, while I agree that all the elements of a sports broadcast are there, watching the performances in this show (especially those of the leading characters) is fundamentally different from watching a Winter Olympics broadcast.
Let’s take Yurio Plisetsky’s amazing performance from episode 11. It starts out by the books – with the commentator explaining the difficulty of Yurio’s routine as we watch his jumps. However, the show soon cuts away from his actual performance to offer a montage of brief flashbacks of Yurio interacting with different characters, as the voice over (no longer the announcer’s voice, but Lilia’s) explains that he’s “found an entrance to ‘love’ through his many interactions with others.” Afterwards, we briefly return to the ice, only to see another flashback, this time matching Yurio’s movements to shots of young Victor. This is immediately followed and reinforced by a close-up of Yakov murmuring “Vitya,” as if finally recognizing his younger pupil as the rightful heir of Russia’s previous star. Then, as the rest of the routine plays out, it is interrupted not only by the expected audience shots, but by shots of Victor, deep in thought, watching Yurio. Finally, the ending of Yurio’s program is punctuated with a subjective POV shot of bouquets and plushies falling on the ice, over which the young skater’s inner monologue can be heard. In other words, there is a lot going on here, and relatively little of it has to do with the marvelous skating itself. Of course, shifting the focus away from the sport itself and onto the drama is by no means unique to this show. It is fundamental to the genre, as demonstrated both by other sports anime shows such as Free! and their-live action counterparts such as Friday Night Lights. Thus, the fact that YOI is faithful enough to the world of skating to please diehard fans (and even skaters), but manages to – as I’ve argued earlier in this roundtable discussion – organically place the skating routines into the service of the show’s larger themes is what truly makes YOI successful as a fictional sports show.
CC: I wanted to discuss this topic, similar to our earlier discussion on gay subtext through sports symbolism, in terms of the sports anime genre, namely what the genre usually does with the global dimensions of sport. The sports anime genre, as well as related shows especially those aimed at the young boy or shōnen demographic, often pushes an implied training in correct masculine behavior: boys are taught that hard work and teamwork are more important than genius/talent and individual achievement and these lessons are often tied directly to growing up and becoming a man/adult. Girls are often taught similar lessons, in these shows and in shows aimed at girls explicitly, but the shōnen sports genre is so boy heavy that I do think this one way in which masculinity is constructed/taught in Japanese children’s media. And I think there is a cultural difference there too, that these ideas of masculinity are based in a Japanese sense of what makes a man a man, as opposed to foreign masculinities, usually American. This is made obvious when the shows themselves engage with the Western other, where they develop an attitude not dissimilar to political attitudes in the Meiji period and after, when Western technology and education were perceived as superior and necessary to create a modern Japanese state while at the same time, Japaneseness was being constructed as a particularly special, unique, and often superior identity in the service of colonial ambitions. Obviously this is a lot more benign in contemporary sports anime, but there is an often odd sort of nationalism to the plots: you have a common trope of a character going abroad (to America or Europe or Australia) to train (gain skills from the West), but then returning to Japan where he learns the true nature of teamwork/sport. For instance, Prince of Tennis stars a returnee-Japanese middle schooler (actually a very fraught education issue in Japan: how to integrate students who lived/studied abroad into the notoriously harsh Japanese education system upon their return), who is both a genius tennis player and kind of an jerk about it; the arc of the show consists of him learning to support the rest of the school’s team under the training/friendship of his senpai at school, who replace his insufficiently team-oriented (or excessively Americanized) father with alternative models of masculinity which emphasize working together and sharing responsibility. In the anime, they actually compete against an American team who aren’t, exactly, villains—rarely are there villains in sports anime, only rivals—but they are American stereotypes: violent, theatrical, competitive, blonde.
YOI is different in genre and target demographic and features a writer more closely associated with the seinen adult male genre of manga which usually allows for more nuanced stories. But I still found striking how effectively YOI avoids a lot of the stereotyping and competitiveness which characterizes many shows, which, even when they avoid stereotypes, are often fixated on the failure of Japan to compete on the international stage in whatever sport or game (and often the manga are written with the project of drawing more young Japanese people into the sport so Japan can compete). Even Chihayafuru, an excellent series about a traditional Japanese game of competitive poetry card matching, sometimes has a sense of “only Japan plays this game, so if we’re the best in Japan, we’re the best in the world” to it. YOI doesn’t have any of that, as far as I could feel, perhaps because Japan already is extremely dominant in figure skating, but even so: they could have gone the route of creating a “Japanese team” of sorts, rather than having Yūri’s interactions mostly be with foreign skaters. Those interactions with foreign skaters are also mostly professionally competitive, rather than personally or nationalistically competitive: the international competition is a source of anxiety and inspiration, but Yūri is primarily motivated by internal competition with himself. There’s no real antagonism against the foreign skaters (or the other Japanese ones!)—they’re portrayed as colleagues and encouraging each other is shown as an important part of the sport. Even Yurio’s ire for Yūri is shown in the end to be a sort of respect, as compatriots trying to do their best to make the sport itself as great as it can be. This attitude is definitely present in the other type of sports anime, where competition brings everyone together to create a more perfect athletic achievement, but YOI lacks, I felt, a lot of the oppositions along national or team lines present in other shows.
As for the foreign skaters themselves, they visually avoid a lot of the stereotypes anime uses to show different ethnicities. Chinese characters are often drawn black-haired, with darker and smaller eyes than Japanese characters, but here we have Guanghong with light brown hair and eyes and definitely not a personality that conforms to any Japanese stereotype about Chinese people I remember. American characters are often blonde, tall, blue-eyed, annoyingly arrogant and conceited, or gun-obsessed, but in YOI we have Leo who not only doesn’t match those stereotypes visually or personally, but who is also explicitly Mexican American, which isn’t usually a nuance you see in anime depictions of Americans. Then you have JJ, who has the stereotypical American personality but he’s proudly and very Canadian. Some of the characters do play on cultural stereotypes but overall, I think they found a balance between relying on easily-grasped cultural stereotypes and developing distinct side characters with limited screen time. The one possible misstep was Seung Gil, where there was some annoyance from Korean fans at his lack of screen time but also at stereotypical aspects of his depiction, like his dish at the YOI tie-in cafe being a “Korean spicy soup.” This is particularly tense since Japan and Korea are rivals politically (obviously), but also in terms of media proliferation across Asia and in figure skating itself.
MM: I also love YOI’s subversion of national stereotypes, though I still maintain that Canada did nothing to deserve a character like JJ. What I especially appreciate about this show’s international representation is that YOI seems to have taken the devil in the details philosophy to heart. I was constantly impressed with the ways in which the show incorporates seemingly tiny cultural details that go a long way in creating an air of authenticity. I will discuss this vis-a-vis Russia, as this is the context I am most familiar with. Take, for example, Victor’s remark about not celebrating birthdays early. It may seem like a throwaway line to most, but to those familiar with Russian customs and superstitions, it legitimizes both the character himself and the showrunners’ research. Similarly, his episode 4 remark to Yūri (“Only Aeroflot has kept me waiting as long as you have”) is an inside joke that’s only truly funny to those who have experience with the notoriously unreliable Russian airline.
These cultural nods are not limited to Victor, either. If you grew up in the former Eastern Bloc, chances are you grandfather drove a car just like the one Yurio’s grandfather shows up in. Maybe he still does. It is “local color” of this type that helps convey a sense of place and infuses YOI’s take on Russian culture with more genuine personality than is usually the case in global media depictions of the country.
On the flip side, this level of attention to detail only serves to amplify YOI’s occasional missteps. Perhaps the most glaring one (at least in the context of Russian culture) is Yurio’s exaggerated disgust at the prospect of bathing with others in a Japanese onsen. To anyone familiar with the concept of Russian banya, this scene rings utterly, comically false. Another notable mistake is the writing above Victor’s head below, which is supposed to spell out “Elevator,” but looks like a Google translate glitch instead.
Still, it is a testament to the show’s overall high level of attention to cultural detail that sporadic mistakes like these two stand out so much. Indeed, if Russian fans’ engagement with the show is any indication, YOI has been successful in prompting them to add more layers of specific cultural references on top of the already existing ones, making for some truly entertaining content. For instance, YouTube user Miss Olive has published a series of “crack” videos which edit together scenes from YOI to the sound of contemporary Russian pop hits, humorously matching the lyrics to events and characters in the show.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that – as I mention in my final remarks – Yurio and Victor are arguably the show’s most stereotypical characters, especially in the beginning. Yurio in particular is even introduced explicitly as a stereotype (“the Russian punk”), though this is later subverted to reveal his softer side. What’s most interesting about this character’s Russianness, though, is how quickly he transforms from the aggressive hyper-masculine type we see in episode 1 to YOI’s version of Russian skating child prodigy Julia Lipnitskaya. Both his wardrobe and his taste in pets appear to be directly copied from Lipnitskaya’s Instagram, as this helpful collage by Twitter user soukatsu_ suggests:
— ji@サンクトペテルブルク編?✨✨⛸ (@soukatsu_) October 11, 2016
The decision to introduce, then immediately resist the all too easy “punk” trope by modelling the character on a celebrated female skater is a bold move (given Russia’s gender politics) and an important statement that fits within the show’s larger queer politics.
Finally, I believe that YOI deserves a shoutout for this beautifully stylized, yet recognizable renditions of some of its real-world international locales. Nowhere is the show’s ability to capture a romantically vivid vision of a city more fully on display than in the Barcelona episode. While Park Güell is unlikely to ever be as empty as it was during Yurio and Otabek’s bonding moment, I still appreciated being transported back to one of Europe’s most idiosyncratically enchanting cities.
EH: Caitlin covered most of the important points of the show regarding its cosmopolitanism and more nuanced depiction of people from other countries (though I agree that Seung Gil got slighted on screen time and his position as stoic, emotionally distant competitor got usurped by Otabek). At the same time, the way the show deploys national imagery and the way it builds each character can’t help but be influenced by visual shorthand/stereotypes. It’s not as though some characters lack in patriotic motivations, either. Phichit is the prime example, being a character who comes from Thailand, a newcomer to the figure skating scene that probably lacks in ice skating facilities.
I wanted to focus my attention, however, on one small arc nested within the show, which is Yurio’s coming to Japan and eventually introducing his grandfather to Japanese cuisine. Though partly attributable to personality differences, Viktor and Yurio have divergent reactions and experiences in the early episodes that take place in Katsuki Yuri’s hometown. Viktor, despite not understanding the language––note how much English he speaks in the show, and his baffled reactions to some interactions––is a breezy cosmopolitan, being more experienced at world travel and appreciative of Japanese food and customs (bathing being one of the more notorious examples). Yurio, being much younger and less experienced, as well as more prickly overall, experiences much more friction with his surroundings and, of course, with other characters.
Yurio’s grandfather appears to be somewhat alienated from his grandson’s career, being taciturn and relatively oblivious to things like the all-important katsudon bowl. For Yurio, katsudon is both a nickname for Katsuki Yūri and, in interactions with his grandfather, a symbol of the distance that so much training and traveling away from home has created in their relationship. Eventually, Yurio’s grandfather reaches a point of acceptance, creating a katsudon pierozhki, a hybrid food that, to me, sounds moderately delicious and represents the ways in which people’s national and more cosmopolitan competitive identities get mixed up with their own personal relationships to each other. It’s a subtle arc that isn’t given much screen time, but it’s one of the reasons why the younger, Russian Yuri was my favourite character overall.
JR: What I find remarkable is that YOI not only has generally excellent international representation, but it also plays to and is aware of its international audience. For instance, in a recent episode of South Park from early December 2016, the show referenced Yuri!!! on Ice via a character’s google search history.
Yuri!!! On ICE and Crunchyroll…..in South Park??!? pic.twitter.com/edgsKzo4CE
— Crunchyroll (@Crunchyroll) December 8, 2016
In the series finale, Yuri!!! on Ice returned the favor by showing a young JJ (a fellow competitive skater) in his youth with the clothes of Cartman from South Park.
This kind of international awareness is something I’ve rarely seen from anime, and indicates the global role anime creators are beginning to self-consciously address in their work.
MM: While I am an animation scholar, anime is not my primary area of interest, so I wasn’t initially committed to watching this show. However, I am glad that I did, and here is why: it continued to surprise me until the very end. Specifically, it tricked me into believing that its early embrace of certain tired tropes was to remain the status quo. For instance, I remember being equal parts entertained and disappointed by Yurio’s initial portrayal as “the Russian punk,” a stereotypically rude, loud, and aggressive Eastern European hooligan. Similarly, I was rolling my eyes at the seductive older man – smitten ingenue dynamic between Victor and Yuri, especially in the earlier episodes. However, in both cases, YOI was just playing along, waiting for an opportune moment to delightfully subvert such easy stereotypes. By episode 9’s katsudon pirozhki scene, Yurio had transformed into a somewhat awkward, but still beautiful cinnamon roll:
Meanwhile, episode 10 turned the Victor-Yūri relationship on its head (and reinforced Yūri’s role as an unreliable narrator) by disclosing new information about a fateful meeting between the two a year ago that retroactively paints their previous interactions – and Victor’s character – in a completely different light. After the big reveal about the true origin of Yūri and Victor’s romance (which has since received the approval of professional pole dancers, for those of you interested in discussing YOI’s commitment to realism), Caitlin joked on Facebook that Westworld could learn a thing or two about plot twists. Indeed, the best thing (for me) about YOI is its willingness to toy with its viewers not just for the sake of doing so, but for the purpose of gradually building up nuanced characterization and multidimensional interpersonal dynamics. I am hoping it will continue in this spirit in season 2.
EH: I share with Mihaela a sense of surprise, though from a different perspective. I frequently enjoy watching anime, but YOI is precisely the kind of show I don’t find compelling most of the time: male/male, sports genre, naturalistic. Despite that, the creative staff and animators were able to craft something that has a broad appeal and enough nuance in characterization and emotional stakes that I could embrace it. It definitely doesn’t shake my cynicism about fan communities and the generally deplorable state of animation labor and production worldwide, but like many shows this year it demonstrates that beautiful flowers can grow even in sidewalk cracks. Though not my favorite show, it has provoked more productive conversations than any other thanks to the sheer breadth of its audience and the important ways it functions as a novelty in the industry.
JR: I’ll end by noting that the opening theme song is “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka, certainly a bold statement by the show creators. By the end of the series, the theme song plays again, but the title subtly changes to “History Makers”, indicating all the remarkable changes that the characters have gone through, but most importantly Victor and Yūri’s relationship, both professional and romantic. But I also find that the song reflects all the various ways YOI has pushed anime, and television animation. It presents a progressive, compelling male-male relationship while also beautifully animating the sport of figure skating. Ambition is perhaps the key word when it comes to Yuri!!! on Ice, and I’m glad to say its ambitions are largely realized.
Jacqueline Ristola is a Masters student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from Calvin College with a Honours BA in Film and Media Studies. Her research interests include animations and its various incarnations, with her current research project examining the cross-cultural aesthetic exchanges between the Japanese anime Samurai Champloo and the American animated series The Boondocks. She has published articles in Animation Studies and the film magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room. Her presentation at SAS 2016 explored the relationship between Waltz With Bashir and Persepolis to the documentary genre.
Mihaela Mihailova is a PhD candidate in the joint Film and Media Studies and Slavic Languages and Literatures program at Yale University. Her research interests include animation, film and media theory, early Soviet cinema, contemporary Eastern European cinema, video games, and comics. She has published articles in animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, and Kino Kultura. Her piece“Frame-Shot: Vertov’s Ideologies of Animation” (co-written with John MacKay) is included in Animating Film Theory (ed. Karen Beckman). Her essay “Latvian Animation: Landscapes of Resistance” appears in Animated Landscapes: History, Form, and Function (ed. Chris Pallant).
Caitlin Casiello is a Ph.D. student in the Combined Program in East Asian Languages and Literatures and Film and Media Studies at Yale University. Her current interests include Japanese pornography (live action, animated, pink, adult video) and queer filmmaking in Japan. Her master’s thesis, completed at Harvard University, focused on the legal controversies around and visual techniques of commercially-published pornographic Japanese comic books.
Evelyn Hielkema is a masters student at York University studying Japanese maritime environmental history. Her professional studies encompass the history of disease, global commodity and information flows, energy production, ecology, and the tangled thicket of state bureaucracy. Her one proper presentation was of “Panel Geographies,” a bizarre amalgam of media critique and political economy illuminating the relationship between American comics and the Middle East. To cap off her undergraduate career, she wrote an in-depth study of an American bureaucrat working in Iran during the 1911 Constitutional Revolution. In her spare time, she publishes the Tiger Manifesto blog at tigermanifesto.wordpress.com, reflecting on everything from Marxism to Christian kitsch.