While watching Yuri on Ice this year I found myself falling in love with the journey of its characters throughout the grand prix. Their themes helping to symbolize elements of what they desire and who they want to be. While the story is all about Yuri, Yurio, and Victor I found myself falling in love with other skaters that shone in the grand finals. One such person who has captured my attention in the end was the Canadian figure skater, Jean-Jacques Leroy, or better known as JJ. Yes that very same narcissist, and one of the least liked characters in Yuri on Ice.
I will be spoiling elements in Yuri on Ice that regards JJ, and others who directly impact him. You have been warned.
JJ is the self-proclaimed king of the Grand Prix Finale this time around. Winning two gold medals, JJ has certainly created a powerful run for himself setting himself at the top of the leaderboard for the last competition. Our first introduction to JJ is about a Canadian “beefcake” who loves music and skating as much as himself. We see many of his competitors visually upset by his optimism, much like Yuri Plisetsky’s aggravation over JJ’s mantra. JJ seems to be the primary antagonist to Yuri Katsuki’s goal of winning this entire tournament, even if he is not given as much time dedicated to him as others. We only see this one side of JJ, the guy who thinks he is the best and unfortunately has the skill to back it up. JJ is a stereotypical competitor in a sports anime, the narcissist who knows he can defeat the hero because he has the superior skill. He was at the top and seemed like the one posed to take the whole competition by storm.
Unfortunately the run is cut short when all the pressure of winning the grand prix arises after seeing Otabek Altin achieve a new personal best in his short program after Yuri Plisetsky did the same. The look of determination of Otabek’s face enters its way into JJ’s psyche, forcing him to psychologically lose the entire tournament. Instead of doing quads and triples, JJ was only pulling off singles with his jumps hindering any chance of him attaining gold. When you see JJ yell at his mother before the Free Skating section, he says the words “I don’t know what to do”. This was the moment I really understood that JJ finally understood how tough these competitions are.
His character is undeniably designed to not be the most likeable. While some could say that his mentality is just heavily optimistic and confident, JJ just doesn’t come off as being as such. He comes off as more self-centered, conceited and overconfident earning the vitriol of many watchers who wanted to see him fall. That’s not to say that I didn’t dislike his character in the beginning, but his transformation is truly something to behold as one of the better characters in Yuri on Ice. Every time he does that stupid pose saying the same line “It’s JJ style” really gets your blood boiling as he comes off as this narcissistic superhuman figure skater who can do no wrong and he knows it.
He gets an engagement with his girlfriend saying that after he wins the Grand Prix Finale they will get married. This small addition to his egocentricity was the starting point of his downfall, the moment where he begins to feel the pressure of potentially failing. Even though everything I have said about JJ has been relatively negative, this shift in momentum not so much humbles the character but humanizes him as just merely a guy trudging down his own path. A man who will always be himself no matter what happens, whose infectious optimism seeped its way into the audience of the Grand Prix Finale. This is a man who will always continue to fight for his dream, fight for his goal, and even when the chips are down and he could easily have given up he surprisingly doesn’t. The narcissist, whose image had shattered in front of his eyes, who breaks down during his practice for the Free Skate, still attempted to give it his all no matter what happened. In a way one could call JJ in his final moments, a positive role model.
JJ’s song in the series holds a lot of importance for his character. The “Theme of King JJ” is an anthem to himself that is for certain. It is an anthem to his ambition and to his goal to always be himself no matter, to be a king no matter the cost. “I’ll never give up even if the night should fall,” is the motto of JJ and that line in his song was the foreshadowing of his own demise in the end and his greatest lesson. That even if you feel the world crashing all around you, you must always stand up and continue to fight. “I look in the mirror, the king looks back at me,” again is a very good motto to have. Although this can easily come off as purely narcissism, I feel like this line is JJ always reaffirming himself that he will always be JJ. That he is still the king of his own world, and the line “this is who I am, just remember me” really sells the point of JJ doesn’t change for anyone. This narcissistic skater you see before you is who he really is and he won’t change for anything. In a way the lyrics of his song, written for himself, showcases his character quite well.
This song in a nutshell is the anthem to JJ’s power and his journey. Yet it also foreshadows his downfall in the end. What I love is how there is this infectious optimism he has in the final episodes when he learns about what he needs to improve on. That he should never give up, that he should give it his all even if he may lose. That he is JJ and nothing can change that. Even if he feels lost, he still has those who believe in him and he must always try his hardest. When he lands that quad in the free skate at the end of his program, we see his parents and fiancé tear up as they see JJ grow up in front of their eyes a stronger man. He may have started out as a brat, someone who seems to have been almost superhuman in their inability to flub up, yet that only meant that he could fall the farthest. Everybody believed that he could do it, yet subconsciously he felt backed into a corner that he could never climb out of.
I just wanted to give this little image to help illustrate JJ as someone who always feels like he needs to appease the crowd. On the right is the cocky JJ winning through all the preliminary tournaments, and on the left we see JJ after he falls and tries to appease the crowd. There are noticeable differences between the pictures, particularly in how confident JJ looks. How you can see his self image of winning the entire Grand Prix Finale fall apart in the picture on the left, yet he still tries to act optimistic for the fans who still support him. I like this little detail they made towards JJ’s iconic stance, how his face actually differentiates from the other times he has done it.
In a way JJ in the end, despite even falling victim to his own hubris, became the king he wanted to be. His kingdom cheering him on, his queen leading the praise, the world he desired throughout his skating career still within his reach. JJ is a narcissist, but also a positive role model in the end. This is a man who you thought could have won the entire tournament, that insurmountable amount of pressure got the better of him especially since this was the year where the world of figure skating had to fill in the spot Victor left. JJ lost to his own mentality of striving to be the best, to always smile and be overconfident no matter the situation. In a way the tragic character of Yuri on Ice is the one character who never understood the meaning of the word tragedy. Love him or hate him, JJ will always be JJ and he will always be who he is never compromising for anyone. There is a lovely message in his character about always being true to who you are, love yourself and it’s always okay to fall, just make sure you keep on fighting.
I mean being a Canadian and watching this guy be our representative in this anime, it made me a bit upset and happy. It breaks stereotype, but not in the way I think many wish it would. JJ came off as the most hated character in the entire show for the most part, but somehow made an impact despite all his problems. Realizing that even someone like JJ, the narcissist whose boastful overconfidence breeds contempt, can be humanized in such a way really sells a point on humanity. He really made me root for him in the end by the sheer tenacity he shows on a regular basis, that even when he is falling apart he is willing to keep on skating for those who cheer for him. This is a character who feels more human through this journey, and even though he may have been a minor character he truly gave one of the best performances.
As you can see I had a hard time enjoying JJ (despite loving so much about his character design and background) as a character, but seeing him in these final episodes did give some well-needed depth. Some do say it’s just a convenient way of making JJ lose, that he needed some reason to lose because he was too strong otherwise and it would make the journey of Yuri Katsuki fall apart if he never managed to make it farther than he did in the previous year. Sometimes we forget that characters like JJ are actually as young as they are with his age being 19 and his first time completely stealing the spotlight. That this type of problem goes against his very character of the cocky narcissist, and I have to disagree with that line of thinking. While it is a convenient piece of writing, there is no denying that, yet I don’t think its without merit to adding to his character. This little writing “faux pas” (as some would like to put it) is actually a great way to actually giving JJ some weight in this series. We see many characters fall prey to their own hubris in many well known stories such as Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus which is about a man’s arrogance to think that he can have his cake and eat it too when making a deal with the Devil.
What differentiates JJ from characters like Faustus and even Game of Throne’s Stannis Baratheon or King Joffrey, is that his fall is not as tragic. JJ does indeed fall prey to his own hubris and ambition being overwhelmed by an emotion he didn’t think could overwhelm him, he manages to fight back and eventually grow from this if you look at it that even when the chips were down he still managed to not give up. Where other characters who fall prey to their own hubris are characters to avoid emulating in life, JJ manages to spin it around into something arguably positive as a message.
In a way I came out of Yuri on Ice enjoying it more than I thought I would. Particularly when one attempts to look at the inner workings of some characters, like JJ, who are particularly minor can certainly create some interesting discussion. Reality interjects when we least expect it, and anxiety can take hold of just about anyone yet JJ never let’s it truly defeat him as he comes back (even if he is still just as cocky). It’s fun and surprisingly heartfelt watching JJ’s journey, even though there wasn’t much screentime dedicated to it per se. In the final episodes they make leaps and bounds to what he was trying to convey as a character, and I think they did a bang up job on it.
I felt I needed to do something special to start up the new year and what is more special than JJ? All jokes aside, it was fun looking at a character in a different light and I’m kind of glad that Yuri on Ice made the decision to let him fall in order to allow that type of observation. So what do you think about JJ or any of the other minor skaters in Yuri on Ice? Do you think I am stretching JJ’s impact? Did I make any leaps in judgement? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a great day!