Review: Yuri!!! on Ice

 

Title

 

Anime: Yuri!!! on ICE

Studio: MAPPA

Episodes: 12

Original Run: Oct 6, 2016 to Dec 22, 2016

Genres: Sports, Romance, Drama

[Some spoilers]

Synopsis:

Japan’s ace figure skater, Katsuki Yuuri, is in a slump after a crushing defeat at the Sochi Grand Prix Finals. The disastrous turn of his career prompts him to return home to recuperate and assess his future path. At the age of 23, he’s older than most other skaters and not likely to last much longer. His already bleak situation is not helped by his tendency to stress-eat and gain weight easily.

But when a video of Yuuri skating the routine of reigning figure skating champion Victor Nikiforov goes viral, the man himself seeks Yuuri out and proclaims himself Yuuri’s coach. Being coached by his long time idol might be a dream come true for Yuuri but the world wants Victor back in action and some of them are willing to fight for it.

And even if Victor stays, the competition is strong and Yuuri’s worst enemy has always been himself.

 

Story:

Look at that, I’m reviewing a show that’s not at least a couple of years old. The credit/blame for that goes to the February OWLS tour whose focus on Yuri On Ice prompted me to watch the damn show before the year was over. Still, I’m more than fashionably late to the party. Figure skating is one of the few sports I’m not bored to tears watching and the only anime I’d seen about it was Ginban Kaleidoscope, which I liked. I went in expecting a sports anime with a dash of romance and got exactly that but also ended up in an emotional rollercoaster that blew me away.

Story 1

This anime’s greatest strength lies in its protagonist Katsuki Yuuri and his turbulent journey as he tries to cope with the past and strive for the future while holding on to the present. And yes, most of this is portrayed through the skating which is nothing short of stunning. Yuri on Ice imbues its sport with a wide range of emotions that echo the thoughts and feelings of its respective skaters. Each routine is emotionally charged to the nth degree, making them forceful enough to make your heart race in tandem with the skaters.

As for the competition angle, Yuuri’s journey is not as predictable as it could have been. While it’s easy enough to figure out that he’ll make it to the Grand Prix Finals, the way there is littered with obstacles, the greatest of them being Yuuri himself. Refreshingly, there are no villains in this show, no one skater who’s a looming threat that must be beaten. Each of Yuri’s opponents are charming in their own way and portrayed as passionate skaters with dreams and goals of their own. Instead, Yuuri’s challenges are his own debilitating anxiety and lack of self-esteem, and the crippling effect they have on his psyche is depicted faithfully.

Story 2

While Yuuri and his career is the driving force of the story, its heart is his developing relationship with Victor Nikiforov, the Russian figure skating legend who ends up becoming Yuuri’s coach. Rather than disrupt the flow of the sports angle, the partnership and eventual romance between the two blend seamlessly into the narrative, both aspects intermingling and playing off each other. It’s interesting to see the lives of two fundamentally different, flawed people become intertwined through their own, often clumsy, actions and desires. And yes, I am extremely glad to see a queer relationship that does not suffer from the usual pitfalls and stereotyping the yaoi genre suffers from. Victor and Yuuri aren’t defined by their sexual/romantic orientation and their burgeoning love is treated with the respect it deserves. That’s a wonderful thing to see and gives me hope. I’m not saying this is the only anime or the best one to do this; just that it’s great to see a mainstream sports anime be bold enough to go past rampant queerbaiting.

I don’t have much in the way of criticism for this show, except that the chibi sections seemed odd and out of place. I thoroughly enjoyed all 12 episodes and was caught up in Yuuri’s life from start to finish.

 

Characters:

Though Yuri on Ice has a fair number of characters, only a handful of them get any significant development. But the remarkable thing is that even the minor characters with far less lines and screen-time than the main trio all have a sense of individuality to them, particularly the skaters. We may not know their detailed backstories but we do see their ambition and drive as they skate on the ice. They’re all memorable to an extent, both the skaters and non-skaters. While some character quirks may seem over the top, such as Chris’s extreme eroticism on the ice, it still manages to make them entertaining. Most of the secondary characters are good enough to warrant more focus but thanks to the one cour runtime, we see only a fraction of their potential.

Char - Skaters

Moving on to the main characters, first we have Katsuku Yuuri, a 23-year old Japanese figure skater and the star of the show. Yuuri is an extremely sympathetic character because he is tangibly human. He battles with anxiety and depression and has a rather pathetic image of himself. While he is a decorated skater in Japan and good enough to make it to the Grand Prix, Yuuri has a tendency to focus not on his strengths but his weaknesses to the point that he drowns in his worries. At the start of the show, he’s a hot mess and even when he gets better, the issues never go away. And that’s great, not because I want Yuuri to suffer but because this kind of thing doesn’t just disappear in real life either. It persists and haunts, and we see that in Yuuri for whom each competition is a fierce battle with himself. It’s hard to see him as anything but admirable because he fights on despite everything. His growth throughout the story is excellent as well. It’s a gradual process; neither Victor nor a few successes can magically make him confident overnight, but all the same, we get to see Yuuri’s faith in himself build in slow bursts that set into something more solid by the end of the show.

Next up is Victor Nikiforov, skater extraordinaire and absolute enigma. Victor is a five-time world champion who’s practically revered in the figure skating world. As such, his sudden entry into Yuuri’s life as a coach is rather suspicious. His motivations remain a mystery for the majority of the show and even when they’re revealed, it’s done in steps, each one adding a new dimension to all of his prior actions. Victor is as fascinating a character as Yuuri. A genius athlete lauded for his accomplishments, Victor shows us that mere success is not everything in life and it is indeed lonely at the top. Neither are novel ideas but they’re portrayed with skill and taste. Rather than an impulsive, implausible act of charity, Victor’s coaching of Yuuri is eventually revealed to be the combined result of his own search for inspiration and the lingering memory of a past encounter. In terms of personality, Victor alternates between charming and foolish, ultimately painting the picture of a flighty, lonely, strong-willed man who’s terrible at connecting to others.

Char - Others

Finally, we have Yuri Plisetsky or Yurio, another Russian skater who’s notably younger than the others and is only really starting to enter the golden days of his career. Yurio is an angry, angsty teenager and he makes sure that everyone knows it. The first impression he creates is less than favorable and throughout the show, he has several moments that show him in a less than positive light. And for the most part, this negativity is deserved. Yurio does have a long way to go before becoming what can be called a decent person. His tendency to brutally last out at others with unnerving frequency combined with his deliberately hurtful comments make him hard to like. But there’s more to Yurio than the anger and there are several hints in the story that makes it clear that he’s well-meaning enough under the grouchy exterior. He’s terrible at showing it and there’s no excuse for some of his actions but on the whole, he’s a good kid with a complicated thought process. He also exhibits some tsundere characteristics but that’s neither here nor there.

 

Art and Music:

Yuri on Ice is rather inconsistent as far as animation is considered though that seems mostly deliberate. It alternates between stunning, good and average, interspersed with chibi segments. The skating routines are the true jewels and while they’re not all of the same quality, the more important ones are nothing short of brilliant. Even for the rest, you should be good so long as you don’t pause in the middle of a skate. Character designs are quite diverse.

cab

01yx

Being an anime on figure skating, good music is a necessity and Yuri on Ice delivers in that regard. The opening theme, History Maker by Dean Fujioka, is an English song that’s dynamic and memorable, particularly the chorus. The ED, You Only Live Once, has a catchy beat. The music for each of the figure skating routines stand out and fit their respective characters well. Yuri on Ice as well as the Agape and Eros routines stand out among them.

 

Verdict:

Yuri on Ice is innovative, daring and gripping from beginning to end. The highlights are the character development of the main lead and the relationship between him and his idol/coach

Rating: 9/10

 

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About D

Just another avid anime fan.
This entry was posted in Anime, Yuri on Ice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Review: Yuri!!! on Ice

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    Well, I am still late to the bandwagon, as I have still not seen this series. I know right, have I been living under a rock these past few months? Of ofcourse not, I don’t think that there has been this much focus on an animeseries as this one in quite a while. And yes I am intrigued by it, ofcourse, but I am just not that into sports. That said….After yet another prompt to start watching this now, I do think it will be the next series I am going to watch (right after finishing Kishin Corps and Moribito: Guardian of the spirit). This review gave me enough of a push to finally do it. Ofcourse as always, no big surprise there: great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      And as always, thanks a bunch 😀

      To be honest, I would have been late too had it not been for the OWLS tour. I do like sports anime – even those which feature sports that I can’t stand in real life – but you know me, I take years to get around to a show.

      That said, I’m very happy I watched this because it was quite an experience. I don’t really trust hype in this case, it didn’t let me down. I hope it’s the same for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • raistlin0903 says:

        Haha, yeah well…I don’t think you even want to know the amount of anime shows that I still have to see, it’s completely crazy 😂😂 But yeah, after reading so many positive things about this show, I have to watch this now. I’m just too curious for it lol. Will ofcourse let you know what I think of the show eventually 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. prattle says:

    “Yuri on Ice is innovative, daring and gripping from beginning to end.”

    YESSSSS

    I approve of D and all D related activities

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Karandi says:

    Really glad you enjoyed it. I fell in love with this anime last year and I still get excited every time I see a post about it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Yeah, I’ve read my fair share of YoI posts too. There were quite a few of them recently and it’s great. I’ve got another short one coming up next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Remy Fool says:

    Mmm the series was a great milestone for anime, in my opinion. Glad that you enjoyed watching it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GeekyGirlWrites says:

    Yuri on Ice is definitely one interesting anime — from the music, to the animation, to even the small dance rehearsal scenes (I was a competitive dancer 6-7 years ago, so this pleased me).
    What I did not like, though, were the out of place chibis, like you said in your review, and the way Yuri’s and VIctor’s relationship was handled throughout the whole series. Don’t get me wrong, those two are adorable together, but I felt like their moments together, especially some of the scenes in the beginning, were for fan service. I wanted to see more useful and interesting developments in their relationship.
    You have made yet another fun and awesome review! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on season two when it airs! 🙂
    If you want, you can check out my Yuri on Ice review I posted on my blog a while back.
    https://geekygirlwritesblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/yuri-on-ice-review/

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      The chibis irked me and as for fanservice, I’m pretty sure that the hot spring scenes were exactly that. But fanservice only rarely bothers me and even then, it’s only certain kinds of it. This isn’t included in that. I actually liked how their relationship developed.

      Thank you! And I’ll be sure to check it out.

      Like

  6. Brittney says:

    Hi! I enjoyed reading your review. I was a figure-skater and can’t say the idea of watching an anime about it excited me and (mention in my 2 anime posts so far) I really didn’t feel like seeing gay action or any too ‘intimate’ moments in general, but I really enjoyed it and although I felt I had no issues with gay people at all, watching this anime opened my mind to how beautiful any love is. It was satisfying to watch and I am not ashamed to admit I have watched it twice! I am fairly new to anime and blogging, but have fallen in love with both and would really appreciate it if you stopped by and left a comment! I cannot wait to read new material from you and hopefully I will one day own some YOI merch of my own hehe 🙂 (I really love Yurio especially and I kind of fan-girl about him briefly in my two anime posts so far ❤ ) hehehe Please keep posting and I will keep reading. Come by and check out my 2 anime posts so far, would really appreciate it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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