Yes, it’s another Yuri on Ice post. The blogosphere has been flooded with those these past few months but all the same, I have my own piece to say.
As my recent review made clear, I love Yuri on Ice. There are a great many reasons for this and I can talk about any of them at length but for this post, I chose to focus on what, or rather who, made me so invested in this anime.
Yuuri Katsuki has earned a place as one of my all time favorite characters for the simple reason that he is immensely inspiring. He’s a figure-skater who’s shown to struggle with debilitating anxiety and also depression. He has zero faith in himself and as a result, tends to see his achievements as far less than what they are. Come on, he’s Japan’s top skater but calls himself ‘dime-a-dozen’. Does that sound like the words of someone with healthy self-esteem?
In the first episode of the anime, we get to see Yuuri spectacularly self-destruct from a combination of factors and almost give up on his dreams. Almost because even before Victor shows up, it’s clear that Yuuri is hesitant to quit skating. In spite of a series of disastrous events that may just end his career – events which Yuuri himself sees in a far worse light than others would because that’s the kind of guy he is – he doesn’t just up and quit. Instead he tries to regain his love of the ice.
This alone is enough to make me love this guy. I mean, I’m someone who can hide their stage fright well enough but still slinks away from the spotlight instead of harnessing their potential. Of course I’d be awed of someone – even if that someone is a fictional character because when has that stopped any of us – who defies their very nature to try and make it big in competitive figure skating.
He’s successful at it too. While Yuuri’s thoughts about himself and his career paint a less-than-pretty picture, we can see from the reactions of others and the narrative that he’s actually pretty good. He did make it to the Sochi Grand Prix Final as one of the top six skaters in the world. That’s nothing to scoff at. So yeah, Yuuri’s talented and a hard-worker. But that’s not enough, not when he sees himself as far less than he is. Our image of ourself is an extremely important part of life and I don’t imagine that a professional athlete who thinks so little of himself can have a smooth career. Like I said in my review, Yuuri’s greatest enemy is himself. Thus throughout Yuri on Ice, we see both Yuuri’s anxiety and insecurity, and we also see him battling both.
It’s not just Yuuri’s career that suffers from his problems. His personal life also takes a hit since he comes across as cold-hearted and self-centered. There are elements of that in his personality but they also seem heightened by his tendency to close himself off from others, even those who love and support him. So when Yuuri slowly, steadily discovers his potential, it’s not only his professional career that benefits but also his relationships with others. Just as he learns not to let his lack of confidence completely ruin his performance, he learns to appreciate the people in his life. That’s the kind of character growth that is truly rewarding to see.
Of course, he doesn’t completely vanquish his demons. It’s not that easy and we all know life doesn’t work that way. But he does struggle valiantly and gets the results for it. The parts where Yuuri bares his heart on the ice, the good and the ugly, and gets as close to self-acceptance as possible, are my favorite parts of Yuri on Ice.