Once upon a time, there was a young man with a big dream. He idolized a famous Russian skater named “Victor Nikiforov” and hopes to skate on the very same ice as him. Initially, that dream sunk until Yuri was able to impress Victor by imitating his routine at perfection. You can guess what happens next. Victor is so impressed that he decides to be Yuri’s coach at the upcoming Grand Prix Finals.
As an original TV anime, Yuri on Ice doesn’t suffer from adaptation issues. It’s also directed by Sayo Yamamoto, known for her work Michiko to Hatchin, Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and Space Dandy. Expectations are considered high with her talent. In fact, this was one of my most hyped show of the season. We don’t get a show about ice skating often so it’s also a breath of fresh air. The fact is, Yuri on Ice initially had a deceptive title for the Western audience. Don’t let that fool you though because Yuri on Ice is a show that goes beyond expectations on the ice rink.
Starting off, the first few episodes introduces our main protagonists. Yuri Katsuki is the 23-year old main male protagonist who has been skating at a young age. Although not hailed as a prodigy, Yuri’s determination and personality earn him praise and friends. His weakness lies with pressure as he is known to mess up at crucial moments. Early on, we can see this easily as Yuri even has self-doubt about his own body. In essence, Yuri is a good natured guy that most of us can relate to and has a lot of potential that is just waiting to be unlocked. That brings in Victor, the key to making Yuri into the next big thing. The 27-year old figure skater has gained international recognition for his talent and won numerous championships. (In fact, 5 consecutive Grand Prix Finals!) As such, you can expect that Victor has countless fans around the world. He’s also Yuri’s idol and him becoming his coach is a dream come true. Victor’s philosophy and key to success is to surprise the audience and the skaters themselves. As he puts it, “Do the opposite of what people expect, that is the only way you will surpass them!” Indeed, Victor can seem like a tough coach but genuinely hopes Yuri will be a success. The duo has some of the best chemistry in the entire series that begins as a professional relationship, to friends, and to even intimacy.
In the world of figure skating, you can expect a lot of competition. It’s not just from Japan or Russia but also countries from all over the world. The most prominent rival that Yuri faces is a young man from Russia named Yuri Plisetsky (known more as Yurio when he’s in Japan). Unlike Yuri, Yurio is already a hailed as a prodigy with his achievements such as three consecutive wins at the Junior World Championships. His personality is also more of an antithesis compared to Yuri as he is more arrogant and takes pride in his abilities. During his time in the show, we can also draw a parallel similarity between him and Yuri. Both seeks to make big names of themselves in the figure skating world. Both hopes to surpass their own limits and crafting their skating style to perfection. However, what really separates them both is how they seeks to accomplish this. The show chronicles both of their roles as rivals although there are also times when they act more as casual friends. In the meantime, Victor is portrayed as a playboy coach. The way he trains Yuri expresses passion. In fact, Yuri’s skating style and theme revolves around love (or dubbed more as “ero”) There’s obvious sexual chemistry between the two that can be interpreted beyond a professional relationship. Anyone can interpret it differently but it’s undeniable that there’s more than them just being student and teacher. As the story unfolds, we can see how their relationship progress both in and out of the ice rink. There’s even physical examples that shows how close they really become later in the story.
While the show highlights Yuri, Yurio, and Victor and the main characters, others in the show also should deserve some recognition. Most easily recognized are characters such as Otabek Altin, China famed skater Guang-Hong Ji, Switzerland’s Christopher Giacometti, Canada’s Jean-Jacques Leroy (“JJ”), Thailand’s Phichit Chulanot, Korea’s Seung Gil Lee, United States’ Leo de la Igelsia, among others. Each of these competitors has their own unique talent, skating style, and personality that really brings the show larger than life. I also have to emphasize on some of the unique background storytelling about them in particular with Christopher. JJ’s narcissism is also hard to ignore both in and out of the skating rink. What’s most impressive about these characters is how each of them tries their best to impress the audience and viewers. They all have reasons to win and be the best that they can be.
So why should you really watch Yuri on Ice? The show has the sports competitive atmosphere but every now and then, the audience will definitely notice the character relationships. It’s very human and can be fierce at times. At its core, Yuri and Victor will draw the most attention. Even at times, the show pushes the BL tones to overdrive. However, that really shouldn’t hold anyone back from watching the show because Yuri on Ice is so much more than about male butts and fan service. As a straight male, I had no problem enjoying this show for what it has to offer. The way it capitalizes on the competition, characters, visual dynamics, themes, and directing is worth every minute. Even the pacing works out quite well as it doesn’t waste much time getting to the point. Comedy is also straightforward and although can get rather awkward at times, it still effectively delivers with character chemistry and reaction faces. (how can anyone not laugh at Yurio’s priceless expressions?!) In retrospect, it’s a show that is here to entertain.
Adapted by studio MAPPA, Yuri on Ice is built on creativity and realism. There’s many sides you can see this but the most prominent elements that makes this show visually stunning is the directing. If you look closely at the show, the human body movements is directed at a very intense level. Every time a skater enters the rink and performs, we can see how the camera angles capture their every movement. Each skater has their own unique style as well and it also spells out their personality with their performances. Quality wise, the show also has strong production from the setting, character designs, to the choreography. Of course, Yuri on Ice isn’t without fan service. Most of it is expressed by playboy coach Victor and the bath scenes. But like I said before, this really shouldn’t hold you back from giving the show a chance.
If this show wasn’t impressive enough, Yuri on Ice also excels with its soundtrack. The OP song “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka is creatively directed with a catchy male tone. In addition, the theme song captures another theme of the show about making memories on the skating rink. The soundtrack and OST during each performance also knows how to impress the audience with by the character movements that supplements with their style. Character voice mannerisms throughout the show is also memorable. Who can forget about Victor’s seductive voice or Yurio’s silly arguments with his Yuri? However, what’s most important is that the soundtrack, voice, and theme songs brings out the best of this show to a realistic level. Even though they are professional skaters, we can see how human they are like any ordinary person as well.
Ah Yuri on Ice, a title that isn’t what it seems. The promotional poster is what it is and what you’ll expect. Coming into this show, I had high expectations with the talented staff involved and didn’t have an ounce of disappointment. Perhaps the show isn’t suitable for everyone’s tastes or style but I would recommend it to anyone. I’m not an expert on ice skating myself but watching this show got me genuinely interested in learning more about the sport. This TV anime takes ice skating and character relationships to a new level that is phenomenal. With a hint of “see you next level” for second season, I just hope it gets a continuation to make more history.