Yuri on Ice! is a series I never would’ve given the time of day to if it weren’t for other surprisingly good sports anime like Haikyuu! Or Ping Pong The Animation. However, I’ve come to realize that sports anime can be some of the most relatable, since they place the viewer into a more realistic setting rather than transporting them to a mystical fantasy world where one could only dream of existing. This causes the hardships the protagonists are going through to be moreso empathized with, and their overall growth throughout the series to be better understood. The same could be said about Yuri, but the show does have some yaoi elements that could make it less relatable to the majority of anime viewers.
Produced by TV Asahi (Shinsekai Yori) and Avex Pictures (Noragami Arogoto), Yuri on Ice pretty much had a precedent set for it from the beginning. The pilot episode contains some expert levels of animation and a likable cast of characters. The humor was well timed, and the skating segments were entrancing to watch. Yuri Katsuki, a once famous Japanese figure skater, has fallen from grace and decides to retire in seclusion following an abysmal performance at the World Grand Prix event. It’s not that his love for skating died, it’s more or less what he thought he had to do after being so embarrassed at the competition. Instead of sucking it up, Yuri does what all of us would… eat pork cutlet bowls and watch the wheels fall off on his pride.
His once idol and Russian skating champion, Victor Nikiforov finds out about Yuri’s retirement after a video is posted of the him skating Victor’s winning program. Naturally he takes it upon himself to become Yuri’s coach and help him get back to form by winning the World Grand Prix the next year. Yuri on Ice is a great tale of redemption, told mostly lightheartedly, and connects the viewer to the minds of the skaters through inner monologues and flashbacks. Unlike a team sport like Haikyuu or Kuroko no Basket, this series draws heavily on the strength and focus of the individual to tell its story. Each character’s ice time can almost be seen as a vignette; a glimpse into the individual’s internal strife or what gives them the motivation to skate at all. It’s short and sweet, allowing viewers just a taste of the sport without having much time to get boring.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the anime as a whole is that it doesn’t really pander to its viewers. The fujoshi themes are there, but never really seem to go overboard. Having the peculiar relationship between Victor and Yuri can be offputting to some (including myself who dropped it at episode 4 initially), but it’s meant to be. Yuri doesn’t even realize he’s gay when he first sees Victor, causing the blossoming of their relationship to be awkward at times. Yuri as a character is obviously flawed, but through Victor he develops some “real” motivation and ends up reaping the benefits and takes risks to impress him. I can't say that I cared for the copious amounts of man service showing up in the anime. Chiseled, half naked men loafing about in hot springs are not high up on my enjoyment list.
Victor, on the other hand is a character who I didn’t necessarily enjoy. Serious and sensual one moment, while silly and flamboyant the next. He seemed to be a necessary evil for the thematic relevance of a yaoi relationship, but didn’t strike me as “relatable” on any level. He certainly didn’t emulate the impression I had of a world figure skating champion. The writers made up for it with Yuri Plisetsky, the Russian teenager who embodied every cutthroat high school jock whose parents pushed them to the limits. He was immature and often showed it externally, and was too young to realize how unimportant what he did really was in the grand scheme of things. His jealousy and envy of protagonist Yuri was humorous based on how unnecessary it was. The rest of the characters didn’t make much of an impression to me. Many had their own backstory, but existed as little other than placeholders in Yuri’s story.
PS- I’m not really sure how old those triplets were, but they sure were mature for their age… using smart phones to post videos online and explaining the rules of figure skating? Yep, seems legit.
As previously mentioned the animation is on point in this anime. My knowledge of ice-skating is solely from watching the Winter Olympics but the intricate detail involved with the skaters movements during their individual segments are breathtaking. i've also been told that it is technically correct as well, adding to the realism of the show. normally a focus as intense as this show has would detract from the animation in other normally a focus as intense as this show has would detract from the animation in other scenes, but Yuri on Ice does not falter here. The character models and emotions are emblazoned on their faces quite accurately, which is nice to see.
The sound effects in this anime are well timed and realistic for the subject matter. However, the music was very hit and miss for me. Some songs (especially the English ones) were hard on the ears, though most of the orchestrated tracks were well developed and presented. The OP, although catchy, was not a track I could get onboard with for some reason. The ending was much better in connecting with the anime in general, and showed the lighthearted flair Yuri on Ice is known for. Voice Acting was superb all around, and the various nationalities of the skaters in the show were illustrated effectively here.
Should you watch Yuri on Ice? I'd say at least give it an episode or two of a preview. The series doesn't shy away and it'll be apparent whether or not it is a series for you. I enjoyed it for what it was, and tried not to get too wrapped up in the yaoi business, as I feel like it detracted from the overall presentation through no fault of its own. It certainly wasn't a series I thought I'd even get through, so that should speak for itself. If I could break it into a sentence it would be: “A beautiful story of redemption, though not without blemishes, that takes you on a lighthearted and fun journey back to the top.” An anime best viewed with less than serious intent. I'd recommend it to any fans of the sports genre looking for something new, and who aren't put off by a little more than bromance. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other Fall ‘16 reviews!