Anime Series: Yuri!!! On Ice
My rating: 6 out of 5 stars.
Yuri!!! On Ice is a figure skating sports anime that took the world by storm this 2016 winter season. As a fellow viewer, I was interested in the concept almost immediately. As a child I had often watched figure skating with my mom, nearly every weekend of the skating season. So naturally when I saw the trailer for this show, I was hooked.
When the season finally aired, we find that the story surrounds Yuri Katsuki, A 23 year-old Japanese skater who falls short of his program and doesn’t make the cut to medal. He’s first seen crying in the bathroom when a fellow competitor, a Russian skater who goes by Yuri (Yurio) Plisetsky, finds him and tells him to retire. After this incident, we see Yuri leave and it is undetermined whether he will leave the skating world or not. We then flash forward to a year later, we see that Yuri returns home to his family and that he has also split ties with his coach, his future is full of uncertainty at this point. It is when he goes to a local ice rink that we see a little bit more into Yuri’s world and where he’s coming from.
This is when we are also introduced to another Russian skater, Victor Nikiforov. We see him at the beginning of the episode as well as being a fellow competitor of Yuri’s, however during this scene we see that Victor isn’t just another competitor but that he’s Yuri’s idol. He’s a skater who has one various competitions and is a favorite to medal and nearly every single one of them. He is portrayed as the epitome of the perfect skater, a vast difference from our struggling Yuri.
Yuri at this point starts to skate on the ice, performing Victor’s program for a childhood friend. He does so exceptionally well and he explains that he’s been trying to reignite the love he had for the ice in this manner. To remember how much he enjoyed skating. It is when a random upload of this performance goes viral, that a certain Russian Skater sees and pays Yuri a visit. Victor Nikiforov announces to Yuri that he will be his coach for this upcoming season and thus sets the tone for a really good coming of age-esque story.
It is however when we go deeper into the show that really makes things interesting. This show for the most part focuses on Yuri, how he struggles with anxiety and self-doubt and how he has to overcome many obstacles on and off the ice. He’s also having to get used to the fact that his idol is now his ice skating coach. Not only does he look bad if he fails but he even becomes hyper aware that what he does now reflects on not only himself but upon Victor as well…which often leads to having more anxiety. Which Victor attempts to help snap him out of it when need be.
Of course despite this show being a sports anime, it is heavily threaded with this relationship between Victor and Yuri. This relationship blossoms throughout the series, and it develops with each and every episode. The fact that this ship isn’t just fanon but that it is actually a canon romantic relationship is amazing in so many aspects. The moments these characters share aren’t always sunshine and rainbows…the relationship and the development of it…is so real and raw at it’s very core. It’s not just a tease that occurs in so many of the shows in this particular genre. Yuri!!! On Ice knows it’s audience and it delivers….Something that no other sports anime has ever accomplished.
This show even breaks it’s own status quo in which one of the episodes (Episode 10), Victor is the one narrating the episode instead of Yuri. This unique twist adds to our understanding of Victor as a character and really opens him up. Not to mention this episode adds a surprise twist at the ending which goes full circle to how this whole show began and that the motivations behind Victor’s actions wasn’t something that started just at episode 1. Of course I don’t want to go into too much detail in case those reading haven’t yet watched it.
Throughout the series we are also exposed to the different competitive skaters and we learn about them primarily through their programs, we learn their motivations, what they wish to accomplish and so on. The supporting cast plays a role in the shows success just as much as the main characters do. I found myself never becoming bored watching each performance and I enjoyed most characters. I even got so far as for rooting for the entire cast at some point.
Be warned…This show will make you absolutely emotionally involved one way or another.
Now to explain my rating of 6 out of 5 stars. Yes, I broke my own rating system…but I did so simply because Yuri!!! On Ice totally blew my expectations out of the water. Every episode, they nailed it…each and every time. When I wanted something from this show…they delivered time and again. They took what I expected and was like…we know..we got you covered, here you are, with interest mind you.
I expected a coming of age type deal, where Yuri skates and wins every time. Where there may be hints at a relationship between skaters and that nothing will ever happen between them. I expected a rehash of Free! but with figure skaters. These expectations were completely obliterated within the first few episodes. We got a skater who is real and doesn’t just triumph but he fails at times as well. He grows as a skater but as a person as well. We got a canon relationship between two male skaters and it wasn’t just to get the views…it was an organic, living, breathing, developing relationship. So this show did exactly as it set out to do with it’s opening “History-Maker”. This show made history not just in the fandom but in the genre itself.
So if you think you’d like a figure skating series with shonen-ai (Boy’s Love) Elements, a show with absolute shipping game and just an all around fun ride. Then this show is definitely for you.