Yuri!!! on ICE – Review
Yuri!!! on ICE was awarded as Best Anime of Fall 2016 in our Anime Awards.
Yuri!!! on ICE:
Original Air Dates: October 5th, 2016 – December 21, 2016
Synopsis: Yuri Katsuki had attained a placement within the Figure Skating Grand Prix, carrying the hopes of all of Japan on his shoulders. Unfortunately, Yuri suffered a crushing defeat in the finals that not only ruined his chances of winning, but sent him down a spiral of despair. Returning to his hometown in Kyushu, Yuri hides away in his family’s home, stuck between his desire to continue and his urge to retire. But after an accidental youtube upload of Yuri’s private performance for his childhood friend, Victor Nikiforov, five-time consecutive world champion skater, and Yuri’s personal idol, shows up to become Yuri’s personal trainer!
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Yuri on Ice is one of the few anime out there that has managed to gain popularity in the mainstream while portraying a same gender relationship, without highly fetishizing it. The relationship between our main characters grows at a natural pace. For those that might disagree and claim the characters’ intimacy/affection jumps by leaps and bounds in the span of one episode to the next, one has to only take a moment to think and realize that sometimes several months have passed between those episodes. While others may complain about how a lot of the relationship is left to be more subtle than outright, it’s noteworthy that the show treats their relationship as a mature and refined one, refusing to resort to popular yaoi tropes like the clear distinction of seme and uke characters or throwing in lots of sexual scenes. That said, there’s still plenty of scenes of that nature with characters spouting lines like “I think I’m going to come” while skating and shots of naked or stripped down male characters popping up ever so often.
Tom: It’s actually a huge highlight for the series, managing to treat a homosexual relationship naturally, with plenty of care given to make it feel real, honest and relatable. Furthermore, the series does a remarkable job of balancing the relationship between Yuri and Victor between its focus on competitive ice skating, allowing both narratives to breath. It never feels like one is more important, more of a focus than the other.
Linny: Though the show’s summary presents itself as a story of Yuri’s rediscovery of his passion and love for ice skating, there is a lot of emphasis in the actual show on his growth as a person and a skater in general. It’s not just about ice skating or solely about Yuri’s journey to a gold medal but rather Yuri being able to embrace and understand himself and others around him better thanks to his and their bonds through ice skating. Initially, I almost had issues with how suddenly and often they would use a chibi version of Yuri to do intros or interrupt sombre moments which I felt was a bit disruptive to the current mood. However, chibi Yuri interruptions become less frequent and are mostly restricted to episode recaps, making it a lot more palatable.
Tom: Yuri is a compelling lead, earning a lot of sympathy due to his failures and resulting lack of confidence. He’s an underdog, at least early on. Yuri always struggles with his confidence, passion, and motivation, but the era of him as a failure rising back to glory is basically over by the midpoint. Instead the series refocuses on Yuri’s struggle to keep going, to want to continue on with ice skating rather than simply end his carrier as a one hit wonder.
Linny: Yuri’s bouts of self doubt and nerves are interesting to watch as they can get extremely intense and he is shown to have some really severe bouts with his own insecurities and nerves. He is someone who experiences ups and downs regularly and intensely and that makes him feel real. Seeing him having to calm himself down at competitions or watch him and other skaters break down into tears after a disappointing or intense performance really helps establish the intense emotions the show is trying to portray.
Tom: Victor is another big focus for the show, although much of his screen time is more in service of Yuri’s arc than his own. But it’s there, as Victor gradually struggles with the idea of continuing his career or remaining Yuri’s coach. The show also frequently dabbles in smaller arcs for its wealth of additional cast members. This is anything from simply an exploration of the character or offering up a small catharsis before they disappear from the series almost entirely. If you’re looking for deeper characterization Yuri On Ice doesn’t offer much outside of its leads, but it does manage to treat Yuri’s opponents as real people with goals, dreams and desires rather than mere obstacles in his path to the Gold.
Linny: Compared to Yuri, Victor almost feels unreal in some ways due to his extremely exaggerated expressions and personality. But overall, it makes him feel like a very lovable larger than life presence who livens up every scene. We also have Yurio or Yuri Plisetsky who featured heavily in the early episodes but then feels neglected as the show starts to juggle not just Yuri and Victor but also all the other skaters participating in the competitions. Yurio manages to still be one of the stars of the show but viewers who really gravitated to him early on may be disappointed by his reduced screen time.
Tom: One potentially confusing element is one Linny touched on earlier: Yuri’s passage of time. The series skips weeks, if not months between its episodes, as much of its narrative relies on skating competitions, events that don’t just happen back to back. Since we’re covering an entire years worth of competitive events that means much of the time in between those competitions goes largely unanimated. Thankfully this element is handled quite well, allowing audiences to rarely notice the huge amounts of time skipped, and keeping things simple enough you don’t feel like you’re entirely out of the loop. There’s a few minor issues, such as relationships seeming to move a little fast, but the series finds enough of a balance only more attentive viewers will noticing anything.
Linny: The struggle to feature and flesh out all its skaters is a real issue. Yuri on Ice clearly wants every skater to be more than just a random face but given the sheer number of them and the 12 episode run, it might have been better to stick to a handful. That said, the show does try to give audiences enough to at least connect with or pick a favourite from all of the skaters featured.
Tom: Yuri on Ice!!! unfortunately isn’t quite as visually astounding as it first appears to be. Animating ice skating is a challenge no doubt, one the first handful of episodes easily rise to. But the show can’t keep up that quality and it quickly dips away from its impressive visuals and never recovers. The skating is decent for what it is, but leaves a lot to be desired, with images warping, characters going off model not just in face but in body type as well. It’s perhaps not as horrendous as I’ve described, but it becomes far and away a detriment to the show’s otherwise wonderful visuals. Outside of the ice skating, the rest of the animation works wonders and makes few mistakes worth criticizing.
Linny: Like Tom says, there were several episodes in the middle, especially episode 3 onwards, when the skating animation was often subpar with clear signs of budget and time constraints. The skaters would be reduced to twig like figures, only returning to their usual body size in non skating scenes. This might bother you if you’re very particular about your animation quality even if the reason for the dip is understandable and goes back up towards the final episode.
Tom: Yuri on Ice!!! isn’t perfect. Animation during the ice skating leaves much to be desired as the series progresses, and many will struggle to become attached to the plethora of minor characters. But it’s a show that does what it sets out to do quite well, offering up the powerful story of Yuri’s struggle for motivation and his gradual, blossoming romance with Victor. Despite its flaws Yuri on Ice!!! still has so much to love, making it, in my opinion, a strong contender for anime of the season.
Linny: I truly enjoyed Yuri on Ice for bringing a homosexual relationship into the spotlight, showing us a relationship that may have not been very showy but had all the passion, respect and tenderness that a sweet love story should. It also gave fans a plethora of characters to root and cheer for, and while it wasn’t able to pull that off flawlessly, it succeeds in making a lot of its cast likeable. And despite some subpar animation ever so often, when the show goes all out, it is a sight to behold. Overall, there’s no denying that this show has taken the anime fandom by storm and my only caveat against it is that it does have a fair amount of sudden naked dude shots so you might not want to watch this out in public.