UK Release Date: 8th October 2018
Runtime: 12 x 25 minutes (approx)
Director: Sayo Yamomoto
Writer: Mitsurō Kubo
Starring: Josh Grelle, Jerry Jewell, Micah Solusod
Synopsis: A young figure skater finds new athletic inspiration, and potential romance, in the shape of a veteran skater who takes him under his wing.
I’ll preface this by saying that I knew next to nothing about figure skating going into Yuri!!! on Ice, other than catching Blades of Glory everytime it re-emerges on ITV2. However, I almost feel this was to my benefit. Yuri!!! on Ice‘s greatest strength is demonstrating the beauty and artistry of figure skating through emotionality and animation, over heavy technical description.
The show follows the journey of Yuri Katsuki – a struggling figure skater who is ready to retire into obscurity after a disastrous performance at the Figure Skating Grand Prix. Yuri’s plans are changed, however, after a video of him performing a routine originated by his figure skating idol, Victor Nikiforov, goes viral. Victor decides to coach him in the hope of achieving a gold medal at the next Grand Prix. In his way are a variety of skaters from around the world, including one of Victor’s other protégés Yuri Plisetsky – a young Russian skater and the protagonist’s constant rival.
The relationship between Yuri K and Victor is the emotional core of the series and is refreshingly nonchalant about the whole thing. You usually find ‘Yaoi’ in anime is treated with the same level of sensitivity as a bad porn film, or is awkwardly skirted around without much commitment. Yuri!!! on Ice feels totally comfortable with its central male-male relationship and approaches it with humour and sincerity. Yuri both looks up to and truly loves Victor and there’s a constant swing in their relationship between the tenderness of a lover and the complexity of their relationship as teacher and student. The result draws you into their will-they-won’t-they? dynamic that’s equal parts funny and heart-warming.
The supporting cast are often fun as well, featuring ice dancers from nearly every nation in the world as well as trainers and Yuri K’s friends and family. While the supporting players are fun, the abundance of competitors does hurt the overall narrative. Rather than focusing on a few key rivals, Yuri!!! on Ice tries to give a detailed motivation and history to every single skater who is featured. This serves to dilute some of the key aspects of the story and hampers the pacing around the midpoint of the season because there just isn’t enough time.
The rivalry between the two Yuris and their relationship with Victor is the real meat here, but Yuri P gets under-served by the decision to focus on the umpteen other skaters and their detailed histories. The result takes away from both the ending and the overall purpose of the rivalry sub-plot, but this is something that will hopefully be fixed in future seasons.
The distracting focus on the huge roster of skaters also means there are too many routines to animate, which means there are some dips in the visual quality halfway through the season. There’s a clear distinction in quality between the performances of the main cast, which are beautiful to look at and capture the elegance of the sport wonderfully, and the others. The miscellaneous skaters do have some good performances, but they can suffer some noticeable quality dips, which I can only assume was due to the sheer amount of workload. A greater focus should have been dedicated to the core dynamic between the two Yuris and Victor.
Despite these criticisms, Yuri!!! on Ice is a beautiful anime and excels when it’s demonstrating the beauty of figure skating. Yuri P’s connection to Victor is the core of his passion for dance and adds a powerful emotionality to the performances, married with beautiful animation. It made me consider and appreciate the artistry involved and I looked at the sport in a new light. That’s the greatest strength of Yuri!!! on Ice. It’s hard to absorb an audience into not only the intricacies of a slightly obscure sport, but also that of a non-heteronormative relationship, but Yuri!!! on Ice nails both.
Pop or Poop?
Yuri!!! on Ice is incredibly absorbing, visually stunning and remarkably confident. I never thought I’d be so invested in a romantic ice skating anime, but this has won me over and I can’t wait to see more of these characters in future seasons.
It also has an absolute banger of a theme song. You can thank me for that tip later.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Yuri!!! On Ice is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.