While watching Yuri On Ice, I was consistently struck by how beautiful each scene on the ice was. Yuri On Ice touches on many different themes, and emotions, but when I remember the show down the line, I’ll probably remember just how pretty this show could be more than anything else. Each skater skates differently, and brings about their own personality through their performance, and no matter what, it was always beautiful… Well, unless they messed up a lot. Though, thinking on it now, I suppose that is to be expected from a good ice skating show, since I’m not sure it could be done well if it wasn’t beautiful, since I’m sure that’s a large part of what makes ice skating so popular, but still, Yuri on Ice is more than just a set of pretty performances, and while it fell flat in some areas for me personally, there was still a lot to enjoy about it.
Yuri On Ice stars Yuri Katsuki, a star figure skater, who’s made it to the Grand Prix Figure Skating Finale. However, at the very end he chokes, and loses miserably. Defeated, he returns home with intentions to quit figure skating. After some time though, he can’t help but return to his local rink, and when a video of him ice skating there reaches famous Russian figure skater, Victor Nikiforov, whom Yuri has idolized since the start of his career, Victor tracks Yuri down with an intention to bring him back to ice skating, and become his coach, and with little convincing necessary, Yuri accepts, and the two begin their trek to reach the finale once more.
One thing I appreciated about Yuri on Ice is how fast it moves. For the most part, the show spends two episodes per competition, and little time is spent in between. In these, we’re introduced to figure skaters from around the world. During their performances, we would often hear their inner monologue. Some would be thinking of winning, or their next step, while some would be telling stories through their skating, whether it be personal stories they’re trying to tell, or the actual story behind the performance and the song that accompanies it. However, while this was always fun to watch, for the most part, I still never cared about many of the side characters to much of a degree. I didn’t dislike any of them much either, but sometimes I wished the show wouldn’t show some of their performances to focus more on the characters, or character relationships I’m more interested in.
Really, the most interesting relationships in Yuri On Ice are the ones Yuri has with Yurio, and with Victor. Yurio is Yuri’s biggest rival, though, one of them may feel that way more than the other. Like in most shows of this genre, they both push each other, and become better performers due to their rivalry. The relationship Yuri shares with Victor is most important of all however, not only for the show, but perhaps even to anime, and even Japan as a whole. When Victor becomes Yuri’s coach, Victor is constantly impressed by Yuri’s skill, and growth, and he’s always helping Yuri find the confidence he lacks. While it is never deliberately admitted, or shown, they undoubtably form a homosexual relationship with each other. It is a shame that the show never actually clearly admits to it, but they go further than any anime I’ve seen has ever gone with a same sex relationship. In anime, homosexuality is often the butt of a joke, or is seen as “just a phase” so it’s fantastic to see progress being made in this realm. Hopefully Yuri on Ice can set a path for change for the future of anime.
As mentioned before, Yuri on Ice is a marvel to watch. Each flip, and jump, and flourish of the skater’s hands and feet are animated wonderfully, and the sparkle that occurs when the skates hit the ice adds an extra layer of beauty. I was often able to tell when a skater was skating better or worse than they have been while doing the same performance, only based on the subtle nuances of the way they move their body. The music of the performances also fit each performance well, and properly set the tone for each one.
However, as beautiful as Yuri on Ice is, Yuri on Ice is still a sports anime, and while the ice skating is almost always a joy to watch, this is also where it falls a bit. The sport, and the scoring system are never really explained very well. I never understood the difference between a triple lutz, and a triple salchow, or a double flip, and a double loop, among other types of jumps. While the scoring system is briefly explained, I never completely understood it, and often times would be confused as to why one skater would score higher than another. There were times when I would think a skater did better than another, only for them to get a lower score, or times when I’d think two skaters did very well, yet their scores were vastly different. While I still got excited when a skater nailed a difficult jump, and everyone would cheer, and I still gritted my teeth when someone I cared about fell, or fumbled, I was never able to be as completely invested as I have been with other sports anime. I can’t discount the thought however, that this is less a fault of the anime, and more likely the fault of it being difficult to explain through the medium of anime. I imagine it’s a complex thing that only huge ice skating fans, or ice skaters themselves, can truly wrap their heads around. That said, that doesn’t change the fact that my lack of understanding kept me from enjoying the sport itself to the degree that I would have hoped for.
The ending is where I felt this way the strongest. Not only is there a plot development at the end that only feels like it’s there to have some drama happen at the end, that is quickly resolved, but the end result of the final competition happens very quickly, and I couldn’t wrap my head around how it went the way it did, again, due to not truly understanding the sport. It was here where I began to feel like maybe the scores were less a reflection on the actual performances, and were instead used more as a means to advance the story. I could definitely be wrong about that, but it is a worrying thought all the same.
In the end, Yuri on Ice was a great watch. The ice skating was gorgeous, and entertaining, but my lack of understanding of the sport kept me from being truly invested. Yuri’s relationship with Victor and Yurio also kept me entertained outside the rink, and while the side characters weren’t the best thing about the show, they still could keep me laughing or cheering with their bright personalities, and their inclusion make for a vibrant cast. I think that if you come into Yuri On Ice expecting a fantastic sports anime to really get you into ice skating, as other sports anime tend to do, you may be slightly disappointed, but if you can get into the relationships and characters that Yuri On Ice brings, or even just the pleasant view of a skater on ice, I think there are still a lot of great reasons to watch this show, and I definitely recommend it!