Yuri!!! on Ice: A Review

As the Fall 2016 season comes to an end, it felt right to write about the cherry on top: Yuri!!! on Ice.

I’ve always loved watching ice skating. My family and I would tune into the winter Olympics and even attended some ice skating events that came to the Bay Area – my grandma is a huge fan of ice skating. It’s incredible to be able to translate emotions into movement through any kind of dance; but there’s a certain kind of elegance to ice skating.  I grew up watching Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul, Brian Boitano, Ilia Kulik to name a few. I also watched Disney on Ice! every time it came to town! I even tried to take ice skating lessons at the local rink! So naturally, when a sports anime depicting Ice Skating showed up I was beyond ecstatic and was one that I was highly anticipating for leading up to the fall season. However, I didn’t know what to expect. It could’ve gone several ways; the shounen power-up type (i.e. Kuroko no Basket), or the fan-service type (i.e. Free! although, I don’t whole heartedly think it’s 100% fan service) or the well rounded brotherhood type (Haikyuu!!). But after the first couple of episodes, there was no doubt that this was unlike any other sports anime and was completely sucked into the fandom.

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First, I need to fangirl discuss my first impression of Viktor Nikiforov. The first time they showed Viktor skating “Close to me” in episode 1 I was mesmerized. The beauty and elegance that was translated in Viktor’s performance in a two-dimensional medium was mind blowingly realistic. The lines and extensions that his body language created was exceptionally beautiful and very reminiscient of a ballerina. Viktor’s character exudes this elegant gracefulness on and off the ice even in his casual everyday body language. Props to the character designers and the animators that made these painstakingly intricate details that created such a beautiful character and an impactful impression of who Viktor is.

Speaking of body language. It was the one thing I picked up the most in this series. Our protagonist and his competitors use the ice to convey stories and emotions. At first I thought that the over the top expressions they used off the ice were over bearing; but the more I thought about it the more I felt that it was actually befitting for their body language to be exaggerated off the ice as well. It helped convey their character’s personalities even more. However, I felt that the animation production was a mix of good and bad.  While they paid such careful attention to Viktor, Yuuri, Yurio, JJ, Christophe and sometimes Phichit, some of the other characters skating programs looked awkwardly skewed and wasn’t as fluid.

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As for the music production, Yuri’s free skate theme “Yuri On Ice” made me feel really emotional the first time they introduced the song. I actually felt tears well up because of the composition; it pulled on my heartstrings in a way that I can’t really begin to describe. I think the mix of piano and violin’s in general just gets to me. I felt this song really did encompass Yuri’s journey as he had intended it to, especially the part that expresses where Viktor showed up to be his coach.  The pace gets quicker and the melody shifts a little as well as a bit of crescendo to that’s leading to the peak of the song which is when he realizes something like love where it becomes more delicate. Ah, it’s just such a great piece. My favorite track of the series and my favorite performace of the series. “Close to Me”, “Agape”, “Eros”, “Serenade for Two”, and “Partizan Hope” are also a few of my favorites. Guilty pleasure song is “King JJ’s theme”. Overall I thought the music was another great component to the show.

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The story. What can I say that probably hasn’t been said already. It wasn’t a straight forward love story. Majority of the time the story was alluding to the idea of their relationship only to be somewhat confirmed around episode 10 with the ring exchange. Even the infamous “kiss” scene was an allusion to the relationship. I read some criticisms that this story wasn’t realistic enough considering that Viktor and Yuuri didn’t undergo the backlash of being a gay athlete and the type of abuse that comes a long with it. But I don’t think that was necessarily the point of this story. This story was about growth and love. The strength that love can give you to improve oneself. But what’s important to note is that the two characters come from countries where homosexuality is indeed not the norm and highly looked down upon. Also, the rings! Fun fact, in Russia, the right hand ring finger is the traditional wedding ring finger. So when Viktor said they were engaged at that one dinner with all the skaters, he probably wasn’t bluffing.

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Character development wasn’t always there for all the characters and a there seemed to be a lot of character’s introduced that I had a hard time keeping up because they only showed up for one or two episodes. I thought JJ was a really douchebag of a character, but at the end I kind of felt bad for the guy. JJ was definitely at the top of his game and was on his way to the top, but at some point everyone falls and the struggle to get back to the top is part of the journey. It seemed like he needed the reality check after he was gloating so much about being the best. Yuri  on the otherhand is the one character I related to and someone to take note of. Especially, in my case since I definitely suffer from being timid and low on the self-confidence area. His confidence grew exponentially throughout the series and was such a joy to watch his character grow from someone timid to someone brimming with confidence as he committed to the decisions he was making and setting his mind on goals.

Overall, I thought this was a breakout hit for the Fall Season, and probably one of the best of the year! I was captivated by Viktor, the music and the blossoming story of Viktor and Yuri. It was really great watching him grow over the series. I can’t wait for a second season!! (If there is one!)