The first time I laid my eyes on the trailer, Yuri!!! on Ice blew me away. At long last, we now have an anime about ice skating!
To be honest it did not occur to me that an ice skating anime will be aired in my lifetime, or more importantly, that I need an ice skating anime in my life (lol). But then again, anime has been churning out its share of weird and quirky shows based on some sport: Air Gear (some sort of roller blades), Let’s Go (about RC toy cars), Yu-Gi-Oh! and Chihayafuru (card games), among others. So why not ice skating?
One of the nicest things when this show was announced is that this is about male skaters. Oh yesss. I’m a woman, and to be honest, I want more shows aimed towards women (and girls). It’s about time that studios churn out more stuff other than sappy shoujo and josei anime (read: more shounen-ai and yaoi!!!)
But I’m straying from the topic. I thought, one of the possible challenges in making an ice skating anime is the time, effort and expense that must be done. Animating such detailed and flowy moves can be quite tricky and time consuming on the part of the animators, and expensive on the part of the producers. Upon writing this review there had been four episodes already (and the fifth one is probably aired already), and yet you can clearly see the slow decline of the animation quality. I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start from the beginning.
By this time we all know the story already: Katsuki Yuuri (yes, there are two “u”), has spent five years in Detroit to train as one of Japan’s top ice skaters. But this year he was unlucky. He suffered several defeats and eventually landed on the sixth place in the Grand Prix Finals, and failing a couple more competitions after that. Moreover, his beloved dog died, and because of that, he had been binge-eating. All the cards were stacked against him, and he was understandably depressed.
After severing his ties to his coach, Celestino Cialdi, he went back to his hometown to think things over and decide on the next best course of action. Everyone was excited to see him back, but he was not so thrilled. He felt he had let everyone down. He seemed lost.
But being the disciplined athlete that he is, he never neglected his practice, even while he’s still in Detroit. But now that he’s back in Hasetsu, he runs to one of his hiding places, the Ice Castle Hasetsu. This place has been his refuge, and this place was where he first fell in love with ice skating. There, his childhood friend (and secret crush) Yuko, is currently working. She was the one who inspired him to skate when he was young; they practiced almost everyday and shared news about skating. More importantly, she was the one who introduced him to Victor Nikiforov—a 27 year old Russian professional skater—the current superstar of the skating world.
When he saw him glide through the ice for the very first time—Victor’s hair was still long then—he was instantly captivated.
He and Yuko-chan would practice Victor’s moves together, watch his performances on TV and keep tabs on what’s happening in Victor’s life. He idolized Victor so much that he filled his room with posters of Victor, and even brought a poodle (Victor has one), and named it after him.
Getting tired of being depressed, he decided to show Yuko what he practiced: one of Victor’s more difficult routines. He doesn’t want to stop skating and let his career end up just like that.
Pouring out his heart and soul during his performance, he manages to finish the entire routine flawlessly, and Yuko was amazed. Little did he know that Yuko’s triplet daughters—who were fans of Yuuri–managed to secretly film a video and upload it to Youtube, which of course went viral.
One day while doing errands at their family inn, he was welcomed by a dog that eerily looked similar to his beloved Vicchan.
When his father mentioned that the dog arrived along with a “really good-looking foreign guest” earlier that day, he stormed off to the baths to confirm his suspicions. And when he opened the door, there he was: Victor Nikiforov himself, in his fully naked glory, declaring that he will be Yuuri’s coach from now on.
Animation – flawless
The animation was excellent. Amazing, even. Though it was a little rough on some tiny littleeee parts, you can see the love and hard work poured during Victor and Yuuri’s routines. I love the way they showed the routines alternately, leaving a huge impact on the viewers on how Yuuri was able to flawlessly copy Victor’s routine (despite his poor shape that time), but also how Victor was such a huge driving force in Yuuri’s life as a skater.
The music (an aria entiitled “Stay Close to Me”) was very much appropriate for Yuuri, as he thinks of Victor as his guide towards regaining his love towards the sport. More than anything else, he wanted to stand on the same ground with Victor. He doesn’t want to be just a fan anymore.
Skating is a type of sport that you cannot portray in an anime form in a way like shounen or seinen anime is depicted—with use of lots of speed lines to indicate quick movements-—when actually the characters are just stationary. Skating requires continuous animation, with the rest or breaks provided only when the camera is pointed in any other direction—such as a close-up shot of the skater’s face, or the reactions of the audience, or an aerial shot of the whole rink, or something like that. If you are going to show the entire body of the skater as he glides along the ice, you’ll need to animate the entire movement, from head to foot, along with the jumps and spins.
My poor ovaries
There’s only one thing that I can say: episode 1 was a blast! I was screaming and fangirling all throughout the show that my mother thinks I’m getting crazy already.
If you compare the trailer to episode 1, you’ll notice that the trailer is more somber, looks more serious and dramatic. But episode 1 seems to divert from all this seriousness with cute, chibi images of Yuuri explaining the skating bits of the show. There’s a little drama, but when I first saw the trailer all I thought is that I’ll be seeing ice skaters as solitary, lonely beings who practices day and night, gliding along the ice somberly, aiming for the gold. And there will be so much drama, sweat and tears of pain and suffering when defeated, just like any other sports anime out there. But I was wrong (the anime is still ongoing, so maybe I could still be wrong in the end).
And of course, as early as episode 1, we are graced with the marvelous presence of Victor’s delicious buns. Who would’ve refused that?! Definitely not me.
The show holds a lot of promise, I can confidently say that based on episode 1 alone. To be honest I rarely watch anime while it ‘s still airing. I can count on the fingers of my two hands the number of anime I closely followed these past few years, and Free!!! is not even included in the list (yeah, I was wondering about that too). This show had cast a spell on me and now my life is totally ruined. Well, I’m not alone.
The show never fucks around. Here we have a handsome Russian skating superstar that bewitched both men and women around him. He’s suave, elegant and captivating.
It’s super obvious that Yuuri also has a sort of crush on him too (or maybe fanboy-ism of the highest level?) So no wonder this show had been successful in tickling the fantasies of fujoshis and fudanshis alike, even before the show was actually aired.
And now as early as episode 1 we’re seeing butts and handsome men, the fandom is totally hyped on the possible hints of gayness and shipping possibilities on the next episodes. Talks became more intense as Junichi Suwabe (Victor Nikiforov’s seiyuu) was reported as saying that they had a hard time making episode 1 escape unscathed from the watchful eyes of the Japanese censors.
Yuuri—the biggest surprise
One more reason why I liked the show right away is because of Katsuki Yuuri himself.
His outlook in life is a rarity in the anime and manga medium. Almost 99.9% of the time, you’ll never find a main character that motivates himself in this manner: no external motivations from family, friends, lover, or even the motherfucking planet. Yuuri was the odd man out: he manages to motivate himself due to sheer strength of will alone. He got tired of being depressed, and he actually did something about it on his own. That explains a lot of his personality. He may be timid and jumpy at times, but he can do great things if he wanted to.
It’s clear that he is not a prodigy unlike Yuri Plisetsky—the 15-year old Russian skater who’s currently making waves with his amazing jumps. But he’s disciplined when it comes to practice, he works hard, and has a somewhat positive outlook in life. I also love it that he’s 23 years old. To be honest, it gets tiring to watch protagonists that are high schoolers. Maybe because I’m getting older, but seriously, we need more representation of older, mature, and tax-paying (lol) people as main characters in manga and anime. We’re not high-schoolers forever, you know? Otakus grow old too.
So, there you go. I’m so stoked for the next episode I had to watch episode 1 several times (and fangirled several times more). This had never happened to me before. I never watch an episode several times a day. Never. But since this review is a (super) delayed summary+review, I’ll be working overtime to finish the reviews for the rest of the episodes that were already aired! (Well to be honest, I just need an excuse to watch the episodes again…) :p