Yuri!!! on Ice is an anime series about male figure skating. The series chronicles a season for Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki, a young man who feels he’s on the way out of figure skating after a crushing loss. Returning home to relax, Yuri skates and flawlessly performs the impressive skating routine of his idol, multiple gold medal winning skater Viktor Nikiforov. His friend films the skating routine and posts it online. This event goes on to change Yuri’s life.
SPOILERS WILL BE AHEAD
After being filmed and his routine posted without his permission online, Yuri gains the attention of his idol Viktor Nikiforov who arrives in Japan offering to train and coach him. Enter Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater, and the man who would become Yuri Katsuki’s rival. The season chronicles Katsuki’s season heading to the international competition with Viktor as his coach, but it also chronicles the relationship between Viktor and Yuri, how it changes, evolves, and grows throughout the series.
Yuri and Viktor have a close, intimate relationship that is implied to be romantic. The internet has went a-twitter over their relationship deciding it was officially romantic in nature. This is aided by the series heavily implying it over and over and over and over with actions like an assumed on-screen kiss and an exchange of what look like marital rings between the two characters. For me, it felt as if the creators of the series were purposefully leaving much of their relationship up to the imagination of the viewer. All that said, I felt their relationship was incredibly romantic in nature, I can however see the argument that their relationship was platonic. But, I digress. While a lot of people watching this series did so for this particular reason, that was not my reason for watching the series. I watched it and really enjoyed it for one main reason – the beautifully animated and choreographed figure skating.
The figure skating on the screen was masterfully choreographed. Each routine appeared fresh and visually interesting as well as realistic for real figure skaters. They used actual skating terminology, they used actual scoring from figure skating competitions, and they crafted a visual competition of which I wanted to see more.
In addition to the incredibly well animated sequences, the extended cast of characters included people of various races and ethnicities, which is not always common in an anime series. The various characters each had their own internal struggle, own life, own history, and own reasons to be fighting for the gold. The international nature of the cast included Russian, Canadian, Thai, Kazakh, and Japanese characters. And their specific ethnicities were not brushed off as one-off items. They were drawn differently and the creators went out of their way to include pieces of the individual characters speaking in their native tongues, which I appreciated.
While the growth of the relationship between Viktor and Yuri was interesting to watch, for me the most interesting aspect apart from the beautifully drawn skating sequences, was the growth and maturity we see in Yuri. He is reserved, held back, and timid at the start of the series. By the end, he has grown significantly as a skater having a better understanding of self than he ever had prior to that point. Viktor helped draw that out of him, helped him to become a better version of himself. Not by forcing him to change, but by forcing him to truly embrace and release his emotions for us to see through his skating. And boy, did he show his love on the ice as he skated to the song titled after the series.
The animation was mostly fluid and realistic, but occasionally went goofy when Yuri would summarize what had been going on early in the series. This sometimes jarred the viewer, but still worked in its own quirky way. My biggest complaint, honestly, was some of the clear repetition of animation. For a 12 episode series, there were a lot of flashbacks, there was a lot of reused footage as the characters would skate a similar routine to ones they had previously completed. It was still beautifully drawn, at times some of the most detailed and interesting I had seen, but I can understand the repetitive nature of some of the animation as putting some viewers off.
All in all, I enjoyed the series. Maybe not for the same reasons as others did, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.