Series Review – Yuri on Ice

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Studio Mappa

If you told me at the beginning of the year, that I would be watching an anime about figure skating, I would not believe you.  My biggest regret of the year was not checking this show out until it finished airing.  Despite all the shows I was watching during the fall season, I somehow missed this masterpiece.  Of course, I am talking about Yuri on Ice.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The story focuses on a figure skater named Yuri who begins to question his professional skating ability.  In the last year, Yuri put on a terrible performance in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating and a variety of other local competitions.  Yuri returns to his hometown to rest and he decides to visit his childhood friend.  He perfectly mimics a routine performed by the famous Russian figure skater named Victor Nikiforov, who is Yuri’s idol.  This performance is secretly recorded and uploaded to the internet which attracts Victor’s attention.  Victor then travels to Japan and offers to coach Yuri, with the aim of helping Yuri win the next Grand Prix.

First and foremost, this is a sports anime, which brings some typical plot elements.  However, the story excels with its focus on the Japanese Yuri and Victor.  Both of these characters are the main focus of the series, and they are developed perfectly.  Yuri is rather tepid and a nervous wreck.  Despite being great at figure skating, he often collapses when the pressure gets to him.  He’s always questioning his ability despite everyone being extremely supportive of him.  His character arc of the series involves him overcoming his anxiety and this is a thrilling plot point.  The audience is rooting for Yuri every step of the way.  As for Victor, his story arc develops quite differently.  As the number one skater for years, Victor actually began to lose his passion for ice skating.  When he saw Yuri’s mimicked routine, this brought back the passion so much that he gave up competing for a year to be a coach and to help Yuri improve himself.

This of course leads to one of the most naturally developing relationships in anime.  Yuri and Victor’s relationship comes across as genuine.  It can be easy to solely focus on how it’s a depiction of a same-sex relationship, which is rare for the anime medium.  However, it does not fall into the same traps as other anime would employ.  The relationship is real and not just physical.  Yuri and Victor complement each other well and each of them grows as a result of the relationship with each other.  It’s actually really endearing.  Ice skating is just a means by which the characters express emotion and it’s a back drop for studying Yuri and Victor’s character.  This relationship drives this show.  It’s not the main focus, but it’s perfectly mixed with the other plot points to create a truly masterful story.

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Animation and Sound

Let’s start off with something easier to talk about.  The animation outside of the figure skating scenes is solid.  The backgrounds manage to be diverse and interesting.  The characters are also animated very well and exhibit a large range of emotion.  The figure skating can be a mixed bag at times.  Some scenes perfectly showcase the ability of animation to create beautiful moments.  The opening alone is a perfect example.  I would also say the animation is beautiful in any figure skating scene with either Yuri.  Some of the scenes though lack this quality.  This is usually present in the skating sequences of the other professional skaters.  It’s noticeable and does take me out of the moment, but I would not say it dampers the quality of the show.

The series shines with its music collection.  The opening is godlike.  It was definitely the best one of the season.  The series also has an excellent selection of music used in the figure skating programs.  These pieces exhibit all sorts of emotions ranging from innocent love to self-idolization.  Each piece perfectly matches the skater.  JJ has the catchiest and most self-serving theme.  Chris has a piece that exudes with sexual energy.  These pieces of music go perfectly with the skating scenes even if the animation is weak.  It’s for this reason that the weaker animation for certain scenes is not an issue, as the overall sum is excellent.  The voice acting is also great.  I love how confident and loving Victor comes across with his performance.  I also love the hesitant and scared performance of Yuri towards the beginning of the series.  Everything about this show comes together to form the complete package.

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Final Thoughts

Yuri on Ice is one of the best shows of the year.  At its core, it’s a simple story about a man finding his self-confidence with some help.  The relationship between Yuri and Victor is one of the most genuine and endearing relationships in anime.  The animation can be weak at times, but certain scenes are freaking gorgeous.  The voice acting and music are great.  Yuri on Ice was my surprise of the season.  I give Yuri on Ice my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

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