Yuri!!! on Ice: the Anime that Stole My Heart

By Raeesah Hayatudin

Many articles ago, I mentioned that I came across a fan video on YouTube which was so visually stunning, I immediately sped off to start binging on Yuri on Ice episodes. And it was the binge of my life! I was hooked onto the story right from the start. Little did I know then, but Yuri on Ice would become the centrestone around which my fandom life revolves for almost two years (and counting).

I’d heard of Yuri on Ice before stumbling across that fan video, but after seeing the words “sports anime” in the Wikipedia description, I backed away from the idea of watching it because I didn’t “consider myself as a sports person.” In retrospect, that was the wrong decision and a very stupid reason for it!

Much like any fantastic series, Yuri on Ice reaches far beyond the labels pinned onto it. It contains stories of victory and defeat; of bonds of friendship, family, romance and rivalry; of love and conflict; and of humour and tragedy. All this happens within the fictional figure skating world the series shows us, and whether you’re already a fan of figure skating or a newcomer to the sport, the series leads you into its world by the hand, glancing back at you with an excited grin. Don’t fear getting lost in the figure skating terminology used – the series provides easily comprehensible information about the technical aspects of figure skating in entertaining and hilarious ways!

In season 1, we are presented with Yuri Katsuki, a Japanese figure skater in the men’s singles figure skating discipline, who is bitterly disappointed about his sixth place finish in the Grand Prix Final. For years and years, he has dreamt of reaching to the level of his idol, Victor Nikiforov, a figure skating legend from Russia. After a year of losing several competitions similarly, he returns to his home in Hasetsu to re-evaluate his career. In his hometown, he performs Victor’s free skate, “Stay Close to Me”, while Victor wins his fifth Worlds gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo. A video of Yuri’s performance of Victor’s programme is leaked onto the Internet, and this video captures Victor’s attention. Yuri on Ice also follows the story of Yuri Plisetsky, an up-and-coming Russian fifteen year old who is preparing for his debut as a senior figure skater.

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Pictured: Screenshot of Yuri K and Victor in Episode 6 of Season 1

Our three main characters, Yuri K, Yuri P and Victor develop in unique ways throughout the story. In the interest of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t go into details, but I find it so impressive that even though season 1 has only twelve episodes (each of which is roughly twenty minutes long), most of the storylines within Yuri on Ice are still beautifully fleshed out. While we might miss out on several scenes which may have illustrated the development of those storylines more thoroughly, I believe that the Yuri on Ice team used the time they had for each episode as well as they possibly could.

We even get to know and understand Yuri K’s competitors, our side characters, quite well. For a series with many characters from several different countries, it’s admirable how each character has been made so distinct without being stereotyped. Jocelyn Hughes once advised writers to “treat all your secondary characters like they think the book’s about them,” and while Yuri on Ice is not a book series, Mitsuro Kubo, the writer of the show, has certainly managed to illustrate the value of this advice faultlessly. We form emotional attachments to the secondary characters of Yuri on Ice; we rejoice and grieve as they rise and fall in their careers, and this just makes the experience of watching the show even more gratifying.

The relationships between these characters gradually develop as we progress through season 1, and we grow to love the characters more and more as their relationships deepen. One of the main dynamics we observe in Yuri on Ice are those between Yuri K and Victor, where the two characters become more intimate despite the initial distance between them due to Yuri K’s awe and wariness of Victor. We also see Yuri P learn to appreciate the relationships he has with those around him, and to utilize his emotions in his skating.

Yuri on Ice is a show with three protagonists, but no specific antagonists – rather, the “antagonists” of the show are the things which hold our main characters back from their goals, such as Yuri K’s anxiety which often debilitates him in competitions. Although our main characters are all elite athletes who face different types of difficulties than I do, as a mere student, I still find comfort in these characters because I can relate to their human struggles so well.

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Pictured: Screenshot of Victor Nikiforov performing his free skate, “Stay Close to Me” in Episode 1 of Season 1

This must be said: the animation within Yuri on Ice is of such a high calibre, especially in several skating scenes and depictions of the scenery in the show. I often find myself going back to re-watch some scenes just to admire the mesmerizing movements of the characters; each time I do this, I notice something new which I hadn’t observed before, and I marvel at the creators’ love for our characters, which is evident in every minuscule detail. (If you’ve watched Yuri on Ice, did you notice that Victor’s skating blades are golden, and that his skating boots have the Russian flag on them?) We also have the privilege of a wonderful soundtrack in season 1 – the music is so fitting for our characters, and is, by turns, uplifting and bittersweet and exciting.

The figure skating routines in season 1 are impeccably choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto – who is, in fact, a real-life former ice dancer and current figure skating choreographer. Miyamoto has choreographed routines for skaters including the two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who recently became the first man in over six decades to win back-to-back Olympic titles.

The figure skating world depicted in Yuri on Ice is so immersive and fascinating that it has drawn many fans to follow figure skating in real life (including myself!). In fact, there are several famous figure skaters who are huge fans of the anime, including 2018 Olympic silver medallist and two-time World champion Evgenia Medvedeva, as well as Johnny Weir, Denis Ten and Adam Rippon. Renowned skaters such as Nobunari Oda and Stephane Lambiel have made brief appearances as characters in Yuri on Ice. It’s clear that the creators of Yuri on Ice are figure skating fans themselves, having also paid tribute to four-time Olympic medallist Evgeni Plushenko in the show.

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Pictured: The poster for “Ice Adolescence”, the upcoming Yuri on Ice movie

On the 1st of July, during a live broadcast of a session of Yuri!!! on Concert in Osaka on YouTube, we received information about a Yuri on Ice movie entitled “Ice Adolescence” which will be held as a roadshow in 2019. Hurrah for us fans! The characters are nowhere near finished with telling us their stories, and we are eagerly looking forward to discovering more about them.

See you next level!

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