Yuri!!! on Ice: Dancing on Blades and Setting Hearts on Fire

[My thoughts on Yuri!!! on Ice (anime)]

I started watching Yuri!!! on Ice about three weeks ago, because of all the favourable reviews surrounding it. Ten episodes later, I had officially jumped on the bandwagon and couldn’t wait to get to the end. Well, the end has come and gone and I’ve fallen in love with this show. Yuri!!! on Ice is quite a shift from the usual tropes that haunt sports anime and overall, it’s worth the watch. The music is spectacular the animation is stunning and intense, and the plot left no gaping holes.

I wouldn’t say that I love Yuri!!! on Ice as a sports anime. What I’ve always loved about sports anime is the idea of teamwork and camaraderie, where a group of different individuals come together to build up their skills in the sport together. I love the aggression and the mad drive to win that often characterise the genre. Yūri on Ice didn’t feel quite as extreme.

screenshot-2016-12-16-21-00-44This is possibly because Yūri himself is already a professional and accomplished figure skater. He’s the top male figure skater in Japan and, as the anime revealed, has his own fans and following. All he’s missing is the confidence that usually accompanies such skill. In that regard, Yūri’s real challenge was internal, rather than external – his enemy is himself.

In setting up such a premise, Yuri!!! On Ice had already set itself apart from the many other sports anime out there. That’s not the show’s greatest selling point though.

I think what actually sold the show (for me) was the attention to details on the part of the creators. There’re the little things such as Yūri feeling much better after crying, the characters’ reliance on Instagram, and Victor’s thinning hair. These things may be fleeting moments in the show but they add a sense of realism to the story, because they parallel many of the things we think, feel and do in the real world. Then, there are the big things. Basically, all the dialogues and actions of the characters fall into place perfectly as the story unfolds. For instance, Victor’s forgetfulness regarding promises (something that was slipped into the story earlier on) could be coupled with a tiny reveal towards the end of the show to explain why he even turned up at Yūri’s doorstep, offering to be his coach. Overall, nothing is out of place and this is major because not only are there no plot holes, it helps the characters make sense and allows them to develop coherently.

screenshot-2016-12-16-17-50-03

I also enjoyed the relationship between Victor and Yūri. It didn’t feel like it was forced into the plot; it felt natural and authentic. It started with understanding and led to a partnership. Part of what made that work was the characterisation. Both the main characters – Yūri and Victor – are very complete and compelling characters.

Screenshot 2016-12-14 18.51.26.pngYūri, our protagonist, is absolutely relatable as a person. His performance anxiety and lack of confidence is something we can all understand because everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. His insecurity is artfully established from his very first scene in the very first episode and runs throughout the story. The inconsistencies in his performance, his lack of social skills, and the way he sees Victor all boil down to it. His insecurity drives the plot and paves the way for Victor’s inclusion in the narrative. Victor becomes the catalyst for Yūri’s development (and in turn Yūri becomes the catalyst for Victor’s development). It is through his relationship with Victor that Yūri begins to have more faith in himself.

screenshot-2016-12-14-20-36-58Victor is a much harder person to read compared to Yūri simply because he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeves. He’s quite an enigma in that sense, given how well he keeps his emotions in check in front of others and only gives away what he wants to. In the first few episodes, I doubted everything he says and does, because he never seems serious. As the story progresses, Victor’s layers are peeled away (no puns intended), and we start to see many other aspects of his character. In fact, one scene that stays with me is when Victor shows his anger (again, subtle and controlled) towards Yurio, because up until that point we’d never actually seen Victor angry. For me, that was a pivotal scene in Victor’s characterisation – that he could be hurt meant that he was human.

Screenshot 2016-12-14 20.58.33.pngThe relationship between Victor and Yūri is born from mutual trust and affection and I liked the way that the story eased into it. When I watched the first few episodes, it didn’t cross my mind that the two of them would become so close. All I saw was Yūri, the nervous wreck, and Victor, the unflappable flirt. Apart from the fan service, there didn’t seem to be much more to them. Their bond grows though, over time, and towards the end, the sincerity in their relationship may have melted my heart. That being said, if there’s one thing that could have been improved in the show, it would be that the nature of Yūri and Victor’s relationship should have been explicitly stated. There are plenty of images and dialogues that point towards romance but the two of them never really say it. Still, it was a well-done partnership that was crucial to the story.

Screenshot 2016-12-26 11.38.47.pngWhen I move away from the Victor and Yūri, there’s still much more to this show that I can appreciate. The skating routines are superbly choreographed and I love how the performances are steeped in emotion and reflect the feelings of the skaters. The supporting characters are all likeable in their own way, giving the story a very positive vibe. The show was also well-paced, neither crawling nor rushing through the story.

Altogether, Yuri!!! on Ice is a very warm story that cleverly shows how strength can be found from beyond oneself. There is so much passion and emotion woven into the story that watching these skaters dance on blades did sort of set my heart on fire. I think Yuri!!! on Ice deserves every praise it gets.

(If you have watched Yuri!!! on Ice and wish to share your thoughts, do leave them here!)

 

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3 thoughts on “Yuri!!! on Ice: Dancing on Blades and Setting Hearts on Fire

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