When a friend suggested I watch Yuri on Ice, I was initially disappointed that “Yuri” wasn’t a reference to “yuri” themed anime featuring girl-girl crushes and romances. I found out instead that it was a yaoi anime featuring an underdog ice skater named Yuri Katsuki and his relationship/mentorship with his coach, fellow figure skater Victor Nikiforov. I was ready to find another subject for my weekend binge, but I had heard a lot of friends talking about how great it was, and I was compelled to give it at least one episode. I wouldn’t call myself a yaoi fangirl, but after flying through the entire season in one day, I have to say Yuri on Ice has made me a believer.
I am just a little late to the party, as it released back on October 15th of this year, but it is so good I felt inspired to write about it. With it being fairly new, but the complete season aired, it is a great time to start watching for those who like to binge entire seasons all at once. I enjoyed this anime for so many reasons, and I want to explain why you should check it out. The show’s theme and setting, beautiful character designs, and positive messages make Yuri on Ice endearing and enjoyable..
I once heard someone say that the great thing about anime, is that you can find a show on any subject; medieval fantasy, space exploration, high school slice-of-life, even tennis. Whatever you might be into you can find an anime for it. Yuri on Ice is no different. The story is set in the world of competitive men’s figure skating. After seeing a viral video of Yuri, Victor a wildly revered and successful skater is inspired to become his coach and vows to make him a winner. The viewer gets to watch the characters train, compete, and interact in various countries. The characters themselves come from different parts of the world. It was enthralling to get a glimpse into the perspective of young figure skaters, the experience of young male skaters specifically, and also the issues facing young athletes.
As a younger woman growing up mostly in the southern U.S, I found ice skating interesting and enjoyed watching it on television when it came on, but there wasn’t a lot of exposure to it or an opportunity to ice skate myself. It is definitely something that I have never really experienced. This show allows the viewer to experience the struggles and triumphs of the competitive ice skater. Not only from an ice skater’s perspective, but also from a male perspective which was even more foreign to someone like me. Even when skating was televised during the Olympics media mostly highlighted female figure skaters here in the U.S.
The animation in Yuri on Ice perfectly executes the skating. The art is beautiful, smooth, and fluid. The characters are gorgeous and meticulously designed. Many of the characters are nice to look at (I found myself crushing on several), but have round enigmatic personalities too. Yuri’s dark hair and innocent face help him look the part of the struggling ingenue. Victor the tall, lithe, foreigner is the blatant pretty boy. Yurio, Yuri’s Russian rival is blond, brooding, but still hopelessly adorable. I like that a few of the character’s looks contrast their personality in some way. Victor’s angelic looks contradict his clueless goofy demeanor and Yurio’s cute youthfulness earns him hundreds of adoring fans even though he is crass, rude, and downright unfriendly.
There are also some really positive themes and messages throughout the show that really made me fall in love. It discusses self-esteem, dealing with failure, body image, and relationships in such a pure way. I really connected with Yuri, because he is depicted as a character who often struggles with his weight. He has to exercise and train during the entire season, to keep his body in competing condition and keep up with the other skaters. His weight and appetite fluctuates based on how he feels, and there is even a reference to him possibly having an emotional eating issue.
It is rare to see a character with weight and body image issues, who isn’t simply a comic foil in an anime. It is even more rare to be presented a very attractive character who does not have a perfect body. He is not looked at as the typical super slim or super chiseled hot anime guy. He’s got a little bit of a gut, and they do poke fun of that somewhat, but it isn’t done in the dehumanizing way that many overweight characters are regarded. His value and attractiveness is never diminished because of that, and Victor still finds him attractive as he is. That is a powerful thing.
Yuri’s progress is another aspect that makes you want to watch episode after episode. He is a likeable, humble, slightly self-deprecating character and you can’t help but want to see him win. Despite being the underdog he has talent, he keeps trying, he does the work, and he makes progress. There is struggle because he doesn’t alway feel confident, he doesn’t always make his jumps, he doesn’t always win, and that is something I think a lot of people can appreciate. Outside of anime, we know we can’t always win. All of the characters have their own individual motivations and challenges, and I found myself at one point or another rooting for them all.
Aside from the beautiful characters, positive messages, and gorgeous ice-skating, Yuri on Ice has a ton of hilarious and bizarre moments, fanservice, and touching romantic interaction as well. The bond that Yuri and Victor have make this as much a love story as it is a story of personal triumph. It isn’t campy, cheap, or stereotypical; they are both their own people who seem to come together naturally, and I loved watching it happen. The Yaoi fans will adore it, but even if that isn’t your thing I recommend it for everyone, because it truly has something for everyone.