Born To Make History - Review: Yuri!!! On Ice (Anime)

Montag, 21. November 2016

Yuri On Ice
Original Title: ユーリ!!! on ICE
Genre: Sport
Aired: Oct 6, 2016 to Dec 22, 2016
Duration: approx. 23 Minutes
Season: 1
Main Characters: Yuri Katsuki
Victor Nikiforov
Yuri Plisetsky

   The show's story revolves around Yuuri Katsuki, who carried all of Japan's hopes on his shoulders to win at the Grand Prix Finale ice skating competition but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. With those mixed feelings swirling inside him, he confines himself inside his parents' house. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Viktor Nikiforov appears before him, and along with him is Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Viktor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Grand Prix series. (myanimelist.net)

Review based on episodes 1-7.


   Ever since I was a little girl (this makes me sound way older than I am, wow) I've loved figure skating. Each time it was on TV, I would sit with my mom on the sofa and watch it, all of it, all day because I was just so in love with it. All these years I waited for a movie, TV show or anime to come out and be centered around this beautiful sport that is figure skating. One day in one of my author friends' manuscript this anime was mentioned called Yuri!!! On Ice. I was immediately intrigued and asked if that's a real thing. It was and is, though back then it wasn't airing yet.
   I remembered this show when episodes 1-4 were out already and I fell in love after watching the first couple of minutes of episode 1. Since then I've been impossibly obsessed with this show and I hope, after reading this review, you will check it out, too, because it's so worth it.

   Plot
   Yuri!!! On Ice, as the title suggests, is about a 23 year old Japanese figure skater called Yuri Katsuki who, despite being insanely good at figure skating, messed up during the Grand Prix Finale and came in last. This shatters him enough that he begins to consider retiring. He goes home, let's his figure slip but the fire still burns within him. Everything really starts to pick up once Victor Nikiforov, the most famous and best figure skater in the world and Yuri's idol, shows up at his house and decides that he will coach him.
   The story follows Yuri's journey as he tries to fight his way to the Grand Prix Finale with the hopes of making it this time with Victor by his side. Along the way we meet really interesting side characters, about which I will talk more later, and watch as Yuri begins to have more confidence in himself while discovering many things he'd never known and felt before.
   I am in love with the plot. The story is told in a absolutely beautiful manner with a brilliant pace that's neither too fast nor too slow showing all the right and important moments we need to see to experience all of the character development. Something that I didn't even realize until someone pointed it out on tumblr was how much time passes between the episodes. As example, between episode 4 and 5, I think, something like 5 months pass. Thanks to that all the relationships building between the characters feel very natural and it adds really well to the plot.

   Characters
   Let me start of my saying that I LOVE the characters in Yuri!!! On Ice (maybe with the exception of one and I'm sure you all know whom I mean because honestly...). I really appreciate the fact that even the side characters, especially the other skaters, all seem like people and not just one dimensional shells appearing for five minutes only to further the plot. They actually add something to the episodes and to the overall plot and arc of this story, which is amazing.

   Yuri Katsuki - Yuri is our wonderful main character and I love him to bits. He is insanely good at figure skating -- the first time we see him actually skate he 'casually' copies Victor Nikiforov's Free Skate choreography and nails it despite being out of shape -- and is just overall a wonderful and flawed character. Something that makes Yuri relatable is the fact that he deals severely with anxiety, which was also one of the reasons why he failed at the Grand Prix Finale, and it comes up more than once. It's definitely an important part of his character and I love the fact that it wasn't forgotten along the way. Yuri struggles with his confidence even though he's come so far in his career and people keep telling him that he's amazing.
   Another part of Yuri that I think is important is the fact that he easily gains weight, which is something we rarely see talked about especially in sports anime or shows/movies in general. As figure skater you obviously have to maintain a certain physique which is harder than one would think, especially when you're dealing with failing and the uncertainty of what the future might bring.
   The moment Victor enters Yuri's life we see him, at first, struggle with Victor's behavior toward him, how flirty and in-your-face he is, especially in the beginning. Yuri has never had a relationship and he feels like people trying to get closer to him just want to claw their way into his feelings and expose his weaknesses and he can't deal with that/hates it. Being afraid to open up is something many people deal with so seeing someone like Yuri deal with it is amazing and really interesting. Slowly as the episodes progress we see him change and seeing that change happen just adds so much more to his character.

   Victor Nikiforov - Victor is the number one in the figure skating world. He won the world championship for five consecutive times and is at the peak of his career, even though people are wondering if he might soon retire since he is already 27 (that's old in the figure skating world). Everyone loves him and he has mastered the art of pleasing the crowd, though his motto is to always find ways to surprise the audience. Unlike Yuri he choreographs all his skates himself and has the music for it specially made so it tells exactly the story he wants it to. But despite all his successes Victor is slowly reaching a point where nothing he does really surprises anyone anymore because everyone simple expects only the best of the best from him. This really eats at him.
   Victor is a really interesting character in the sense that, as viewer, we don't really know much about him. We know of his successes, we know he's from Russia, and that he a poodle named Makkachin. But when it comes to his family and past, nothing. That makes Victor quite the mystery, but it definitely adds a lot to just how intriguing of a his character is. On the outside he seems all smiles and winks and good moods, but I think there is a lot more to him than that. Even though he's quite forgetful and always seems so positive, he's very much a thinker type character, as in that he actually considered every decision he makes before making it. That in itself very much adds to the question of why he decides to pack his things and fly out to Japan to coach Yuri.
   As much as Yuri learns from Victor, I think it also works the other way around. For the first time, most likely, in his life Victor is supposed to just be himself when asked what role he is supposed to have in Yuri's life. As their journey progresses we slowly discover that Victor is caring and protective and that he is really trying his best to be the coach and person Yuri needs/wants. Slowly this mask he seems to be wearing falls away to reveal the real Victor and I cannot wait to discover more of him and hopefully of his past. It's remarkable how, even though everybody constantly goes on about how self-centered he is, Victor is actively trying to help Yuri, he really listens to what he tells him and tries his best to learn from it. But more on their relationship later.

   Yuri Plisetsky - He is the youngest of our cast. While Yuri and Victor are in their 20s, Yuri Plisetsky is merely 15 year old and just getting into the senior division. Also, just like in the show, to make it easier to distinguish which Yuri I'm talking about, I'll refer to Yuri Plisetsky as Yurio. Yurio used to train with Victor under their coach Yakov but when Victor decided to leave for Japan, Yurio is pissed. The reason being that Victor was supposed to choreograph his senior debut. Yurio comes across insanely angry and confidant when he talks to Victor and Yuri, which really nicely showcases the fact that he really is just a teen. He is used to being the best among the juniors so of course that only added so many more layers of confidence and cockiness to his character. He's quite the interesting contrast to our other Yuri.
   I love Yurio because of his insane drive and willingness to do whatever it takes to make it to the top, and beat Yuri along the way. Something I have to remind myself every once in a while is just how young Yurio is compared to most of the other skaters and the fact that he is willing to do everything, even if it might break him, to show that he is just as good as everyone else, even if he has to compete against skaters who are more than 10 years older than him. I think there is a lot to his character which he have so far not seen yet (as of episode 7) so I am truly curious to find out more about him, and could someone please just give that boy a hug? He might hate it but he looks like he could actually need it.

   As for the side characters, specifically the other skaters, there are quite a few things that I feel are definitely worth mentioning.
  • Representation in terms of Diversity: Yuri!!! On Ice does an amazing job with having a really diverse cast, which makes sense since it's all about Yuri participating in an international competition. But, what really makes this an important point to mention is how well the representation of these different characters is handled. For example as representing skater for the USA we have Leo de la Iglesia, a Mexican-American boy who doesn't come across as stereotype driven side character. He has his own goals that he wants to achieve and a personality that fits him greatly. Furthermore we have skaters from countries such as China, Italy, Switzerland, or Thailand. The latter is an interesting one especially since, in the real world, there are no Thai figure skaters. Phichit Chulanont is amazing at skating and his personality is just so fun, ambitious and lovely that you can't help but root for him. He is also quite fond of social media, specifically Instagram, which definitely makes him that tad bit more real and relatable.
  • Three dimensional characters: As I previously mentioned, Yuri!!! On Ice actually gives us an insight into all the skaters, their dreams and goals. Everyone has his own personality and quirks that make them interesting. One example that immediately comes to my mind would be Georgi Popovic from Russia, a fellow rink mate of Victor and Yurio's, who has a truly emotional backstory. Both his short program and free skate are centered around his heartbreak caused by his girlfriend breaking up with him and moving on to a different guy. Even though he seems blinded by his love and obsessed with the girl, it's still interesting to watch and hear about. It shows how much love and care the creators of this show put into every detail of it. (More on that point later)
  • Relationships between skaters: This is another thing I think is very important because, contrary to what I always thought of athletes, this anime skillfully shows us how everyone seems to cheer on everyone else despite being rivals. The younger skaters look up to the older ones and see them as motivation to keep going and get better. Everyone seems genuinely happy when the person currently performing lands a quad or does well in general. I think that's a really important part of the show and it's also just really amazing to see.
   Love Wins! - Say goodbye to queerbaiting
   (MILD SPOILERS)
   Let's talk about Yuri and Victor, just like I mentioned above that I would. While Yuri!!! On Ice is most importantly a sports anime, their relationship is still a very integral part of the story arc and of Yuri's journey to the Grand Prix Finale. What better way to underline that than by making "Love" the theme for this Grand Prix. Growing up Yuri idolized Victor because he was everything Yuri wanted to be and reach. His room was plastered with his posters and he even got a poodle simply because Victor also has one (said poodle was then also named Victor). So, understandably, when Victor shows up at Yuri's after he saw the recording of Yuri skating his routine, Yuri is floored.
   An integral part of their relationship, that I love that they actually thought of adding, is the process of Yuri slowly deconstructing the idea of Victor on the pedestal, someone he can't reach and who is miles above him almost like a god. Slowly Yuri realizes that Victor is just as human as everybody else and that he, just like everybody else, also has flaws. This is very important in the context of their relationship both as people and as coach and student.
   Both Yuri and Victor are quite guarded when it comes to their true feelings, even though Victor might not come across that way at first, so it's beautiful to see how they slowly, small steps one at a time, begin to open up to each other. At first it seemed like it was only Yuri who needed to open up since Victor seemed like he was eager to share things about himself, but upon further analysis and rewatching the episodes, it's clear that they both slowly learn how to be honest and open with each other. As I mentioned previously, probably, Yuri is the first person that simply wants Victor to be Victor and not Victor the figure skating god or sexy flirt, which I think is something Victor most definitely isn't used to. So, generally, both Yuri and Victor are helping each other to express and find sides of each other that they might've not known of before or simply forgotten along the way. Victor isn't a flawless god and Yuri isn't actually as weak as he thinks he is.
   If we're already at the topic of flaws, I adore how Victor really tries to learn more about Yuri, about the things that make him anxious and the ways in which he could help him. There is one scene, that might very well be the contester to my favorite one so far, which very nicely shows that Victor has very few experiences with how to deal with someone who is just as anxious as Yuri and how to handle it as coach. In said scene Victor majorly fucks up while trying to help Yuri and his overwhelming anxiety before his free skate. As much as it hurt my heart to watch it, it was an insanely important moment and was handled in the best way possible. It showed how actual human relationships work and that, despite it being used way too often in movies or books, kissing your problems away isn't an actual option. No, instead they handle it like adults. Yuri finally let's his emotions drive him and actually tells Victor that he fucked up, why and what he really wants from him. I am so happy that the creators of this show did this because it is so important and shows that their relationship is definitely genuine and healthy. Thank you.
   Going back to the very title of this segment - when I first started to watch Yuri!!! On Ice I was afraid that this show would just be another sports anime with queerbaiting like others before it, like Free! for example. But I was very pleasantly surprised that oh boy, this isn't queerbaiting at all. Yuri!!! On Ice did what so many sports anime before it didn't do. It actually created a genuine, healthy and naturally evolving and forming relationship between two male characters, main ones even, and with it broke so many walls I still can't believe that it's true. It's canon, just saying.
   I cannot wait to see what will happen next and what ways the creators will find to surprise us even more than they've done so far.

   Music
   The music in Yuri!!! On Ice is amazing. When it comes to the Opening and Ending/Credits, I usually skip them with most anime because they are usually not that good or interesting, but with Yuri!!! On Ice I never skip either. The Opening track is "History Maker" by Dean Fujioka and contains the lyric that I so nicely chose for the title of this review (though I shortened it) - We were born to make history. Up until episode 7 I thought they meant that merely in the context of Yuri and his life, but after episode 7 it's pretty clear that the creators of Yuri!!! On Ice meant way more than just that. This show is making history and I am so happy to be witnessing it as it happens.
   As for the other songs in the soundtrack, there are definitely some that are very much integral to the very plot of the anime, no matter how crazy that sounds. It starts with "Stay Close To Me and Never Let Go" which is the opera style piece that Victor performs to at the very beginning of the show, and the piece that really starts everything. It's in Italian, so many people like me don't understand any of it, so at first I thought that it was simply a nice piece of music but oh boy was I wrong. Turns out the creators of this anime love their details (more on that later).
   Generally the music is stunning and I've listened to the soundtrack for hours already and I'm looking forward to seeing what other pieces we will hear in the upcoming episodes. As someone who loves music, I am insanely pleased with Yuri!!! On Ice so far.

   Style/Animation
   Yuri!!! On Ice is visually stunning and it must be so much work I can't even imagine it. When it comes to different animation styles etc. in anime, I'm the first to admit that my knowledge is very limited since I've not seen that many anime, but if I see something very pleasing I am still able to say as much. There is a lot of love for details in the animations and the style, and I am still amazed that they actually managed to animate the different performances and skates so beautifully. I was worried that that might be an issue, but I was quickly proven otherwise. Than again, if figure skating is an integral part of your show, it makes sense to pour a lot of time and work into it. Of course there are a few instances where the animation isn't AS pretty as other times, but if you have to cram six different choreographies into one episode, it comes as no surprise that you have to prioritize some over others.
   I also really like how each time Yuri performs his short program, "On Love: Eros", we can see subtle differences between the previous time he performed. We can see how he's getting better, how his expression changes and that is truly amazing. No matter how many times we see him perform Eros, it never turns boring!
   Bringing up the opening and ending of Yuri!!! On Ice again, I just wanted to point out how visually intriguing both of them are. In the opening (which you can check out below even though there is a slight difference (it's only a few seconds so it barely matters) between the actual one and this one but it's unfortunately the best I could do) we simply see our three main characters, Yuri, Victor and Yurio, staking with colorful visuals. It's relatively simple but intriguing, especially since the opening changes from episode to episode in terms of how colorful it is, turning more so the further we go. As for the ending/credits, it incorporates a few different thighs, though it mainly stays with sequences of pictures while also including what looks like someone scrolling through their Instagram feed, which reminds me to point out how social media actually plays a role in this anime and Instagram is actually brought up a few times. The pictures are all really interesting and show our different characters in a beautiful manner. As I mentioned before, I never skip the opening or the ending.



  Love to detatils
  As I mentioned in the section about music, something else that struck me as outstanding about Yuri!!! On Ice is the extend of the creator's love to details. While watching, and reading things on tumblr, I quickly realized that everything in this show is done deliberately and nearly everything matters in the grand scheme of things. This starts with the names of the characters, 'Katsuki means 'Victory’ + 'Life/Birth’ and Yuuri means 'Courage’ + 'Benefit’' (source), goes over the music and even includes things happening in the background.
   An example when it comes to music would be the piece titled "Yuri On Ice", which is the music for Yuri's free skate. Not only does it contain the obvious title drop but also, looking at the different parts of the music and how they sound and feel, it could almost be seen as something like a music interpretation of Yuri's journey and life, which is honestly so deep I cannot even. I really love it when creators go this extra mile and put this much attention into their work.
   Also, bringing up the opening song again, "History Maker". As I pointed out before it turns out that even this song and it's lyrics are important in the grand scheme of this show since it is making history and it has promised us to do that since the very beginning, we just didn't know to which extent they'd go. It is also worth mentioning that they are not only making history through breaking tropes and standards, but also because their lead couple is not only made up of two adult males, but also interracial since one of them is Russian and the other Japanese. The country choice is, in my opinion, very important and interesting at the same time especially when you look at Russia's opinion of the LGBT community.
   The relationship between Yuri and Victor is another point I'd want to add to this section since the way it slowly builds and progresses, all these small details about them that they notice and show us really highlight how well planned these characters are, how much depth they really have and how much there still is to explore. This is also shown in their dialogues where certain things get brought up from earlier episodes and thus add more meaning to what is being said. This also goes for the piece that started it all, "Stay Close To Me and Never Let Go". In subtle ways that, thanks to the subs people might not even realize, this piece and its meaning follow us through the show and I absolutely love that.
   Another point can be the figure skating in and of itself. There are so many different choreographies in this anime created specifically for it, each different and telling different stories that fit perfectly with whoever is performing them. This also goes for the costumes they wear during their performances. From what I've seen the designers treated the task with so much as as though they were creating and designing actual costumes for actual figure skaters which, again, shows you just ho much work and detail was put into this show from beginning to end.

   General Thoughts
   Since this review is already turning into something of definitely epic proportions (and it only deals with half of the anime since there are still at least 5 episodes to come), I think it's time for some general closing thoughts. Personally I think this show is important for many different reasons outlined in this review, but especially due to the way it not only treats the sport with so much complexity and care, but also due to the genuine and healthy relationship forming throughout it. Yes, the latter is important, but it isn't too in your face so that, even if it might not necessarily be your thing, I think you can still definitely watch and enjoy this anime. It has so much to offer in form of brilliant music, stunning visuals and a sport we rarely get to see, especially when it comes to men.
   I am absolutely in love with Yuri!!! On Ice and it has definitely taken over my life and reminded me of just how much I used to love figure skating. Since I started to watch this anime I've felt the insane need to go and skate myself, but also to pick up a pen and draw again. I rarely feel a really intense need to do so, despite coming from an artist family because my love lies with writing, but this anime made me love it again (as you can clearly see when you check out my Instagram @alicereedsbooks).
   I cannot wait to see where Yuri!!! On Ice will go from here and how it'll end.
I give Yuri!!! On Ice Episodes 1 - 7 5 out of 5 Stars!

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