Hi! Thanks for reading the blog, as always! Today’s post is about one of the best new shows I’ve seen in a long time, Yuri on Ice!
The Yamamoto and Kubo team have come up with a serious winner here. It’s one of the most talked-about shows I’ve ever come across, both on critics’ pages and on tumblr where people like me go to talk about what we’re watching.
If you haven’t seen it (and I can’t imagine how anyone could have avoided it completely–it’s that popular) it’s the story of a Japanese figure skater named Yuri Katsuki. When the show starts, you’re watching Yuri lose massively at a big tournament. He goes home to basically reset his life and rethink what he’s going to try to do with it. He goes back to college, gets out of shape, and mostly leaves skating behind. He still likes, it though, and you see him still having regrets about that big loss.
One night, when he’s skating alone in the park, he starts to imitate a routine that his favorite skater is famous for. That skater ends up seeing a video that’s posted by some local kids who are watching, and he gets in touch to try and train Yuri for one big, final season. It’s kind of a classic sports trope, but it feels really fresh in anime because, let’s face it, not many anime nerds actually watch a lot of sports movies.
I don’t want to give anything away as far as the plot, but don’t worry–it’s so much more than just watching people skate around for hours. With that said, though, the skating sequences are absolutely amazing. I guess the animators spent a lot of time watching real skaters, and worked the actual moves into the show. You can definitely tell. It’s also a twist on classic sports stories, because Yuri isn’t any kind of prodigy. All he has is effort and dreams, where the older coach is insanely talented but past his prime. There’s also a relationship that unfolds between Yuri and Victor (the older skater who coaches him), that’s definitely ambiguous and tricky, which is so much more interesting to watch than traditional romantic narratives.
The animation is fantastic, which is definitely a big selling point for me. Even when a lot of anime studios are cheapening and going for tacky CGI work, Yuri On Ice looks absolutely stunning, especially in the skating sequences. It has some real drawing marks showing in nearly every seen, so it also has a bit of a human element of imperfection that I really like.
It also has a really good balance between the skating and the emotional arc, which I’m sure was hard to master: I definitely know that the few sports movies I’ve seen in my life didn’t get that right, which makes them even harder to get through. Neither the skating nor the emotional plot feel like a gratuitous add-on, which is definitely an achievement.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons I applaud the creators is the fact that the show deals with mental health and LGBT issues really honestly, which is definitely new territory for anime. Anime is generally a bit patriarchal and super masculine (and totally homophobic), so this is a really nice change of pace that I hope will open the door for a lot of different narratives to be told in this style that we haven’t seen before. This is a great FAQ article about the show if you’re interested: http://www.theverge.com/2016/12/21/13987438/yuri-on-ice-sports-anime-explainer-guide-faq-tumblr
It’s all online for free, so check it out!