Why You Need To Watch Yuri On Ice

Yuri On Ice

On the surface – ice? – nothing appeals to me about Yuri On Ice. It is an anime about ice skating and romance between men. Two things that I felt I wouldn’t be able to relate to. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a crack.

Boy, was I wrong. By the end of the first episode, I was obsessed. Yuri on Ice is fantastic and I instantly fell in love with the cast of characters, the carefully choreographed ice skating and the music.

Initially, the reason why I was hooked is that we get to watch Yuri, the main character, fall short at a national skating championship. Failure is something we all experience throughout our live, so I felt his pain and wanted to see what he did next.

Soon after, he decides to step down from the professional circuit and begin a new life. A video of him skating catches the eye of the world’s top skater, Victor Nikiforov, who decides to retire from his professional career to train him in Japan and convince him to give professional skating one last try.

He is later joined by a young Russian skater who is also called Yuri. The two Yuri’s represent different countries, have polar opposite personalities, but are driven to be the best skaters and earn the respect of Victor.

The quickly established antithetical relationship between these two characters allows the programme to explore their different personalities through skating: one being strong, passionate and aggressive; the other representing fragility.

However, the creator cleverly flipped this on its head by having them dance routines that are the opposite to their personalities, forcing them to not only grow as individuals but as skaters.

Initially, both struggle adapting to the change, but grow into – and eventually master – these routines as the series progresses.

All of the ice skating numbers have been carefully choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto and it is a joy to watch. Even professional skaters have commented on the accuracy and detailed nature of the animation in the show.

This enables Yuri on Ice to be visually gripping for the three to four minutes that each routine takes place. We can see when they fumble or land a challenging manoeuvre. Even down to small details such as extending finger tips, a slight arch of a back, or a flick of their hair have been considered.

These dance routines are complemented by music which switches between modern pop music and classical orchestrations, depending on the type of ice skating routine that is being performed. Taku Matsushiba and Taro Umebayashi have done a crackerjack job with the soundtrack, complementing the skating on screen and providing the necessary emotional gravitas during the latter part of the series.

Like actual skating, only one person performs on ice at a time and this works to the show’s advantage. We get to focus on each performer and how their emotion interplays with the way they skate. If they are nervous, there is a chance they may bottle a performance. If they are overconfident, they could unsuccessfully attempt an intricate manoeuvre that could cost them points.

There were times when watching the same routine for the third or fourth time became repetitive, but I felt this was necessary for character progression; to see them occasionally fumble, realise that they need to continue to polish their craft and have the conviction to make this happen.

During the anime, there is a romance which takes place between two of the main characters after building a strong relationship on and off the ice. It builds slowly over a number of episodes, teasing the viewer with how – and if – it will progress.

It was surprising as I was unsure whether I would be able to become emotionally invested in a gay romance, but I quickly realised that I only needed to understand love for it to retain its appeal.

Equally, the creators treat this relationship with dignity, focusing on their love rather than outside perception. Both characters are incredibly well written so it was easy to become engaged in the storyline and want to see something bloom between them.

I guess, love is universal and regardless of whom or how that blossoms, we can relate to that feeling of becoming enamoured with another.

Even if you believe you are not interested in watching an anime about ice skating or gay romance, I recommend giving Yuri On Ice. For myself and many around the world, Yuri On Ice has become one of the surprise must watch animes of the last twelve months.

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