A Love Letter to Figure Skating
When a work has so much love and passion for a given idea or topic poured into it, it’s almost impossible to ignore. It comes through in the final product. Yuri!!! on ICE is an anime that took the world by storm because of its love for professional figure skating and the statements it makes on love itself. However, it’s passion is also the show’s biggest downside, often sacrificing quality for its passion.
Even when this first aired in the Fall 2016 season, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Yuri!!! on ICE. Figure skating is something I do enjoy, and there are certainly things to like about this anime, but my enjoyment was hampered by several things along the way. That’s why I wasn’t super enthused about this rewatch and review for the ABC series.
This time around I gave the English dub a go, and while that improved my watch experience, I found myself being more critical of the show this second time around than the first. You can see the obvious passion and love that everyone put into creating this anime, but I just wish it was a better show. Let me explain.
“A love letter to skating” is both the show’s biggest strength and weakness. Yuri!!! on ICE spares no expense in accurately portraying the world of competitive figure skating to the point that, unless you are already fairly knowledgeable about figure skating or are a competitor yourself, it’s never properly explained or given the room to breathe from an audience perspective. This isn’t to say the anime doesn’t attempt to quickly info dump all this stuff, it does, but compared to other sports anime it more-or-less doesn’t really care if you know what’s going on.
Art imitates life, and life imitates art
Segway into the real heart of the issue this spawns: the actual programs themselves. Each time the various skaters take to the ice in Yuri!!! on ICE, they do the same routine every single time. In real life, this is how things work. The pro to mirroring this in the anime is that you can see subtle changes in each performance as the series goes on but the con is that it relies on the show actually showing you said performances.
Something the anime does quite frequently is show you only a brief segment of a performance while constantly interrupting it. Often this is to explain some emotional component for a character via a flashback sequence, or worse still having another character spectating telling us how good or bad the performance is. This creates a lot of moments where the show tells us things rather than just showing us. For me, the problem here is that it interrupts the flow of the performance, what should be the big draw for the series.
All said, this didn’t stop Yuri!!! on ICE from taking the world by storm. It almost seemed like everyone and there mother had some passage knowledge of the series since professional skaters in real life spoke highly of the show and even used it as sources of inspiration in their real life competition routines. Additionally, there’s the factor of Victor and Yuri’s relationship.
For everyone in the LGBT community, this quickly became a flagship series to get excited about in 2016. As the series went on Yuri and Victor kept getting closer and closer until the event in episode 7, that’s right folks they kiss. Well, kind of…
One of my biggest complaints the first time watching Yuri!!! on ICE was the fact that Victor’s relationship with Yuri always felt superficial. They clearly have one, it ties in really well with the show’s exploration of love that’s played on in all aspects of the story (see the Eros and agape) but this is another thing the show ambitiously wants to include without giving it proper attention.
This second time around, while I could feel the intent more clearly through the dub performance, it still lacked this commitment. Why not show the kiss in episode 7 openly instead of implying it? Why don’t we really see Victor and Yuri spend time together as a couple? While there are some loose moments where it kind of does this, the show overall doesn’t give this relationship any real time to breathe on screen.
As a result, it’s kind of easy to suggest that the show might be pandering to this audience but playing it safe enough that anyone can enjoy it. I don’t think this is actually the case but regardless, the anime comes off as overly ambitious in what it actually has time to show. It really wants the skating to be the focus of everything but it knows you need to do more to tell a compelling story. As I’ve already mention, both suffer as a result to this lack of commitment when it comes to its narrative.
This is ultimately what drags down Yuri!!! on ICE for me. It’s something that I don’t hate, but I don’t exactly like it either. If it weren’t for the truly fantastic music and my personal enjoyment in regards to the skating itself, I could easily see these previous points preventing me from scoring the show higher than I did (7/10 on MAL).
However, fair is fair, and the music really is that good. Almost all of it in fact. While I don’t love the ending theme and a few of the performance songs are a tad weak, the rest are superb pieces of music that I listen to regularly. Why mention this at all? Well music is half the experience when it comes to anime and I think that this deserves recognition as it elevated the show to a place where I can think of it more positively than I otherwise would have.
I’ll leave the playlist for all the music as a Spotify link here. I highly encourage you to check it out, especially if you haven’t seen the show at all. I think it’ll manage to convince you to check the show out alone. Even though I’m not big on Yuri!!! on ICE, there’s no denying the sheer impact it had at the time of its release, which is why I’m going to ultimately recommend you give it a fair shot.
Can you believe the Anime ABC’s series is almost over? One more review to go! I’d love to hear how you’ve enjoyed the series so far and, of course, your thoughts on Yuri!!! on ICE in the comments below. If you like all the work I’m doing here, please consider utilizing my donation buttons as the support goes a long way. Thanks again for reading, and see ya in the next one!