Yuri!!! On Ice is an insanely popular (ahem) sports anime from the Fall 2016 season which took even experienced trend spotters by surprise. While it is, at heart, a platonic love story, it proselytises ice dancing like nothing else before, leaving even the most cynical naysayer appreciating the artform with evangelical vigour.
The animation – by MAPPA Studio, using a mix of 3D, rotoscoping, and regular 2D techniques – is fluid and realistic, never more so than in the dancing scenes, and there are a lot of those. And that’s the anime’s true strength: it makes the ice dancing compelling, even though we’re essentially watching the same routines performed over and over. By the end you will be anticipating every triple axel, every quad Salchow, and every step sequence as if your own medal-placing depended on it.
This is the story of Yuri Katsuki, the leading Japanese figure skater, who has just crashed and burned after reaching his first Grand Prix Final. Returning home to rural Kyushu, he tries to recapture his love for the ice, and when a viral video of a behind-closed-doors performance brings him to the attention of the world champion, Victor Nikiforov. Victor decides to retire and coach Yuri to victory in that year’s Grands Prix.
So far, so sports anime, right? But where Yuri!!! On Ice triumphs – and the secret to its success with a wider audience than would usually be expected – is in the relationships between the skaters, and particularly between Yuri and Victor, which borders on the sexual without firmly committing to it. There are lingering glances at Victor’s body by an inexperienced-either-way Yuri, but this is far from gratuitous fare, instead building the strength of Yuri’s total surrender to Victor as a mentor, until he finally finds his own confidence once more, and the partnership becomes one of (almost) equals. Throw in the rise of another Yuri, a fifteen-year old Russian enfant terrible, and the story swells to a compelling climax.
A Crunchyroll release, it comes with the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles, and an English dub by Funimation, and while the purist will prefer the former, the latter offers an intentionally funny alternative, with assured performances by industry veterans.
Thematically, there is nothing in Yurii!!! On Ice that should ordinarily trouble a STARBURST reader, but its sheer quality is a delight for any fan of anime as a medium, whether you dabble or consider yourself a connoisseur. This is essential 21st century anime, even if it is about ice dancing…
Special Features: Welcome to the Madness OVA / Eleventh Skate Commentary / Textless Opening Songs / Textless Closing Song / Textless Closing Tenth Skate / Textless Closing Final Skate
YURI!!! ON ICE – THE COMPLETE SERIES / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: SAYO YAMAMOTO / SCREENPLAY: MITSURO KUBO / STARRING: JOSH GRELLE, JERRY JEWELL & MICAH SOLUSOD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW