Yuri!!! on Ice - First Impression cum Review

Yuri!!! on Ice Review

Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Sports, Romance(?)
Episodes Aired : 10
Status : Not what I was looking for. And I don't mean the "Yuri" part.

Ever since I watched Chihayafuru, I've developed this bad(?) habit of comparing every sports anime to it. Not only that, my philosophical pursuit has changed the way I see any sport/game/work/activity and people involved in it. To me, it is no longer about being the strongest or the best, having a rival, competition, or winning the cup. It's not about self-aggrandising anymore. I no longer get that rush when two destined rivals face each other, or the guy finally wins and gets to the top. It's boring now. What I love to watch is when that person is playing (the sport, or an instrument or their work, whatever it is) because they thoroughly enjoy doing it, when nothing - the rivals, the fame, the attention, winning or losing matters and they just... play. I'm sorry I don't have a better way of explaining this but it is something I've felt and something I love.

So, when I watch a sports anime (or any show with 'passionate' characters), I try to look for that moment. Now, I know that my view on this is subjective and that everyone sees/feels things differently, but characters playing a sport just to claw their way to the top is not appealing to me. I don't mean their motivations, their desire to win or why they started, it is what they do, think and feel when they are playing that matters to me. I don't enjoy a guy/girl saying "I'm going to show/destroy you", "I'll be the best", "Watch me", or "This one's for you" when they play (at least not all the way to the end of the game/performance), I enjoy when they are just completely immersed in that activity and they reach a point where they just don't care about anything except playing (they love it because they can't help it). I guess a short way of saying it is when their ego gets out of the game.

Yuri gif 1

Now what does Yuri on Ice have to do with this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yuri on Ice isn't the kind of show which will get you interested into Ice Skating, or show you what it's like to have that burning passion & love for a sport or an activity.
It's about a guy named Yuri Katsuki, a young Japanese figure skater. He ranked last in the World Grand Prix due to his consistently inconsistent performances. And now that he has suffered a humiliating defeat, he comes back home disappointed in himself and maybe 40 pounds heavier, thinking whether he should continue his career as an ice skater. So far so good, right? But here's where things get a bit ridiculous. Enter five time world champion and our protagonist's idol, Victor Nikiforov. After watching a video of a fat Yuri doing his routine, he decided to abandon his skating career and fly down to some unknown village in Japan to be Yuri's coach. And from there, the rest of the show is about their relationship with each other (just with each other and not ice skating, in case you were wondering).

How does this dynamic play out?
Well, to begin with, I don't like Yuri Katsuki's character so far. The main reason being the fact that whenever he is skating, the last thing on his mind is... skating. Not only that, his thoughts almost always have something to do with Victor. He's either thinking about 'seducing' (I mean impressing) him, or about what a terrible person he is according to the world because he "stole" Victor from them. The rest is just your everyday fear of failure (something along the lines of learned helplessness).
As for the coach Victor, I like his character (design and "personality"). I like that he isn't all "serious" and "aggressive" when it comes to his role as a coach, rather he is just sincere. He is aware of his shortcomings and incompetence as a fresh coach and he doesn't act like he knows everything. He gives Yuri space to breathe but he is also there when he needs him. As for all the hugs and kisses and "engagements"... no comment.
The secondary cast, doesn't play that big of a role as you'd expect, especially our protagonist's family. There's the cliche "Rival" guy with the "rival tsundere" syndrome, who is always aggressive and pissed towards everyone and not just the protagonist (for no apparent reason). And all the other skaters that show up, fall into your usual tropes.

Yuri gif 2

Now, I'd be okay with the tropes, the cliches and the lame gags if they didn't mess up the most important part - the skating. There aren't any eye-candy 'sakuga' moments, nothing moves except the skater, shots often don't show the skater's feet, and the resulting lack of motion is compensated by camera movements and erratic zooming, which is off putting and ruins the beauty of the skater's movements. Even if you let that slide in the name of budget restrictions, no one, I mean not one skater thinks/talks about their feelings towards ice skating when they are on the rink. I know they're trying to show us that the emotional state of the skater has an impact on their performance, but everyone seems like they just want to be done with it, trying their best just to get to the end of their performance without failing jumps (or to one up the guy that performed before them).

And it's not just the characters' nature towards the sport, the sport itself isn't presented in a way which would get you deeply interested in it. It never discusses the jumps - the quads, axles, salchows, lutz etc, or break things down for the audience to understand. One might argue that the characters are at the top of their sport, so there's no need to discuss the basics. And they're right, but at the same time, these characters do fail these jumps, and its a regular occurrence. For example, our star Yuri Katsuki can't land a quad from the start of the show. And even after 6-7 episodes of him continuously missing the same thing, the show never discusses it. It never breaks it down, or discusses the mechanics of the movement, or any of the mental cues or even why it is so hard and what the guy needs to work on. Instead the reason we're given is, "Yuri, you tend to flub your jumps when something is on your mind". So it's not an incredible feat of strength and balance which requires a butt-load of hard work, just don't get your panties in a bunch and you'll be fine. How am I suppose to appreciate that?

Yuri Gif 3

And that's my point. After watching 10 episodes of the show, I don't have an appreciation of or for the sport. Because I have no idea what it takes and the show never takes us there. It shows us how important Victor is to Katsuki, how emotional state affects performance, what the requirements are for competing in World Grand Prix, the scoring system and why Yuri should get drunk more often, but we are never shown the magnitude of the hard work which is required to excel at the sport or why the characters love it. Just don't let things get to you and you'll win. Is it really that easy? (Maybe I'm just too conservative when it comes to sports anime)

Anyways, I don't really hate the show, but I don't like it either. While the Yuri-Victor dynamic is the highlight of the show, the way they butchered everything else evens it out. So, should you watch it? Not if you're interested in ice skating (despite the references/homage to real life skaters). But if you're looking for some bromance, you're in for a treat. I guess. Don't quote me on that.

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December 11, 2016 at 8:46 AM delete

Haven't seen Yuri on Ice yet. But it seems like you're not a fan :P

December 12, 2016 at 11:42 PM delete

It's not that I hate the show. The main highlight of the show - Victor & Yuri's relationship, is something I'm not interested in. The show was never about Ice Skating. I'm just getting the frustration out of my system because I really really wanted it to be more about Ice Skating (like how Chihayafuru was about Karuta) =(
I'm sure you'll love it :D

April 22, 2018 at 3:27 PM delete This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.