Having finally gotten round to watching this rather hyped up series here are my thoughts on new Anime series Yuri On Ice and further concerns.
Yuri On Ice is a sports series focusing on Katsuki Yuri, an ice-skater in his 20s who recently suffers numerous losses in tournaments. As a result he falls into a slump, puts his career on hold and studies overseas before returning to Japan. One night when he is practising his skating at an old rink his childhood friend Yuko works at, he performs a routine by his idol Victor Nikiforov, a five time champion from Russia. What he doesn't realise is that is skating was recorded and uploaded onto the web. The video goes viral and Victor sees it, prompting him to visit Yuri in Japan and offers to be his coach. Naturally Yuri's opportunity does bring in more rivalries and challengers throughout the series. Yuri Plisetsky is a 15 year old skating prodigy. He's a hot-headed young man and very competitive especially with Yuri but also has a fondness for felines.
In twelve episodes, we follow Yuri and other key skaters as they participate in big tournaments across the globe. Like many sports series, it almost feels like you are watching a real life sports event. You can tell the animators really wanted to make the routines as realistic as possible and doing their homework on the different techniques. Each skating routine needs to be watched carefully and if a few professionals in real life approve of how the skating is presented in an Anime you know you're doing something right.
Prior to watching the series, when I was reading the synopsis and seeing random reactions on my SNS (mostly through screencaps and very excited posts) I had a rough idea on what to expect before sitting down to watch each episode properly. I'm referring to boy love / shounen-ai or at least some suggested gayness. I thought at first we would be given Yaoi but it's definitely, definitely far from that. Now I've seen my fair share of Yaoi and Shounen-ai which almost hit X-rated level but Yuri On Ice doesn't go down the sex route.
I think this is what makes the series nearly 100% believable. There is more focus on Victor and Yuri growing as people when they work together as coach and student even though it's so easy to decide who is seme and uke). Of course there is the super-deformed humour when it comes to flirting but the smallest hand gestures and heartfelt hugs are enough to send fans flailing across the room. In regards to that particular moment in episode 7, that was some cheeky subtext there. I think everyone knows that scene was definitely real, even with the arm covering the face.
The series finale was left open (the last sequence was stunning I won't lie) and I think with how things went, there could be a second series. It would be interesting to see the personal development of all the skaters when they continue their careers. If there are some aspects that hindered my enjoyment I would say it's the racial aesthetics (Victor a fair-skinned Russian who is more experienced in relationships, skating, being sociable VS Yuri an introverted Japanese guy who hasn't as much experience and glamorous career as his idol). Sure the characters have been drawn to compliment their supposed skin tone but then I noticed how personalities were quite stereotypical of the characters' ethnic origin.
The characters I was intrigued with didn't get as much backstory as the two Yuris and Victor which is a shame - aside from Phichit because he's on better terms with Yuri than the others. I understand it's to squeeze as much as possible in a short amount of episodes provided but it would be cool to not make the Asian characters as uninteresting as the Westerners. I think this is a particular peeve I never made much notice of when I was much younger while watching Anime and reading Manga. Unless of course the series was set in an alternative universe where race was not in real time and the world the story is set in is perhaps fantasy where humans and non-humans co-existed.
As the main character, Katsuki Yuri is relatable (to me anyway). I like how he is introverted and suffers from anxiety and nerves which affects his confidence. The series never fails to repeat how he's a late-bloomer Skater right next to those who are younger. He is like a dark horse/underdog. This reassures me because I consider myself a late-bloomer of sorts. I got into creative writing very late and have had endless slumps. On the whole I get into things very, very late because I'm a slow-paced individual due to how I was brought up. As for Victor...how would you feel if he was your coach? He has so many emotional layers. He'll be carefree one time, serious the next and it's hard to read him. But when he shows you his skating skills and insight to life you can't compete.
Other random thoughts
* The Seiyuu - I can't fault them. Suwabe Junichi in particular. I'm familiar with him in Kuroshitsuji (just imagine Victor going all Undertaker on Yuri randomly during training and talking creepy) and X/1999. I forget how his real voice is how he is with Victor and that the previous characters I know him as had deeper tones
* Yuko and Yuri gushing when they see Victor skate near the beginning. Their reactions are understandable
* Those Sasaeng fangirls after Yuri/Yurio yikes [sorry just realised I'm using a term that's mostly used in Hallyu fandom]
* I will not look at Katsudon the same way. It's one of my favourite Japanese dishes too
* Hey creators, if you're going to hit us with series 2 - less subtext and more public or canon content if you please.