Skating Rinks and Chill: How A Guy Could Learn to Fall in Love with Yuri!!! on Ice
Exclamation points completely necessary.
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the year 2016, then you probably don’t need me to tell you what Yuri!!! on Ice is. Figure skaters are swearing by it. It momentarily spared the online world by crashing Tumblr’s servers. It’s got online fans everywhere gushing over the not-so-subtle relationship between a Japanese skater and his Russian coach. But if you’ll give this show a chance, then you’ll find that it’s more than just a love story.
It’s something more than just a sports story too. It’s actually a little bit of both, combined to make something truly unique and cohesive. The best part is, you don’t even need to be much of a skating fan to really get into it.
Whether you’re into figure skating or not – whether you’re in it for the fancy costumes or cool stunts – there’s no need to worry. Much like its diverse cast, this series comes with a little something for all.
No kidding, this show’s the real deal.
Reason #1: The Performances As it’s getting much hype for being a love story, it’s easy to forget that Yuri!!! on Ice is still a sports anime. Thankfully, the series doesn’t go into all of the mechanics of figure skating, and elects to focus on the performances instead.
It’s a good decision on the part of the creators – through the performances, we’re able to get brief, but adequate glimpses into our characters’ personalities. The series doesn’t shy away from showing us the skaters’ full performances, even if they show up for just two or three episodes. For a series that features a variety of side characters from all over the world, putting the performances front and center is a most effective way of letting us know who they really are.
The performances are also where the series gets to truly show off. Undoubtedly, Yuri!!! on Ice has some of the best animated sequences to be seen in a while. Dancing on the skating rink is a much more different kind of dancing, where movements are more fluid and much smoother. Thankfully, the animation department's dedication is obvious, as it showcases slick movements for its skaters, while managing to give them individual body quirks to set them apart. The way everything’s presented, you’re almost fooled into thinking you’re watching the real thing.
This guy, for instance, is an evil witch.
Pair the stellar animation with the skaters’ music of choice, and you’re left with something that’s truly a wonder to behold.
Another thing worth mentioning about the performances is that you’re only going to see the same two routines per character throughout the entire series. Here’s the kicker, though – although they’re always the same sets of routines, none of them are performed the same way. Depending on the mood of your character, or the problems he’s going through at the time, you can expect each rendition of the same routine to be different every time. This way, the characters can still develop, while we get to see more shades to their personalities.
You just gotta have the right context for it.
Reason #2: The CharactersWhere would a sports anime be without effective, memorable characters? Not in the district playoffs, that’s where. Luckily for us, despite its short twelve-episode run and limited screen time per skater, Yuri!!! on Ice still manages to have some very well-written side characters.
While Yuri, Victor, and Yurio take up much of the plot, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the guys fade away uselessly into the background. Instead, they go beyond mere caricatures, and become more fleshed-out and developed as the series goes on. More than just random guys the main characters can trade banter with, the other skaters become regular characters with their own sets of problems and skill sets.
Everyone gets their fair share of day in the sun. Their performances do well to show us what these guys are made of, but when they start interacting with each other, that’s where the fun really starts. There’s the Canadian rock star nobody likes. The somber, serious Kazakh who wants to be friends with the most unapproachable guy in the tournament. The innocent Thai kid nobody’s allowed to pick on.
With a cast of friends like these, who needs enemies? Don’t get them wrong – you can put them all in the same room, have them drink, and let them throw a party. But the moment you say you’re taking the gold medal from them, watch the room temperature drop. These guys, after all, are still Serious Athletes, and if the audience members forgot that for a minute and started to think they were all members of one big happy family, then that’s on them.
And then, there’s this guy.
Everyone’s fighting for something, and the show never fails to remind the viewers what these somethings are. What they all share in common: the fear that they’ll run out of time. Beneath the frills, the twirls, and swelling music, it’s admittedly easy to get mesmerized by the exhibitions. But then you’re reminded of the fact that not even the youngest competitor has the luxury of time – as his limber joints will fade away with puberty, it’s important he take advantage of the competition right away. It’s a much more serious tale for the older characters who are nearing the ends of their careers. Even more so for main character Yuri, who, even at the age of 23, is already considering retirement.
For any series with a large, memorable cast, gaining a favorite character is already a given. But in the case of this series, and with the way everyone is written, it really is impossible to truly dislike any one character. Trust me, I’ve already tried.
Much like its different take on sports anime, Yuri!!! on Ice should also be praised for its refreshing take on same-sex romance. I’m not gonna lie: heading into this, I was expecting something racy, something lewd, and ultimately something only for the most dedicated of fangirls.
Pictured above: the best Kazakh since Borat.
Reason #3: The Love Story
Was I glad to be proven wrong.
In this series, nobody wastes time being in denial about their feelings. There’s no angst about a guy falling in love with another guy. There’s no life or death situation, or some grave threat to force both parties together. Absolutely no indication that they’re entering a relationship, because they know there’s an audience and the storywriters wanted to indulge in their hidden fantasies.
There’s none of that here. On the contrary, everything just happens, simply because it’s the most natural, most logical step for the characters to take. The fact that the story completely normalizes the romance without making a big deal out of it is something truly worth noticing. What’s particularly special about Yuri!!! on Ice is how it doesn’t give anyone any grief for falling in love with someone of the same sex. At the same time, it doesn’t make a fanfare over the same thing.
Here, love is love, and a relationship is shown only as part of a natural, organic progression of feelings. The romance isn’t special, because two men are in love. The romance is special, because these two people are in love – characters we’ve seen, known, and become invested in since the start of the series.
Where any other series would zero in on the same-sex aspect of this love story, Yuri!!! on Ice goes against convention and makes the radical decision to normalize the romance.
Unlike other sports anime, where all the athletes ever talk about is their sport, Yuri!!! on Ice gives its characters a personality beyond the skating rink. Unlike other love stories, where everything has to be about the two characters getting together and getting involved in crazy shenanigans, Yuri!!! on Ice shows that it really shouldn’t be that big a deal. This balance makes for a renewed take on two of anime’s most common genres.
It normalizes friendships too, because this is totally how we ask people to be our friends.
There’s a real understanding of the sport here, and also a real affection for the characters involved, that in the end, you just can’t help but get caught up in the ice drama. Before you know it, you’ll be talking about quads, Salchows, and toe loops – all while speaking in random Russian – right with the best of them.
Don’t forget to light those mood-scented candles while you’re at it.
Not to mention the weird life insights you could also take away from the show.
Skating Rinks and Chill: How A Guy Could Learn to Fall in Love with Yuri!!! on Ice
Yessir, the hype is real. In the month of Eros, love is totally all we need – even if it can get a little nauseating at times.
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