Reviewed by: Eeeper
Released by: FUNimation
Age Rating: 12
Region: 2 - UK
Length: 300 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Yuri Katsuki has crashed out of the skating Grand Prix in front of the world. But soon, his idol Victor Nikiforov will come with an offer that is too good to turn down. Along the way, Yuri will open his heart and find his way on the ice rink and more.
Sayo Yamamoto is one of the best hidden treasures of the anime industry working today. Handling everything from Samurai Champloo, Gunslinger Girl, and Eureka Seven she is a creator who tells her story with skill, heart and hidden depths. While only series director on three projects, her latest show (released 2016) is one of the most crowd pleasing anime in many years. Yuri!!! on Ice in both an excellent dive into the world of competitive ice skating and a story of love in the most funny of moments.
Yuri Katsuki has just crashed out of the international Grand Prix of figure skating. At 23, he had much promise but somehow, together with a crippling anxiety crisis, he hasn't achieved anything close to the level he should be at. Dragging himself back to Japan, he licks his wounds at his parents Onsen hot spring/family home with childhood friend Yuko helping to pick him up. While perfectly executing a routine by his idol, Victor Nikiforov, Yuko secretly uploads a video of it online and this catches Victor's attention who travels to Japan and announces he will coach Yuri to victory at the next Grand Prix. Hot on Victor's heels is Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian prodigy who Victor had promised to design a routine if he won the Junior World Championship. Sensing that Yuri K. is his rival for Victor's attention, Yuri P. vows beat him and have Victor for himself.
The show, which is scripted by manga author and artist Mitsurō Kubo, takes twelve episodes and in a utilitarian fashion follows the standard tropes of hero loses match, gains hope and trainers, trains hard, gets beaten after some easy victories but ultimately prevails that anime is littered with. That, however, is a disservice to the story that the trope crafts this time around. Yuri K. is one of the most likeable sports protagonists in recent years. His crippling anxiety makes him human, a person who can't overcome his fear until someone teaches him it's OK to be afraid. Through his relationship with Victor who takes life as easy as he can, Yuri is every one who has ever dreamed of the edge of the dream but been scared to go over the edge. But as we learn about Yuri K., we see he is a deeply intuitive athlete who has reservoirs of strength if he can just hold his never long enough. At the same time, Yuri P. is his mirror image: a boy gifted but utterly cut off from his feelings and humanity who only finds his feet by being infuriated by this Japanese kid who seems to have his idol's attention. Together, the two can be said to be the person we can, are and would be given enough choices and circumstances.
The show also makes a splash, and I'm not saying that it's done for titillation, by the reveal that Yuri K. and Victor share a passion for skating, for life in general and later in each other. While the show can be criticised for revealing Victor and Yuri's attraction to each other in a very roundabout way, the actual love story between them was crafted by Yamamoto and Kubo and only gets cut down due to censorious elements external to the production that Yamamoto had to bend to. In any event, the two lovebirds get to their happy place in as anime and awkwardly a fashion as is possible. Yuri worries to death, Victor laughs, they practise Yuri's latest routine. They continue to fall in love and the world keeps turning. At the same time, the show excels in the animation of the skaters, Yuri, Yuri P. and the rest of the competitors as they fight for the prize. Every success, every fall and every point is lovingly animated and while I still don't have a clue how competitive skating is scored, the show helped me to watch current real world highlight reels with a better appreciation for their efforts. The camera zooms around as the characters curve around, spin, leap and grind to halts, the animators holding our attention by quickly showing the distance from the skater to the crowd. At the same time, the music runs from classical to new compositions that speak to the personality of the skaters. The title music, History Maker by Dean Fujioka, is a feel good fist pumping anthem which weaves Yuri and Victor's story into the lyrics and must be mentioned for fear of forgetting to acknowledge it.
The voice cast on both tracks are excellent but Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Josh Grelle as Yuri P. and Junichi Suwabe and Jerry Jewell as Victor steal the show in both dubs. Suwabe is so good as the hilarious and haughty Victor when placed next to the nervous and anxious Toyonaga and the rest of the cast on both versions just have great fun with the material.
All together, Yuri!!! On Ice is such a great tale that you realise that it doesn't push the medium in new directions, doesn't make radical concepts and won't ever be held up as a standard and that's ok. It tells its story with such an ease, the animation so good that you expect every other studio to match that level because why can't they, and has such relatable, rounded characters that when it's over, they live on in your head. There's no need to cry that there may never be another story from them (relax, there's a movie coming) except that you watched two people fall in love and it was so easy to watch while crowds cheers for them and their rivals.