Yuri Katsuki carried the hope of all Japan on his shoulders in the Figure Skating Grand Prix, but suffered a crushing defeat in the finals. He returned to his hometown in Kyushu and hid away in his family’s home, half wanting to continue skating and half wanting to retire. That was when the five-time consecutive world champion, Viktor Nikiforov, suddenly showed up with his teammate, Yuri Plisetsky, a young skater starting to surpass his seniors. And so the two Yuris and the Russian champion Viktor set out to compete in a Grand Prix like none the world has ever seen!
Upon returning home and visiting his childhood friend Yuko at an ice rink known as “Ice Castle Hasetsu”, Yuri perfectly mimics an advanced skating routine performed by his idol and famous Russian figure skater Viktor Nikiforov. When secretly-recorded footage of Yuri’s performance is uploaded to the internet, it catches Viktor’s attention. However, when Yuri Plisetsky realises where Viktor is, he races to Japan to demand that Viktor return to Russia to uphold his promise to mentor him. Tempted by the challenge, Viktor decides to plan routines for both Yuris, making them challenge and push themselves to do things the audience wouldn’t expect of them in order to maintain their attention – something which both young skaters are reluctant to do.
The opening and ending credit music to this anime is some of my favourite for this season. “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka stays in my head throughout the anime, with the lyrics in perfect English. The animation is stylistically monochromatic with splashes of colour alongside brushstroke art that’s used to accentuate the main characters and their skating. Ending an episode with the upbeat “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano is a great way to get viewers in the mood for another episode. It’s loose and fun, showing the relationship between the skaters with Instagram-style photos (most of them from Viktor’s account) and memories. Looking at the art overall, the gently-rounded, realism-lite style of the main body of the animation is lovely (each character has a distinct and individual appearance, rather than just being identified by their hairstyle!). Even the occasional breaks into super-deformed chibi-style art at the beginning of the episodes, with Yuri bringing the viewers up to speed, are rather charming.
The two Yuris are at completely different ends of the personality spectrum – one being older, passive and introverted with the other cocky, brash and temperamental. But we always have Viktor balancing them out, drawing Yuri K out of his shell whilst quelling Yuri P’s rages and tantrums. They’re a great trio with a wonderful dynamic between them. I think this is because the three of them are so passionate, talented and determined, and these traits manifest themselves in different ways due to their varying personalities. We are watching Viktor help Yuri K bring out the talent he knows is inside him, whilst Yuri P heads off back to Russia, using his younger, more flexible body to find ways to get ahead of his rival before the Grand Prix. The competition between the two skaters is palpable and very real. You can tell that their talents are on par with one another and the slightest thing could tip the scales one way or another in a competition.
But that’s not the best part. The ice-skating routines we see are truly magnificent to watch: emphatic, fluid and provoking. To see the hot-headed Yuri P dance to a piece of music titled ‘agape’ was beautiful, and even more surprising was the way in which the awkward and shy Yuri K projected ‘eros’ in his piece. I watched the scenes more than once because I just enjoyed them so much. Every program, the technique and the presentation, is upped every time. Now that the Yuris are competing in international competitions I can’t wait to see how the stakes are raised and how their styles improve in order to become the best. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow both professionally and personally.
Yuri!!! on ICE was a real surprise for me. The first episode was a slow-starter but the second episode was like rocket fuel. I love when a new anime on a fresh subject catches me completely unaware, and I’m looking forward to twists and turns both on and off the ice. With its fluid animation, strong emotions, compelling music and quirky storytelling, it’s become something more than I ever expected.