Here at HOM, both of us were diligently following the fall anime Yuri on Ice!!!!! We decided to do an end of season follow-up joint post about half-way through the anime. We didn’t realize at the time how massive the fan following would become. According to this poll and this poll, it ended up being the most popular anime of 2016. Yuri on Ice!!!!! got so many things right. Here’s what we loved about the series.
Laura: Before the fall season started I was hyped about Yuri On Ice!!!!! (YOI) for two reasons: it was a sports anime about ice skating, which I’ve loved since childhood, and it looked like perfect fujoshi bait – I’ve come to really like that in anime. I grew up watching ice skating in the 80s and 90s, when names like Brian Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi were known by most television audiences. Skating has declined in the U.S. in the past couple decades, so younger U.S. viewers may not have any reference for it. I was eagerly anticipating this anime, however.
What about you, Adrienne? You are in the younger viewer audience. What appealed to you to watch YOI?
Adrienne: I was going to skip this anime, but Crunchyroll’s Facebook page sucked me in with clips of Victor and Yuri. I’m a sucker for a good romance with some angst. The show did an excellent job of conveying Yuri and Victor’s emotions (along with other characters). The characters were relatable and realistic; I was absorbed by Yuri’s insecurities and his goal to overcome them, and I loved Victor’s sincerity.
Even though I wasn’t drawn to the show because of the figure skating, I still found myself cheering for Yuri and hoping he overcame his fears. The creators of the show gave the anime many layers — enough for Tumblr fans to analyze over and over again (to my delight). So for me, I was about the characters; although, admittedly, I mainly paid attention to Victor and Yuri. The anime was done in a way that even if you aren’t a BL fan you’ll still find enjoyment in it. To me it’s a sports anime with romantic overtones between two people who happen to be men.
Laura: I would say the relationship between the characters did suck me in as well. Yurio and Yuri were fun to watch interact. Victor was a whole other pile of joy. His expressions throughout the series were dynamic and captivating. I was unsure at first where the director was going with the romance aspect. I thought it would be teasing boys love, like Free!, and it did come across as such the first few episodes. But there is something that changes dynamic after episode 5, when Yuri starts competing, and it’s evident that Victor and Yuri have developed their relationship off-screen. I didn’t even care at that point what gender they were. They were two people in love, and you just want their love to flourish. That’s one of the things I think Kubo-sensei got right in this series. YOI contains a homosexual relationship, but that isn’t the agenda of this story. It’s like a by-product of the love that develops between the two characters who as you put, happen to be men. To me, that makes their love genuine and not a trope. It is nothing like a yaoi series at all.
My favorite aspect of the series is difficult to pinpoint because so much of the work was researched and well developed. That’s one of the things that was really, really RIGHT with Yuri on Ice!!! The costumes were designed by a professional skating costumer. The choreography was done by a professional skater. The music was all composed by professional artists and much of it is original. The background and locations were accurately researched and drawn. The social media aspect of this series is another highlight as well. It’s mind-boggling how much went into this anime, and kudos to the staff for doing it!
While I love the skating, music, and choreography, I would have to say the art itself was my favorite aspect. All the foreign and domestic locales that the artists had to draw and match, and the actual animation of the skating as well. Some of the behind the scenes work of the animation that they put on social media was impressive. Since I teach animation, I really find that aspect interesting. There was a scene of Yuri skating Victor’s program that they had someone 3D model and animate, and then they drew the 2D animation frames over the top of the 3D model animation to get the body positioning and choreography right. It’s really amazing.
— 安彦英二 (@oapiko3) October 26, 2016
Adrienne: I mentioned the artwork to a friend who has never watched anime because I wanted him to see how well-done the art was, especially when they were performing their figure skating routines. It’s amazing how beautiful YOI is. I recently re-watched a few older anime, and it’s crazy how far animation has come.
I have two favorite moments from this series. Surprisingly, it’s not the scene where they exchange rings XD. But the first one is the reveal of how Victor and Yuri actually met, and that Yuri doesn’t remember a thing about his strip dance and plea of desperation for Victor to coach him. Also, I must give a shout out to the Tumblr YOI fandom, again, for their insight. Victor’s actions up until the reveal made a lot of sense. For instance, the scene in episode 2 when Victor slept alone (clearly upset) after being rejected by Yuri and he’s crying. That didn’t make sense the first time around, but really does the second time. We also find out what Yuri is like when he lets loose. Not only was the moment of the party comedic (and unexpected), it was brilliantly executed and made so much sense in hindsight. The other moment that I love comes when Victor and Yuri are separated and reunite at the airport. The emotions and tension displayed on their faces and in their body language made me teary-eyed.
Laura: I’m with you on the favorite moments. I think those were mine as well. One of the other moments I really liked was watching Yuri skate Victor’s program for the first time and his reaction when he finds out that it’s been put on the internet, and Victor’s reaction to seeing it. After the episode 10 reveal, that scene took on a completely different meaning. I also loved the scene in the parking garage in episode 7, where Victor is trying to be more coach-like and decides to shatter Yuri’s heart and tell him he’ll quit being his coach if he doesn’t place. Then Yuri responds by telling him to just believe in him, more than he believes in himself. Stand beside him. That was a huge step forward in their relationship.
I also like the scene between Yurio and Yuri on the bridge after the Rostelecom cup, where Yurio shares his katsudon pirozhki with Yuri. It’s one of the few times Yurio isn’t outright antagonistic to Yuri. Then there’s the scene with Otabek rescuing Yurio from the fan girls on his motorcycle in Barcelona. That was great as well. I think Yurio was my second favorite character to “Victuuri”.
I loved the ending as well, where Victor and Yuri do an exhibition pair skate. That would never happen in a real skating event. It was nice to see it happen in the anime. Seeing them skate what was Victor’s unrequited love song, as a duet, was a great way to come full circle and show completion of his feelings.
Adrienne: I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending — even if they did skate together. Although the anime was satisfying overall, I can’t help but feel slightly displeased with the overt “are they/aren’t they”. I am in the “they are” camp, but Yuri’s hangups and denials leave me unsatisfied. Maybe I don’t expect a loud declaration of love — but there better be a real wedding in the second season, damnit!
Laura: Hahaha. I don’t know about a wedding, but who can tell? They did everything else in season 1. I’m in the “they are” camp, and I think most of the Japanese are in that camp, too. Kubo said in an interview that it was the global watchers who were unsure of the relationship status of Yuri and Victor. Did they kiss in episode 7? Yes, says Kubo. So I’m sure other things occurred off screen as well. I was hoping for more domestic interactions between the two – I loved the scenes in the hot springs resort, especially when Yuri goes running in to show Victor his new music and accidentally steps on Makka-chin. Those everyday situations I find more fulfilling for a relationship. That’s what I hope to see more of in the “next level” series. Of course there will be more skating competitions, but I want to see how Yuri and Victor and Yurio interact when they are all training together. What do you think the next season will be about?
Adrienne: I didn’t see the interview (so thanks). It helps some of my fears, LOL. I agree with you about showing more everyday situations. Things like exchanging rings are great, but it’s the little things that really make the relationship. I want to see them get to a level where they are more honest with their feelings. I don’t even mean it in just a romantic sense, but as a part of character development. I know Yuri cares for Victor, but some of the relationship struggles come from Yuri’s own personal insecurities. I enjoy watching Yuri’s character development — for the romance but also because I love seeing characters grow comfortable with themselves and their decisions.
Nonetheless, I’m excited to see Victor take to the ice again and want to see how that will impact all of his relationships (platonic or otherwise). I bet the next season will set an even higher standard than the first and that makes me all the more excited to watch it. Hurry up second season!
Laura: Here, here! I’m already having withdrawals from missing first season. Speculation online is that the next season will cover the Four Continents competition since it gets mentioned by Seung-gil Lee in episode 12, but that’s just viewers wishing I’m sure. Whatever they would like to do, I hope they are able to make it happen. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and the fandom has exploded. I’m sure more content would be devoured and loved just as heartily.
I can’t even cover everything that was done so well and so right in this series, because so much of it was spot on. I hope that other viewers are as in love with this series as we are. I know here at Heart of Manga –