Man, I’ve been slacking lately. To make up for it, here’s an opinion piece on some A-class yaoi bait! Yuri on Ice has been noted a lot recently, mostly for its animation quality and characterization. With the rather lackluster fall season we’re in right now, Yuri on Ice is a definite highlight. Smitten by the animation quality and deeper meanings, the anime community is really liking this anime. And what do I think of it?……It’s alright. Lemme explain my thoughts on Yuri!!! on ICE.
First, let’s delve into the plot. Yuri Katsuki is a rising 22-year-old star in men’s figure skating. Well, he was, until he severely blew it at the final round of the largest competition in the world. Now in a slump and quite plump, Yuri has no real direction in life. His entire desire for figure skating was to impress his childhood crush, who was smitten by Russian skater, Viktor Nikiforov. Although she’s had a family with someone else now, Yuri still performs a complete copy of one of Nikiforov’s performances for her, as was his goal. Unfortunately, her kids recorded and uploaded his entire routine to the internet, of whom Yuri expects a backlash for mimicking Nikiforov. To his surprise, not only does Nikiforov actually visit Yuri, but then offers to quit figure skating temporarily and take Yuri under his wing to coach him for his return. This starts the story to Yuri not only getting his skill back, but finding a new direction in life.
The plot doesn’t really do much in the way of originality, other than the obvious theme of figure skating. To be honest, there are a lot of moments where the anime doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with a subtle moment, but I’ll expand on that later. The central theme is rising up from your mediocrity and trying to discover a new way to move forward, something that’s been done before. But there are a lot of great stories that have that simple of a theme, and for Yuri on Ice it works for the most part. It takes its time in the opening episodes to set up how lost Yuri is in his life, although it seems like the anime skips over huge chunks of time in a couple minutes. Fortunately, the first episode is probably one of the best first episodes for a seasonal anime that I’ve seen for a while. It takes its proper time to let the viewer sink in to Yuri’s dilemma. It seems that the quieter and peaceful moments are well-shot and well-timed, with just enough subtlety to get into the anime’s head-space. However, there are also times where the anime achieves a subtle feeling, and then it will abruptly cut to a hyper-active Yuri caricature and explain the past events or explain figure-skating rules and scoring. It is essential to know the basic rules of skating to really get absorbed into it, but this abrupt style seems to take away from how this anime could really achieve a calm and somber atmosphere. Thankfully it doesn’t completely derail it, and it’s still relatively interesting to watch.
Another highlight for this series is its animation. Every skating program is animated (or rotoscoped and then drawn more likely) in its full form. The first episode highlights this the best with Yuri’s mimicry of Nikiforov’s performance. Without a doubt, that sequence is one of the best animated scenes I’ve ever seen in an anime. It’s evocative, emotional, and the animation is downright perfect and gorgeous. The major problem, and a point of contention for me, is the rest of the series’ animation. Most of the skating programs start out with well-structured animation, but as the sequence goes on, it seems less and less real. Characters seem to stretch and morph in ways that their supposed body structure wouldn’t allow. This would be a nitpick in any other situation, as I’ve seen plenty of glamour shots in my time, but each program is animated in its entirety. Again this wouldn’t mean much if the sequences were cut well between different angles and shots. Unfortunately this anime chooses the, albeit admirable, feat of maintaining the same camera shot throughout a good chunk of the sequence. This leads to a lot of scenes of two minute stretches of just them skating and the same swooping camera as they skate across different sides of a composited background. Add this to the animation that starts great but ends up looking goofy as all hell, and you get long sequences of skaters who look like they can morph mid-routine.
It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of re-used animation. It’s not too noticeable in the beginning, but it becomes very easy to pick out the same frames later on, especially when they use it multiple times in the same episode. I understand that re-animating the same fluid section of animation just to get a less repetitive feel is a problem with budget, but there are other ways to getting a good sequence out of the same actions. Using more camera cuts, and re-animating smaller bits would both help to cut away from the sequence to keep the viewer from watching the same thing again and to avoid repetitiveness. A lot of episodes so far have had the same routine of Yuri’s new program focused on “Eros” and choose to still use most of the same sequence to take up a chunk of time. It’s really unfair for me to say this stuff, considering the amount of effort that’s clearly on-screen, but I cannot help but feel distracted when the anime is cut like this.
I know that most of this has sounded negative, but Yuri on Ice is an anime that is interesting to watch. I like the characters so far, and it has done well enough with some sequences that really hold together the anime. But coming into this series for animation is probably a losing battle, as you’ll both have some of the most fantastically structured animation, but also a lot of repeated sequences and goofy-looking character structure. The apparent yaoi bait is also not too distracting in the beginning, but it has become less of sleight of hand and more of just harassment. I would say that even the first episode of this anime is worth a watch for how well it pulls off selling the concept of an anime based on figure-skating. Unfortunately, the rest of the episodes don’t hold up to the same standard, although it never really plummets in quality either. So Yuri!!! on ICE is less of the stellar animation spectacle that many are making it out to be, and more of pretty okay and really gay. But I’m liking it so far, so there has to be something more to it. Maybe I just can’t get enough of Christoph rubbing his butt.