Welp, I was supposed to have an article last week, and that didn’t happen. You can blame Pokemon Sun for that. Anyway, I should be talking about the myriad of new shows that are being simulcasted this season, like Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid, Little Witch Academia, Interview with Monster Girls, the usual. But I still find myself coming back to think about the runaway hit Yuri on ICE that was broadcast last season. Usually, shows that I end up not liking fade away into my subconscious to never be thought of again, but maybe because Crunchyroll’s first ever Anime Awards was sabotaged by filthy normies, Yuri on ICE is a more prevalent topic. There’s a thousand different reasons why it was able to be successful, and hell I’ve already written two articles on the anime. That’s more than for other anime that I love to death. Unfortunately, an anime that was relatively run-of-the-mill in its planning and pretty poor with its pacing knocked other much better anime out of the limelight. But instead of sitting here in a pile of grump mumbling to myself and claiming the world to be wrong because it disagrees with me, I wanna break down what I found inherently wrong with the anime.
First off, while the characters are good templates, they never seem to evolve from that. I’ve mentioned this countless times in my Yuri Plisetsky vs. Yuri Katsuki article and even in Part 2 of my 2016 Anime List, but I’d like to go a bit deeper. Most characters seem to have a start of a narrative. Only a few of those characters are given the joy of a closing narrative, but there’s never an in-between. It seems like there was supposed to be more development somewhere, but often times character arcs just begin and then end. I’ve never read the source material, so I can only assume that most of the arcs got hacked to fit the 12-episode run. The worst offenders to this are Katsuki and Victor themselves. They have very prevalent problems that need to be solved. But at no point does it feel like they solved them with practicality. The viewer is told that Katsuki blows it in multiple competitions before his meeting with Victor, none of which are actually seen. His solutions to his problems are either comedic or don’t practically make sense. He changes the movement in his Eros routine to be slightly more effeminate, which makes some sense given his more subdued attitude, but doesn’t actually seem to matter. Victor severely lacks in coaching ability and is slowly losing his spontaneity with the crowds. This lack of coaching is mentioned as no more than a joke and his inability to surprise the crowd anymore is mentioned in passing by Yuri Plisetsky. I usually don’t like to judge a work by lost potential, since that is 100% subjective, but there are clear setups and leads to support a follow-through here. Then it just leaves it there to hang while Katsuki and Victor solve their insecurities WITH THE POWER OF LOOOOOOOVE!!! Oh don’t worry, I’ll get to that too.
This ends up leading the anime into its second problem, the pacing. This anime is intent on setup and nothing more, so when the follow-through is supposed to happen, I end up getting a hack-job of an ending to a character or plot arc. There’s no middle meat to almost all of these plots, and in the worst case scenario, it doesn’t even have any build-up. Examples I can think of are Christoph and Micky. Christoph has a need to skate on the ice with Victor again, otherwise it gets boring. Then Katsuki ends up getting better and Christoph ends up enjoying himself nonetheless…and that’s about it. Micky wants to protect his sister from other men. Then he lets her go. There’s nothing that moves the plots, it just moves on its own without any catalyst whatsoever. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the anime didn’t focus too much time on them. Unfortunately, it is VERY persistent on giving these characters as much screen time as possible. The worst offender of this case is Jean-Jacques Leroy, or JJ. With nary an indication, JJ severely blows his chances at the Grand Prix Final by having a panic attack mid-routine. As in, it literally happens in the middle of his routine, with no previously established buildup in the slightest. There was nothing to suggest that him getting nervous was even a possibility. It was painfully obvious that it was used only to put everyone on equal footing without JJ just completely running away with it. It would make sense if the guy had done this previously at qualifying competitions but was egotistical in more local competitions. But this guy absolutely wipes the floor at every other competition prior, so his sudden realization of the desperate-to-win attitude of the other skaters makes no actual sense. It felt a lot more like a last-minute write-out for a character that was too perfect. I’m not saying that the plot points are bad, as they could’ve been used effectively, but without build up they seem more like a bullet point than an actual plot.
The third problem comes in when it comes to the overall romantic plot. Look, I’ve read more romance manga than I can count, hetero and homo, and this one is not good. I can tell you a character’s gender has no bearing on the plot structure of the romance, so whatever idea people have of it being homo automatically makes it good, they’re wrong. First off, I never found Yuri and Victor’s relationship believable. They seemed more like good buddies with a common interest at first. The build-up to the kiss in Episode 7 would’ve been excellent had it had an actual aftermath. Instead, I was confused the rest of the way on if they actually hooked up or not. If they did, then the story just has poor chemistry between these characters. If they didn’t, then what the hell was the point of the kiss in the first place? It might as well have been the kiss in Highschool DxD, because it had zero purpose and didn’t build the characters further at all. There seems to be decent sexual tension when it comes to Yuri about to go onto the ice, but that’s about as far as it goes. And I don’t care what anyone says, that ring scene was unbelievably stupid and cheesy. Hell, it even has the third-act breakup cliche, with Yuri suggesting they split up and Victor come back to the ice. There has to be progress in order for a romance to be fully realized. There has to be a good way for the characters to hook up, there has to be good drama that comes between them, because a good romance is something that is fueled by the plot testing the characters’ will to be with each other. At best, Yuri on ICE’s couple is typical rom-com fare, just with two dudes. It doesn’t help much that all of their character arcs and problems are ended with romantic solutions. Ones that are really bad.
The fourth and final problem was the animation. I usually don’t pick apart animation, since I understand the strenuous labor that goes into it. Unfortunately, when the animation is painfully inconsistent, then it becomes an issue when trying to get into the story. The first episode starts of with drop-dead gorgeous linework and animation. The problem comes in when every episode after that degrades further and further. This shows a real problem with spacing out effort and budget, since there is a very clear decline in quality. This isn’t an issue of an awkward keyframe or two, these are entire sequences that look laughable. Shows that look half as good as Yuri on ICE’s first episode have much better consistency and flow better with presentation. It doesn’t matter if the show has one outstanding sequence if the rest of the sequences barely pass when it comes to structure. Characters’ limbs morph and melt frequently, with more and more obviousness to how the ice-skating sequences were rodo-scoped and traced from live performances. This isn’t just a case of a couple goofy-looking cells, most if not all the later episodes have noticeably sub-par animation. Even though many other anime don’t come close to Yuri on ICE’s first episode, the consistency is where Yuri on ICE loses a lot of its steam. Half of the reason people stuck around to watch is not only gone, but became one of the anime’s weakest components.
I should’ve probably prefaced this with how I don’t actually hate the show. It at least nails a type of atmosphere that I don’t see too often, and it at least STARTS pretty well. But Yuri on ICE is a pretty stalwart case of things getting worse as time goes on. Nothing was up to snuff, except Yuri Plisetsky but I already wrote an entire article about him, and it ended up being not only plots that went nowhere, but some plots that ended in an extremely poor fashion. Animation that was solid at first turned to mush later, and it still somehow ended up in Crunchyroll’s nominees for Best Animation (And won against stuff like Mob Psycho 100). I think its biggest problem is that it just felt like a bunch of ideas that never went anywhere. There were certainly starts to decent plot points, but it either never went anywhere or they just ended poorly. The anime’s like a bowl full of proper cake ingredients. But just the ingredients, because none of it gets mixed. Unfortunately, just having elements of better design present instead of it mixing well doesn’t really count. So yeah, those are my basic thoughts on why Yuri on ICE doesn’t really work. This is for sure the last article on it. I got more stuff to talk about. Like the fact that I just admitted that I’m currently watching Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid.