23rd Oct2018

‘Yuri!!! on Ice: The Complete Series’ Blu-ray Review

by Xenia Grounds

YURI-ON-ICE-blu-cover

It’s hard to believe now considering how popular it is but Yuri!!! On Ice was a gamble as far as animes go. It was an original story, a same-sex relationship was a massive part of the plot and it had a large focus on figure skating (which isn’t the most popular sport in the world) to name a few of the risks it was taking. However, fortune favors the bold and the risks Yuri!!! On Ice took paid off massively.

The premise of the first series is that after a crushing defeat in last year’s Grand Prix, Yuri Katsuki goes back home to try and figure out what to do next. He idolizes a Russian figure skater, Victor Nikiforov, and when he does one of Victor’s routines, it ends up online and goes viral which leads to Victor wanting to be his coach much to his shock and awe.

As a sports anime, there are a few tropes from that genre to be seen here such as the protagonist having to recover from defeat, the student/coach dynamic, the hot-tempered rival and tournament arc. However, Yuri!!! On Ice does some things different such as how the student/coach relationship between Victor and Yuri ends up becoming more than that. Another is that even though there are competitors, the real opponent for Yuri is his sense of insecurity and anxiety which can be costly in a sport where confidence and grace is key. It’s never outright said that Yuri has an anxiety disorder but it’s shown very frequently because even though Yuri has a great support network around him, he is very capable of messing up if his doubts get the better of him and they sometimes do during some episodes. It leads to some puzzling decisions on his part but those who have an understanding or have suffered with anxiety will relate to him.

Yuri does really develop well as a character in this 12 episode run as he goes from having virtually no confidence at all to baring his soul on the ice. Most of this comes because of Victor. It’s pretty common knowledge that the relationship between Yuri and Victor does eventually become a romantic one. This is incredibly rare in non-yaoi anime and I commend the creators for going down that road in a sports anime which can have issues with this type of thing to say the least. More so, it’s a positive relationship as Victor brings out Yuri’s confidence and sides of him that Yuri didn’t even know he had while Yuri provides love and life for Victor who hasn’t had the opportunity to have because he’s always been focused on his career. Their relationship is very heartwarming and those two really escalate the show. They aren’t perfect as Yuri is a fragile soul and Victor isn’t great with other people’s emotions so he doesn’t always say the right thing to boost Yuri’s self-esteem and can unintentionally make the problem worse but it is realistic and it develops at a great pace.

The supporting characters do suffer though. If you read my B: The Beginning review, I talked about how it can be problematic introducing a large cast of characters in a short timespace. The same problem applies to Yuri!!! On Ice. The supporting characters aren’t badly written but because of the small screentime, they tend to be introduced on mass especially when the tournament aspect starts which makes distinguishing and investing in these characters harder. Additionally, some characters who are implied to be important tend to be moved into very small roles rather quickly.

The OST for Yuri!!! On Ice is one of the most famous parts of the show. If you go on YouTube, you’ll probably find a video of real life figure skaters using tracks from this show. That achievement is a rarity in itself but very deserved as the music in the show is brilliant and very diverse. There’s classical pieces, Spanish guitars, J-Pop, Jazz numbers and powerful ballads so there’s something for everyone’s taste and there’ll be a track or two that becomes a signature for a few characters. The opening track ‘History Maker’ is one of my favourites as it oozes confidence and passion in its lyrics and it’s hard to listen to it without grinning or feeling very motivated. On the subject of sound, the dub is rather divisive and it’s understandable as some lines aren’t delivered perfectly and the Russian accents (for me anyway) can be a little OTT at times. There are some lines that the dub does improve upon like Yuri’s response after Victor kisses him. If anything, Yuri is nailed perfectly by Josh Grelle and considering how the show centers around Yuri, that was the most important thing the dub needed to get right.

Last but not least is the animation and it isn’t perfect as the quality declines often. There are instances where monologues happen and the eyes of the character barely move or face rendering isn’t done with great detail. That’s probably because a lot of the budget for the animation was spent on the skating sequences which are the highlight as they are all unique, brilliantly choreographed and very stylish and are probably more impressive if you know a lot about figure skating (brief tangent: you’ll finish this anime knowing more skating terminology than when you started). It’s no wonder why Persona 5 used the same style for its opening as it is beautifully stunning and while Yuri!!! On Ice does repeat some shots, it makes sense given the characters usually perform the same routines with not much change.

Briefly but still worth mentioning, the DVD comes with a commentary for the penultimate episode, a cast discussion with the director of the dub and the two lead dub actors, creditless openings to name a few things which are all worth checking out.

Yuri!!! On Ice is a great anime but it is a case of immense hype. Don’t go into it with the expectation that it’s one of the best animes ever made like some of the intense members of its fandom seem to make it look because while it is worthy of high praise, it has flaws like everything else does. Yuri!!! On Ice did take risks and what makes it different is what makes it great and hopefully it’ll lead to more diversity in the anime genre in regards to representation as this anime did it with such sincerity. There is a movie sequel in the works which should be released next year. A season 2 hasn’t been confirmed at the time of this review but with such momentum behind it, let’s hope there’s more Yuri!!! On Ice for a few more years yet.

Yuri!!! on Ice: The Complete Series contains all 12 episodes plus the following blu-ray bonus features:

  • Yuri Plisetsky GPF in Barcelona EX “Welcome to the Madness” OVA
  • Eleventh Skate Commentary
  • Textless Opening and Closing songs
  • Textless Closing Tenth Skate
  • Textless Closing Final Skate
  • Trailers

Yuri!!! on Ice: The Complete Series is out now on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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