Should You Watch 'Yuri!!! On ICE'? Episode 1 Fall Anime 2016 Review

Yuri!!! On ICE key art
Key art for Yuri!!! On ICE. (c) MAPPA

Fall anime season 2016’s Yuri!!! On ICE episode 1 starts us off with a gorgeous opening theme sequence set to a stirring English-language song that wouldn’t be out of place on a Michael Bolton album. We are the history makers! Already I love it: I’m ready to be inspired.

Our main character, Katsuki Yuri, is a 23-year-old figure skater who’s made it to the Grand Prix after years of hard work, but whose disappointing performance has him in tears in the bathroom. That’s when he meets Yuri Plisetsky, a Russian skater in the junior bracket who will be advancing to the senior bracket next year. He kicks open the stall door to inform our Yuri that two Yuris are unnecessary in the same bracket.

Poor Yuri and his no good, very bad day.

Victor Nikiforov, his idol, offers him a photo together at the airport, but Yuri is so humiliated he can’t face him. He trudges away from his hero, head held low, and we skip forward a year. There’s a cute bit where a chibi-style Yuri freezes the action and pops up to explain things, like how the figure skating competition season works and how he was unable to shake off his failure. He comes home to Hasetsu having gained a lot of weight and unsure whether to retire or pursue his dreams of skating on the same ice as his idol.

We see flashbacks of Yuri and his friend Yuko watching Victor on TV as kids, and Yuri getting a poodle after learning that Victor has a poodle. Then we’re treated to Yuri and Victor both doing the same routine, Yuri skating on the ice for Yuko while Victor skates in the championships. The animations has its ups and downs, though it also includes beautiful details like the sparkles gleaming off Victor’s coat and Yuri’s blades.

Yuri’s former coach comments the routine is more suited to a younger, naive man than a beauty like Victor, just as Yuri tells Yuko about how he wanted to recover his love of skating by remembering how they felt when they copied Victor’s routines. But when Yuri is about to confess his feelings to Yuko, they get interrupted by a pack of little girls and their dad. Yikes, it’s Yuko’s husband and triplet daughters. Poor Yuri.

On his way out, Yuri sees Victor and his protege Yuri #2 on the TV and goes to sit in his room, which is covered in posters of Victor. He seems to feel resolved: he needs to get back on track so he can skate with his hero. That’s when he gets the news that Yu’s pack of little girls taped Yuri’s performance and uploaded it. And it went viral. Everyone sees it, including Victor, who narrows his eyes meaningfully as he watches the footage. Gadzoinks!

Later on, Yuri’s mom asks him to help shovel snow. When Yuri opens the door he’s almost bowled over by a brown poodle that’s the spitting image of their deceased family dog, Vicchan. His dad cheerfully comments that a hot foreign guest is hanging out in the family hot springs. Yuri practically passes out and scrambles to the hot spring only to see Victor, who is gorgeous, naked, and winking at him. Victor has come all this way to become Yuri’s coach and see him through to the Finals. Our episode closes with Yuri screaming “WHAT?!”

The ending theme is just as cute as the opening, a scroll through the instagram accounts of various characters, capturing others in moments of affection, excitement and intimacy.

The slice-of-life sports anime with a thrilling undercurrent of homosexuality is a fujoshi favorite. You see them all over the place, same as you see the “cute moe girls doing anything in groups” genre. Haikyuu!!, Bakuon, they’re different sides of the same coin. For my part, Yuri!!! On ICE’s sleepy focus on Yuri’s tentative, shy personality promises some rewarding moments of character growth, especially since we’ve already seen how badly he reacts to failure. We’ve got the rival, Yuri #2; we’ve got the mentor, glamorous and talented Victor, Yuri’s idol; we’ve got the stakes, Yuri’s future in figure skating. Character design is appealing, animation is good enough -- full speed ahead, please.

You can watch Yuri!!! On ICE every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on Crunchyroll here.

 

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