Yuri!!! on Ice – 02

I’m mostly on-board the hype train with Yuri on Ice, but not to the extent that a lot of viewers seem to be.  Objectively this series is very good, but there are elements that work for me and elements that don’t – which makes me wonder if there’s just an incompatibility between Yamamoto Sayo and myself that’s always going to be a presence. She’d a very stylish director, with all that goes along with that description – and what you think of her style is naturally going to be a major factor in your enjoyment of any of her series.

If there’s anything worrying me, it’s that after two episodes Yuri on Ice is distinctly reminding me of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.  The very important caveat is that here I don’t hate most of the cast (obviously, that makes a big difference) but the commonality for me is the style of humor and the fact that I don’t find most of it funny.  I think Shigatsu was a more “serious” (in a offensively banal way) story by nature, and it’s humor was considerably more unsuccessful than Yuri thus far.  But the flispide of that is that there’s more of it in this show – this ep was quite a bit more comedy-driven than the first – and the majority of it just doesn’t make me laugh.

I’m hoping I can get past that (to be honest, Yamamoto’s comedy has almost never made me laugh) because Yuri on Ice is quite lovely to look at and had the makings of a rather engaging storyline.  I find the conceit that Viktor would look at a Youtube video and instantly decide to quasi-retire and fly halfway across the globe to coach Yuuri a bit silly – only slightly more than the idea that Yuri would (at 15, mind you) slip out of Russia virtually unnoticed and stalk him to Kyushu.  But since they’re here, we might as well have a story – the three of them have the potential to be an entertaining troupe.

Yuri (one “u”) is more or less the main focus of this episode.  He’s apparently based on the female skating phenom Yulia Lipnitskaya, who burst onto the scene at 15 too (much more common among girls), and is widely considered “washed up” at 18 after a so-far disappointing senior career.  As played by Uchiyama Kouki Yuri is effectively gender-neutral, a classic teenage brat who could as easily be a boy or a girl (I don’t know the sport well enough to know if that’s anything like Lipnitskaya).  His reason for following Viktor to Japan is nominally that Viktor promised a 13-ish Yuri that if he won the World Junior title without any quads in his routine, Viktor would design the program for his senior debut.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of reading between the lines to see that there’s more to this for Yuri, and Yuuri too.  Both of them idolize Viktor, idealize and deify him even – whether there’s a sexual element with either of them it’s hard to say, but their adulation is very real either way.  Perhaps the most interesting question to me at this stage is whether Viktor will prove worthy of that adulation.  Obviously, he’s an incredibly talented and charismatic man.  But is he worthwhile of such admiration?  Is he a flighty gadfly who uses his hold over others to amuse himself (it does strike me that boredom may be Viktor’s biggest enemy) or is there a substantial core to the man that’s as notable as his raw talent and magnetism?

This is interesting stuff, no doubt about it.  Viktor is already proving an interesting coach, forcing Yuri and Yurio (that one piece of humor did work for me) to skate to the piece of music the other selected as their favorite of the two arrangements Viktor played for them.  And Yuuri skating to an erotic theme while Yuri skates to an agape one is none-too-subtle foreshadowing of where their character arcs are headed.  But I can’t help it – I just wish Yamamoto-sensei would tone down all the showboating a little.  A few less distorted faces and spit-takes and pratfalls would suit the material better, if you ask me – but fish gotta swim and skaters gotta skate, so I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Yamamoto to be something she’s not.  I just hope there’s enough to Yuri on Ice to carry the weight of all that puffery.

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21 comments

  1. H

    I for one am absolutely loving the comedy of this series and was very happy that it didn’t instantly move into deeper drama waters with the arrival of Viktor and Yuri(o). For me, I’ve always adored the use of funny faces and mood indicators in both manga and anime since they are such fantastic means of portraying emotions visually. It was one of the first things that drew me in as an anime fan all those years ago, so I’ve appreciated every single “distorted” face on the screen. As for Viktor deciding to coach our lead, I cannot agree that it is silly at all. He said that he has come to a point in his career where he is no longer able to surprise his fans. Considering that this is something important to him it just seems taking a break and trying something new is a logical next step. From what I’ve seen so far, Viktor is a genius when it comes to this sport and he can see something in Yuuri that most people seemed to have missed. It was that something that had my eyes glued to the screen while Yuuri flawlessly recreated Viktor’s routine with such a haunting expression on his face. I gotta say I was worried that after such a perfect first episode they wouldn’t be able to follow it up, but they did. Now I’m dying to see next week’s episode. 🙂

  2. Y

    2016 has really been a good year for me. Every season there’s been one new anime that’s surprised me in a good way, and I think Yuri on Ice is that one for me this season from how it’s going so far. It’s not perfect for sure (for me I was more offput by the unnecessary touchy-feely fanservice moments than the comedy), but it’s plot has definitely gotten me excited about the potential possibilities.

  3. I am okay with the comedy too. I like that it’s not too serious, I like that Yuri(o) dropped his edgy teenager mask a bit and showed his goofy side, I like the pacing of the story which feels much brisker than what usually happens with sports anime that are manga adaptations (and are often forced to follow the chapter beat of the source). The idea of “Eros vs. Agape” was a really good one too imho (if there ever was a doubt that this is yet another iteration of the Blue Oni, Red Oni trope). For now, I don’t have problems with it whatsoever, but then I didn’t watch Your Lie in April so maybe I don’t have hindsight.

  4. I have no problems with approaching this material in a comedy-centric manner, and I don’t inherently want the series to be “more serious”. My problem is that the humor here, specifically, isn’t usually funny to me. It’s not an issue with comedy, just this comedy (most of it anyway). The show’s still working for me on the whole, but that’s a worry. And that was similar to how I felt about Shigatsu, which has me concerned – though as I said, I don’t hate most of the characters here, which certainly helps.

  5. M

    Reaction after seeing opening screencap;
    So not only did the creators totally lie to me about the show having any yuri action on ice, now they rub salt by having yaoi in it instead.

  6. You lied to yourself.

  7. e

    *waving from the hype train* so far so fiiiine. And the preview last week was truth in adverting I guess: Victor gave us a pec-a-boob.
    In terms of humour I really liked the mood whiplash at of that ‘goodbye coach’ scene at the beginning and Plisetsky going camera phone shutter happy honestly – also because everythin with animal prints totally gotta be raw and wild and edgy and stuff you know? Caution to the wind! *takes picture, gets found out. Clever boy XDD * – but then save for those two violent splapstick Yuri P’s moments at the entrance of the ice castle most of the humour so far is working for me – even the ‘piglet’ bit feels more like a term of endearment. For all his very surface flashy/flirty/touchyfeely/teasing moments we have also been given a few clues both in-episode and in the ED about Victor that should have alerted the viewers who care to look – .
    Anyway… Yuuri’s confidence is very ebb and flow this week, but there’s a slow rise overall and he is defintely in a better place than in the premiere. Go go go! X3 And Yurio is showing tha he can be quiet and observant and not dismissive of others… for some seconds in a row in a day XD. Still he didn’t manage to bring his magnificent cat with him in Japan it seems. Pity.
    ‘Vicchan’ – YuMom thus speaketh, her word is my command – prodding and poking around for Yuuri’s buttons to get a grasp on (of?) his pupil in both serious and less serious ways was rather entertaining. And the music arrangement choice for both Y(u)uris sort of cinched it. He’s pulling ( or enticing… whatever it works for now XD ) them out of their comfort zones. The brat needs to rise above his gung-oh impulsiveness and embrace some softness and balance – and empathy – , the glass heart man must find his own strength by unleashing that very heart of his.
    About what’s in it for Victor I have my ideas but I’ll just zip my mouth and wait. I’ll just say unless Sayo and Kubo are heading for the mother of all misdirections I’m leaning on the optimismistic side when it comes to interpreting his character.
    P.S.: I wonder if they are going to add more details to the OP in the next weeks too? Would be a clever touch to have that kind of fleshing out paralleling what happens during the episodes.
    P.P.S.: talking on effective hints and glimpses my liking of Minako-sensei is intensifying by the week.

  8. Y

    I find that I agree with nearly everything you’ve said. The comedy sometimes falls flat for me but I’m not particularly bothered by that; what kind of puts me off is the fanservice — I don’t mind having it in the show, but this episode was just so chock-full of it in the first half, it made me feel as though they could have used those time slots for something more meaningful, or to simply slow down the pace of the ep a bit (I did find it a little rushed). But aside from that, I can’t think of any other immediate problems thus far.

    What’s probably the one thing I keep loving and being impressed with is this series’ attention to detail, and how it uses that for the sake of characterization: Plisetsky’s hilarious fashion sense and pure love of all things feline, his tiny smile at the memory of Victor’s promise after he landed his first quad; Victor lifting up his poodle so he could be in the photo with him, and also using his dog’s face as his Instagram profile picture; and Katsuki declaring that his wish would be “to eat and keep eating katsudon with Victor” — such a simple way to disguise his quiet ambition (katsudon is Yuuri’s “victory meal”). I was pleased to see how casually all that stuff was squeezed in, and even more pleased that the fandom seems to be picking up on it all so quickly and easily. I’m also glad Katsuki actually didn’t give in to our sweet little Russian Fairy’s dickbag attitude the way he had previously; shows he really has been working on regaining his confidence in himself.

  9. C

    So if Yuuri is doing agape and Yurio is going with eros, will Victor do philia, the third type of love?

  10. Interesting question.

  11. Y

    You got it backwards xD Yuuri is doing Eros, while Plisetsky is doing Agape 🙂 Victor gave each of them the other’s choice on purpose.

  12. M

    Ahh the Russian Yulia, I remember Sochi 2014 (was that really 2 years ago?) everyone hyped Yulia like hell even though she was only 15 years old. Russia hoped she will win the gold. She did perform incredible in the team event I think, but for single event she crashed and burn, and to add to her frustration it was the other Russian Adelina who won gold for the country. Pity she didn’t continue to fire up the world after the Olympics.

    I’m the same with you that I’m hyped for the anime but not that much like everyone else. Honestly I just look forward for the figure-skating scenes. The story for now seems like still your typical shounen sport anime on surface, whether the anime will go in-depth for plot and characterization (still felt like Victor’s sexual gestures are fanservice rather than proper build-up for a romantic relationship) is still up in the air.

  13. s

    I think sayo yamamoto is good with subtlety when it comes to other aspects of her directing like atmosphere and character dynamics but she pushes the gas pedal to 11 when it comes to the expression of sensuality of the human form. Rather than give viewers small doses she is usually very “in your face” about it and i can understand why that may not appeal to other people’s sensibilities. I, for one, dont mind it because there’s a sense of intended primality behind it all which she uses to make a statement about how adults usually perceive their sexual urges (sayo’s works are usually oriented to adults). While i think yuri on ice will be a more pristine and controlled look at this sexual force that drives adults, it’s still going to be portrayed with plenty of sayo-isms. The fact that this is ice skating and that victor was enamored by Yuri’s performance because of the vulnerability he displayed while exuding confidence sort of hints to this focus of sensual passion in skating and you know yamamoto is going to play it up hard. But that’s usually the only thing she plays up in her works and im fine with that

  14. One glaring thing that this anime (and many others) address is how the heck can the characters even communicate? I doubt many Japanese simply know Russian (English is hard enough as it is), nor do Russians know Japanese. And for some reason, Viktor keeps speaking Engrish.

  15. Suspension of disbelief. But in RL they would almost certainly be communicating in English. It’s very unlikely any of them would speak the others’ native tongue.

  16. I don’t think Russians are well known for being able to speak English either…

  17. Not as well as, say, the Dutch – but a good many Russians speak some English, especially those involved in international professions like Olympic skating. Like it or not, it’s the world’s second language.

  18. Yeah, pretty much any Russian who has to do with international communities will have to be able to. I don’t know for sports, but for science it certainly is that way. As to who speaks English *worse*, it’s usually far East people – Chinese especially. Not necessarily because of bad knowledge, imho, it’s just that their accent clashes a lot with the language and makes it very hard to understand (to me at least). Russians are average in my experience.

  19. Z

    3 six year olds are able to keep a horde of reporters from entering a building, and then are able to do the promotion for an international skating competition, but the problem you have is how freely and completely the MCs can communicate with each other? ( <- the previous is said in a smiling way, because I do understand, and find it a little distracting as well) Since Yuri studied in Detroit, my brain translated the whole speaking thing to "they are communicating in English, and when English is being used he is peppering his speaking with Russian". It doesn't really work since Victor is able to communicate with everyone else just as fluently, but those are the contortions my brain went to so I could keep suspension of disbelief at bay.

    Those kids though, those kids . . . being somewhat familiar with the mental workings of the "under ten years old" set, those kids are making me roll my eyes BIG TIME.

  20. D

    A staff’s comment on the production of Yuri on ice is quite worrisome. The ice skating scene in episode 1 was quite a toll on the animators in that they apparently don’t have much direction to go off of and the direction for camera work would drop off here and there. The reference video was shaky to boot too. The attached pans were especially a lot of work in that they have to painstakingly reduce the flicker that’ll come along with those pans. Even though only 3 episodes were finished the exhaustion was close to terminal stage of usual anime production. Chibi faces are pretty much necessary to give these guys a break.

  21. A

    Great reviews, Enzo. Yuri on ice became one of my favorites ever and I was enjoying reading reviews about it. They are all giving a bit of a different angle, and i really enjoyed your views.

    Persnally, as an adult young woman i am loving the sensuality of this show. And of course, animation is simply beautiful, and i love the characters.

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