Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Yuri On Ice (Anime)

Yuri on the Ice exploded on the internet and is a prime example of why I don't watch anime anymore on a weekly basis.  I can't handle the fandom explosions and the drama of waiting week by week for a series to come out - though those aren't bad things.  I'm too impatient and Netflix has taught me I prefer to binge and marathon.  So I waited until this series was all out without looking at too many spoilers (though I heard a lot) and I'm glad I waited! (And I'm sorry I'm so late in posting this review!)

What's it about?

Fresh off his failure to place at the Grand Prix last year, Yuri Katsuki is taking some time off at home to consider the next moves in his figure skating career and life as a whole.  The sudden appearance of Victor Nikiforov at his family's hot sprinsg kicks that decision into high gear.  Victor is his idol and is now insisting on being his coach to get him back into skating, and Yuri has no idea how any of this happened.


First and foremost - and the thing that stuck out to me most about this series, is that this is not a Yaoi series.  Where as most anime with gay characters tends to be marketed as such, this series was not and it benefited from it and that was one of the things I over heard unfolding in the fandom while I was waiting to watch the series.  Instead of drawing in only that fandom crowd (which isn't bad) fans were treated to a story that very slowly built up the relationship between the characters and slowly pushed beyond the subtext into pure canon territory with an organic feel that wasn't forced at all.  Many fans came in to watch this series expecting to get something like Free! where the tension is there but no actual canon action.  When the canon action came (and I don't consider this a spoiler, because honestly I don't know how you avoided not hearing about the characters in this series, whether you watched it or not) people were stunned and amazed - because they all hoped for it, but never thought they'd actually get it.  This treatment allows us to get a love story about two figure skaters who just happen to be gay - rather then a gay romance about men who just happen to be skaters.  The difference may be small, but in a world of queer baiting (I hate that term, tbh) and "bury your gays" it's a much needed difference.

The story is amazing, and I'm not just saying that as a fangirl.  I'm truly impressed by how this story unfurls and introduces you to all of these characters from around the world.  I came away from the story really disliking only 1 of them, out of the entire cast, and that's a feat.  I absolutely love Yurio and how his story is so different from Yuri's.  I would love to delve more into his world and his character, should a second season be produced, but really I'll be happy with them expanding on any of the characters because I love them all (except one).

The animation and the music stand out in this series.  From the simplicity and catchiness of the opening with it's water color animation to the absolute detail when the characters are skating.  I know nothing about the world of figure skating, and even I could see how their performances improved across the episodes beyond the announcers telling us when they aced or flubbed a jump.  The show also does a good job of showing Yuri lose the weight he gained from episode 1 to the final in very subtle body changes.  He's not turned into a short and fat chibi character like most anime would do (looking at you Accel World) but instead it's more realistic and you can see the change as he works out and practices.  Seriously, it is worth your time to go onto tumblr after watching this series and marvel at the amazing number of gif sets created, showing the differences between episodes.  There's attention to detail in the animation that they didn't have to do, but the fact that they did it makes it even more impressive.  Yuri's performances alone with all his falls and triumphs are amazing, especially when you think of the extra animation this required.

Another note on the animation is something that isn't used to often, but here was done masterfully and deserves some attention.  Years ago there was a series called Gankutsuou where every single thing was patterned and while it gave the characters a unique look, it was a little hard to watch because the patterns didn't move with the characters, they remained static on the screen (like a blue screen effect in it's infancy).  In Yuri on Ice the effect is used masterfully with the different skater's costumes, to show the sparkles as they move.  This effect, even though it's used sparingly, just adds to the animation and makes them seem that much more real.  I could watch these characters skate for days and I would never get sick of the animation.  Kudos to this team for using that technique.

Final thoughts?

I am in love with this series.  Honestly.  More then most slice of life anime I've seen recently, this has a high place in my books and I'm eagerly waiting to find out if there will be a season 2.  And in the meantime, I think I'm going to go rewatch it and hunt down some fanfic and fanart while I wait.

Where'd I get it?

Crunchyroll has the entire series streaming.

It's also worth noting that Octopimp is making a hilarious abridged version of the series called "Yaoi on the Rocks" which is also worth your time.

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