In November of 2016, my social media accounts were flooded with memes from Yuri!!! on Ice. I was far from interested. I assumed that it was going to be another sports anime full of fanservice and some irksome queerbaiting. I avoided it as much as possible, content with playing round after round of Overwatch instead. But being November, it was Thanksgiving break, and I was bored.
So, I took the dive. I acquired a trial run of Crunchyroll, and started up the first episode. Mostly because people I trust wouldn’t stop talking about it.
The first episode hit my emotions almost the instant I pressed play. I was expecting fanservice (and it was coming, sure) but what I got was our main character at his lowest, crying in a bathroom stall over the passing of his dog and a loss in a huge competition (it is a sports anime, after all).
And that. That is why I gravitated toward this show. It isn’t about the fanservice or even the sport (though, I am much for familiar with figure skating now). Rather, it’s about knowing your own worth and pushing forward to accomplish it. Throughout the twelve episodes, we watch Katsuki Yuuri push his comfort zone and become stronger for overcoming those self-inflicted mental barriers.
In fact, there is no villain to speak of. Those mental weaknesses of Yuuri’s are the shadow that plagues him, and the biggest part of what he is made to overcome. While I’m no expert, I do suffer from anxiety, and I associated a lot with some of Yuuri’s behavior.
And all of this before I’ve even gotten to Victor. A world champion with numerous gold medals to his name, he’s Yuuri’s idol and inspiration for skating. With Victor’s arrival in Japan to become Yuuri’s coach comes the fanservice I was so worried about, but also an interesting personal journey for his character, too.
Victor, at the age of twenty-seven, is ancient in terms of figure skating. Before he arrives in Japan, the little we see of him is half paparazzi asking about his future, half dramatic figure skating performance. I believe that was meant to be a look into the duality of his character.
You see, Victor, like Yuuri, is lost. Unsure. His whole persona is built around the foundation of figure skating, so who is he without it?
These two personalities coexist beautifully. Victor longs for someone to see beyond his gold medalist exterior, and Yuuri wishes to find a place for himself in the figure skating world. As coach and student, they are prefect for one another.
In my humble opinion, the romance between Yuuri and Victor is portrayed in a very real way. With fear for spoilers, I won’t say much. However, I found it believable and more than just fanservice for fanservice’s sake.
At the end of the first episode, Yuuri is out of competition shape and unsure of his future – figure skating or otherwise. With the help of his friends and his idol, by the end of the last episode, he forges a path ahead that he earned through his own hard work.
And that’s why I love Yuri!!! on Ice. It’s not about saving the world, it’s about one person – Katsuki Yuuri – finding his place in this scary world. I think it’s a story, at its core, that we can all gain something from.