Why is Yuri on Ice Such a Big Deal?

Julie-Anne takes a look at why the ice-skating anime is so popular.

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Yuri on Ice Official Art

It’s difficult to be an anime fan and not have at least heard of Yuri On Ice. The ice-skating anime was one of the biggest series of 2016, winning the 2017 Tokyo Anime of the Year award and taking home every award it was eligible for in Crunchyroll’s fan-voted anime awards.

Yuri On Ice has already spawned a ridiculous amount of merchandise in Japan, and boasts a number of real-life figure-skaters among it’s fans, including Johnny Weir and Evgenia Medvedeva. Even the release of a new, thirty-second video promoting the DVD’s release in Japan was enough to send certain parts of anime-land abuzz. But what is Yuri on Ice, and why is this show such a big deal? Let’s take a look. Warning: the following article contains mild spoilers.

Yuri On Ice official art The first episode of Yuri on Ice premiered on October 6, 2016 in Japan, appearing on streaming service Crunchyroll shortly after.

The story of Yuri On Ice revolves around Japanese figure-skater, Yuuri Katsuki, who at 23 has decided that his career as a figure-skater is already over, at least until a video of him performing a routine by his figure-skating idol Victor Nikiforov goes viral online, prompting Victor himself to journey to Japan and offer to be Yuuri’s coach.

At first the show appeared to follow in the footsteps of other popular sports anime such as Haikyu!!, Free! and Prince of Stride, focusing not only on the sport itself, but also the relationships between the different characters, with a cast full of attractive male characters and an emphasis on catering to the female gaze.

Yuri on IceHere’s where Yuri on Ice breaks the mold. While other shows, Free! being an excellent example, content themselves with hinting at there possibly being more than friendship between the main male characters, and often subtly making light of the idea, Yuri On Ice is, at it’s core, not only an excellent sports anime, but also a very gentle and sincere love story. Yuri and Victor’s relationship is handled with more maturity and thoughtfulness than most straight love stories, either in anime or in media as a whole.

The show takes a similarly thoughtful approach to the other issues that it deals with, including family, anxiety, sexuality and how hard it is to find balance in your life when you’re chasing a dream. It’s not all serious of course. The show has plenty of light-hearted moments, especially in earlier episodes.

The show boasts a gorgeous and varied soundtrack. The opening theme, ‘History Maker’, is especially likely to get stuck in your head. The writing is also subtly brilliant, with both the confirmation of Victor’s love for Yuuri in episode 7, and a brilliant plot-twist in episode 10 providing plenty of incentive for a re-watch.

If you have yet to watch the series, Yuri on Ice can be streamed in Australia on Crunchyroll. A second season is rumoured to be premiering in Japan in October.