Yuri!!! on Ice – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Yuri’s life was built on becoming an Olympic level ice skater for Japan. It was built around his adoration of Victor, a long standing Russian champion, who Yuri emulates in style — to the point of owning the same type of Poodle as a pet.

Yet Yuri can’t achieve his goal, perhaps more due to the stress than his physical abilities, and he washes out in the beginning of his first major season.

Now, returning home after 5 years of training, he’s confronted with open arms and love, but the sad reality many people have moved on. His childhood sweetheart married his childhood bully and has 3 children, his dog is dead, the hot springs around town are closing, and few locals practice skating or ballet as they once did.

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Yuri’s also gotten chubby, not unlike he was as a young boy, and as his mother has always been. Despite this, he explores what drew him to the sport and puts on a fantastic cloning of Victor’s performance… which goes viral on the net to his horror.

Perhaps even more horrifying, his idol arrives in town and declares he will coach Yuri and they will win the next grand prix. But a rival, a young Russian who shares Yuri’s name, is in the wings. Will Yuri cut through his fear of success? Will his childhood hero live up to his expectations? Will this become a boy x boy love drama or something else?

God damn! I don’t even care because it’s masterfully put together…

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these screen shots do it no justice…

What makes Yuri’s art on par with the best of the best, is it’s complete and utter lack of cutting corners. The ice skating certainly is rotoscoped but the camera moves, which pivot gracefully in arks, the shifting into — and out of — television recordings in the foreground and background, and mirroring of characters doing the same set in different locations are all master class work.

And that says nothing of the coloring, lighting, and subtle blink of jewelry, the grit of a run down town, and extremely broad spectrum of character body shapes, natural and cartoony gestures (that somehow all feel grounded in the same universe) is like watching Fate:Stay without literal magic or Eureka Seven’s grand cast in a non-scifantasy setting.

Everything has been thought out. Yuri literally has a colder skin tone whenever his is rendered thin and in shape, and warmer and happier looking when he’s fat. This simple visual choice reinforces how his goal to become a skater, to be professional, is itself draining his life away. Joyless.

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And that says nothing about the plot, which addresses concepts like body image, eating disorders, family, and what it means to fall short of your own expectations, yet still be loved and supported by everyone around you.

For all intents and purposes, the plot takes itself seriously, but with a lite touch that makes Yuri’s shames and frustrations charming instead of eye rolling.

This is a solid piece of work and, no matter where it goes from here on, I can not find flaws with the opening episode. The art craft, tone, variation, creativity and warmth from the cast (against a cold setting) is contagious. I strongly recommend you go watch this episode or call me insane in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Yuri!!! on Ice – 01 (First Impressions)”

  1. Finally, watching all that random crap paid off…Yuri!!! on Ice was in my blind spot.
    It’s a work of Yamamoto Sayo (of Michiko to Hatchin fame), so I don’t think you’re insane.
    Grain of salt, but super-early MAL voting is similarly glowing: 8.40 compared to 8.38 for Euphonium 2.

    1. Hibike! Euphonium is probably the only show that will come close to Yuri!! in visual quality, with Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku and Trickster currently sitting pretty as runners up.

  2. Just to note, not all of the animation bits in the ice skating is rotoscoped (at least from what my eyes i can pick out, although i could be wrong)

    1. It’s hard to tell. Especially with good rotoscoping! Even then, the credits include a choreographer, which means the show may have produced it’s own reference materials. It’s hella impressive either way

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