Review for Yuri!!! On Ice - The Complete Series
This is one of those rare beasts, an anime that breaks out of its niche and hits the mainstream. When Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara performed to the Yuri on Ice theme at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this year, then you know an anime has made a permanent impact to public consciousness. But it’s more than just that. It’s twice-over the last anime that you’d expect to hit the mainstream. It’s a sports anime for one thing, a genre that has always been a hard sell in any market. The number of failed football, baseball, basketball and golf anime stretches endlessly, and is underlined by just how few of those shows make it down the line to us in the UK. We’ve only had the one season of Haikyu to date, while Ping Pong made a splash, and the ripples died away. Speaking of splashes, we’re still to see the first season of Free here. The second thing is that it’s a show with a male romance at its heart. We also don’t see a lot of those stories make it to animation, and consequently even fewer get released in the UK. To date we’ve had Gravitation, and well that’s about it. This month sees the release of the first season of Junjo Romantica though, which doubles the tally and Yuri on Ice triples it. No matter which way you look at it, Yuri on Ice is the last anime show that you’d expect to break through to the mainstream.
Yuri Katsuki is Japan’s great hope in figure skating, only a bad performance turned into a bad competition, which in turn became a bad season. His lack of self-confidence even leaves him unable to face meeting his hero, Victor Nikiforov. He returns home to Kyushu, torn between retiring and continuing. And then Victor shows up at his door, offering to coach him to victory. It’s not going to be easy, as Victor’s followed by his other would-be protégé, Russian skater Yuri Plisetsky. But the rivalry may just be what Yuri Katsuki needs to strive for perfection.
Twelve episodes are presented across two Blu-ray discs from Funimation. This is a combo release, but I haven’t seen the DVDs to comment.
First Skate: Easy as Pirozhki!! The Grand Prix Final of Tears
Second Skate: Two Yuris?! Drama at Yu-topia
Third Skate: I Am Eros, and Eros is Me?! Face-Off! Hot Springs on Ice
Fourth Skate: Like Yourself... And Complete the Free Program!!
Fifth Skate: Face Beet Red!! It’s the First Competition! The Chu-Shikoku-Kyushu Regional Championship
Sixth Skate: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Short Program
Seventh Skate: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Free Skate
Eighth Skate: Yuri vs. Yuri The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup Short Program
Ninth Skate: Yuri vs. Yuri The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup Free Skate
Tenth Skate: Gotta Supercharge It! Pre-Grand Prix Final Special!
Eleventh Skate: Gotta Super-Supercharge It!! Grand Prix Final Short Program
Twelfth Skate: Gotta Super-Super-Supercharge It!! Grand Prix Final Free Skate
Yuri On Ice gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these Blu-ray discs. It’s par for the course for modern anime, a clean, sharp, and colourful transfer of a digitally animated show. There’s no problem with aliasing or visible compression, but once again, you might turn your nose up at the occasional signs of banding, especially in darker scenes, and one moment 11:05 into the first episode where it looks like a corrugated truck drove by. Yuri On Ice is pretty typical for a comedy drama anime, with character designs that can shift from slender and elegant to comedic parody at the drop of a hat.
Of course the real draw in this release is the ice skating, which is animated to an astoundingly realistic degree. You forget the animation altogether at this point in the episodes, and just get drawn into the performances. What really is jaw-dropping is that so much of the series is given over to the routines. The show must have left a trail of broken animators in its wake.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with subtitles and signs locked during playback. I gave the dub a quick try and had PTSD flashbacks to Hetalia and had to stop and lie down in a dark room. Thankfully the original Japanese track is a far more pleasant way to enjoy the show. The actors are suitably cast for the roles, and the action is represented strongly enough when the stereo is given a little Prologic to open it out. By far the highlight of the show has to be the music, and it’s not just the inspirational theme songs. There is a whole lot of music to go with the skating as well. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.
The discs present their content with animated menus. All of the extras are on disc 2.
Eleventh Skate Commentary features ADR Director Sonny Strait alongside Chris Sabat (Christophe), Jeremy Inman (JJ), and Micah Solusod (Yurio).
You can see Sonny Strait with Josh Grelle (Yuri), and Jerry Jewell (Victor) in the Yuri on Ice: A Cast Discussion featurette which lasts 20:09.
You get two textless openings and three textless closings including the all important final episode ending.
Speaking of which, that ending featured an exhibition performance with Yuri and Victor, and in Yuri Plisetsky GPF in Barcelona EX “Welcome to the Madness” OVA, which lasts 2:32, you can see Yurio’s exhibition performance.
This BD/DVD combo from Funimation is loaded with on-disc extras, but you do lament the fact that they never tried a Limited Edition release again in the UK following Attack on Titan Season 2. This is one series that really does deserve it. It did get a limited edition release in the US, but that only offers fancier packaging, an art and info booklet, and three art cards for twice the RRP. For the first time in a long time, I’ve experienced an anime series that really demands extra features. You will want to know just how they accomplished the animation in this series, and you’ll be craving a soundtrack CD or two after the end credits roll on the final episode.
Like most people, my only exposure to the competitive world of ice-skating comes once every four years at the Winter Olympics. That’s no way to follow a sport. Then Yuri on Ice comes along, to give a better idea of how the sport functions when it isn’t an Olympic year, gives us an idea of what the athletes have to go through to be ready for those four or so minutes at each Olympiad, the level of training and commitment that the sport demands. In many ways, it’s a classic sports story, following a character who is an underdog, or failing to live up to his potential, and see his rise to champion quality. And the show has the time to develop a romance as well. It works, and it works brilliantly.
Much of it is down to how it is structured. It does the hard work of character development in the early episodes, spending four of them introducing the confidence-shattered would-be Japanese star Yuri Katsuki as he makes his way home, uncertain of whether to quit or not. Then there is Victor Nikiforov, ostensibly the best skater in the world, who is taking time out of his career to coach Yuri, whether he wants it or not. His leaving skating put noses out of joint in Russia, not only for his coach Yakov, but a new arrival to the senior scene, Yuri Plisetsky, an arrogant skater who would much rather Victor coached him than the Japanese loser. Yurio as he comes to be known follows Victor from Russia to Japan to persuade him, so the first contest is an informal one (which rapidly becomes formal) between Yuri and Yurio to see who is worthier of Victor’s coaching.
It’s also in this opening arc that we begin to see Yuri and Victor’s relationship develop. But from this point forward, we’re into the season proper, and following a regional qualifying event, the three meets of the Grand Prix series, all the way up to the final in Barcelona. Seven of the eight final episodes are devoted to skating competition, with a lot of time spent on the ice. Character development and interaction happens around the competitions, and this helps make it all feel realistic and genuine. We do see several of the competitors more than once, and it does mean that we see their routines on more than one occasion as well, but this isn’t a show that cuts corners with simple repeated animation. As the season advances, routines get tweaked, altered, made more difficult to earn more points, and all of that is reflected in the animation, as well as the occasional stumble that a competitor might suffer.
You don’t need to know your Axel from your Lutz and Salchow to enjoy Yuri on Ice; I certainly didn’t, but the more you know about competitive figure skating, the more you’ll appreciate the animation in the show. Not that you need to worry too much on that score, as just like Princess Jellyfish did, the action will occasionally stop in the show for a caricature version of one of the characters (usually Yuri) to pop up and offer a technical explanation of what’s happening on screen. But this never breaks the flow of the story.
I was expecting something different from Yuri on Ice, but I didn’t expect to be presented with such a perfect little show. The way it combines comedy, melodrama, and brilliantly animated skating action makes it peerless in my view. For the first time in a long time with an anime series, I wanted more from a release than just the usual Funimation extras package. There will be a Yuri on Ice feature film, and hopefully when that gets a Western release it’ll address some of those issues when it comes to extra features. But in every other respect, this Yuri on Ice TV series release is a must own collection of a must see show. Don’t miss out on this one!