Can you feel, my heart beat…
Let’s get started! Yuri Katsuki is a promising Japanese figure skater who had a terrible run of luck in his last year of competition. After returning to his hometown of Hasetsu after five years abroad, he spends the day reuniting with family and friends. At night he visits his childhood friend Yuko, who owns the town skate rink and lets him practice a routine from his idol Victor Nikiforov. Yuko’s children record Yuri practising and upload it to YouTube, where Victor sees it. Finally, Victor flies to Japan and tells Yuri he’ll be his new coach.
A quick note before we dig in: I’m once again watching the subs (Japanese audio, English subtitles) for this show, instead of the dubs (English audio, no subtitles). As with all shows that have both dubs and subs I tried a little of both to see which was best, and as with most I end up picking the subs version. The English voices just didn’t fit with my pre-conceived notions of the characters, and I also enjoy the authenticity that Japanese audio provides.
So this is the second time I’ve seen Yuri On Ice, and the moment I pressed play all my memories started flooding back in. The OP, the soundtrack, the characters and their interactions; there’s so much to this show that I suddenly remember and adore. It’s only the first episode and I’m already enjoying this walk down memory lane.
The OP in particular is astounding. I admire shows that do something different with their opening sequences, instead of just throwing some music on a PowerPoint presentation of backgrounds and character art. (Sorry Code Geass, but I’m talking about you.) The Yuri On Ice OP is so much more than that: it’s an abstract art piece that cuts out the frippery and shows you the essential heart of the show: Yuri, Yurio, and Victor dancing together in the limelight, dancing through their emotions.
Speaking of emotions, the show starts off with some strong ones as we see Yuri crying in the bathroom. Usually a show with feelings this strong will build up to them over the course of several episodes, but we’re immediately thrown in the deep end with Yuri being crushed by his depression, anxiety, and homesickness. Even as he returns home, the emotions keep piling on as we see him face the belittling crowds, meet up with his sad little band of friends, and even say hello to his deceased dog. Harsh.
Fortunately, Yuri gets a moment to prove himself when he does his practice run in Yuko’s rink. I really like that we get this scene so early; the show spends so much time making Yuri seem like a failure, but by showing us some quality footage of him actually doing the thing he’s supposed to be good at, it gives the audience a measure of goodwill towards him. Imagine if we didn’t see him skate until the first competition, would we have any confidence in him at all?
My one criticism of this episode is that the little chibi interludes (where Yuri interrupts the show to teach us about the rules of figure skating) are quite clunky and rushed, although I do think they’re ultimately necessary. It’s not the simplest sport to portray, so the show does demand a little time to explain things to the audience. I suppose the writers had a choice: do we weave the explanations into the story (which would waste valuable time and diminish the scene), or just hit pause and do an infodump as quickly as possible?
Some more notes before Yurio kicks the door down:
- Let us now begin the sacred ritual: entering all these names into Firefox so my spellchecker doesn’t cover the entire article in squiggly red lines.
- Detroit feels like a weird choice for Yuri to practice figure skating. But then again I’m Australian, so I know basically nothing about the subject.
- These super-long episode titles are going to look like crap on my homepage. Ah well.
- Weird flex, but this show has quite possibly the best fake scanlines I’ve ever seen.
- I really like the audience bait-and-switch with Yuko: it feels like she’s set up to be Yuri’s romantic interest, but WHAM she’s actually got a husband and three kids.
That’s all for today. Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Yuri On Ice!