Sometimes it can be really hard to warm up to a series, and if the fan base for the show is enigmatic, then it makes for a challenging sale. Unfortunately, Yuri on Ice is a double whammy for tough pitches to fans because of the fact it is a sports anime. Usually, even sports anime can get some love, however with this one people were offput by how it swept yearly anime awards (most notably with Crunchyroll). Even if the hit figure skating/yaoi dream series was centered around a sport as the premise, people had a hard time understanding just how well it captured the subject matter because (obviously) a very small percentage of the viewers actually ever partook in/were fans of figure skating. Anyone getting hung up on the actual act of the skating really weren’t looking at it the right way to get it- or rather, they were simply over thinking the experience the series gives. I only knew skating from what my mother liked to speak about the time she did it and whenever we watched the Olympics together, so it wasn’t like I was a subject matter expert going into this series myself. Where I personally got the most out of the show came from something that controls the sports media (or even media entirely while we’re at it): narrative.
Things can be spun or showcased nearly any way someone wants if it fits into what the narrative looks like, that much I’m sure everyone knows. What I mean by narrative here, however, is one of the most fun parts to sports. Maybe it is learning about how hard an athlete worked to get to their world stage by overcoming tragedies that happen to all of us, injuries etc. Or maybe it is a motivational training montage showing everything that they physically trained for competition. In actual sports it is the closest thing viewers get to seeing “character development” before events. It could be those brutal inspirational bits that happen seconds before an athlete doesn’t finish their run at the Olympics (thanks NBC.) or it could be those horrible specials that ESPN runs over this week’s flavor in whatever sport is playing that week, but the stories are certainly there regardless of how they are consumed.
In Yuri on Ice’s case, the best thing it has going for it has to be how great the narratives are. Every single competitor has their journey and aspirations shown in the flurry of emotion that is their craft. Some are aggressive, some are lovelorn, others are even egotistical. I don’t really need to go into detail what inspired main character Yuuri Katsuki (since everyone on Earth at this point knows about it), but my favorite bits came from when he was out on runs and questioning his own resolve. These moments felt ridiculously heartfelt and peered into what drove someone to the peak of their abilities in a way even live action sports dramas don’t get right. Usually there are some overkilled directing effects that pull the drama out of sports scenes and just make it feel like there is one of those sporting journalism specials with a big budget on the silver screen. Yes, there is some cheese to some of the people competing in the series, but most of the time there are heart pounding passion moments like there are with Yuuri throughout.
Really when it comes down to it, any particular moment of the series is worth taking a deep dive into, but the series is an experience that needs to be had and I urge audiences to put aside the drama that came with the controversy from fans being a little too invested in the series (maybe more on that sometime soon since we’ve seen a lot of those issues with anime this past year). The best advice I can give is to just kick back, enjoy the ride, and don’t look too much into the details of the series if the sport itself doesn’t make sense to you. You’d be surprised how much fun it is to follow emotions instead of X’s and O’s in real sports that way too.