Yuri!! on Ice effortlessly ignites an engaging story about figure skating with fluid animation, a compelling soundtrack, and a creative charm that works perfectly.
PLOT: Yūri Katsuki carried all of Japan’s hopes on his shoulders to win at the Gran Prix Finale ice skating competition, but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Victor Nikiforov appears before him with Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Victor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Gran Prix series.
Animation Production: Studio MAPPA [Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope], Teekyu, Zankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo], Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS, PunchLine, Ushio and Tora, In This Corner of the World, Days, Hajime no Ippo: Rising [co-produced with MADHOUSE])
Director: Sayo Yamamoto [Storyboard and Episode Director on Samurai Champloo Episodes 5,11, 18, 22 and 26 / Storyboard on Death Note episode 22 / Series Director and Storyboards on Michiko e Hatchin / Storyboard on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin Episode 11 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 7 / Director and Storyboard on PSYCHO-PASS‘ first opening sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Kyojin [Attack on Titan]’s first ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Space Dandy‘s ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS‘ ending sequence)
Series Composition: Sayo Yamamoto
Character Designer: Tadashi Hiramatsu (Animation Character Design and Animation Director on Cutie Honey [Live-Action Film] / Director, Storyboard, Animation Director [OP; episode 1] on Re: Cutie Honey OAV / Key Animator on Darkside Blues film / Key Animator on Master Keaton episode 28 / Key Animator on Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 15,19, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26 / Storyboard and Assistant Animation Supervisor on Mushishi episode 8 / Key Animator on Mushishi episodes 16 and 20 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Denno Coil episode 10 / Key Animator on Kimi ni Todoke episode 5 / Key Animator on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 17 / Animation Supervisor and Character Designer on Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakkuritsu / Storyboard on Kuromukuro episode 5)
- Taku Matsushiba (Composer for the following advertisements and animation projects: Asahi The Dream, Oono he Kaerou, Yokai-Watch “puni puni”, Toyota Vitz, JR Toukai, Nissin Cisco, Mix Channel)
- Taro Umebayashi (Composer for the following works: Space Dandy [credited as ‘milk’]
Episode 1 Production Details
Episode Director: Jun Shishido (Storyboard and Episode Director on Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope] episode 6 / Storyboard on Kingdom episode 32 / Series Director and Storyboard on Hajime no Ippo: Rising episodes 1,2, 21 and 25 / Storyboard on Kiseiju: Sei no Kakuritsu episode 11 / Episode Director on Death Parade episodes 1, 6 and 11 / Storyboard on Death Parade episodes 3,6 and 11 / Director on Ushio and Tora‘s first and second opening sequences /
Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto
Script: Sayo Yamamoto
From the director of Michiko e Hatchin and Lupin the Third: Fujiko Mine comes a story about competitive figure skating. Originally this project by Sayo Yamamoto was created as a music video entitled “Endless Night” for the Japan Animator’s Exhibition project from Studio Khara [Neon Genesis Evangelion] and Dwango last year. The visuals are stunning and some of the best this year has to offer. I knew this season would be huge considering that my favorite genre Josei [Sangatsu no Lion and Fune wo Amu] would be getting the spotlight but this knocked out just about every show that’s aired so far out of the water! Yūri Katsuki is a timid 23-year old skater admiring the talents of skating legend Victor Nikiforov. This episode does a fine job in establishing Yūri Katsuki as someone with much to learn. He’s more relatable than many male protagonists and adding to this realism are a few qualities that outlines director Yamamoto’s attention to characterization–he has problems managing his weight. Not to mention the effects of his dog’s death weighing on him too. Which I’m sure the anime will explore this avenue later on. His issues can clearly be seen as we see him crying in the bathroom and during the childhood segment alongside Yuko–he’s emotional and hasn’t quite come to terms with his loss at Gran Prix. Russian figure skater Yuri Plisetsky didn’t help the situation either. However, it does set up a nice rivalry between the two of them. We also see how affected Yūri is after losing at the competition through the episode’s stylistic direction affixed on Yūri’s own physical appearance. This is highlighted in his face perfectly. From a downward spiral to an ultimately uplifting skating performance that turns out very rewarding in the second half. As the story progresses we see that Yūri still has passion for figure skating. Spending the remainder of this episode at the Hasetsu skating rink and an unexpected encounter at the hot springs provides a solid start to the story.
The visual quality is superb–the cast is attractive and this comes across during the skating scene as well. Transitioning from Yūri and Victor Nikiforov’s skating performances. MAPPA and Yamamoto didn’t mess around with staffing for this anime. Picking two time Japanese national ice skating champion (now retired) Kenji Miyamoto to choreograph all of the skating scenes and the visual appeal is breathtaking. This isn’t the first time Miyamoto has choreographed either as he’s choreographed show programs for Japanese figure skaters Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Akiko Suzuki and Yuzuru Hanyu. Working as a coach and choreographer gives him a chance to shine on projects like Yuri!! on Ice!
The ice skaters move freely across the screen–extremely life-like. From hand gestures to flowing hair, Yūri and Victor’s curvatures and clothing embellish a style that’s physically charming and sensually engaging. In other words this is a fine example at what animation can achieve–a physical style that comes off more beautifully than to sexualize its characters through fanservice framing. What’s interesting is how artistic the entire sequence is–you can see his passion through his skating and this is depicted in his slimmer figure on the rink and top-notch performance. The animation choice during this scene was beautiful on purpose.
Off the ice, this show explores body language in a variety of ways–closeup shots of expressive facial animation and quick comedic caricatures capture ballet teacher Minako-sensei and Yūri perfectly. Hopefully, we will get to see a ballet performance from Minako in a later episode accompanied by a originally-composed Taku Matsushiba piece. This show couldn’t be all pretty like the previews let on. The goofy animations were done by famous Ranma 1/2 and FLCL animator Hiramatsu Tadashi. Reminding us that we’re still watching a Japanese anime. The background designs are a pencil-sketch style and very colorful. Object are highly detailed as well. These characteristics in animation transitioned nicely to the natural movements of the characters giving off the idea that there is beauty outside of ice skating.
Overall this was a beautiful piece of work that is an extension to “Endless Night”. One that I highly recommend checking out. A charming additional to the Fall 2016 Anime lineup!
OP: “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka
Directed by: Sayo Yamamoto
Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto
Animation Supervisor: Sunghoo Park
Absolutely incredible. This is one of the coolest openings I have ever seen. Beautifully animated and on-point with the song by Dean Fujioka! I love his voice it’s very smooth sounding and his English is amazing. The song was written in cooperation with Taku Matsushiba. His style is astounding–this song is heavily inspired by classical and contemporary pop music. Providing a nice introduction in the anime’s backdrop–a modern day skating story. Very inspiring lyrics and visuals that are filled with huge amount of artistic passion!
ED: “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano
Directed by: Yoichiro Hayashi
Storyboards: Yoichiro Hayashi
Animation Supervisor: Tadashi Hiramatsu
This was a surprisingly good ending. Really good. Coming off from the modern day musical styled opening sequence this one focuses on life outside of the ice skating element. An entire sequence of instagram posts of the famous figure skaters featured in Yuri!! on Ice! Looks like a sequence taken from FREE! but with a lot more heart to it. This ending comes off super smooth with the addition of an electro-pop sound for the ending song and seiyu Wataru Hatano’s singing. Enjoyed this ending a lot. Anyone notice the “bae” acronym? Very funny.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10