Why is Yuri on Ice so Popular? A Character Study of Victor and Yuri

Every season, there’s always an anime that eeeeeveryone is talking about.  An anime that usually isn’t my cup of tea, but that I’m like well ok I’ll give it a go.  The anime this season is a particularly interesting one to me, because not only is it a sports anime, but it’s an anime that is mainly being praised for its visuals.  After reading a series of reviews, hearing a ton of History Maker covers, and finding out that it was being simudubbed, I decided to give it a watch.

And boy did it take my breath away.

I’m always skeptical when it comes to an anime being raved about, because I think it’s just the hype train chugging along.  Plus, with its main draw being visual’s to most people, I tend to be wary about watching because visuals 100 percent are not my thing.  And, in all honesty, if a story focuses on visuals alone to tell it’s story, I don’t think it’s doing its job.  Of course there will be some visual elements in anime that just can’t be translated, but as long as the story doesn’t majorly suffer from that, or someone explains later via a monologue what happened, I’m fine with it.  But, my major question with these sorts of shows is, is can it carry itself without visuals?
Short answer:  Yes.  But let’s dive into this a bit more.  Why is Yuri on Ice so special?  Look at it on paper, and it’s a typical sports anime set up:  Protagonist loses heart, has to find it again through an external force or person or group of people.  Works toward building themselves back up again, finds themselves back where they started at the beginning of the show, but better, therefore can succeed at what they previously failed at.  A typical heroes journey, with fan service peppered throughout.  Yuri on Ice isn’t free of the fan service aspects, but those small bits of fan service that happen are short, and play to the characters strengths. When Victor says something crazy, you just go “Ha!  That’s Victor for you” and it never seems like any comment, action, or reaction is out of place.  Everything is played very realistically, and I think that’s a huge plus in Yuri on Ice’s favor.

Which leads me to my next point: the characters.  In any sports anime I’ve seen, the characters really should be known as caricatures.  Granted, I haven’t watched many sports anime, but literally I’ve turned on one episode of a few, gotten fed up and stopped watching because of how one note and cookie cutter the characters are.  In Yuri on Ice, every character seems very real.  The writing staff took the time to flesh out each character, fill them with hopes, dreams, fears, good traits, and bad traits, and it adds to the charm of the show.  Take Victor, for example:

A picture of Victor
I’m too sexy for my shirt~

On the surface, he’s the typical goofball, open to expressing himself, over confident sex symbol.  Through interactions with Yuuri, however, you see a layer that he obviously doesn’t show to the public:  He cares a lot about others, about his legacy as a skater.  As soon as he sees Yuuri, he sees the potential in his skating and wants to go help him reach his full potential.  It takes someone who’s very in tune with their emotions to be able to see that in other people, and it’s obvious Victor is exactly that:  From how other character’s say he makes them feel with his routines, to how much he’s effected Yuri’s mindset from episode 5 onward, Victor is a compassionate person who hides that compassion behind the guise of confident arrogance.  Are either sides of Victor bad?  Not at all.  They’re what make him such a multi-faceted character, and part of what makes the show great.  It takes an amazing staff of writers to add this sort of depth to one of the supporting characters, so how does the main character stack up?

A picture of Yuuri Katsuki
We were born to make history!

Yuri Katsuki is the shining star in this series, and what I think is its major draw.  The figure skating is a major plus, but the fact that we’re seeing this world through Yuri’s eyes is what I think is drawing so many people, and myself in.  Yuri’s not confident, Yuri’s not disciplined, he’s the complete opposite of the typical jock character.  Yuri, in a sense, is all of us:  Because who hasn’t doubted themselves?  Who hasn’t tried their hardest, and choked under pressure?  Who hasn’t questioned their self-worth, but continued following their dreams regardless?  Yuri is a fleshed out character all on his own, but at the same time he’s what so many of us see in ourselves.  Yuri is incredibly relatable, and his growth throughout the series thus far is a shining example of why you should never give up on yourself.  Just seeing Yuri’s progress from crying after losing in episode 1, to his speech at the end of episode 5, speaks volumes to his character development and I can’t wait to see what happens by the end of the series.  I think the best part about his growth too, is that it flows so naturally.  You can see glimmers of this fierce, confident, loyal Yuri in the beginning of the series, but all of those positive traits are clouded by the negative ones he’s focusing on.  Once Victor comes, and helps him work through his issues in his own time, we see Yuri’s true self and it doesn’t seem out of place at all.  Does yuri still have relapses into his doubts and fears?  Of course he does, but all that does is make his character seem even more real, even more relatable, and it works so well when placed next to Victor in scenes.  The dichotomy of both of their alpha personalities is so interesting to watch, and makes the series all the more enjoyable.

In a lot of ways, Yuri on Ice breaks the mold of sports anime, while at the same time sticking to a lot of things sports anime does well.  The major themes of not giving up, persevering through your pain, and always recognizing that you’re never really alone are all just such wonderful themes to have in any show, and I think that’s a major reason why Yuri on Ice is so popular.  But, those are just my thoughts on the subject.

I obviously really love this anime, if you couldn’t tell XD like I said earlier, sports anime aren’t generally my thing, but this one has me hooked.  It helps that I love ice skating, too, so as soon as I saw a sports anime about it, I wanted to see what it was all about.  I’m happy to say that this anime made me rethink my opinion on all sports anime, and give them at least a few episodes to see how the anime stands up on its own merits.

Have you been tuning into Yuri on Ice?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the series.  Also, how did I do with writing this post?  It’s my first attempt at doing an analysis  like this (well, the first one I ever thought was post-worthy) so would love to know if there are any things I can improve on, any other things I can address when looking at a series, etc. etc.  I have a lot of other different types of post series I’m planning to make, but this one was really more of a spur of the moment post I really felt like I had to write.  I’m sure there will be many other Yuri on Ice themed posts on here, so look out for those if you enjoyed reading this one!

8 thoughts on “Why is Yuri on Ice so Popular? A Character Study of Victor and Yuri

  1. The characters are definitely the ones selling this show and they are doing an excellent job of it. Yuri particularly is shining in terms of character development (and just feeling like a real character). Thanks for sharing and good luck with your new blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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