Yuri!!! on Ice (yes with 3 exclamation marks) is perhaps the most hyped anime of 2016. When the first time I heard the title -without seeing any visual of it-, I thought the yuri means girls' love theme. Well it turns to be the opposite as a lot of people are saying that this should be a "Yaoi on Ice" instead. It certainly does not help that the acronym for the title is YoI. Lol. And perhaps the most hilarious comment that I come across is someone suggesting that "Yaoi on Fire"is more apt to describe the series as well as all the attention it receives.
Anyway, jokes aside, Yuri is actually the name of the main character, Yuri Katsuki, as well as his rival Yuri Plisetsky. YoI is actually an anime about figure skating. After a series of poor performances, Yuri Katsuki is thinking of retiring when he goes back to his hometown. Surprisingly, the reigning world champion Victor Nikiforov decided to take a break from competition to be Yuri's coach to help Yuri revive his figure skating career.
YoI is essentially a sports anime. However, in the first few episodes, the creators use a lot of bishounen and yaoi undertones to get people interested in the anime. Thank goodness the sports elements eventually become more prominent.
As a sports anime, YoI does an excellent job to portray figure skating in a realistic manner: whether the characters, the clothes, the performances, the points, the kiss and cry scenes. It made me watch some Yuzuru Hanyu's figure skating videos as comparisons. Haha.. There are no crazy inhuman movements and scores and I got to learn a little bit about the point system and figure skating competitions in general. Unfortunately, things get repetitive in the middle when the same songs and similar movements are re-used for the competitions and even the Grand Prix Final. As a main character, Yuri starts as a Japan champion already competing in the world Grand Prix so it is not the typical underdog becoming a champion kind of story. However, I don't really see how Victor trains Yuri and it makes as if what drives Yuri's performance is the romance element.
The characters are likeable and each of them has unique personality. Even the Yuri Plisetsky's angst comes across for comedic effect most of the time instead of making him like the unlikeable rival/enemy. While I like the international casts, I am quite bothered that they all speak Japanese. There is no accent differentiation or stark difference in the character designs to depict that they are all from different countries.
As the series progresses, there is a difficulty in maintaining the momentum. I feel that the climax is at the China Cup which is at the middle of the series. Subsequently, things get pretty repetitive and boring before the final episode which is completely anti-climatic. The ending does not hit a high note whether it is for the competitive sports elements as well as the romance elements. Anyway I am not even sure if it is correct to say 'romance' since the Yuri-Victor's relationship is also ambiguous. They are trying hard to balance between not make it explicitly shonen-ai/yaoi to keep the series mainstream but they still want a shonen-ai/yaoi feel to make girls go gaga.
With all the hype, I hope there will be a second season in which Victor will be competitive again. It will be nice to see Victor and Yuri skating as competitors.