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Yuri on Ice Surprises Millions

Hannah McCleskey

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On Oct. 5, 2016, Yuri on Ice made its first premier on the anime viewing site Crunchyroll. It was available to all Crunchyroll members except in Japan and China. The world was shocked by how this sports anime breaks gender roles in the sports world, supports non-traditional same sex couples, and focuses on the mental health of athletes.

Yuri on Ice follows the life of 23-year old Japanese figure skater, Yuri Katsuki, after a crushing defeat in the Grand Prix Final. He decides to put his career on hold and head back to his hometown. While practicing at the local skating rink, his routine is secretly recorded and put on social media where it is seen by world-renowned gold medalist Russian figure skater, and Yuri’s idol, Victor Nikiforov. Inspired by Yuri’s performance, Victor decides to retire from skating to coach Yuri.

Yuri on Ice breaks basic sports gender rules. First of all, every main character is a male figure skater. Figure skating is mainly a female-dominated sport. Yuri on Ice not only shows that men can skate too, but also features supportive strong females. The characters have the ability to be fluid with how they express their gender because binaries are not important in the series. For example, Victor references his past performances multiple times saying, “My costume suggested both male and female characters at once.”  Yuri’s performance of “Eros” can also be referenced because instead of playing the part of a masculine playboy he reverses the role and learns a feminine routine.

Besides tackling gender stereotypes, this sports anime also confronts human sexuality by featuring a same-sex couple, Yuri on Ice originated in Japan where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015. The Japanese culture is very accepting of the LBGTQ community, so it is often expressed naturally in their shows and movies. With an increase in acceptance in the western world, the relationships that develop throughout the series has been easily accepted and loved by fans and viewers. The show continued to make history when the most iconic couple came out to the world by officially performing a skating routine together.

Finally, this groundbreaking series focuses on the mental health of athletes who are constantly under pressure to be the best. This is evident when Yuri is first seen. He has a constant struggle with his confidence and fears what his image will be after his multiple defeats. It’s not until Victor helps Yuri realize how good he can be that he starts to gain confidence in himself and realize what he’s doing it all for.

All the characters show growth throughout the series, but it’s mainly seen in Yuri both physically and mentally. It’s a growth that will help inspire viewers all around the world. Yuri on Ice writer Mitsuro Kubo set out to give the world something new: “You have to do the opposite of what is expected. How else will you surprise them?” I watched the entire first season of Yuri on Ice I thought it was great! I highly recommend it anyone who has ran out of TV shows to watch or enjoys anime in general. If you’re interested in checking it out the free trial on Crunchyroll! 

About the Writer
Hannah McCleskey, staff writer/videographer
Hannah is in her first year of Parnassus. She has been involved in French Club and the theatre department for four years. She is passionate about cats, sloths, fries, writing, and acting. After high school she plans to attend Ball State University; however, her major is undecided.
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