What They Say:
After suffering a humiliating loss at the Grand Prix Final, Japan’s number one skater, Yuri Katsuki, is ready to hang up his skates for good. But when his idol and five-time champion Victor Nikiforov offers to be his coach, Yuri’s put on a trek for gold and to discover the true meaning of victory! Together, they’ll face skaters from around the world while discovering where their true feelings lie.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese in stereo along with the English language dub that got the 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that really does make great use of the music in order to establish a lot with the routines and they play regularly enough that a strong design is key. Both tracks bring this to life in the best way to make the viewer feel engaged with it, much like the show of the skates on the ice and other incidental sounds to bring the performance alive. Dialogue is well handled throughout, including the thought process/narration pieces, so that it feels like it’s where it belongs. Dialogue is placed well in key scenes and there’s a great warmth to a lot of it. Everything comes across clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second which is where the extras are as well. Animated by MAPPA, the show has one of the best looking designs I’ve seen in some time and just about everything is fantastic. The encoding captures it all beautifully with bright and vibrant solid colors, lots of detail in character and skating performances as well as the backgrounds, and some incredibly fluid routines. This is the kind of show that’s easy to get lost in with its production quality and MAPPA hit it out of the park. Funimation’s encoding of it gives it exactly what it needs and fans of the show should be delighted with the end result.
The packaging for this limited edition release comes in a heavy chipboard box that features some great foil with it that brings the snowflakes and the logo to life beautifully. With the fantastic Japanese cover artwork for Viktor and Yuri skating together, it has a light look to it accented by the colors to really stand out and draw you into it. The main cover has the good pairing while the back cover goes for a group shot of the main performers in their outfits from throughout the series. That one works a bigger logo but the design is the same overall and it’s really appealing. Within the box we get the oversized Blu-ray case that holds the multiple discs for both formats on hinges while the front cover has a cute shot of the two Yuri’s together with Viktor all bundled up in winter clothes. The back cover goes for a really big cast shot of all the skaters in it that’s highly appealing with all the expressions well-captured. We also get one of the fan favorite images on the reverse side of the cover of Yuri and Viktor together in the bath.
The set also includes a couple of limited items that fans will delight over with a squarebound book that features a ton of great artwork on glossy paper that also digs into the characters and how the show was put together. There are some good design pieces and a look at the episodes but there’s just a lot of great material to read about the characters and visuals that delight. The release also comes with an envelope in the shrinkwrap that features a small selection of great postcards of the cast that are frame-worthy.
The menu design for this release serves up the right idea as it essentially plays the opening sequence which shows off lots of good colors and heavily on the blues and whites. That ties into the navigation along the bottom that works the same kind of color design with a thick strip that has the letters in white, though a bit larger than normal. The opening animation is a really good one to use to set the tone for the series along with the music, making it enjoyable to just let it play on a loop for a bit as well. Submenus load quickly and easily both during playback as the pop-up menu and as the main menu and we had no trouble setting the show up or accessing the extras.
The extras for this release go a nice bit above and beyond that’s always welcome. The familiar pieces are here with the clean opening and closings that cover a couple of different aspects. We get an audio commentary for the eleventh episode from the dub cast that will please fans and we also get a little two-minute piece focusing on Yuri Plisetsky’s performance that looks great. The big one that we get here is a twenty-minute cast talk piece with the three male leads answering questions about the show together and having a good time doing so.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Original works definitely can capture a lot more attention than an adaptation simply because there’s an opportunity for more unexpected elements. Yuri!!! On Ice landed in the fall 2016 season and it was a real source of interest for many people for a range of reasons. Ice skating hadn’t really had a bit modern hit like some other sports, MAPPA was really coming into its own with a range of productions, and the marketing for it was very strong with the music used and what was seen in promos. For me, what had me drawn to it was that I wanted to see what Sayo Yamamoto was working on next. While I had issues with the pacing of Michiko & Hatchin (that I place more on the writer) and I adored The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, Sayo Yamamoto had worked on a lot of great shows as an episode director but had been limited in terms of taking on a series. She’d done lots of opening and endings over the years but moving up to series director seemed like it was a few and far between aspect. And this property just seemed ideal.
And boy is it.
The show revolves around twenty-three-year-old Yuri, a Japanese figure skater who has found himself at what he feels like the end of his career after a really bad defeat at a Grand Prix Final. He heads back home to Hasetsu in Kyushu to just kind of disconnect from things at his family’s hot springs inn. He’s a bit out of shape at this point, enjoying his pork cutlet bowls, and slowly but surely spiraling. What keeps him from going under completely is the local ice skating rink where there’s a girl that he grew up with that he still wants to impress a bit and not let down, so he does a routine that the famous Russian skater Viktor does. Little does Yuri know that some of the younger girls in the rink recorded it and shared it online, which because of his own status it ends up becoming a viral sensation in that circle. What Yuri didn’t know is that Viktor, who has achieved a lot of fame and accomplishments in his own career, is looking for something different himself and he opts to skip the next season and heads to Japan to coach Yuri.
There’s a lot of chaos as expected early on because Viktor is hugely famous, Yuri’s been retreating and has let himself go, and Viktor made a promise to a fifteen-year-old Russian skater named Yuri that he’d choreograph his next season already. That means lots of competition coming to Hasetsu and Yuri finding himself in the spotlight – and under the gun from Russian Yuri, who gets cutely named Yurio by the kids so they can tell the difference. The dynamic with this group is fun since Yuri is trying to get back on track and please Viktor while also trying to not irritate Yurio while Yurio is just frustrated by what he sees as a loser getting all of Viktor’s attention. Viktor, on the other hand, is just a happy go lucky guy enjoying the inn, the food, and what potential he sees in Yuri if only he can figure out how to unlock it. There are likely multiple reasons why he went down this path (the boys-love fans will lean heavily into theirs) and that aspect of Viktor is what I like the most because it to me doesn’t seem like he’s doing all of this just for one reason and one reason alone. It feels like it’s a variety of things that have pushed him here and he’s trying to figure himself out as well after accomplishing so much and wondering if there is a next level for him.
The series works about eight months of material over the course of it with Yuri’s training getting underway fairly quickly and then shifting to various competitions as he has to work his way back up after losing his qualifying aspects because of the recent losses. This has him moving into a range of very enjoyable competitions with others that have known him to varying degrees over the years, some of them friends from his time residing in Chicago. What we get is that Yuri is simply learning confidence under Viktor because of his softer approach but also in getting Yuri to make more of the choices about what he wants to do. There are some good nods toward how he was with his previous coach that makes it clear Yuri’s inability to make decisions at time held him back and Yuri finds himself wanting to be right and please Viktor more. There are certainly plenty of boys-love style elements to the relationship the two have, and Viktor certainly bumps it up a few notches, but there feels like it’s a lot more than that as well. Yuri’s need to do right by someone he idolizes and not let him down is a huge driving motivation here.
The show works a familiar structure but it excels in making it engaging for two reasons. The first is that the characters are just engaging as you know who they are quickly even without any lengthy backstory, flashbacks, or any hugely problematic dramatic moments that would define them. They’re engaging because they’re in a competitive arena and we see them all grow in different ways across it and become better skaters and in some cases better people as well. Yuri gets most of the attention for the obvious reasons and Yurio a close second, but I really enjoyed Viktor’s understated story where he’s trying to find something new to give him energy and motivation to keep at something that in some ways he likely feels he’s conquered and offers nothing new. Yuri presented the potential for new and they’re a kind of symbiotic relationship that gives each other life.
The other is the animation and music design. MAPPA has quickly become a very popular animation studio that has done some really interesting material the last few years that in some ways felt like it was somewhat non-standard like Garo or adapting something older in a new way with Ushio & Tora. Here, with it being an original work, they put everything on the screen and it shows. It’s just so lushly animated with a richness of color and design and overflowing with creativity that it becomes something powerful to immerse yourself in. It’s playing in a familiar real world but it’s one that’s heightened through the eyes of the competitors where you can really feel how overwhelming it is under the lights, on the ice, and in front of everyone. With such beautifully captured movements on the ice alone this series would be a winner. But it treats every movement in every situation as important and it shines through beautifully.
Start to finish, this is a fantastic show, a fantastic release, and a fantastic experience. Yuri!! On Ice is a series that you will revisit regularly in order to feel inspired, to enjoy the animation and music, and just to feel alive in a way. Funimation’s release timing couldn’t be more perfect as it landed just days before the 2018 Winter Olympics got underway and as we had the music from this used in one of the first routines. A series like this speaks to the skaters but also brings the sport alive for everyone else and we become more invested in it and those that compete. Very highly recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Yuri Plisetsky GPF in Barcelona EX “Welcome to the Madness” OVA, Eleventh Skate Commentary, Textless Opening Songs, Textless Closing Song, Textless Closing Tenth Skate, Textless Closing Final Skate, Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.