Crushed after a series of losses, figure skater Yuri Katsuki returns home with his tail between his legs. Unable to pull himself out of a downward spiral following his defeat at the Grand Prix in Sochi, he starts to seriously consider retiring at twenty three. He’s ashamed of not being able to impress his idol, Victor Nikiforov, and rival skater Yuri Plisetsky resents him for not performing up to standard. Months later, he graduates college and he returns to his childhood home in Kyushu to stay with his parents until he’s figured things out. However, his retreat from public life is short-lived, once a viral video causes Yuri Katsuki to find none other than his hero sat stark naked in his family’s onsen.
After watching the first episode, it’s not hard to see why it was so well advertised in the Fukuoka Animate branch. I hadn’t really considered starting it until the power of effective marketing won me over, but I still hadn’t known that it was set quite so close. Yuri Katsuki’s hometown of Hasetsu is based on the real town of Karatsu, only an hour away from the city and somewhere I’d seen countless times on rail maps. Had I known, I’d have probably tried to pay it a visit. The series itself shows a lot of promise, using the tried and tested formula of a sports anime. Although, ice skating is a difficult sport to translate into animation because it’s simultaneously technical and beautiful. Capturing both the complexity and the artistry is hard work, but the so far the studio seems more than capable of doing that. It’s also a series that feels very ‘new’, with the Sochi Winter Olympics still within recent memory and the use of smartphones and social media planting it firmly in today’s time period (however, as I said in my Perfect Blue review, that runs the risk of becoming dated in the future). I’m looking forward to seeing the dynamic between Victor Nikiforov and Yuri Katsuki develop, as both mentor and student, and as celebrity and admirer. I also appreciate how the story rules out Yuri ending up with the girl from his childhood, because it’s just too common in a lot of media, not just anime.
Free!: Boys from small coastal towns in Japan have aspirations of competing on the international stage.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso: The protagonist prepares to give up on their talent, until someone with a strong personality crashes into their life and changes everything.
For more Fall 2016 coverage, click here.