I’ve become obsessed with Yuri on Ice and I can’t help myself.
So far I’ve mostly stayed out of the sports anime craze. While many of my friends are fanning over Free! and Kuroko no Basuke, I’ve been sitting in my happy little corner with yaoi and BL just loving the more explicitly queer genre for what it is. But an anime friend I trust tagged me and told me that no, despite my avoidance of sports anime, this is something I’d like. And oh man, she was right. Yuri on Ice may not be billed as BL or yaoi, but it’s explicitly queer as hell.
SPOILER WARNING: Mild spoilers through episode 4.
As it’s not labeled as BL, I’m not sure if the relationships will ever come to fruition, but they don’t dance around the topic either. We are four episodes in and one character has already asked the other if he considers him a ‘boyfriend.’ Both of the lead characters also show no qualms about toying with their own feminine qualities, which is quite an interesting route to take for a show that isn’t clearly labeled as BL. But even if it were, BL tends to define one character as “feminine” and one as “masculine” anyway (much to my chagrin), so having two characters toy around with gender fluidity is different even for the more explicitly queer genre I’m used to. I’m not sure what their end goal is with that, but I’m very intrigued. It’s quite different from the BL genre standards I’ve grown to know over the years.
The basic premise of the show centers around a young Japanese ice skater named Yuri who’s talented, but still makes mistakes that cost him wins at competitions. Yuri idolizes a Russian skater, Victor, who is one of the best in the world. After a massive mistake causes Yuri to come in last place at a competition, he takes some time off from the sport to recover emotionally. During his break, he decides to perform one of Victor’s top performances. He intends for this to be a casual private performance, but that doesn’t exactly work out. Someone films the private performance and it quickly goes viral online. Cue the Russian skater seeing this performance, hopping on a plane, and showing up at Yuri’s door requesting to be his coach. Yeah, you can see where this is going, right? But no, it’s not BL, folks.
I’ve generally steered clear of “sports anime” as a genre because I heard it was mostly fan service with very little payoff. Will this have a romantic payoff? I’m not sure, but there’s more to this than a simple display of fan service. These aren’t just two shippable characters who flirt to pull in fangirls. As I haven’t seen anything else in this genre, I don’t know how relationships usually play out, but my friends who love sports anime tell me this is very unusual there, too.
Only four episodes have been released so far, but I’m hooked. It’s sweet, has a great plot, and is queer as hell without actually applying the BL label to it. The relationships feel real and organic. The art is gorgeous. The music is stunning. And the intro? Fabulous. Watch this…
Even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy a sports anime or something that verges into BL territory, I urge you to give it a shot. Yuri on Ice seems to be irresistible to almost all anime viewing demographics. I had two heterosexual male friends get hooked on it unexpectedly, which shows just how unique this show really is. Trust me on this one. You want to watch Yuri on Ice. I guarantee it’ll be worth your time.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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