Though I finished watching Yuri!!! on Ice over a month ago, the series has stuck with me—and that means a lot coming from someone who tends not to watch anything, anime or otherwise. Sure, YoI was easy to watch, un-intimidating, with only 12 episodes (and a friend to watch with me!), but what makes this series stand out isn’t its single season or even its appeal for an on-again, off-again anime fan: it’s the writing.
Perhaps the most immediately praiseworthy quality of the show is its commitment to subverting stereotypes about both the LGBT community as well as those about individual countries—the Canadian isn’t apologetic or friendly, as his stereotype dictates; JJ is self-assured to the point of arrogance. Yuri and Victor’s relationship takes time to develop; they don’t fall madly in love immediately, and Yuri’s anxiety is not magically cured by Victor. They aren’t caricatures, or over-exaggerated representations of a stereotype. Everyone is a person first, and other descriptors—Japanese, Thai, gay, or straight—second.
This humanity is written into a manuscript—or show—purposefully. Any amount of Googling will turn up writers who didn’t take enough care in how they were portraying a certain group, but YoI, though not perfect, takes an important step in humanizing otherwise marginalized groups: Yuri is gay? Yes, but he’s a person first and foremost.
But the importance of YoI goes far deeper than character development—the story itself, the very writing craft behind it, is as worthy of applause. To contextualize, a writer friend recently recommended to me Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald, a book on writing craft (review here). In one section, he describes what he calls the masculine (external, action-based) and feminine (internal, emotional) elements. McDonald’s argument is that a successful story cannot exist without a balance of both of these components.
Though I don’t necessarily agree with such gendered names, the concept rings true, and that’s exactly what YoI does: it mixes action and emotion to create something that can appeal not only to sports anime fans, who love big casts and action-packed sequences, but also to the romantics, to the dreamers, to anyone who has ever hoped to achieve something impossible, professionally or romantically.
So yes, YoI was a bit of a homecoming for me, a return to anime, a reminder that powerful and moving stories exist on-screen as well as off.