Let's rip the band-aid off. I'm severely disappointed with Yuri on Ice. Every week I come back with a glimmer of optimism hoping that something good will happen, but after 10 episodes, it's safe to say the investment hasn't paid off. Before some blithering idiot reads this and thinks I'm a homophobe because I'm not showering the show with compliments, let me state my positions clear. I WANT to like Yuri on Ice, but its technical incompetence creates a rift between me and the anime from meeting on the same page. I've been following figure skating since the Yuna Kim and Mao Asada days in 2009 when they set the skating world and their respective countries on fire, and stopped following it in 2014 with Yuna's subsequent retirement (a special thank-you to Russia for tainting the integrity of the sport with their questionable scoring at the Sochi Olympics). However, I can't bring myself to like a show where an activity that prides itself in pushing and perfecting the technical and emotional conditions of the human body get deformed into oblivion every single episode.
If you want to see the epitome of figure skating, watch anything by Yuna Kim, she's on a whole new level compared to other skaters. The way she dances to the notes and moving so effortlessly on the ice is unmatched. Most competitors look stiff and robotic but Yuna is like a reed, constantly adjusting according to the music and all of her moves feel natural.
For a male counterpart, try Alexei Yagudin.
As you can tell, figure skating is an expressive sport, arguably the most out of all the athletics. It's a performance piece that requires the cooperation of both the small and large muscles of the body to bring out every minute emotion of the skater through the music. It's a dance that represents the psychical prowess disguised with the sensitivity and artistic beauty through their interpretation. Watching Yuri on Ice... I get none of that. Sure, we have the context behind the feelings of the characters through showing personal events and commentators, but on the ice... it's like watching a rag doll flail about with no beauty or grace whatsoever. It sure doesn't help when some of the frames look like it's been drawn by CLAMP with their needlessly elongated limbs.
(Image above) Didn't know Pichit-kun is part T-Rex.
It's bothersome watching one art form mangling another. The weird compromising camera angles, the close-up shots to relieve the amount of drawing that's required, and the lack of frames evident when the skaters are doing spins. The jumps have no life to them, it looks like they're floating awkwardly mid-air until someone up above suddenly remembered gravity existed and applied it at the last minute. Not to mention the step sequences look like a wooden board with twigs could compete on the ice and get a similar score. Basically, it looks like they're thrashing every part except for the torso like helicopters, which is hilarious because it's ignoring a critical part of the body when it comes to capturing natural movement. If you've taken figure drawing classes, the most important part to draw first is the torso/spine because you're jotting down where the movement originates from. After that, the legs and arms, followed by the fingers and toes. Think of the process like a tree. You draw the trunk first, followed by the branches and twigs.
When Viktor decided for Yuri to focus more on his artistic side than his jumps, I thought that was a great creative decision made on the staff's end. It gives the animators the opportunity to pull off some stellar animation and step sequences instead of going with a program that's jump-intensive like Miki Ando. However, this meant that the animators would be put under enormous strain... and it was evident.
(Image above) What is even colour correction? It's not like settings have different colour temperatures and the hue of correlating objects change according to it.
Before you bring up the "animation is difficult" stance, I'm aware of the current circumstances with the industry and the uphill battles of working in a TV anime format. Yes, people should be aware of the sometimes horrendous conditions animators are subjected to, but ignoring bad aesthetics when it's obvious I argue, is coddling. Crap animation, in the end, is still crap animation. And when you get rid of the subtlety and the minute movements the body makes in Yuri on Ice, you're missing out on the integral chunk on the immersive factor. If you've seen figure skating on television or even real life, every small mannerism of the athlete is magnified as soon as they hit the rink. The way they skate on the ice before the music starts playing, the audience can tell whether they're nervous or not, or the brief moment of disappointment on their faces when a jump isn't executed properly.
If you like Yuri on Ice and its progressive leanings, that's great. It's obvious why it's garnered such popularity with their loveable cast and their meme-able antics, and kudos to the staff for shining a light to LGBT subject matter without falling into conventional tropes. However, when every supposed "performance" in the show is poorly done with little to no artistry emanating from these characters during their routine, I think the staff took a swing and struck out big time. I want the choreography to do the explaining instead of outside dialogue doing the work for them, which they needed in the end because of how god-awful some of the segments looked at times. After all, why are figure skaters silent during their performances? Because they let their dance do the talking for them.
A part of this problem stems from me being having too high of an expectation for the show. Of course, the quality's not going to match that of real life, but I expected better after watching the OP because it showed how much potential it had, and I'm constantly reminded what it could have been. Before anyone asks, some technical mistakes will more than likely be fixed in the Blu-rays, but with the plethora of technical screw-ups and recycled footage used, it's highly doubtful all of the mistakes will be fully corrected.
To end it on a somewhat fun note, here's Tonya Harding skating to Jurassic Park, because dancing to dinosaur music is amusing to me: