I’m a little late to the Yuri!!! on Ice party — it took a few weeks of my entire Twitter feed turning into heart-eyes emojis and squealing before I gave it a look. From everyone’s reactions, I’d assumed that it was a fluffy, adorable sports anime without much depth — not a deterrent, because those are often part of my self-care routine. As it turns out, I’d underestimated the show and its creators. There’s plenty of fluff in Yuri on Ice, and also a lot of reflection about anxiety, imposter syndrome, and social isolation.
The Daily Dot explored these themes at length in a recent article, which you should definitely read if you’re up to date with the series. If not, it does contain spoilers.
Yuri on Ice begins with its hero having an emotional breakdown in a bathroom, crying after placing last at the Grand Prix finals. His dog died, he started stress-eating before the competition, and he has an ongoing problem with anxiety.
While the show doesn’t explicitly label Yuri’s mental health issues, they’re an integral part of his characterization. Performance anxiety can be a career-altering obstacle for any professional athlete, and since the show is mostly told from Yuri’s point of view, his emotional state alters our view of the story.
Yuri is a textbook example of an unreliable narrator, especially when identifying his own role in the story. For instance, he describes himself as one of the “dime-a-dozen” skaters competing in the Grand Prix, implying that he’s kind of a nobody. He never acknowledges his true level of achievement, which places him as one of the top six male skaters in the world, and the highest-ranked in Japan. It’s entirely possible that he’d place even higher if he hadn’t been binge-eating and mourning the death of his childhood pet.
This attitude explains why Yuri on Ice doesn’t have a villain: Yuri’s main antagonist is himself.
Check out the full article for insights on Yuri On Ice’s careful handling of mental health themes. Or check out Yuri On Ice if you’re looking for a gorgeous, fluffy sports anime with some serious depth.