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What Yuri!!! on Ice Means to Me

April 18th, 2024 will live on in infamy for anime and BL fans. After years of silence, MAPPA made the announcement that the long-anticipated Yuri!!! on Ice film, Ice Adolescence, has been canceled due to “various circumstances.” Since that brief teaser was shared by the studio in 2020, MAPPA remained silent while they kept announcing more anime productions of numerous shonen anime, such as Attack on Titan, Season Four and Jujutsu Kaisen. There’s nothing wrong with a studio making multiple projects, not to mention how eventful and iconic Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen are. But what’s very alarming is the cruel treatment of animators by MAPPA executives and how Yuri!!! on Ice, the anime that made MAPPA a major name in the anime industry was largely ignored by the studio despite its success.

As heartbreaking as this cancellation was, it just adds more value to the original Yuri!!! on Ice anime series. With a legion of fans all over the world, Yuri!!! on Ice made such a massive impact on viewers since its debut in the fall 2016 season. Despite just one season, fan art spread like wildfire, interest in figure skating grew (songs from the anime were even performed by Japanese figure skaters in the 2018 Winter Olympics), merchandise was selling fast, and the Crunchyroll servers crashed when the final episodes were released.

Yuri!!! on Ice meant so many different things to fans, and I want to share with you the impact this anime made on me.

Yuri!!! on Ice

The State of the World in Fall 2016

To say that 2016 was a terrible year would be an understatement. Numerous famous celebrities passed away, many of them too soon (I’m still not over the passing of Carrie Fisher). Flint, Michigan’s water supply was contaminated and the government didn’t help. A lone gunman killed 49 LGBTQ people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Despite a horrible year, there were some positives to make note of. Pokémon Go launched on smartphones and lead to an increase in popularity for the franchise. The spacecraft Juno enters orbit of Jupiter. Brazil becomes the first South American country to host the Summer Olympics. The Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Hamilton wins the Best Musical Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Movies like Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Zootopia, and Deadpool were released. And it was also the debut year of anime such as My Hero Academia, Mob Psycho 100, March Comes In Like a Lion, Berserk (despite being bad), Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, and of course Yuri!!! on Ice.

What my world was like in 2016

As a gay man freshly out of the closet and graduating from college, it was a difficult period for me. It was a hard transition from student to working adult. The growing political divide and increase in racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia made it hard to be open about myself in public. The Presidential Election was a traumatic event that I never want to experience again. I was working a part time job at my local Joann Fabrics to get myself started, but having no car and not enough savings made me worry that my dreams of being a voice actor were out of reach. By the end of November 2016, it felt like my life wasn’t going anywhere. It felt like I lost my path. It felt like society won’t accept me because of my sexuality. I needed an escape from the real world. I had to find something to reaffirm my identity and worth. That’s where Yuri!!! on Ice entered my life.

How I got into Yuri!!! on Ice

I had only been subscribed to Funimation (RIP) for five months by the end of the year. They entered a partnership with Crunchyroll (before the merger happened) to share their anime licenses. Part of the deal meant that Funimation would dub some of Crunchyroll’s anime simulcasts. One of those was Yuri!!! on Ice. I admit that I never gave it much thought when I first heard of it. I was more interested in the rugby anime All Out!! (I mean, who doesn’t love hot muscle men in short shorts?!) and Nanbaka. One day, I went onto Anime News Network and they published an article called “What's So Gay About Yuri!!! on Ice?” The gay part of my mind told me to click on it, and so I did. I have included the article link below if you’re curious. I read through the whole article and my curiosity peaked. Normally, sports anime has some variation of queer undertones and can make us want to ship male characters together (I’m a MakoHaru guy within the Free! fandom). But the article showed me that Yuri on Ice did something that previous sports anime didn’t do: it confirms its main characters as gay/bisexual and the two men form a romantic relationship! I was happy to learn that Funimation dubbed the anime and I started watching. I was immediately hooked! I was in love with the skating animation, the story, the characters, the music, and the male fanservice (I admit I was turned on by Christophe Giacometti’s skating routines).

Why I love this anime, eight years later

Whenever I’m asked by friends or strangers what my favorite anime are, I always include Yuri!!! on Ice among my top five. And why do I always pick this anime? Because it saved my life.

Yuri!!! on Ice came into my life when darkness was consuming me. When I was at my lowest point Yuri!!! on Ice brought me back to the light and taught me so many valuable lessons. Never has an anime affected me on a very emotional level. I cried so hard during many parts of the show. It also brought me so much joy to see these characters grow as skaters and being very open about themselves.

Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri Katsuki wasn’t just a character I related to; it was like seeing my reflection in the mirror. I connected with him on a level that I never had before with other fictional characters. We shared so much in common. We were both queer artists who struggle with self-confidence and mental disabilities (I was the same age as him when the show aired, 23 years old). He was the figure skater struggling to be his best on the ice. I was the actor who was worried that I wouldn’t succeed. Yuri’s journey of self-acceptance and improvement taught me to keep pursuing my dreams. He had his failures, but he learned that he can always get back on his feet. Any artist, no matter their field, can always find their way back on track. You’re never too old to continue your dreams and pursuits!

Yuri!!! on Ice

The portrayal of gay representation had a great impact on my love for Yuri!!! on Ice. Love is a major theme in the series. Yuri had the love of his friends and family that led him to pursue his figure skating career. As his journey progressed, he channeled his love on the ice and it led him to form a romantic relationship with Victor Nikiforov, the famed Russian skater, and his coach. The relationship between Yuri and Victor was the highlight of the show, and it made me believe that I can find a man who will love me and cherish me as Victor does for Yuri. Part of me wished the anime was more open in confirming the romantic feelings (the famous kiss was obstructed due to censorship laws, if what I heard is correct), but their interactions gave us the conclusion that they are in love (the creators also confirmed the relationship on Twitter). The unconditional love they share is inspiring! Having this level of queer representation left a positive impact on LGBTQ fans then and now. Manga and anime still have a long way to go when it comes to queer representation, but Yuri!!! on Ice opened the door for more positive representation. It truly was born to make history.

I’ve met many actors who worked on the English dub for Yuri!!! on Ice over the years, thanking them for their performances and telling them what impact the anime had on me. From Jessie James Grelle (Yuri Katsuki) and J. Michael Tatum (Michele) to Daman Mills (Yakov) and Monica Rial (Mila), they’ve all talked about their love for the anime and want to see more of these characters. As I meet more cast members from the dub, I will thank them for their work on Yuri!!! on Ice.

As I mourn the cancellation of Ice Adolescence, I remind myself of the impact this anime had on me. I hope that we get another studio to take over the franchise (Kyoto Animation or Studio Bones would make great candidates in my opinion). Whatever happens to the series in the future, I am grateful for Yuri!!! on Ice being part of my life. I will keep showing my love and support for this anime and its cast of characters. I’m not sure if I’d be the same person I am today if it weren’t for this anime. It truly saved my life.


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