Yuri on Ice
Image via MAPPA

Yuri on Ice’s Queer Representation Means Everything to Me

I remember sitting in my college dorm and seeing a trailer for Yuri on Ice, a figure skating anime releasing later that fall. While I made a mental note to check the show out, I didn’t realize I’d discovered something that would change my life forever.

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Sports Anime & Queer Identity

When Yuri on Ice premiered in 2016, there wasn’t much queer representation in anime outside of the Boy’s Love and Girl’s Love genres, which themselves often misrepresented the queer experience and community. Still, the LBBTQ+ community was hungry for any representation — I certainly was.

Sports anime specifically attracted a queer fanbase, largely due to their focus on people of the same gender being deeply vulnerable with each other in emotional relationships. I particularly loved sports anime because I was a queer kid who also played a lot of sports. I saw hints of myself, and I wanted more.

However, sports anime never went further than friendship. As such, when Yuri on Ice dropped, I expected the same thing.

After the first episode, I started to think that maybe I was wrong.

Yuri on Ice Releases & Something Big Starts

yuri and victor yuri on ice
Image via MAPPA

The night Yuri on Ice debuted, I was at my desk, looking for an excuse to take a break from the very long paper I needed to write. A reminder popped up to tell me the new figure skating anime was out, so I decided to give it a go.

Right from the start, Yuri on Ice felt different. Protagonist Yuri Katsuki was a big ball of anxiety, and as someone with anxiety, I greatly appreciated just how accurate that representation was. Still, I had my reservations in believing it would be different from other sports anime.

Early on Yuri on Ice introduced one of the titular skater’s childhood friends, Yuuko, and I thought “Oh there’s the hetero love interest.” Then, the show revealed that Yuuko was married and had triplets, making her completely unavailable. I wasn’t ready for that plot twist.

As the episode progressed, Yuri performed his hero Victor Nikiforov’s skating program at his hometown rink in Japan. Yuuko’s triplets posted a recording online, and when I saw Victor watching the video, I started to get giddy at the possible aftermath. In the end, Victor flew from Russia to Japan, declaring himself Yuri’s new coach — while naked in an onsen. The whole thing ignited hope in my heart this sports anime would be different. With each subsequent episode, that hope shone a bit brighter.

The Kiss That Rocked the World

Yuri and Victor yuri on ice
Image via MAPPA

An ongoing joke in the ever-growing Yuri on Ice fandom was that somehow each episode “got gayer” and we couldn’t see how the next episode would “out gay” the previous. Then, Episode 7 dropped.

In the episode, Yuri expressed his feelings through Victor through skating. I held my breath as Victor ran across the rink to Yuri, who skated out to meet him. Victor jumped into Yuri’s arms, and everything went silent, and my heart paused.

Victor kissed Yuri.

As the music started to play and they looked at each other with love and adoration in their eyes, I screamed so loud it echoed in the parking lot outside my apartment complex. Then, I cried, because no matter how much “gayer” it got, I never thought I would actually get to see anything come to fruition. I remember shaking as I posted online and shared in the revelry that had taken over every fan of the show.

This moment became so important to those who are part of both the queer and anime communities. Yuri on Ice was not a queer show that just so happened to be about ice skating. It was an ice skating show that just so happened to have queer people as the main characters. That distinction is so important for queer representation. It normalized something that should have always been normalized, and it was done in such a beautiful way that stayed true to the story’s themes.

It’s hard to describe exactly what I felt in that moment, sitting on my couch teary-eyed and shaking from the adrenaline. But I do know that as a queer college student just barely coming to terms with who they were in a world that was actively becoming more and more dangerous for queer people, Yuri on Ice and that kiss meant everything to me.

An Experience That Can’t Be Recreated

Yuri Katsuki yur on ice
Image via MAPPA

Yuri on Ice wasn’t just an anime: It was an experience that I will never forget. Whenever I start talking about it, I sound like Rose from the Titanic reminiscing about the “ship of dreams.” Every episode was an event and came with a surprise that sparked so much joy all over the world. There was so much discourse between each episode, entire essays being posted on the internet analyzing every scene in the show that connected so many people.

I don’t think any show will really be able to do what Yuri on Ice was able to accomplish. I have never seen someone talk about a show with such wistfulness and wonderment as I have seen fans talk about Yuri on Ice.

Even though the movie has been canceled and we will probably never see new content for the show again, the magic of Yuri on Ice will live on through its influence on millions of people around the world. I would say that is a victory in and of itself — or a Victuri in this case.


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Author
Jordan Althoff
Jordan Althoff has been a contributing writer for The Escapist since February 2023. Prior to that, they wrote at Gamepur. Jordan is an RPG, cozy game, and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast. If there is a story to be told, they are happily playing that game. In between games, they do all things nerdy or cause chaos making their next cosplay.