“The highlight is the sensuality!”
An anime crammed full of its creators’ love for skating and determination
Following the broadcast of its first episode yesterday, Yuri!!! on ICE, the anime about men’s figure skating, is already the talk of the town. Here, we speak with Mitsurō Kubo-san, who worked with Director Sayo Yamamoto on the original story, the ‘names’ (TL Note: scripts, but drafted in manga-style) and the original character designs, about her passion for the show.
—Could you share with us how you came to work on Yuri!!! on ICE?
Director Yamamoto has always loved figure skating, so she’d long been saying that she wanted to make an anime about men’s figure skating. But she simply hadn’t been able to make that wish reality… Apparently, she loved it to the point where she had been thinking: “If I can’t make a figure skating anime soon, I’m gonna die!” (chuckles). The project was finally greenlit around the time of the Sochi Olympics, when public interest in figure skating was running high. At that time, I’d also been bringing up the topic of figure skating quite freely on a number of radio shows. When Director Yamamoto listened to them, she reached out to me. By that point, the basic plot outline and characters of the prototypal Yuri!!! on ICE were already in place, and she invited me to participate in it, in this original anime project, in the same capacity as I’d done for the Moteki movie—by drawing ‘names’ for it.
—What did you think of the project at that point in time?
When I met Director Yamamoto, I came away with the impression that she was “an otaku I could depend on” (chuckles), and was also glad to learn that there was someone so passionate about introducing more people to the world of figure skating. On top of that, I was excited at the thought of being able to do lots of research on figure skating, so I accepted her offer right there and then. And as I was doing research and scouting behind-the-scenes for the anime, Tatsuki Machida-san announced his retirement, at the 2014 Japanese Nationals. At that time, the thought flashed across my mind: “I have to make sure this anime succeeds.” It was an incredibly fun world that I had only just started supporting, but I learned then that it was also a world where skaters who’d worked so hard for so long just kept retiring, one after another. This made me incredibly sad. All that is left to prove that they skated competitively are videos, photograph and memories. But in a manga or an anime, we can capture not just what they express in public, but also all the things that go through their minds at the time, right…? At that event, I was caught on camera holding up a banner proclaiming “I love Tatsuki Machida!!” (chuckles), but rather than just cheering for any one skater, I want to cheer for the entire skating world. I want to channel those feelings into Yuri!!! on ICE and make sure that it reaches as many people as possible. It’s a show that isn’t made by my hands alone, but I want to take responsibility for making sure that it gets through to everyone. That’s how committed I am to this task.
—Finally, could you leave a message for our readers?
I really wish we could cram into this anime even that little bit more just how figure skating refreshes and moves us so deeply. The highlight is the “sensuality”! Real skaters also have an amazing sensuality, so we’d really like to depict a fresh, pure sensuality that will not lose to bishōjo anime. I hope that you will all join us in enjoying the heart-pounding sensations of sensuality that sporting competitions are infused with.