Tatsuki Machida Podium 2014 World Championships

From the depths of despair to the heights of euphoria, the protagonist of Yuri!!! On ICE, Yuri Katsuki, has a roller-coaster-like experience throughout the popular series. It’s like a fairy tale. But it’s actually happened.

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for Yuri!!! On ICE.]

Yuri!!! On ICE is the story of Yuri Katsuki, a Japanese figure skater whose story begins right after he bombs his performance at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final. He continues his downward spiral at the Japan Figure Skating Championships, bringing his skating season to a close and returning to Japan from America. Yet, through a twist of fate, Yuri’s personal hero, Viktor Nikiforov becomes Yuri’s coach and, from there, Yuri’s journey back toward the top begins.

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The series is an original animation written by the writer, Mitsurō Kubo–herself a figure skating fan. Her love and knowledge of the sport gives the series its strong, realistic flavor. And that may not be all. Her personal fandom may have also been the inspiration for the series’ protagonist, Yuri.

Tatsuki Machida at the 2014 Olympics FS

Meet Tatsuki Machida, a real-world Japanese figure skater. If you noticed that Machida’s first name and Yuri’s last name seem similar–Tatsuki and Katsuki–then brace yourself. Machida has had a skating career with some striking similarities with Yuri’s.

Machida began skating in 1993, at the age of three. As a junior, Machida had a fairly successful career before moving on to the seniors. However, in his first ever entry in the 2012 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, he came in last place–just like Yuri. In the subsequent Japan Figure Skating Championships, he came in ninth place–not as bad as Yuri, who came in dead last, but not exactly a high point either. At the time, Machida was 22 years old, roughly the same age as Yuri.

Machida trained under the former ballet dancer and current figure skating choreographer, Phillip Mills, and is said to have had a style that melded both ballet and figure skating. Likewise, Yuri spent time training under a ballet teacher as a child and in episode three goes to her for training to incorporate ballet movements into his performance.

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In Yuri!!! On ICE, Yuri is approached by his idol, Viktor, who wants to be Yuri’s coach after Viktor sees a YouTube video of Yuri skating. Viktor serves as both Yuri’s coach and choreographer throughout the series.

Machida Tatsuki, on the other hand, was an admirer of the Olympic medal winning Swiss figure skater and choreographer, Stéphane Lambiel. Lambiel also served as Machida’s choreographer. This came about after Lambiel saw Machida at an ice show and was moved by his performance. Lambiel has said in an interview, “Looking at Tatsuki’s skating was like falling in love. He has something special. I felt that his technique and artistic talent would continue to grow.” Incidentally, Lambiel has a guest voice acting role in the final episode of Yuri!!! On ICE.

The designated choreographer for the performances that appear in Yuri!!! On ICE is retired figure skater Kenji Miyamoto. The same Miyamoto also once served as Machida’s choreographer.

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After Machida’s above-mentioned experience at the Grand Prix, he continued to perform, coming in fifth in the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in Russia and eventually winning the silver medal in the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in 2014. For those who have yet to, watch the series to see how this compares to Yuri’s career.

Indeed, Yuri Katsuki and Tatsuki Machida seem to have a lot in common. but was all this intentional on author Mitsurō Kubo’s part? Well, let’s just say she’s certainly a fan.

Translation: “Tatsuki, I love you!!”

Yuri!!! On ICE can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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