Everyone around me seems enthralled by the beautiful animation that is Yuri!! On Ice, but to me the animation is the most flawed part of the show. Why? Because there aren’t enough frames. Let’s take a step back:
When anime first began in the 60s it was founded on budget-cutting methods such as reducing the number of frames, having long intros and outros, repeating certain animations, angling figures so their mouths didn’t have to be animated, etc. As anime took off and became a larger industry, high-budget shows diverged from Western cartoons in a big way: rather than re-adding the frames that had been cut out, they instead put an emphasis on having better drawn stills and the general quality of the individual images being animated. This means that there are generally fewer anime out there that have a super fluid frame rate, though to be clear there are some exceptions.
Yuri!! On Ice’s main goal with the ‘beautiful’ scenes in the show is to depict a dance choreography on ice. Yes, it’s true, if you were to take a still of any one of these scenes it’d probably look gorgeous, but the low framerate makes it feel choppy and less interesting. I am a dancer and I love watching people dance, and for me while the feet are definitely not everything to a dance I want to be able to see a clear tracing of how the feet are moving. Yet because of the speediness of the moves and the low number of frames, I can’t clearly see the path traced out. Sure, my brain can infer it, but there is visual appeal in having fluid motions for dance. Generally a big thing dancers try to avoid in most traditional dances is having any jerky, sudden movements, yet it feels like everything in the dances for this show is.
Normally the lower framerate for a high-motion and speed show isn’t problematic. A show like Haikyuu! probably has the same number of frames as Yuri!! On Ice, but since the characters are supposed to be throwing a ball and putting as much speed and power into their movements as they possibly can, it’s totally fine. Furthermore, Yuri!! On Ice skips on the big techniques most animators use to make things seem more fluid. One, motion trails and blurred motion. If you look at how the blades move in Samurai Champloo, when the blades move fast the still animations show the blade becoming wider, basically, than it really is.
Two, shot angling. One of the things I love about Yuri!! On Ice’s directing but also makes the animation frames problem more evident is that it often stays on a single shot for a while, panning that around so we can keep the skater in the middle of the screen. Conversely, look at how Kuroko Basuke will switch shots to make it more fluid in the following gif. We see Kuroko pass from an isometric perspective so it’s easy to track where he’s pointing the ball, and then it immediately cuts to the ball landing in Kagami’s hand. By doing this, they don’t have to worry about animation Kagami’s arm rising up to catch the ball as it’s moving or anything, you just see the impact.
Three, speed. Yuri!! On Ice tends to do everything in real time, which while again, makes things easier to comprehend, is kind of cool, and gives you a better sense of how the choreographed dance fits with the music, it makes it harder to have things look fluid. Take this scene in Haikyuu!!, for example. Arguably everything is slowed down, but definitely Nishinoya receiving is slowed down a lot so you can see very fluidly how his body responds to the impact.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t a problem with all of Yuri!! On Ice. I just think that because it does not utilize these techniques to supplement the lower animation frame rate, there are times that the fluidity could be improved. And keep in mind I’m talking about the animation here, not the art. I’m thinking about how the frames move together rather than how they stand on their own.