Warning: Review contains spoilers!!!
Guys, this was an incredibly lovely episode. Though I haven’t consistently followed figure skating, I’ve hinted before that I do love it when I watch it, and the sequences featuring the skaters’ programs evoked the same mesmerizing and nostalgic qualities for me as when I do watch figure skaters on TV. Even more so because the camera focuses solely on the skater almost the entire time, showing hardly anyone in the audience; chiming no sound except for the skates, occasional commentary, and music; and following him as he glides on the ice. It’s as if the ice skater is doing a performance just for you, something which TV performances often lack due to the constant talking and applause in the background when ice skaters perform a stunt (which is pretty much the entire performance). Then there are all these little details—little flips of the hand, little pivots and turns—that just made everything enjoyable to watch and rewatch.
Sometimes, there’s a closeup that adds more individuality to the performance.
The sequences in point comprised the practicing and showdown between Yuri and Yurio, “Hot Springs on Ice,” whose winner will receive Victor’s training. Both Yuri and Yurio received an arrangement of the same composition that was the opposite of their personalities: agape, or unconditional love, for Yurio; and eros, sexual love, for Yuri. Half of the episode details both of them practicing and trying to find their inspirations for their dance, while the other half showcases their performance.
Neither of them look that excited.
Something tells me he’s not here for the figure skating.
This episode also marked a huge turning point in character development. Although he still lacks a lot of confidence and panics about his performance, he confronts his problems head on, in the way that Yuri does best: by working incredibly hard and just being a lovable guy, spurred on by the dream of working with his idol. Instead of giving up as he may have otherwise—an event that put me into despair while watching the first episode—Yuri is beginning to blossom towards his full potential. It’s a side of Yuri we’ve never seen before, and the first day of what’ll probably be a very successful season.
The Case of Katsu Don
Yummy katsu don.
Aw, it’s okay.
The fact that you’re inspired to cheer for Yuri can be likened to his love for the katsu don bowl, a focal point of this episode. It’s pork cutlet and rice in a bowl, delicious but not overly priced. An ordinary folk’s sort of meal. Like Yuri. Girls fawn over Victor’s and Yurio’s appearances, but not really his. Yurio is a natural and a prodigy who works hard, something we kind of get because we hear about it even though we can’t really relate to it; Yuri isn’t a natural but works hard, just like the rest of us. He’s called a late bloomer for good reason, yet he still captures the audience. For example, even though Yuri messes up his performance, he still wins over Yurio, who delivered a flawless performance and can execute the same move easily.
A vulnerable look for the rebellious Yurio.
Still working hard.
Yuri’s ways of going about things, unlike Yurio’s, are pretty ordinary for the most part. Whereas Yurio finds his inner agape by suddenly remembering a depressing moment from his past and elegantly transforms almost overnight because he’s able to evoke despair, Yuri isn’t quite as dramatic or fancy. He does elegantly transform overnight, too, just in a different way, and after a lot of thinking and overnight practicing on his part.
“Uh…yeah. Good idea. Really think so.”
Back to figuring things out.
Since Yuri’s not exactly the most flirtatious guy on the block, he imagines katsu don to channel his sex appeal. What else, if not our hunger for food, is closest to sexual love? When he excitedly tells this to Victor and Yurio, they both snicker because of his innocence and because it’s really not evocative in any way. Pretty much everyone else has the same reaction. Although it’s quite understandable—in the same situation, I would probably lamely say some food item or other awkward answer myself—the katsu don image doesn’t quite do it for transforming Yuri into the playboy he should be for the performance.
Winning Over Victor
Other than presenting Yuri as an ordinary person with extraordinary work ethic, however, the episode even likens Yuri to Victor in some ways. There’s a scene where the skaters and their coach are both introduced. Whereas Yurio states that he’ll crush the other Yuri and gives the media what they want, both Yuri and Victor promote Hasetsu as a tourism spot—one awkwardly and the other as if he’s having way too much fun.
The costume in question.
He’s even drawn as taller than Victor in this scene.
More notably, Yuri chooses to skate in a costume of Victor’s, one that’s ambiguous about whether the wearer is male or female. This image cements just how wide Victor’s appeal is, catering to both genders, and just how unattainable his skill seems to be. Whether he’s male or female, or something in between, Victor’s the best of the best.
A side of Yuri no one’s ever seen.
Even with the overpowering ability of his coach, though, Yuri lets it slip that he wants to skate even better than Victor. Not only that, but Yuri takes it to the next level. Rather than simply being ambiguous about whether he’s male or female like Victor, he embraces both genders. He acknowledges that he’s more effeminate than most, and uses it to his utmost advantage. That doesn’t seem to bother him at all: he is a male who also happens to be the most dangerous, beautiful, seductive woman in town. In this way, this episode suggests that Yuri may have what it takes to beat even Victor.
There are other things in the episode, too, like all of these psychological elements and the huge pressure upon both Yuri and Yurio. Every episode, I fall in love with this anime more and more. I’m very excited for whether or not his dreams will come true, and for what will come next!