Warning: Review contains spoilers!
“But to me, [Victor here with me is] surreal, more like having a god around than a coach. To think that a coach of my very own is going to be here every day. And that coach is Victor Nikiforov himself…Please, God [who’s a different god from Victor, apparently], give me Victor’s time, if only just for now.”
Lies, Yuri! Just as your chibi alter-ego always talks to the audience as if he’s not really taking anything seriously when he really is, you are sidestepping an increasingly apparent, mad and crazy affection for your coach. Whether it’s idol worship as you say, or a mixture of that and, well, the intense yearning to seduce Victor as you successfully did last episode with your performance, I’m not sure you’re admitting the truth. There’s a fine line between the two: just look at Beliebers, or the fans of some other person that people just go crazy for.
Yuri begging for forgiveness.
I’ve been purposely sidestepping the whole man-crush aspect of this series in my prior reviews to focus on what I think are the anime’s focal points—the blossoming of Yuri as a person and the wonderful contrasts between the two Yuris. Not to say that anything’s wrong with crushing, but I was a little worried that it would dive right into fanservice that was more for gleeks than depth.
As a result, my last two reviews (more like editorials of what worked in terms of characterization, sans Yuri/Yurio’s feelings for Victor) for Yuri!!! On Ice focused completely on these things, which distinguished them from my other reviews, which mainly consist of general impressions.
This time, though, I’m going to stop glossing over Yuri’s intense adoration for Victor as if it’s not a core aspect of Yuri!!! On Ice. I actually should’ve started last episode, but as we go on it becomes obvious, even to dense folks like me. I’m still not completely sure whether it’s just because Yuri easily embarrasses and gets quite passionate, whether he wants Victor as something more than a coach but won’t admit it to himself as with other things, whether he’s mistaking his idol worship for yearning, or vice versa, or a bit of both since he’s never had a relationship before—or whether it’s all an overemphasis to satisfy the fangirls. Probably a mixture of all of the above. The answer will come later still, I think. Sorry, guys, I’m incredibly dense in these sorts of things so I can’t make up my mind. But in this episode Yuri’s affection, already showcased to a lesser extent in the others, drives his character and hence the series. It doesn’t just stay an appealing physical aspect of the anime.
Even though Yuri isn’t usually assertive, he wakes Victor up to show him the music he’ll skate to.
“Oh no. What did I do this time?” (Probably nothing!)
Let’s recap. Throughout the entire episode, Yuri just keeps going back and forth and not really admitting things to himself. It looks like he’s bummed about never having had a girlfriend, for instance, yet he got annoyed when some girl tried to hug him to comfort him. He pokes Victor’s nonexistent bald spot for some reason. At the same time, he also showed some (brotherly?) affection for Yuko during the first episode; I thought he was attracted to her even though she’s married. Most of Yuri’s scenes involve him bowing in Victor in some way, making me think that he does just see him as an ideal—though that might be him apologizing for everything. Furthermore, he only ever goes to Victor first when it concerns his art. He too vehemently denies Victor when he says he’ll try his best to act like a boyfriend to Yuri. This, of course, is accompanied by Yuri telling Victor to stay the way he is: a god in his eyes.
Yet, of course, Victor isn’t going to do that. This last bit—trying to put Victor back up on a pedestal when in fact the series gradually humanizes him—sets the basis for this episode. Prior to this, Victor had been mostly painted as a passionate, confident, katsu-don-loving, silly, snarky skating genius who did as he pleased. This episode, we get to experience Victor’s kindness. The perfect motivator for Yuri in terms of being his coach and the skater Yuri aspires to be. He listens to Yuri and encourages him to choose his own music. To write his own program. He teasingly flirts with him, as he must do to everyone. He doesn’t bat an eye when he asks Yuri what he should be to him. This, and the bittersweet moments during the last parts of the episode are what I enjoyed most this time around.
Since there’s such an emphasis on Yuri+Victor, though, this episode sways dangerously between gleeking and character development—especially since, as I mentioned, there’s such a fine line between the two. I’m going to stop this discussion at this paragraph, but I just thought some moments were much more realistic than others, and that this episode overall was the least balanced of all of them so far.
This is how I felt while trying to follow these interjections.
So many places!
Other parts of the episode contributed to this feeling. We’re no longer just in the bubble of skaters defined by Yuri, Yurio, and Victor. While it’s wonderful to see that we’ll indeed be seeing Yurio’s trajectory in addition to Yuri, the other characters introduced in the episode seemed sorta like they were shoehorned in. We also had multiple explanations of figure skating that both made me a little confused and were presented too coyly for my taste (“Hey, viewe—I mean, KATSUKI FAMILY. Let me explain ANOTHER thing since Yuri already told the viewers something else!”). Because of this, the main rival of next episode is only given a few seconds of screen time after a rather lengthy explanation that I needed to rewatch a couple of times to really understand, even though always they explain the punchline at the end.
Some other things. Phichit, Yuri’s buddy from Thailand, felt like he was there just to move along the plot. There’s one of those strict ladies training Yurio that always seems to crop up in a competitive show, with no other personality thus far except making insults about how he’s horrible. Probably she’ll let out a slight smile at some point and say “good job” after pushing him past his limit. Things are starting to heat up, but a lot of stuff was just thrown at me this episode. I feel like the characterization that really makes Yuri!!! On Ice stand out was compromised as a result. I guess you could make the case that the show should only focus on the Yuri’s and Victor, but there’s just such a discrepancy between them and the other characters that becomes more apparent as more characters are introduced.
It wouldn’t be “Yuri on Ice” without Yuri Plisetsky.
Boss 1, coming up.
I was also pretty shocked that months had already passed in the series, since I’d been under the impression that things happened only in a matter of days. This quite rapid time lapse that wasn’t communicated very properly probably accounts for why Yuri was able to contact a skater who knew a musician that had previously written a song for him, and get her to write another song for him again.
Overall, I liked this episode. I really enjoyed how Yuri finds his inner artistry and how figure skating is so ephemeral, both for Yuri and Yurio. I like how we get to see a bit more of Victor every time as well. I’m a little worried about the execution of this particular episode, but hope that we’ll continue to see the two Yuris keep growing and heading towards their finale.