Yuri!!! on Ice – 04

I’m exhausted from a 4-hour, 4-minute Cubs game – exhausted but happy, since it was our first World Series win in 71 years – and the responsibilities of life (like work) take no holidays for baseball.  So I don’t have the energy to write more than a few paragraphs about Yuri!!! on Ice this week, but rest assured I was a fan of this episode.  I think it was probably the best of the series so far (this one or the premiere – the last two had been a step down) and it was the one that closed the deal for me, at least for now.  With Yamamoto Sayo I never say forever.

There were a number of elements about this episode that I really liked, and they were more than enough to overcome the hiccups such as a few more bobbles during the skating animations (which were again mostly quite nice), and the usual over-reliance on slapstick. I’m also not a big fan of these third-wall breaking explanation sessions (put ’em in an omake like Hunter X Hunter did with “Greed Island”, not in the middle of the episode) – though it’s obvious their main function is as cost-cutting and time-saving ways to stretch the soup.  But in truth, I know little enough about figure skating that I did learn stuff – like that bit about six Grand Prix assignments, and Yuri having to skate in the Japan nationals because of his tank in the prior year’s event.

I guess I do have to call him “Yuri” now that the explanation of the title has been given – the fact that the Japanese title was in Katakana and the normal Romanization of the Japanese boy’s name (which would usually be in Kanji) is “Yuuri” had me thinking it referred to the Russian Yuri.  But in truth it’s the name Yuri chooses for the piece of music he’s going to use for his free program – one he had a female music student friend write for him but never used in competition.  It’s hinted that perhaps there were romantic feelings between Yuri and this girl, as well that there might have been between he and a female skater when they were training in Detroit – but only hints.  And there are plenty of other hints, too.

I suppose people are going to fixate on the relationship between Viktor and Yuri, and it’s not as though Yamamoto-sensei is discouraging it when she has Viktor offer to be Yuri’s boyfriend (Yuri reflexively refuses the offer).  But I must say it annoys me to see the possible development of a serious romantic relationship between two men casually dismissed as “yaoi-bait” by so many viewers.  I’m not sure where Yuri on Ice is headed with this subplot, as it’s intentionally being obfuscated for now.  But regardless, I don’t think romance is the main point of the story here – this story is more about personal growth than anything else.

As expected, Yuri is one of those skaters who relies on artistic impression to get by – which is exactly what caught Viktor’s eye, the way Yuri “creates music with his skating”.  Yurio, meanwhile, is clearly more athletic and technically gifted – but his coach Yakov, seeing the shortcoming in him, decides to recruit his ex (a star from the Russian National Ballet) to give the boy some ballet training.  It’s worth nothing that Yuri has studied ballet from the time he was a child, and it’s obvious that Yuri and Yurio can each take something from the other to fill in something missing in their own portfolio as skaters.  Yurio is actually rather a delicate and elegant physical specimen at this point – and he’s smart enough to realize both that this gives him an advantage, and that it’s an advantage that he’ll only have for so long.

This is an interesting dichotomy – two skaters at very different places in their lives trying to find themselves in the sport.  A 15 year-old at the dawn of his career, trying to win as a boy before he’s forced to try and win a different way as a man, and a 23 year-old at the sunset of his career, trying to spin his experience and emotional depth into one final hurrah.  Yuri on Ice is no doubt the story of both of them, but ultimately of course it’s Yuri who’s going to frame that story – and his persistent lack of faith in himself is what stands out most starkly at this point in the story.  Ultimately I think this is about Yuri finding himself in a way he’ll take with him when he leaves skating behind – finding himself as an athlete, and through that, finding himself romantically and emotionally.  As long as Yamamoto sticks to that idea and avoids catering excessively to her love of excess, Yuri on Ice should be able to stick the landing.

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7 comments

  1. Y

    Little Yuratchka’s face while he was doing those ballet jumps was the best thing in this episode for me, he looked so constipated and tortured xDDD Though in all honesty, I was quite happy with this ep. Tonnes of fanservice again, but for some reason, it didn’t bother me as much as last time; maybe I’m getting used to it, or maybe it’s something else? Anyway, I’m glad it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I am also glad that we got to see the relationship between Yuri and Victor treated in a somewhat serious manner this week. I like that Victor seemed more likeable and that Yuri didn’t need too much forceful prodding from him to regain his confidence in his decision-making abilities and ask his former friend for help. I’m curious to hear the musical piece; did we actually hear it this episode (the piano at the end), or was that just regular background music?

    And yeah, the drop in animation quality was once again quite blatant, but I’ll forgive that. I get that they’re probably saving their budget for the actual competition, and that’s how it should be. In line with that, do you know how many episodes this show will have, Enzo? I heard 12, but then I also heard 13, and then 20, and now I’m confused.

  2. As far as I know there hasn’t been any official announcement. I’ve seen 12 (I haven’t seen 20) but I don’t think the P.C. has ever confirmed that.

  3. The main reason I haven’t totally bought the Yuuri-Viktor relationship from a romantic angle is because… I don’t really like Viktor’s archetype. Flirty people in general don’t jive well with me, and his dialogue seemed overdone (aka “yaoi-bait”-y”) even when I tried to put my dislike aside. This episode did well in grounding him somewhat, so hopefully the show will reach a point where I can say I find a romantic relationship likeable and believable instead of reflexively going “ugh, he’s doing that again”.

    I like the two Yu(u)ris though- it’s hard not to find Yuuri’s earnestness and and humility lovable, and I took a shine to his Russian counterpart immediately- I can relate to being an arrogant brat at fifteen.

    (On another note, I might have squealed when they mentioned ballet.)

  4. e

    My two cents follow. I am running on fumes (again) hence I apologize in advance for any sloppiness.
    – I agree this was the strongest episode along with the premiere in terms of writing, recycled visuals and rougher streaming cut vs this week’s TV cut notwithstanding (they did some tweaks here and there and mostly fixed the faces but the bulk of it will be on the blu-rays I think. The start of Yuri’s skating sequence[s] especially need some serious anatomy surgery ).
    – I really like how they expanded on Yuuko’s maternal streak and role to Yurio and managed to similarly slot more characters in terms of how relationships at large – including rivals ofc – affect the life and performances of the main trio and their own journey/quest.
    – ‘Because you make music’. Aw <3 . Viktor letting out his deep and poetic side :,) . But really both the key dialogue lines and the monologues managed to nail the emotional core underneath the surface 'lightness' of some moments. Feelings, growth, what ifs and chances lost within and out of the rink. Talking of music finally we get the frst trailer piano track. And it's the title drop track too?! Perfection. On my Love a.k.a. On Ice ^^.
    – I am not delving much into the romance. Luckily for the gentle LiAers that had been eviscerated to its finest points elsewhere in a group watch and chat. I can can just offer
    1) the results from a sample of both straight and queer women: it has passed the yaoi-bait with flying colours. Rainbow ones could we say XD. Included Viktor’s ‘baity’ moments as tried and true RL queer flirting tactics, down to the koibito semiserious offer. In this sense the ‘realness’ here still remains even if it’s a subordinate theme or gets obfuscated/dropped later . Cultural context and business convenience are what they are and I am not expecting YOI to singlehandedly subvert all that , as nice as that would be. But hey paving the road is good too.
    2) personally I found Y(u)uri’s behaviour around Victor after that rather beautiful beach scene to be rather… interesting. Never mind him barging into his room and jumping on his bed and borderline straddling his thighs – side note: Victor does not (cannot?) sleep in the dark. Or alone. – , the most telling moment for me – because there was not external justification or urgency – was when he ended up staring at his hair and his finger moved by itself to touch it.

    – Random details: Yuuri’s cactus. So appropriate. Humble, ‘guarded’ (thorns), may look unassuming but it has endurance. When they find the right conditions to bloom it’s usually for a short time and sometimes just a single bud. But when they do blossom they stand out all the more for it ^^.
    – RL omage: in the ‘TOP 6 skaters ‘ drawing by the triplets we can see the 6 top figure skaters from last year. The ones we see in the middle were the finalists (and outfits) in Barcelona last year : Javier (shirt and suspenders), Yuzuru, Shoma (green costume)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015%E2%80%9316_Grand_Prix_of_Figure_Skating_Final#/media/File:2015_Grand_Prix_of_Figure_Skating_Final_men%27s_singles_medal_ceremonies_IMG_9483.JPG . Yuzuru is wearing his FANTASTIC Seimei program costume. One the best performances ever in the sport. Just watch it :,) .
    I am linking the Spanish commentary video of Hanyu’s performance because the two ladies’ enthusiasm is infectious and their Spanish accent really gives you a hype boost. Last but not least they picked better camera angles than the anglo brodcasts imho (a few choice closeups and that overhead angle on one of his flawless crouching spins near the end. Maruuuuu *thumbs up and Yuuko’s tears * )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muZD0zBYQGU

  5. T

    As queer womyn of color I was worried about Yuri on Ice being Queer bait, but I can’t help but feel so many butterflies when I see the relationship between Yuri and Victor growing before my very eyes. In the context of myself I always crave seeing more narratives with Queer protagonists or hell seeing Queer couples outside of the BL genre in other genres that happen to have queer couples in it along with the plot. Fundamentally to me this story is about personal growth for Yuri as a ice skater and the growing relationship between Yuri and Victor. If this story goes where I hope its going in regards to it being a sports anime that happens to have a Queer couple in it then its a fantastic way to start “normalizing” our relationships in any genre.

  6. “But I must say it annoys me to see the possible development of a serious romantic relationship between two men casually dismissed as “yaoi-bait” by so many viewers.”

    You say it as if viewers did that only to minimise the possibility that it’s actually something meaningful. Some might be doing that, but most that I’ve seen actually would like it to go *somewhere*, but are mostly resigned to the fact that there’s a high probability this IS just fanservice without a real narrative purpose (namely, yaoi-bait).

  7. Z

    I’m digging the relationship between the dog and Yuuri. Last week’s “You’re running at night? *I* wanna run too! WooHoo!”, and this week’s “Huh, Victor is gone. I’ll go climb in bed with that other guy.” It’s a little thing, but I find myself looking out for it and smiling.

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