Yuri!!! on Ice – 08

Of all the anime this season, Yuri on Ice is the most.

That was it, really.  There’s no more coming.

yuri-on-ice-08-1Generally, shows that only have one gear don’t work all that well.  Changes of pace are very important for an audience, for a multitude of reasons – digesting the plot, catching their breath, et al.  And eventually a sense of monotony sets in, as if you’re eating a multi-course meal where all the dishes share the same flavor profile.  There are exceptions, both on the “fast” and “slow” ends of the spectrum – but they’re relatively rare, on the whole.

yuri-on-ice-08-2Yuri on Ice probably crosses the threshold into exception territory, because it certainly has only one gear, and we’re almost three-quarters of the way through and it’s working pretty damn well.  As is usual with Yamamoto Sayo, she pushes the envelope until you think it can’t be pushed any further, and then she says “I’m just getting started, Bitch”.  Some people dig that generally, but it’s not my jam – or at least it hasn’t been until Yuri on Ice.  Here, it works – the bombast with which this series approaches every element of its storytelling is infectious enough that at some point I stopped fighting it and just let it sweep me along.

yuri-on-ice-08-3One way in which Sayo and writer Kubo Mitsurou exhaust the senses is by throwing a continuous stream of new characters at the audience, which I suppose is understandable given the premise.  It’s to their credit that we’re able to keep them more or less straight (no pun  intended), a function of the fact that they all have oversized personalities.  Some of them seem even more interesting than the main trio to me if I’m honest, and that’s a little frustrating because there’s not nearly enough time to give them all their due.

yuri-on-ice-08-4There are a bunch more this week – surly and calculating Korean Lee Seung-gil, affable Czech Emil Nikola (I quite liked him), and Italian siblings Michele and Sara Crispino (I know Westerners tend to look older for their age than Japanese, but that’s really played up with this show).  The Italians are immediately the weakest characters of the series so far – seriously, yet another tired siscon subplot?  But the big dish is the Canadian Jean-Jaques Leroy – “J.J.”.  If you wondered how Yuri on Ice could possibly kick it up a notch after already turning it up to eleven, adding a ridonkulously overinflated popinjay played by Miyano Mamoru at his most exuberant is the answer.  I guess there was no way this show wouldn’t have a Miyano character of this archetype, is there?

yuri-on-ice-08-6Ultimately it’s still about the competition, and in this case that means the sadly neglected Yurio is finally being brought back from the wilderness.  He’s competing at home, which means a reunion with his beloved grandfather Kolya (Kobayashi Misao).  Yurio is skating “Agape” for Grandpa, of course – which is why it hurts so much that he seemingly doesn’t show up for the short program.  We run through a series of performances of varying interest, and it’s actually J.J. who goes last – and scores the highest, having included the ultra-rare Quadruple Lutz in his routine.  But it’s really Yuri and Yurio that we’re here to see.

yuri-on-ice-08-7One of the things that’s most impressive to me about Yuri on Ice is the way it’s communicated to me – someone who’s relatively clueless about figure skating – just how much Yuri has evolved as a performer.  He’s a striking presence on the ice now – he seems to have a grace and elegance none of his competitors can match.  Somehow Yuri seems big on the ice – taller and more imposing than he does on dry land.  He once again skates a perfect short program, and Viktor kisses his skate in celebration – which serves to piss off little Yurio all the more.

yuri-on-ice-08-8Yurio is really the one at the heart of this episode.  One thing Yamamoto does very well is communicate just how very young Yurio is – this moment is a lot for him, even as brash and talented as he is.  He emotionally bruises easily.  In contrast to Yuri he seems fragile and delicate (though he’s freakishly athletic) on the ice – which Yakov and Lilia have been smart enough to turn to their advantage, making it part of his persona.  Yurio is the mono no aware competitor of this group – the power of his performance rests in the knowledge of its impermanence, because he’ll soon outgrow this style of skating.  Yurio is hurting – he’s lost his idol and big brother to Yuri, his grandfather isn’t there, and it effects him – he tanks his relatively simple opening jump.  But he responds by showing what a formidable boy he is, rationally breaking down what he has to do and managing to bring the rest of his program home clean and place third (I love that he kept the nekomimi on his head right through the judging).

yuri-on-ice-08-9It will be a major surprise if Yuri and Yurio don’t claim two spots for the Grand Prix final out of this competition, with J.J. seemingly very likely to grab a third.  But the complication is that Viktor’s’s dog Macca has choked on steamed buns (ironically the ones left as an offering at Vicchan’s altar) and is at death’s door.  Yuri insists that Viktor go back to Japan, which Viktor is unwilling to do until he’s struck by the idea of having Yakov take over as Yuri’s coach for the free skate.  That should certainly prove an interesting twist (hard to imagine Yurio will be too pleased with that development), and one Yuri on Ice will surely play for maximum theatrics.  Because that’s just what it does.

 

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23 comments

  1. I loved last episode so much that I was a bit worried it wouldn’t be able to follow through with the next episode. While this episode wasn’t as amazingly emotional and impactful as episode 7 it still managed to be fun and help grow the characters a bit more.

    When Viktor was asked by a reporter if he’d like to compete against Yuri one day he totally dodged that question in a manner that seems almost suspicious (plz, Season 2, plz!). Personally, my take on why Viktor wanted to coach Yuri out of the blue is mostly because he, as an amazing skater at the top of his class didn’t have any worthy adversaries (in his mind). Seeing the potential of Yuri in the Youtube video inspired him enough to try and hopefully ‘build up Yuri’ to be as good as (if not better than him) to compete against after his year-hiatus-coaching-gig. Viktor seems the type where boredom is his worst enemy—and what could be more boring than always winning against mere mediocre talents compared to your own brilliance? Yuri’s raw and unrefined talent seems to fit the bill for him and once he’s polished into a diamond he’ll be able to have a serious contender to skate his life out against. That’s what it seems like to me, tbh.

    Though, my take is that even if that becomes the case and Viktor confesses as such to Yuri, it won’t negatively impact Yuri’s feelings for Viktor—quite the opposite, really…. I think Yuri would be absolutely thrilled with that reason since that was his wish all along. The depth in their relationship always seems to get to me because their relationship is new, mature and (most importantly) healthy. Their kiss last episode isn’t explained at all here but I would have wanted it to be expanded upon. Especially since homosexuality in Russia is pretty much a crime. The level of terror Russia puts into its own LGBT community is pretty significant and I can’t see Moscow turning a blind eye to one of its own idols taking up with a foreign male or acting in any way ‘gay’ with. While Japan isn’t super-accepting of homosexuality it’s at least not a country that will terrorize its gay citizens or kill them like Russia does. I suppose that’s just too dark a tone to strike in viewers of this series, though I would have appreciated the creators to explore the tightrope citizens in straight-up homophobic or slightly-homophobic countries have to walk when the spotlight is on them. Tbh, I wouldn’t be surprised if that televised kiss had completely ruined Viktor’s fanbase in Russia and his chances of ever competing again for Russia in men’s figure skating.

    Another thing I liked about this episode was how Yuri seems to have gained confidence in leaps and bounds… to the point where he’s willing to say cheesy, embarrassing things to Viktor over and over again. It goes perfectly with how young couples will do the same and I like that they put small scenes like that in to show how comfortable with one another they are and how the lines between love and gender continue to blur between the two. Really classy, in a way. Yuri even was super supportive of Yurio and it gives me the warm fuzzies knowing that they really are emphasizing the heartfelt nature of sports and the support structure it can give to competitors. Like I said: Touches like that give me the fuzzies and show a maturity in the storytelling that is quite rare these days.

    I’ll wrap this up by mentioning what I think might be a plot discrepancy: In the first episode Yuri skates a perfect replica of Viktor’s Free Program (which includes a quad flip at the beginning). So, why when he tries to pull it off in episode 7 does Viktor act like he never knew Yuri could do a quad flip (especially his comments to the announcer at the end of the episode)? Yeah, they’re gonna have to try and fix that when they release the BDs of this show since it’s a pretty glaring oversight, imo >.<

    Thanks again for your lovely reviews, Guardian. They always help me discover new anime that I tend to always adore — and this is one of them. The other is Hunter x Hunter 2011. My mom is pretty damn glad your reviews for it spurred me to check it out (and then show her). She still thinks it's the best anime ever made and she's seen a lot with me over the years (really, really good ones too. Momma doesn't get shitty anime, only the gold standard that I thoroughly vet beforehand!)

    So, thanks for that :3

  2. Well, thanks for that wonderful comment. I don’t hear about folks watching anime with their moms too often – that’s pretty cool.

    You raise a very good point about Viktor’s public displays of affection for Yuri and their impact in Russia, one of the most homophobic countries in the world. His career would indeed likely be over and he’d be harassed and attacked until he ended up leaving the country altogether.

  3. Yeah, I don’t see Viktor coming out of this season completely squeaky-clean in Russia’s eyes. Chances are they would throw him into some ‘treatment’ center for ‘his own good’ and chemically castrated before being shuffled off to some rural town to fade into obscurity. A pretty horrific end, really, and very, very likely. It’s not like Viktor’s irreplaceable in Russia: They have one up-and-coming talent (Yurio) that shows great potential and another older competitor (Georgi) that can pick up Viktor’s slack in many ways. So, yeah… Viktor would not get away with any ‘gayness’ with Yuri if this were a realistic accounting of how the Kremlin (and most of Russia as a society) treats its gay citizens. :\

    Viktor’s also in the twilight of his career. He only has so many years left before his body starts to break down, whereas Yuri has a good decade left before he has to retire. I suppose it would make sense that Viktor might want to ‘go out with a bang’ competing against Yuri and actually feeling like he ended his career against a worthy adversary (whether he wins or loses is moot, I think, in Viktor’s eyes; I think he really just wants to go up against the best before he is rendered utterly irrelevant). Do you think so, too? Curious to know what your thought are regarding the ‘why’ of Viktor’s decision to coach Yuri out of the blue.

    But, yeah, my mom and I both love anime and since she gets tired easily I have to only show here the good stuff in hopes she’ll stay awake long enough out of pure enjoyment. Yuri on Ice will be the next one I’m going to show her because not only is it wonderful so far but it’s exciting enough to keep her from falling asleep 😛 I don’t relish being over 50 when the time comes for me. Apparently your body becomes so worn down you sleep randomly throughout the day! Thanks for the discussion—I always am interested in hearing your take on things regarding anime :)

  4. B

    I’ll wrap this up by mentioning what I think might be a plot discrepancy: In the first episode Yuri skates a perfect replica of Viktor’s Free Program (which includes a quad flip at the beginning). So, why when he tries to pull it off in episode 7 does Viktor act like he never knew Yuri could do a quad flip (especially his comments to the announcer at the end of the episode)?

    I think I can answer that.

    The last quad for Yuri’s free program was supposed to be a quad toe, not a quad flip. Also, the announcer has mentioned that even Viktor has never attempted the quad flip at the end of the program, since by the end of a program a skater would be more or less worn out. Yuri’s free program has lots of jumps, so it must be particularly taxing on his energy, but he still manages to do a good job in the end. I think this is what makes Viktor surprised.

    And the English sub for that particular line Viktor said to the reporters at the end doesn’t quite match what he actually said (in Japanese).

  5. Could you give a rough translation of what Viktor actually told the reporter? Now I’m curious as to how accurate CR’s translation of it was…

  6. B

    Something to the effect of: “Now that his quadruple flip has been recognized/acknowledged, Yuri will undoubtedly be able to win next time at the Russian Cup…” and so on.

    The CR translation can be quite off-the-mark sometimes. Maybe one or two lines per episode…

  7. Yeah, that makes a lot more sense. Thanks again :3

  8. e

    Yurio you angry kitten you :,D. His youth compared to the rest really stood out it in both positive and negative ways. But the fact he was aware of it and managed to adjust his performance halfway it’s a testament to both his talent and a little step forward in personal growth. I can’t envision him being 100% hostile to Yuuri next week btw… in regards to both his grandpa ( his Agape) and given his track record the two Yuri are more likely to bond again ( more Agape flow 😉 ). And I loved how Vic and Yuri were totally fanboying and cheering for him even amidst their foreplay ritual—err their mutual focus + competition schedule & shuffling.
    The two Italians. My hope are with the sister, she seems to bell well aware of the danger of claustrophobic love bonds. While I am not fond of the siscon trope at all it does have a function beyond shorthand characterization of supporting characters 1) speaking as an Italian it’s a play on the importance of family and blood over everything -all this emphasis on the famiglia and cosa nostra it does and can go south –
    2) a nod to the kind of tendentially romantic hence YMMV odd spectacle of RL skating siblings’ ice dancing programs
    3) a foil to the others’ concept of love and motivations fueling their skating – especially Georgi”s and Victuuri ‘ s IMHO-. Like Georgi’s Michele ‘ s attachment has negative dependence connotations. But unlike Anya SaRa ( SaLa means ‘big room’ in Italian :,D and it’s never used as a first name) is both aware of that and equipped to open his eyes in a much gentler healthier fashion ( she will save him in this sense. She’ll be the knight and the prince to his brother eventually 😉 ).
    – brb the rest of my comment later—

  9. That makes a whole lot more sense. Do you have a direct translation on what he really said?

    Though it’s odd that Viktor (knowing that Yuri can at least do a perfect quad flip at the beginning of the program) doesn’t put that into Yuri’s original program of Yuri on Ice >.< I guess as a newbie to the skating world I can't see a coach making a really, really hard jump that a skater can do PERFECTLY (at the beginning of the program at least) a no-no in his program for extra-awesome points. ;_;

    Thanks for the explanation, tho! :)

  10. Derp. Sorry, elian, that comment was for Bel >.< I suck at paying attention apparently!

  11. e

    @ArcT: no problem XD. About the quad flip issue actually I’m 99% sure Yuuri told him around episode #3 the kinds of quad jumps he was able to pull off [with some degree of consistency= usable in competition ] were Toeloop and Salchow – Loop and Toeloop are two different kinds of jumps it’s not just a full name/short name difference for the same thing btw – . Hence that’s why Victor didn’t include the quad flip in the coreo – and why Yuuri’s flip jump stunt is even more impressive -.

  12. Y

    First time posting! I want to start thanking you from the bottom of my heart, you are my favorite blogger and I always love reading your insights on series :)

    Hehehehe I just wanted to comment something, it may not look like it but in YOI everything has a reason and even analyzing the music you can understand a lot about the characters someone made a lovely analysis about that)

    With Hanarezu Soba Ni Ite (Stay Close To me and Never Let Go), the first program we see Viktor skate and which Yuuri skated that caught his attention (also the exact words Yuuri gave Viktor when he asked him to stay by his side in episode 7), just by the lyrics we can see someone disconnected, rejecting love but in a way longing for it.

    Viktor doesn’t seen to have many close connections (probably the closer, besides Yuuri now, is with Maccachin). Yuuri is the only one who wants ALL of him, instead of just Viktor the skater. I just think he saw something in Yuuri and reacted emotionaly, more that really thinking in creating future rivals.

    Also, I agree that the siblings are kind of weak as characters but not pointless, they are a foil to Viktor and Yuuri, because as Sala said, Mickey just skating for her is detrimental for both of them in the long run. As Yuuri up to this point only skated for Viktor, to surprise him and keep him by his side, is important that he’s going to be on his own for once.

  13. Thank you for your kind words, Yeni. I’m never less than grateful when someone tells me they enjoy what I do here, because it’s what keeps me going.

    I agree with you that creating a future rival was not foremost on Viktor’s mind when he “adopted” Yuri (though it may happen if we get a second season, given the strong projected disc sales). As for the siscon kids, yes they’re a foil and a contrast – but to me it’s still weak. It’s broad and obvious compared to most of the character dynamics in this series.

  14. Y

    Seriously, when I have a series I like, the first thing I do is to check if you make a review for it, hahahaha I really really like them XDDD (The Hunter x Hunter and Chihayafuru ones were a class apart)

    Yeah, those two weren’t charecterized svery well. Lets see in episode 9, I have an inkling that Sa(r)a is going to do something, peobqbly leave his brother alone so he can stand on his own, lets see wht happens.

    Hahahaha, is series was an unexpected homerun XD, but you know, as much as I love it Id rather they do one self contained season (like it was done with 91 days) than to try to extend it needlessly

  15. Z

    Was I the only one who thought “Oh crap, are they pulling the manufactured drama ‘Grandfather gets sick/dies and can’t go to performance’ card on Yurio here?” I mean, I don’t appreciate Yurio’s tsuntsun character, but that would just be heaping injury on top of insult for the poor boy. I was relieved when I saw the dog catch that bullet instead, and I *like* the damn dog.

  16. e

    —follows from previous comments and from point 3)— had to go plug my laptop.
    3) in this aspect it’s possible we will see Michele going through a Popovich Crisis of sort that will affect FS program too, and will push him out of the avalable slots to the Final – if they manage to squeeze the conclusion of his mini-arc in.
    Compare and contrast with Vic and Yuuri where they have reached a point they can mutually support and grow along the other – mr. Nikiforov was so… chivalrous [knight&prince flavour parallel] – and later moe kinky XDD – this week regardless of being attached at the hip or hundreds of miles away, while still emitting fondness for the[ir] tsundere fairy kitten [son] :p.
    —–
    The Makkachin’s Incident had been foreshadowed since episode 1 btw – dat writing, man -. During the flashback to Yuuri’s childhood Yuuko is seen holding a magazine featuring an interview + photograph to long haired!Victor hugging the poodle. It was translated on tumblr a while ago and aming other things it mentions how he had to keep an eye on her as she tends to overeat/sneak food [#ninja! ] . Personally I think two dead dogs would be too much, but a dog (and the main love of his life before Yuuri ) in peril is a good lead in for us into Victor’s head. His story and character has actually been developing as a secondary track to Yuuri’s all along after all, just through different means ;).
    Relatedly: about his motivations and where the story is going for him – and Yuuri – ? Just leaving these links below as they basically overlap with my theor(ies) and my comments are long-winded enough as they are already. Then there would be all the clues scattered via his reactions, a few key phrases, the way Yurio’s training in Russia is a possible key to Viktor’s past and how it relates mentality-wise to his fuckup both as a coaching partner and as a person in the parking lot last week http://lookiamnotcreative.tumblr.com/post/153518166682/hi-i-know-you-have-a-bunch-of-asks-already but… I’ll just stop here, enjoy the links. Or not XD.

    http://fencer-x.tumblr.com/post/153474706666/darksapphire8-darksapphire8-okay-listen (this one is long but totally worth it)

    http://lookiamnotcreative.tumblr.com/post/152901135409/on-the-love-songs-of-yuri-on-ice (this one is long but totally worth it too)

    http://lookiamnotcreative.tumblr.com/post/153223201612/stay-close-to-me-and-victuuri-relationship (again, it all comes together beutifully thanks to the ice linking the ‘love at large’ with the ‘love for the sport’ theme )

  17. Y

    Lookimnotcreative is the patron saint of YOI, we shall all worship at her altar XDDD
    this series is amazing, and surprisingly deep if one cares to look.

    I don’t think that Maccachin will die either, if we go by the ending, those two lovebirds are in the beach in summer, and by their level of confort with each other, problybly after the Grand Prix Finql, and Maccachin is with them <3

  18. e

    @Yeni: yeah, she’s a treasure XD.
    One more hint for Makkachin being fine ( beyond the meta ones aka Kubo-sensei track record and a couple of very enlightening tweets circa 2015 about her concept of love and pursued storytelling goals ) is in the ED sequence imho too.
    The pictures seem to be in unspecified but chronological order if we parse both the degree of Viktuuri intimacy and the presence of Yurio – and his attitude – in them.
    See beach scenes: scratch even the kid’s attitude [I am speculating he’s going to unlock and upgrade his Agape starting next week by accepting Yuuri’s support in the absence of his grandpa if not even reciprocating in the absence of Viktor by his rival’s side. He did help Yuuri practicing the Sal quad once upon a time in Hasetsu after all ;D ] it couldn’t have been possible for him to physically be with them [in Japan on the beach at night] at all after episode 3. After he left he was training with Lilia&Yakov in Russia and haven’t returned [to Japan again] yet. Plus they’re either in swimsuits or lightly dressed. It does make sense for all those beach scenes to happen after the GPF and specifically a few months after that – all the Grand Prix competitions in the anime and IRL are Winter events – . And Makkachin is still happily bouncing around :D.

  19. e

    P.S.: talking about layered narrative of the non-verbal variety this further bit of analysis on the Yuri On Ice instrumental piece is just GOLDEN. http://lookiamnotcreative.tumblr.com/post/153607836967/burningfairytales-lookiamnotcreative-i

  20. Now this is the additional something that I was not aware of. The possibility that even the music piece that Victor was skating to is even giving hints to the direction and development of the story. Hopefully we’re not reading too much into it, but if it is true that this was even planned, I would definitely take my hat off to both Yamamoto-san, Kubo-san and the entire MAPPA production team behind it.

  21. e

    @leongsh: personally I support that theory because in terms of song pieces and direction cuts there seem to be even more occurrences of that kind of pattern.
    Georgi’s FS program song from episode #7 is another one – his skating is interlaced with Victor and Yuuri’s appereance in a key lyrics. His princely saviour song takes on a further ‘bad romance/ bad end’ vs ‘good end’ meaning when you take that into account. And then we have the Crispinos in episode #8 as a further foil to both Georgi and Yuuri&Vic on the sport/love/knight/prince/saviour theme – .
    Even JJ and Chris also play into that imho. Chris was OTT Eros, confidence and self-love, JJ puts another spin on that with a dash of inspirational empowering figure. Have you checked JJ’s song lyrics for starters? Or the implications of his Canadian Tyre-not sponsorship (charity work)? His song is TL;DR ‘ I’m master of the universe and you can be one too! I’ll not waver! Just follow me/I’ll show you the way!’ Lords and saviours all happy and satisfied with themselves and projecting it full force, no anxiety or confidence issues crippling their performance. But I’m waiting next episode to better pinpoint them.

  22. The thing that I’m concerned about is probable confirmation bias that colours everything we see. For now, what I see (and enjoy) is that it is a well crafted show which balances a number of elements and with a big dash of humour to make it breeze along at a considerable pace.

  23. e

    @leongsh: fair enough 😀 . Personally I’m having a lot of (extra) fun with sniffing around the extra layers as they seem to become more apparent by the episode. The show is a wildly enjoyable ride regardless.

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