After a week’s wait, I’m back again with my episode two review of the hit anime Yuri!!! On ICE. I’m still feeling pretty good about episode one; I even had a dream about Victor! But before I embarrass myself, let’s get down to business!
To recap what happened, Yuri Katsuki, a 23 year old Japanese figure skater, found himself in a year long slump after suffering a major loss at the Grand Prix Finals. He finishes college and moves back to Japan where he tries to figure out what to do with his life, after retiring from skating. However, fate has other intentions as a video leak leads skating legend (and Yuri’s hero), Victor Nikiforov, to Yuri’s hometown. Here is my recap of episode one!
The first episode was a great way to start the series. Right off the bat, the visuals draw you in and the plot is a major plus. Yuri is a very simple main character and one you can immediately root for, despite not being particularly remarkable in any way. Episode two should see him trying to figure out what to do with Victor and how we will react to the news that he may not have to retire from skating after all. As always…..
If you’re watching this on YouTube, like me, consider skipping to 1:30. The theme song is nice, but it is not necessary to listen to all of it.
1:30 The episode picks up in Russia, with Victor and his coach Yakov arguing. Yakov doesn’t want Victor (called Vitya here) to leave, but the latter is hell bent on going to Japan.
2:05 The episode’s title comes in much earlier than in episode one. And it’s shorter too! It is “Two Yuris?! Drama at Yu-Topia!”.
2:25 I love these little skits that pop up during episodes. Yuri is a quiet character, normally, so it’s nice to see that he geeks out from time to time. And he shows that he has a personality here that is more than just being the scared little boy. He’s actually got some spunk, which we usually don’t see.
3:15 Five seconds before this bit, we have a bit of exposition that Victor’s departure has thrown Russia into an uproar. This is understandable as he is a living legend and their top skater. However, this is where a side character has to tell the main character that he is special and that is why things are happening the way that they are. This is unnecessary. We literally saw an entire scene of Victor viewing Yuri’s leaked video and his reaction to it. We don’t need to be told again that Yuri is the cause of Victor’s arrival in Japan. This is a classic case of show, don’t tell!
3:34 As much as I love Yuri K., Yuri P. has the desired reaction to Victor suddenly leaving for Japan. We get a nice little sketch from Yuri K. but his actual thoughts on Victor choosing him are really short handed. We don’t actually get to see what he truly thinks. Yuri P.’s anger and immediate reaction is more realistic. Victor promised to help him not Yuri K. so he has every right to be angry, and it makes sense for him to rashly decide to move to Japan. Yuri K., who literally worships Victor, has a lukewarm reaction to him literally putting his life on hold for his sake.
4:13 Victor’s personality is truly a joy! I love that he can be sexual without cheapening his character. The shot of his robe effortlessly hanging off his shoulder and him doing nothing about it is a nice contrast to Yuri, who is very reserved.
4:26 “Wow! Amazing!” appearance #1. It’s very cute when Victor says it. And I cannot stress just how well the animation is done. That food looks delicious!
5:39 And finally we have the first moment of physical contact between Yuri and Victor! It’s nicely done I must say. Yuri isn’t forced into the situation, like in most yaoi animes, and Victor is respectful of his space yet flirty. It is obvious that he is the dominant one in the relationship, but there is no physical violence required! The only reason Yuri pulls back is because he is introverted, not because Victor forced himself onto him. It is important to develop these two characters’ intimacy without cheapening it and this clip should serve as a lesson to other writers.
6:04 Victor already wants to sleep in the same bed as Yuri…but it’s only so they can talk and build their trust. Sure Victor. Yuri won’t let him though, which is funny. Again, Victor doesn’t force himself onto Yuri and leaves him without invading his personal space. Also, we need more moments like the one that follows this scene. Yuri claims he is keeping away from Victor and because he is happy that he finally gets to be close to his idol. The animation supports this claim too, as Yuri has a look of pure admiration on his face. We can see just how much Victor means to him.
9:47 Ah, Yuri P.’s first appearance in Japan. It’s nice to see that he’s not just the angry teenager. He’s got some funny lines too and even hums. He stops to buy a shirt with a lion’s face on it, because it’s “such cool fashion!” He was initially introduced as a potential villain to the main protagonist Yuri K. but he’s more than that. He’s an actual character!
10:35 This is a flashback to how Victor and Yuri P. met. Victor meets a young Yuri P., who has obviously got promise, takes him under his wing and promises to help him craft a program if he wins the Junior World Championship, which he does. This further solidifies that Yuri P. isn’t just some spoiled brat who is meant to create trouble for the main protagonist. He has valid motivations when he chases Victor to Japan and it is totally understandable why he would be angry. He is a ‘villain’ with a cause and not shoe-horned in for faux drama.
12:20 Yuri P. kicking Yuri K., who’s way older than him, is hilarious. This is a not so friendly meeting between the two but it isn’t malicious in any way. Even though Yuri P. does attack Yuri K., neither of it is serious.
12:41 Yuri P. makes it clear why he’s tracking down Victor. Again, this allows both the characters in the story and the viewer to know and understand his motivations. You may not sympathize with him, but the writers put it out there that Yuri P. is justified in being there.
14:46 Victor comes up with a simple solution to the Yuri vs Yuri problem. He will choreograph a short program for both of them and they have to compete. Whoever wins gets to keep him. It makes sense. Both boys want him with them, and frankly they both need his expertise. But it is a matter of who wants him more and who will benefit the most from him. The one that gives it his all deserves to keep him. It’s quite clever.
16:28 Finally!! Two Yuri’s is very confusing. It’s good that we get a nice alternative. The Japanese Yuri remains the same but the Russian Yuri becomes Yurio. Perfect!
16:43 Yuri is made painfully aware that he’s out of his depth here. Yurio has the advantage of knowing Victor beforehand and having more natural talent. However, it is good that he is self-aware. This pushes him to work harder. While he knows that Victor left Russia for him, he must not develop a false confidence.
19:08 The program that Victor has prepared for Yuri and Yurio comes in two different arrangements. It is a tale of two different kinds of love: agape (unconditional love) and eros (that which is sexual and intense).
20:08 Victor assigns the eros theme to Yuri, while Yurio gets the agape one. This is a smart decision. Looking at the characters as they are, you would expect them to do well with the themes switched. However, Victor wants to surprise the audience and so do the writers of this show. Although this assignment is rather predictable, it does not truly ruin what is to come. We do not know how either Yuri will interpret their respective themes, and so the reveal leaves lots of room for surprises.
20:47 This is a little challenge for both Yuri’s yet the stakes are high. Should Yurio win, Victor returns to Russia to choreograph his senior début. But if Yuri wins, Victor stays in Japan and….eats some pork cutlet bowls. However, there is some nice symbolism. Eating pork cutlet bowls represent a win for Yuri so this is incentive for Victor to become his coach and carry him to the Grand Prix Final. For all three characters involved, this will be a life changing moment. The writing behind this is very clever.
Well that’s it for my episode two review. We delved deeper into Victor and what makes him an intriguing character, but the mystery is still there. The best thing about this episode, however, is the fact that Yurio is an antagonist with a purpose. He is made into a multi-faceted character. He may not be sympathetic to all, but he still has valid reasons for being the way that he is. I do hope episode 3 allows him to grow more as a character!
If anyone wants to watch the full episode, here is a link to the YouTube video (through Crunchyroll).