In case I’m confusing some people, last week I dropped Angels of Death and decided rather than adding another show to my seasonal lineup that I wasn’t all that interested in, I would revisit Yuri on Ice. Now I may have watched this series about a dozen times since it aired, but this time I’m casting a fairly critical and not-at-all-fan-girl swayed eye over this ice-skating bonanza (alright, I’m probably lying about the not-at-all-fan-girl part, but I’m making an effort to be a bit more level headed this time through. Initially I planned to review two episodes per week, however I went a little note taking crazy in episode 1 so decided to just cover the one episode this time around. Hopefully some of you will join me as I revisit this series.
This is going to be a new reviewing experience for me given I’ve never done episode reviews of an anime I’ve previously watched, and I certainly have never done episode reviews where I have already reviewed the episode. Needless to say, I will be discussing things that happen later in the series as I go so spoilers if you’ve never watched Yuri on Ice. I wonder how this will turn out?
Right from the opening sequence, this anime really grabs the viewer. It’s so quiet with just the sound of the skates on the ice and then Yuri’s narration while the viewer is mesmerised by Victor’s presence on the ice. We see both characters as they were when Yuri first saw Victor on the ice to the present. There are so many links to events and ideas later in the show here as we see Yuri viewing Victor as something greater than a man, we see Victor reaching out toward Yuri, and we are introduced to the idea that Yuri is constantly surprised by Victor, something that he will try to overtake later in the series (for all his lack of confidence Yuri is certainly competitive). Then the opening song, ‘History Maker’ begins with its iconic beginning that even now still makes me smile idiotically just from hearing the first few notes.
Yep, definitely lying about the not fangirling part of this review.
The first time I watched this anime, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commentators. Admittedly, they did explain a few things about the skating at various points, but I was pretty mesmerised by everything else. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but this time I’m pretty determined to actually pay attention to them. And I even finally caught the newscaster’s name: Morooka. Amazing what I can do when I pay attention.
It is however probably worth noting that no matter how many times I rewatch Yuri on Ice, I still find the transition between the normal animation style and the chibi Yuri narrator jarring. Also unnecessary. It just feels like a mismatch with the tone of the rest of the show and one that really does jolt you out of immersion. Part of me would almost prefer the episodes to be recut to remove the few instances where this is used, but the information given by these segments is actually useful. That said, there really should have been a better way to deliver the information. It’s essentially an info dump, and while it is over quickly, it is an intrusion into the narrative.
However, I do love Yuri Plisetsky’s first appearance. His slide around the wall before leaning against it with a sigh as he watches Yuri Katsuki enter the bathroom really establishes his attitude, that of someone playing at being a punk. It’s all so deliberate and his entrance into the scene is incredibly graceful and smooth. Which makes his next act of kicking in the door when Yuri is in the toilet, all the more dramatic; exactly what Plisetsky is going for (he is a teenager after all, we can forgive him a little drama).
Before we get to the door kicking scene however, we have the phone call from Yuri to his family. Keep in mind, none of the viewers got to see Yuri’s performance on the ice. We know he came last out of the top 6 skaters, but we genuinely have no idea if he actually stuffed up his routine or what happened. But here we see him apologise to his mother and break down into tears. I remember the first time I saw this I wondered if his parents were pushing him or super competitive, but after the first viewing it became quite clear that Yuri’s harshest judge is Yuri himself. When he’s usually so uncertain and indirect with his words here he clearly says, “I’m sorry, I messed up.” There’s no sugar coating or uncertainty in the blame he lays on himself.
Now, I did just say I loved Yuri Plisetsky’s entrance? Well, that already happened. I less love the next sequence when Plisetsky shouts at Yuri Katsuki. Mostly because I’m supposed to be feeling sorry for Yuri who was just crying in the toilet, and secondly because I can’t imagine under what circumstance shouting idiot/moron at someone in a bathroom would actually be an appropriate social norm. While Yuri Plisetsky will grow on me as a character in later episodes, these early moments with inconsistent and fairly extreme behaviour make it harder to really appreciate his journey, that and the fact that we almost always get Yuri Katsuki’s perspective which means a lot of Yuri Plisetsky’s story will go unnoticed. Side note: the music played during this sequence is fantastic.
It’s interesting to see the few interactions between Yuri and his coach in this early episode. Again, it isn’t something I noted the first time through, but here we clearly see Yuri walking dejectedly behind Celestino. Neither is really interacting with the other (and previously the coach just gave Yuri some fairly formulaic ignore the online comments advice). There’s no real connection between them at all either through their words or how they are viewed in these scenes. It is so different from when we see Yuri with Victor where they are almost always facing each other or side by side.
Okay, I’m skipping past Yuri meeting Victor and the interactions at the train station when he returns home, mostly because I think his mother’s reaction is pretty priceless. When asked if Yuri was in a competition she calmly says he didn’t make the cut and then with undisguised enthusiasm declares that thanks to that he can finally come home. I’m not sure if this is adorable because she is happy her son is coming home, or if this is a little callous given the career he’s worked essentially his whole life for is falling apart around him, or whether it sits somewhere in between the two. Either way, it is clear she loves Yuri and she’s glad he’s going to be home (which is not something that should be taken for granted) and that fact is emphasised a few moments later when she sprints to greet him at the front door.
After the initial greetings and some conversation that more or less reinforces the point that Yuri doesn’t know what his next step is, he goes out to ‘practice’. After seeing him running through the town we get this shot of him running across the bridge. We’ll come back to bridges many times in this series, but I particularly like this image as it is unclear whether Yuri is running away or running toward something and that kind of matches his state of mind where he is tired of people asking him what his plans are, meanwhile he’s working hard in his own way to figure things out. I also like how the light is in front of him but Yuri is mostly a silhouette in this scene.
While the opening narration clearly established that Yuri has been fixated on Victor for a long time, and this was followed by Yuri’s disappointment that he felt he couldn’t stand on the same stage as Victor, the episode takes another moment to remind us of Yuri’s long-standing fascination with Victor. It does this through introducing his childhood friend and former rink-mate Yuko which leads Yuri to reminisce about his early skating days. While young Yuri is adorable, it is his growing obsession with Victor that really becomes clear from when Yuko first introduced Yuri to him through the TV and magazines, to Yuri acquiring a poodle (just like Victor) and naming it Victor. This clear obsession is actually more problematic than helpful later in the series as it kind of creates a communication block between the two characters, but at least it helps to ground where Yuri is coming from before the show attempts to establish a relationship between the pair. And then Yuri asks Yuko to watch him skate (and I’ll get back to this in a later post because there’s a clear difference in how Yuri asks her this favour to how he asks Victor later in the series).
There is absolutely something magical about the simultaneous routines between Victor and Yuri. The musical choice is excellent, but everything about the scene just comes together perfectly. Keeping in mind, the audience has not seen Yuri skate prior to now. We’ve heard he failed and made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve not once seen him take the ice. And now, our first impression of him on the ice is that he holds his own against the world number skating the same routine and both of them perform it beautifully. Yuko acts as the audience here and her open mouthed appreciation of Yuri is everything that the audience is feeling (okay, I promised I wouldn’t fan girl, but I love this scene, it is beautiful). This also ties beautifully to the very end of the series where we see the two of them on the ice together, not just doing the same routine in different rinks.
Then of course we get the catalyst for everything that comes after in this series. Yuko’s kids upload the video of Yuri’s skate and it goes viral eventually being viewed by Victor. Where the reactions of most of the other characters are pretty much what you would expect, at this stage Victor is still an enigma. About the only clues we have about him are that Yuri idolises him and that he hesitated when asked what he was going to do next season. So his expression while viewing the video is something that is quite ambiguous and most of us will read it as we like based on what comes after. But still, I remember the first time I saw it and I wondered just what was coming next.
And then the episode brings us back full circle to the idea of Victor surprising Yuri. Just as Yuri begins another day he sees the dog and after being told it belonged to a good looking foreign guest he dashes to the bath to be confronted by his idol.
It’s a fantastic opening episode in that it has set up the main character, built in some of the world around him, and already begun moving the plot forward with Victor’s arrival. Whether I’m fan-girling or not, this is a very solid episode 1 for an anime series.
Hopefully you had some fun revisiting this episode and I’ll get to episode 2 next week (though hopefully try not to go quite so note crazy).
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 1
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