Episode 6 is here: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Short Program. This is also where most people who would criticise the repetition of the skating routines like to point to as the series low point. I disagree given we’re seeing a far more refined version of the routine every time with a different mind set behind it, but I guess I find sports anime repetitive for the same reason (you mean they are playing another game). Still, how does Yuri overcome his nerves and does Victor step up this episode as his coach?
Last week on Twitter I asked which country Yuri on Ice made you want to visit. No surprise with the results.
New Yuri on Ice poll: Which country did the series most make you want to visit?
— Karandi (@100wordanime) 29 August 2018
Let’s watch!!!!!!! (Hey, if Yuri!!! on Ice can keep capturing poor exclamation marks, so can I.)
- Yuri on Ice Episode 1
- Yuri on Ice Episode 2
- Yuri on Ice Episode 3
- Yuri on Ice Episode 4
- Yuri on Ice Episode 5
Unlike most episodes, episode 6 doesn’t start with narration but with Victor and Yuri fare-welling the family and the dog in Japan before heading to the event in China. There’s some foreshadowing in here that those who’ve watched the series will understand but for everyone else its a fairly innocuous scene and pretty standard transition. One thing that is noteworthy in a not so great way is that they seem to have saved all their effort with the art and animation for the skating that is going to dominate most of this episodes screen time. As much as I’m not one of those people that tries to pause the video in the most awkward place possible to prove some show or another has a bad frame in it, there’s honestly no other excuse for Victor’s face during the farewell other than time or budget constraints and given how amazing most of the rest of the episode looks you can probably figure out where that time and money went.
And don’t worry, the narration is coming. Just like with episode two where they waited until Victor was on the plane, this episode waits until Yuri and Victor are asleep side by side in the plane before launching into the introduction that is entirely unnecessary six episodes in. Still, we get to watch Yuri and Victor sleeping so I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to complain about it.
The transition from the plane to the competition is handled by a news round up telling us the results of two other events, which lets the audience know which skaters are likely contenders that we’ll need to pay attention to. It also gives us a very low-key look at the frustration Yuri Plisetsky is feeling having come in silver at the competition in Canada (given it was his first senior event that is phenomenal but he wants the gold). Following the theme of the news cast we then see Yuri awkwardly answering questions about his theme of love while Victor is pretty much being a ditz suggesting they go and eat. Again, its hard to know whether we’re meant to take him seriously, or whether he’s actually just trying to keep Yuri from getting too stressed by the interview, but it leads nicely into the next section anyway.
The two seem closer than ever standing nearly shoulder to shoulder and looking at one another. I’d love to say that Victor caused that blush on Yuri, but he was mostly just intimidated by the sea of microphones and his own audacity at declaring he’d win a gold, so Victor had little to do with that one.
Most of the next part is taken up with encountering the various skaters around town and Victor and Yuri meeting up with Phichit and other skaters at a restaurant. While all of the characters have been active on social media throughout the series, using it as all people do these days to document and share their lives, because Yuri is incredibly shy most of the time, we hadn’t really seen the social aspect of ice skating. However, despite these characters coming from all over the world there’s a definite connection between them because of a shared passion. However, Victor is probably taking things very easily because for once he’s not the one skating tomorrow (or maybe he would get just as drunk either way, who knows). Still, the sequence could be counted as down time or filler, except that it is actually giving us a look at these skaters and the lives they live. They might compete alone but they form friendships and connections that are crossing the globe.
However, if you want to make an insecure character more insecure, you should definitely include a scene like the next one. We’re first introduced to Chris in typical Chris fashion (he gropes Yuri’s butt and makes an insinuating comment) before a range of other characters appear. Essentially the message is the same. Victor should be competing. Yuri shouldn’t keep him from competing. How long is this whole coach thing going to last? It is probably the last thing Yuri needs to hear right before a competition and yet its something that everyone, even the audience, have been wondering. How serious is Victor about leaving the ice to coach Yuri? How long can Yuri’s fairy-tale last? There’s no real malice in anything the characters are saying, but it looks like Yuri takes some fairly heavy damage here.
At last the competition starts and Phichit takes us into it with a truly energising routine. One thing that I have always loved about this series is that every skater wants to win, they are all passionate, they are all hard workers, and they all have a dream. There are no villains here, just competitors. So as we watch each of these routines, and part of me still wants Yuri to win, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for these other characters who are fighting so hard for their dream to be realised.
Meanwhile, Yuri is once again internalising the conflict around him. People want to take Victor away from him because he isn’t good enough, that thought is burning around and around in his head while he prepares and he’s finding the determination to prove them wrong. During this time, Victor simply watches quietly and even when Chris asks about him, Victor shushes him as he watches fascinated by the transformation Yuri is undertaking before his very eyes. To Victor, the lover of surprises, Yuri is endlessly defying his expectations and Victor cannot look away at this point. I think the only person who doesn’t know how fixated Victor is, is Yuri himself at this point.
In stark contrast with last week, this time Victor holds Yuri’s hand as he gives him his instructions, their hands intertwined and resting on the barrier between them as Yuri stands on the ice. Victor tells Yuri he doesn’t need to visualise the pork cutlet bowl anymore because he himself can charm Victor. And then Yuri aggressively pulls Victor toward him and they lock eyes with Yuri demanding that Victor not look away. The distance travelled here for Yuri is phenomenal from episode 1 where he hesitantly asked his friend to watch, to episode 3 where he asked Victor to watch him with a little more determination, to episode 6 where he commands Victor to not look away.
Of course, all of this leaves Victor wondering what changed Yuri today. Which lets you know that even the perceptive Victor has a blind spot. He doesn’t seem to get how Yuri is feeling after hearing all those people asking him to come back to the ice.
We then get to Eros, a routine we’ve now seen from Yuri on two previous occasions in its entirety. This time however, as Victor has said, Yuri is quite different. While watching the routine we get commentary from the news casters discussing jumps he’s missed in the pass, his motivation, what the next part of the routine is, and this is interspersed with Yuri. In this run we get perhaps the most positive Yuri commentary ever as he has worked himself up to deliver this routine today. We also get a few moments where we see Victor’s reactions and the reactions of the other skaters. One thing everyone agrees on; Yuri is different today and that difference is noticeable in how the routine is delivered. There’s an almost violent energy running through a lot of it that makes the viewing distinct from the previous two run throughs.
Victor is obviously elated at the end of the routine but Yuri is surprisingly subdued. This difference is made clear when they are sitting together and the score comes up with Victor’s delight being clear where Yuri is more critical. It seems as though he still feels he can do more. There was a very interesting exchange where Victor asked Yuri if it felt great and Yuri replied in a fairly detached manner that he hoped everyone felt great watching him. Victor is taken back but only for a brief second. Part of me wonders what Victor wanted from Yuri at this moment even though it is clear that Yuri is still in a transitioning phase. He doesn’t know how to deal with success and is instead looking for the flaws rather than celebrating what he’s achieved. Which brings us back to a point that also comes up time and again, Yuri is his own worst critic.
They finish off with the final skaters and we get a bit more of a look at the mindsets of the competitors through their routines. Each skater has their own tone and style and that comes through loudly and clearly through their choice of music, costume and performance and it makes for a varied watching experience even as the second half of this episode is dominated by the skating routines. It is nice that each skater has their own voice and narration during their routine as it really allows the viewer to get to know each competitor even if their screen time outside of their skating has so far been reasonably minimal.
Of course, the real drama comes at the very end of the episode and contrary to normal stories where the protagonist would be the underdog and having to pull off something amazing, the drama here comes from Yuri having finished the short program in first place. The pressure of that is something he’s never had to deal with before and to be perfectly honest everyone knows he isn’t up for it. Still, it is the pleasant kind of drama and conflict that Yuri on Ice presents us with where the audience can understand it but it doesn’t feel forced or needlessly painful for the character to inject some sort of drama.
I hope you enjoyed my coverage of episode 6 and I’ll see you next time with episode 7.
Again, there’s no reason for me to include this image except that I’m going to:
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 6
And remember to check out my twitter for this week’s poll question.
Thanks for reading.
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