Yuri on Ice Guide to Episode 2

Last week I revisited episode 1 of Yuri on Ice and that post may have gotten a little bigger than intended (okay, a lot bigger than intended). But we’re not stopping there. We’re onto Episode 2, “Two Yuri’s?! Drama at Yu-topia”. Hopefully you enjoy this rewatch and re-review of one of my favourite anime that I have watched since becoming a reviewer.

Before we get to that, last week I asked on Twitter who everyone’s favourite character was and the results came in proving once and for all that Victor is just plain awesome. Okay, maybe the poll proved that there’s a lot of love for lots of characters, but Victor is awesome.


Episode 2:

Once again, I’m going to start by praising the choice for opening scene this week. The old style dramatic music with Victor walking through the snow (once again on a character is crossing a bridge) pursued by Yakov, and then Victor turning toward him… It’s fundamentally attention grabbing and yet ends amusingly with Victor doing his dramatic farewell scene as though he was heading off to war or something equally dramatic when really he’s kind of just being whimsical and ditching his coach. Although we will learn later there was a bit more thought put into his departure for Japan than the audience is initially aware. This is one thing that Yuri on Ice does very well.

This mix of real character drama with just enough of a twist to make you smile without pushing into full on comedy and ultimately detracting from what should be the focus of the scene. While there are scenes that are definitely just meant to be comedy, mostly Yuri works as a character drama and seeing Victor here in this scene really helps to establish his character a bit more without Yuri’s lens that dominated every scene we had with Victor in episode 1.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

However, like in episode 1, I am going to comment that the narration by chibi Yuri really just interrupts the flow. We had Victor’s dramatic departure already softened by his smile and antics on the plane and then Minako’s arrival. We’re already back in more comedy mode without this sequence and even if this was the first time watching this series through, we really don’t need the main character to introduce himself again. The rest of the information about him being in denial about Victor’s presence we already understood because of Yuri’s expression, and that Victor has made a giant leap to come to Japan was also already established this episode so there’s just no reason for this narration to exist.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2c.JPG

Unlike last episode though, here Yuri Plisetsky’s anger is a lot easier to understand. His idol who had promised to choreograph for him had just upped and left the country without even a word. And even though Plistesky understands that Victor is pretty impulsive, he’s a teenager who was just ditched by his idol. The shouting that follows is entirely easy to emphasise with. As is the fact that a lot of his anger is misdirected at the other Yuri (then again, later we’ll get a reveal about events that happened earlier that actually make it easier to understand why Plisetsky is blaming Yuri for this one – there’s some very good cohesion in this series in that things make enough sense as is, but then as more pieces come into play it all just snaps together perfectly).

Yuri on Ice- Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

Part of what makes Victor’s character so fantastic to get to know during this series is how dynamic he is. From scene to scene, from mood to mood, he really does follow his whims and that makes him a real joy to see in action. That and his reaction to a pork cutlet bowl kind of reminded me of my reaction the first time I went to Japan. I can definitely understand the joy of having something that yummy put in front of me.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2e

Of course this scene also reveals how callous Victor can be whether intentionally or not. As Yuri and Minako explain that Yuri gains weight easily and so only ate Pork Cutlets when he won something and Victor asks why Yuri had eaten one recently when he hadn’t won anything. While it comes across as an offhand remark, putting yourself in Yuri’s shoes, when his confidence is already low and his idol has just launched that kind of sideways attack, it would definitely hurt. But you can’t really feel annoyed at Victor because there is actually nothing wrong with what he has said. Yuri hasn’t won anything recently. Which actually leaves me in two minds given on the one hand I completely agree that Victor hasn’t said anything actually wrong; and on the other hand I really want to give Yuri a hug. Possibly I’m just too attached to these characters.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

Then of course we have the scene where Yuri has moved Victor into his room and Victor gets very close and hands on with Yuri while making statements that can quite clearly be misinterpreted (and will gladly be misinterpreted even on a first viewing by those who want these two to be together, and will gladly not be by those who insist they are just coach and student). But what we see with this scene is how Victor is hands on and pushes himself into Yuri’s personal bubble. Other than Minako, every other character has so far kept a clear physical distance from Yuri, so Yuri’s reaction of scrambling away is perfectly understandable.

I’m going to be clear now, I don’t buy the “they aren’t in a relationship because they don’t kiss or do anything physical during the series” argument. For me, while I would like to see more anime move romances along, the relationship that builds between these two characters is genuine, strong, and clearly romantic, though even I will admit that most of the encounters do leave some ambiguity. That said, one snow-flake doesn’t make a blizzard but if you get enough of them… Still, at this stage (episode 2) the relationship between Victor and Yuri is very ambiguous as are Victor’s intentions so it makes sense that this scene is really open to multiple interpretations.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri

I mentioned this in my thoughts on episode 1, but right from the beginning Yuri’s relationship with Victor as a coach is different to how his relationship with Celestino was presented. Here, while we see a significant gap between the two in space, they are sitting on the same level looking directly at each other. Compared to every other relationship we’ve seen with Yuri, we see that despite Yuri holding Victor up as some kind of divine being (he admits himself he’s held him on a pedestal), Victor is working hard to be on the same level as Yuri and to understand him, even if he is doing it in a fairly uniquely Victor manner. At this stage Victor hasn’t tried to teach Yuri anything but he has been keenly observant and asked many questions slowly figuring Yuri out.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri castle

If we contrast this with Yuri Plisetsky’s recollection of asking Victor to choreograph for him, what we see is Plisetsky looking up and reaching up to Victor for the handshake. The two are never shown as being on the same level in the scene. While it kind of sucks that Victor would blow off a promise he made, while the scene has significance to Plisetsky, it seems to have little for Victor.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2i

That said, while I appreciate the use of the lief motif for Plisetsky in these early episodes (yet another nice musical touch), much like with the shouting at Yuri in the toilet, it is really hard to find a redeeming feature in a character who would kick someone in the back from behind and then stand on their head. While his anger is something that can be understood, these extreme actions which potentially are there for comedic exaggeration, damage the overall character arc Plisetsky takes because it gets the audience fairly off side. I do recall it wasn’t until my second watch through that I appreciated Yuri Plisetsky as anything more than a point of conflict and a catalyst for change.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

But, it is Yuri Plisetsky’s extremely violent and confrontational approach that finally shows us a little bit of the competitive Yuri who we will see more often. As Yuri listens to Plisetsky’s verbal abuse, he can’t help but smile at being underestimated. This is the first real spark of confidence, backbone, and competitive spirit we’ve seen from Yuri and it is something that the ongoing rivalry with Plisetsky will fuel throughout the series though that isn’t the only thing that brings out these traits. Interesting also that this is the first character Yuri is really shown to be looking down on. While I get Yuri Plisetsky isn’t a tall character, Yuri hasn’t even been shown looking down on the triplets who are children.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri and Yuri

Once again the importance of surprises comes up as Yuri Plisetsky watches Victor skate. He tells Yuri that Victor was torn because no matter what he did no one was surprised any more. For someone as spontaneous as Victor and with his personality, that had to really hurt. It also shows that Yuri Plisetsky is just as much a Victor worshipper as Yuri Katsuki, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2l

And so we get another face of Victor. This is where he starts really listening to Yuri’s family and friends about what drives Yuri and his habits. Its a small thing at the moment but it is another building block in the trust the two will build later. Yuri’s been running from Victor and Victor is working to close the space between them. This quiet and contemplative Victor who listens and absorbs information is a stark contrast to his exuberant response to food, his callous laughter and apology to Plisetsky for forgetting a promise, or even the super seductive Victor who approached Yuri just a few days ago.

Just another sidenote: how does Victor not want to pin his hair back? That fringe would drive me absolutely crazy.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

With the next day finally arrived, we see once again Victor’s desire to surprise. He plays the music for the two Yuri’s and get’s their thoughts. He waits until the decide for themselves how the music will be assigned and he overturns it with a single proclamation. Its a deliberate tease to both the characters and the audience and it lands perfectly as it fits entirely with what we’ve seen of Victor’s character so far and the overall idea of surprise that continues to be carried through this series. Now this scene could have been left out altogether and Victor could just be working with one Yuri and introduce his music and then work with the other and introduced the other song. The plot would still function perfectly well, but this scene is exactly what we need to really consolidate all three characters and the relationships that will be built on throughout the season as well as to allow this episode, like the last one, to conclude with a worthwhile surprise.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Yuri

Of course what follows Victor’s announcement is another fairly savage attack upon both Yuri’s self-confidence. Still, it does shut down any argument and allows the plot to move on without any further delays so I guess we should be happy that Victor can cut right to the point even if he does do it in a pretty savage way sometimes. Though once again we see Victor looking down at Yuri Plisetsky while Plisetsky sets the terms for the skate before Victor turns to Yuri and looks on at almost even level while Yuri merely expresses a desire to eat pork cutlet with Victor. And Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s declaration is the best smile ever complete with sparkling eyes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

The pieces are all firmly in place for the showdown between the Yuri’s with the direction of the plot hanging in the balance. Still, all the cues have been there to show which direction this is going and which coach/student relationship is going to catch and who is going to be left wanting. Hopefully you will join me next week as I take on episode 3.

Finally, there is genuinely no reason for me to include this image but here it is anyway:

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 2

This week I asked on Twitter for people to choose their favourite song from Yuri on Ice and I’ll add the results to next week’s review of episode 3. New poll is up on twitter asking who your favourite minor character is. Be sure to have your say.


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Karandi James

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Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 1

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?


Episode 1:

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.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

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.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

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).

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri and Celestino

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri's Mother

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri

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.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Victor

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.

Surprise!

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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Karandi James

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Yuri On Ice Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

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Overview:

Yuri Katsuki is a Japanese figure skater who kind of feels his not-so-glorious career is over when Victor (his idol from Russia) shows up to become his coach.


Product Link:

Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book
Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book


Review:

Let’s be honest, this is not going to be an overly objective view. I’m going to try, but I’m going to fail, because just saying the name Yuri on Ice still makes me smile like a bit of an idiot. I’m actually going to take this as a plus/minus review because that is going to help maintain some objectivity and it will also mean I’m not just reiterating stuff I’ve already said in my over posts on this series (or at least there will be less reiteration – I’ve written a lot about Yuri on Ice already).

Plus +

The characters in this story feel real. That was kind of the main point of the feature I wrote back while this was airing. Are they the most well rounded characters in all history? Not really. Do they contain infinite levels of depth? Definitely not. But they feel real. In real life people aren’t always well rounded and depth is something that even if someone has it they don’t always show and these characters have enough depth to keep from being boring. Even the minor characters who get very little screen time feel like real people. One of the criticisms I’ve read of the show is that the support cast exist only to lose and from a narrative point of view that is kind of true. However, someone has to lose the competition (or at least not win) and given our main characters (Yuri, Victor, and Yurio) kind of only interact with their family sparingly and then other ice-skaters and their coaches, it kind of makes sense that most of the support cast are competition and that at some point they are going to lose events. I don’t actually see that as an issue with the characters and more an inevitability of watching a sports anime. I love the cast of Yuri on Ice (even JJ who is really an obnoxious braggart but is never actually cruel to the other skaters which is an important point for when they switch things around in the final competition and make you see him through a different lens). They just feel like this could be a real group of people for at least 80% of the run-time of the show.

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Minus –

While it is fantastic that we got to see a romance between two male characters that didn’t involve either one declaring they weren’t gay, acts of violence, or acts that are borderline if not totally predatory, Yuri on Ice didn’t really delve into this. Rather, it feels like they wanted to just ignore the fact that this was a male on male relationship and just tell a story of a relationship which is fine and it would be lovely to see more shows just tell the story they want to tell (so not really a minus). But while it was lovely to see the main characters just accept their attraction and relationship the fact that every other character in the story just accepts it as well and not one person ever raises the issue that they are gay or both guys or anything else, really shatters the realism that is built up almost everywhere else in this story. It is great that this relationship is accepted in the world of Yuri on Ice. It is great that they didn’t need to spend half the run-time justifying themselves. But when you have a Thai character announce to an international group of competitors and a restaurant full of customers from Barcelona that his two male friends just got married and no-one says anything except congratulations (admittedly, he did make the announcement in Japanese) you just have to wonder about the reality being presented. Certainly it would be great if this is how such announcements were greeted but for the most part I think most of us know that this isn’t how such an announcement would be taken. So, no, I’m not criticising Yuri on Ice for not being a political piece on gay rights but I am criticising it for this one critical break from constructing a believable reality in terms of the main relationship.

Plus +

This is so pretty. Okay, people who know a lot about animation and people who are more critical in general of animation than me, will point out the terrible facial expressions some of the characters have if you pause at points during their routines. They will also point to reused sequences of animation for the routines. There’s a few other parts they’ll hold up to show you that this anime doesn’t have amazing animation. Sorry, but I disagree with them whole-heartedly. This is beautiful to watch. The colours, the movement, most of the expressions, everything is just gorgeous and if a certain action sequence gets reused multiple times I’m fine with that. Outside of the skating I loved how each of the venues was shown and I love the small details are included throughout. Yuri on Ice is beautiful and for something that seems pretty simple on the surface there is an incredible amount of detail that you can find when you start looking (and my rewatch of this series only convinced me that I’ll have to rewatch it again, soon, to pull out yet more details).

Minus –

I kind of touched on this when I talked about the characters but the story is really simple. While this isn’t really a problem in a character driven show there really isn’t much going on from a story point of view. Even the other competitors aren’t really constructed as antagonists because they aren’t. Yuri is facing himself and his own self-doubts. Yurio is trying to transition into the senior competition and prove he is better than what he has shown the world so far. JJ is trying to fan his own ego. The characters are all facing some inner-demon rather than an actual antagonist or conflict. The competition is more or less just a way to show us who is winning their psychological battle at any given moment. Yurio winning overall was predictable early on and Yuri not winning gold was also nearly a foregone conclusion after Victor said they’d get married if he did. In light of wanting another season this ending was definitely needed. However, Yuri did need to show how much he’d improved and overcome through Victor’s presence so a silver medal and a world record will just have to do. Still, a lack of antagonist or real conflict won’t detract from the overall viewing experience so while from a narrative point of view this might be a minus, from an enjoyment point of view it probably won’t interere with the fun of watching.

Plus +

Can we talk about the music for a moment? Because after you get past one of the most memorable opening themes of the year what you have is a show that just throws amazing music at you. Admittedly, given each skater has two separate songs and we’re introduced to a lot of different skaters over the course of the show, it was kind of easy for this anime to hit us hard with brilliant music. However, what really sold the music was the solid link to characterisation. These skaters are revealing who they are through their music (part of that ongoing inner battle) and each piece has been perfectly mapped to the character. Some of these links are obvious with Yuri naming his original piece ‘Yuri on Ice’ and JJ naming his ‘Theme of King JJ’ but others are far more subtle and yet equally powerful. I am going to have to get the soundtrack to this anime at some point because the music is exceptionally well done.


Product Link:

 Yuri!!! On Ice (Yutora!!!) Original Soundtrack
Yuri!!! on Ice Original Soundtrack


yuri

Minus –

This is a criticism I raised early on in the series when reviewing week to week and it is of some of the dialogue. Between being cheesy, obvious, or incredibly lame there are some terrible lines of dialogue early on (though admittedly some of this may be because things got lost in translation). The instances of lame dialogue thinned out as the series progressed but there were definitely a few face palm worthy moments early in the show. Actually, some of the interactions between Victor and Yuri later in the series border on brilliant, not because there is a stand out line that makes you go ‘yes’ but because they really develop a natural pattern of conversation (or arguments) as they spend more time together.

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Plus +

This is a truly emotional experience. Okay, that is beyond subjective but if the characters have drawn you in to their romance and their desire to win then you will find yourself incredibly caught up in the final episodes. I know I was. There were tears. Both first and second time through. They were mostly happy tears.

Plus +

Yeah, that’s two in a row, I’m cheating. While the story is pretty basic I loved how early events impact upon later ones and flash backs are used with real purpose and make you reconsider both the story and the characters. I’m not going too much into this because it is something that is better to experience but information you gain as you go will continue to change how you view the early events and this definitely helps give the basic storyline a little bit more of a wow factor.

I’m going to leave this on the positive because even though I thought I’d said everything I wanted to about Yuri on Ice before this review still just spiralled a little out of control even after multiple rewrites and edits.


Product Link:

Nendoroid No. 865 Yuri!!! on Ice: Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver.

Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver


Final thought, if you are one of the very few people who haven’t already watched Yuri on Ice (or haven’t already totally written it off because of all the crazy fans) then you should definitely give it a go. Maybe it won’t rock your world but its definitely got a solid (if simple) story with characters that moved me (and clearly thousands of other crazy fans).

Please tell me why you loved Yuri on Ice below… or tell me why it wasn’t your thing.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Chronos Ruler Series Review: Cool Concept Does Not Equal Good Story

Overview:

Time eating demons have stolen Victor’s time leaving him looking younger and without memories of the past 12 years. Together with his son they are hunting the demon that ate his time in order to get it back.

Review:

This actually should have been kind of fun. Two guys with weapons that can slow down and speed up the time of particular objects (Kiri uses water and Victor uses a deck of cards) to fight horologues (time eating demons) that target people with regrets who want to turn back time. It all sounds like it should be kind of fun to watch.

Chronos10c

Then we get the reality where Victor is the particular kind of annoying protagonist that is ridiculously cocky in his own abilities so acts like a complete fool almost 100% of the time. Never taking anything seriously, drinking, hanging out with girls, teasing his son, he’s basically incredibly annoying in every single scene. That I could probably overlook given a lot of the early focus in on Kiri who plays the straight man of the duo. The son forced to deal with the fact that his father barely remembers anything about him and to also deal with the fact that his father acts like a three year old fairly continuously. Except that the series then wants us to take Victor’s plight seriously and the entire final arc asks us to start seeing Victor as a good guy. Sorry. Too late. I have no empathy for the character and I want him to get eaten.

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This is kind of the problem with the whole show. It wants to have those serious emotional moments but the characters have not been presented to the audience in a way that makes them plausible. It wants the villains to have weight and feel threatening but has spent too long with the characters playing the fool for us to actually believe the villains they fight are any kind of real threat. There’s no balance between the comedic moments and the more serious moments and the writing doesn’t lend itself to having the audience really looking for much from this series given the plot just kind of drifts along with no sense of urgency at all and villains appear for no reason other than to inject a fight sequence and then disappear with no consequence.

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Basically this show is built around an idea that is very cool and could be really fun to watch. The group of Chronos Rulers could have been really awesome and we could have had a nice and simple linear narrative fighting some opposing force. Instead we follow Victor and Kiri, and later Mina and Blaze, as they wander about looking for a character’s memories when they’ve given us no reason to be invested in that quest. We learn nothing about the greater war that is going on or any of the other characters, though their brief appearances suggest that knowing less in this case is probably a good thing.

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For most of the season this show dropped into the They Made This category and I stand by that placement. Though this show could have built something quite interesting it was held back by poor characters and writing and ultimately wasn’t all that enjoyable to watch. Even the time manipulation element which at first was kind of interesting, never went anywhere as characters just used the same basic attacks over and over again.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you watched this show last season.


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Chronos Ruler Episode 13: At Last The End

Review:

As the final episode comes around I wonder if this show has accomplished anything? Victo/Victor (subtitles changed mid-series) still hasn’t got his time back and in point of fact now knows it should be impossible to ever do so and yet apparently feels it could still happen. Kiri is still trailing after his useless amnesiac of a father and enduring the absurdity of being put down for not being able to eat pasta through his nose. The only real change is they now have Mina and Blaze also tagging along, whenever the writers remember they should be relevant.

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This wasn’t a satisfying final fight. Last week the horologue revealed his true form and this week unleashed a barrage of attacks that really should have just annihilated the team. However, Victo then decides he can work with the others and trust them in order to achieve victory and for some reason this also means he doesn’t die when he very clearly should have.

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Honestly, this was no worse than any other episode in this show but all and all the writing and characters have been terrible and literally the only reason I’ve stuck with it was I was kind of interested in the time manipulation element. Too bad they never did anything with that. Will write a final review soon.


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Chronos Ruler Episode 12: Obvious Symoblism Before A Final Form Reveal

Review:

Chronos Ruler hasn’t exactly been great. In fact, the writing and characters have been pretty terrible and these final episodes are certainly cementing that point. Episode 11 was basically a series of extended mini-fights with the side characters before we got back to the main boss and episode 12 pretty much screams boss fight from start to finish with a minor character moment mid-episode just in case they haven’t convinced us yet that Victo (Victor) is actually a really great guy (something they decided in the second half of the season because in the first half he was scum).

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But hey, chain symbolism. Haven’t seen that in… Never mind.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, we then get all the good guys together and they start overwhelming the bad guy. Who of course then does a final form reveal right before we cut to the end credits. Why don’t villains ever use their ‘true’ form from the start of a fight? It would save us a lot of time.


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Yuri On Ice Series Review

Wait, did I just schedule a Yuri on Ice review for Valentine’s Day? Oh, that’s right. I definitely did.

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Overview:

Yuri Katsuki is a Japanese figure skater who kind of feels his not-so-glorious career is over when Victor (his idol from Russia) shows up to become his coach. I reviewed this week to week, it took out my best of the season and the year (and was the reader’s choice as well), and after episode 10 I wrote a feature on the appeal of Yuri on Ice to me (all of which can be found here) so now I have to try to review it as a series.

Given everything already out about this series, I’m not even trying to avoid spoilers and my review will outright tell you who wins the final competition so if that is an issue, please go check out some of my other posts on Yuri on Ice instead.

Review:

Let’s be honest, this is not going to be an overly objective view. I’m going to try, but I’m going to fail, because just saying the name Yuri on Ice still makes me smile like a bit of an idiot. I’m actually going to take this as a plus/minus review because that is going to help maintain some objectivity and it will also mean I’m not just reiterating stuff I’ve already said in my over posts on this series (or at least there will be less reiteration – I’ve written a lot about Yuri on Ice already).

Plus +

The characters in this story feel real. That was kind of the main point of the feature I wrote back while this was airing. Are they the most well rounded characters in all history? Not really. Do they contain infinite levels of depth? Definitely not. But they feel real. In real life people aren’t always well rounded and depth is something that even if someone has it they don’t always show and these characters have enough depth to keep from being boring. Even the minor characters who get very little screen time feel like real people. One of the criticisms I’ve read of the show is that the support cast exist only to lose and from a narrative point of view that is kind of true. However, someone has to lose the competition (or at least not win) and given our main characters (Yuri, Victor, and Yurio) kind of only interact with their family sparingly and then other ice-skaters and their coaches, it kind of makes sense that most of the support cast are competition and that at some point they are going to lose events. I don’t actually see that as an issue with the characters and more an inevitability of watching a sports anime. I love the cast of Yuri on Ice (even JJ who is really an obnoxious braggart but is never actually cruel to the other skaters which is an important point for when they switch things around in the final competition and make you see him through a different lens). They just feel like this could be a real group of people for at least 80% of the run-time of the show.

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Minus –

While it is fantastic that we got to see a romance between two male characters that didn’t involve either one declaring they weren’t gay, acts of violence, or acts that are borderline if not totally predatory, Yuri on Ice didn’t really delve into this. Rather, it feels like they wanted to just ignore the fact that this was a male on male relationship and just tell a story of a relationship which is fine and it would be lovely to see more shows just tell the story they want to tell (so not really a minus). But while it was lovely to see the main characters just accept their attraction and relationship the fact that every other character in the story just accepts it as well and not one person ever raises the issue that they are gay or both guys or anything else, really shatters the realism that is built up almost everywhere else in this story. It is great that this relationship is accepted in the world of Yuri on Ice. It is great that they didn’t need to spend half the run-time justifying themselves. But when you have a Thai character announce to an international group of competitors and a restaurant full of customers from Barcelona that his two male friends just got married and no-one says anything except congratulations (admittedly, he did make the announcement in Japanese) you just have to wonder about the reality being presented. Certainly it would be great if this is how such announcements were greeted but for the most part I think most of us know that this isn’t how such an announcement would be taken. So, no, I’m not criticising Yuri on Ice for not being a political piece on gay rights but I am criticising it for this one critical break from constructing a believable reality in terms of the main relationship.

Plus +

This is so pretty. Okay, people who know a lot about animation and people who are more critical in general of animation than me, will point out the terrible facial expressions some of the characters have if you pause at points during their routines. They will also point to reused sequences of animation for the routines. There’s a few other parts they’ll hold up to show you that this anime doesn’t have amazing animation. Sorry, but I disagree with them whole-heartedly. This is beautiful to watch. The colours, the movement, most of the expressions, everything is just gorgeous and if a certain action sequence gets reused multiple times I’m fine with that. Outside of the skating I loved how each of the venues was shown and I love the small details are included throughout. Yuri on Ice is beautiful and for something that seems pretty simple on the surface there is an incredible amount of detail that you can find when you start looking (and my rewatch of this series only convinced me that I’ll have to rewatch it again, soon, to pull out yet more details).

Minus –

I kind of touched on this when I talked about the characters but the story is really simple. While this isn’t really a problem in a character driven show there really isn’t much going on from a story point of view. Even the other competitors aren’t really constructed as antagonists because they aren’t. Yuri is facing himself and his own self-doubts. Yurio is trying to transition into the senior competition and prove he is better than what he has shown the world so far. JJ is trying to fan his own ego. The characters are all facing some inner-demon rather than an actual antagonist or conflict. The competition is more or less just a way to show us who is winning their psychological battle at any given moment. Yurio winning overall was predictable early on and Yuri not winning gold was also nearly a foregone conclusion after Victor said they’d get married if he did. In light of wanting another season this ending was definitely needed. However, Yuri did need to show how much he’d improved and overcome through Victor’s presence so a silver medal and a world record will just have to do. Still, a lack of antagonist or real conflict won’t detract from the overall viewing experience so while from a narrative point of view this might be a minus, from an enjoyment point of view it probably won’t interere with the fun of watching.

Plus +

Can we talk about the music for a moment? Because after you get past one of the most memorable opening themes of the year what you have is a show that just throws amazing music at you. Admittedly, given each skater has two separate songs and we’re introduced to a lot of different skaters over the course of the show, it was kind of easy for this anime to hit us hard with brilliant music. However, what really sold the music was the solid link to characterisation. These skaters are revealing who they are through their music (part of that ongoing inner battle) and each piece has been perfectly mapped to the character. Some of these links are obvious with Yuri naming his original piece ‘Yuri on Ice’ and JJ naming his ‘Theme of King JJ’ but others are far more subtle and yet equally powerful. I am going to have to get the soundtrack to this anime at some point because the music is exceptionally well done.

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Minus –

This is a criticism I raised early on in the series when reviewing week to week and it is of some of the dialgoue. Between being cheesy, obvious, or incredibly lame there are some terrible lines of dialogue early on (though admittedly some of this may be because things got lost in translation). The instances of lame dialogue thinned out as the series progressed but there were definitely a few face palm worthy moments early in the show. Actually, some of the interactions between Victor and Yuri later in the series border on brilliant, not because there is a stand out line that makes you go ‘yes’ but because they really develop a natural pattern of conversation (or arguments) as they spend more time together.

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Plus +

This is a truly emotional experience. Okay, that is beyond subjective but if the characters have drawn you in to their romance and their desire to win then you will find yourself incredibly caught up in the final episodes. I know I was. There were tears. Both first and second time through. They were mostly happy tears.

Plus +

Yeah, that’s two in a row, I’m cheating. While the story is pretty basic I loved how early events impact upon later ones and flash backs are used with real purpose and make you reconsider both the story and the characters. I’m not going too much into this because it is something that is better to experience but information you gain as you go will continue to change how you view the early events and this definitely helps give the basic storyline a little bit more of a wow factor.

I’m going to leave this on the positive because even though I thought I’d said everything I wanted to about Yuri on Ice before this review still just spiralled a little out of control even after multiple rewrites and edits.

Final thought, if you are one of the very few people who haven’t already watched Yuri on Ice (or haven’t already totally written it off because of all the crazy fans) then you should definitely give it a go. Maybe it won’t rock your world but its definitely got a solid (if simple) story with characters that moved me (and clearly thousands of other crazy fans).

Please tell me why you loved Yuri on Ice below… or tell me why it wasn’t your thing.


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Yuri on Ice Episode 12

Victor - Yuri on Ice

Review:

A beautiful ending (or non-ending depending on how you choose to take it) to a beautiful character piece. This show has never been perfect and the final episode is no different. If you look you’ll find things to criticise and that’s fine if that is what you want to do. For me though, I didn’t even remember to get a screen shot and had to go back and rewatch. I have genuinely loved being on this journey with the characters and this episode gave me exactly what I needed to feel satisfied while leaving just enough space that if they choose to make a sequel it won’t undermine everything that’s already happened. It’s a smart choice like most of the narrative choices that have been made in this series. I can’t wait to try to write a review of the whole show (I think I may be redrafting that for hours).

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So what happened? Yuri broke Victor’s heart (probably unintentionally) and then they rebuilt from the ground up over the course of 6 skating routines. It was beautiful. Okay, someone won gold, silver and bronze medals and a world record was beaten but you know I somehow don’t think that was supposed to be the focus.

Yuri on Ice is available on Crunchyroll if you haven’t already checked it out.

 

Friday’s Feature – Beneath the Squeals What Is Driving Yuri On Ice Fans?

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Wow, it’s a Yuri on Ice post. How original. By the way if you aren’t up to at least episode 10, maybe pass on this for now but come back. Of course, if you’ve watched episode 11 things have changed again but I’m not touching that until I’ve had a bit more time to think it through.

Okay, I’m done making fun of myself but I actually kind of had to write this. I was asked by someone in the real world whether Yuri on Ice was any good and found myself gushing (something I avoid doing in the real world, not because people don’t already know I’m a massive anime fan but just because I don’t like to make people feel trapped listening to me blather about things they are only vaguely interested in). But I wasn’t gushing about Yuri and Victor or the maybe kiss or the airport scene or even the ring (though those points did come up), what I found myself gushing about was the way that the characters in this show feel like real people.

By the way, this isn’t a post that is trying to convince you to fall in love with Yuri On Ice. If you aren’t already on board then you’ll probably stay that way. Mostly, this post is just looking at what is beneath all of that pretty animation that is keeping fans up as they anxiously await the next episode.

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You mean this ring?

For me the number 1 take away from Yuri On Ice since the initial episodes where the beauty of the animation swept me away has been the treatment of these characters. Pretty animation aside, without a story or characters worth following I’m not really willing to invest all that much time and thought into something. Yet, Yuri On Ice is a coming of age or a general weakest becomes strongest (maybe) story that we’ve seen a thousand times before (though the second half of this series is definitely starting along a full blown romance pathway). So if it isn’t the plot and while the animation is appreciated and maybe the first draw but that isn’t what is making us hang around, then what we are left with are the characters.

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And while there are definitely the fan girls out there who are happily eating up a dose of mainstream shounen ai and then the fans of Victor in the hot tub, what we are mostly seeing through Twitter is that fans have really taken to these characters and it isn’t really hard to see why.

Leaving aside Victor and Yuri for the time-being, the support cast of Yuri On Ice have been fabulous in the way they’ve been presented. While one of the criticisms I’ve heard of the show is the lack of screen time these characters have had and if you watch some episodes you will know that these characters get minutes at most, and yet they pack so much into those minutes.

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I’m going to use Kenjirou Minami as an example. He’s a Japanese skater who appears in episode 5 and looks up to Yuri a lot. While you might see him as existing only to serve as a point of contention between Yuri and Victor and as part of Yuri’s character growth, in one episode Minami manages to establish himself as a person. He’s young and idealistic but still desires victory. He’s under his own form of pressure from the expectations placed on him by others though he deals with it a great deal better than Yuri does. We also see his performance. Unlike Yuri’s beauty, Minami is a high energy performer and his personality is clearly shown in his routine. This character was on screen at most for ten minutes and I feel I know more about them than some characters I’ve watched for 24 episodes.

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If we then shift to a crowd favourite, Phichit, we get a character who was spoken about long before he even made a real appearance in the show. We knew he was Yuri’s rink mate and we know that Yuri consulted with him in order to get in touch with the person who wrote his music but it wasn’t until episode 6 that this character really appeared in the anime. By then we already had a sense of who this person was and he is definitely a likeable character. One of his persistent character traits is his ongoing use of social media and this is something that really has brought him to life. Not saying that to exist you must be obsessed with selfies, but it is one of many details that makes Phichit feel like he is living in the real world and isn’t simply a scripted being. Episode 10 really highlights that Phichit is more than just moral support and friend though. He is the first to notice the rings and offer congratulations to Yuri and Victor but he is also the first to react when Victor claims Yuri is going to win gold. While this doesn’t form an actual rift between these characters it does show that beneath the smiles Phichit is definitely a competitor.

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It’s kind of the same for all of the skaters. Yeah, there’s still heaps we don’t know about them but what we do know is painting a picture of a real person with real goals and desires and approaches to getting through things. While they each might start from a simple archetypal character there have been enough details layered onto these characters to make them feel like they are a person in their own right. Those details are everything from the music and costume choices while performing to their small interactions with the other skaters. Even how they hold themselves and what they are doing before and after performing. It all adds to the rich detail making up the characters of Yuri On Ice and there have been very few moments where this element of the show have slipped.

And that is what, beneath all the fan baiting and obvious lures this show has going for it, is keeping fans hooked and coming back for more. There are plenty of shows out there featuring a cast of supposed good looking guys and while people do tweet their images and the like I’ve certainly not seen anything like the Yuri fever that has happened every week after every episode. While a lot of the attention has been on the kiss, the hand holding, the rings, the sleeping, a lot of the tweets have focussed on those more character driven moments and the moments where we learn something more about one of our favourites in the support cast. What really makes this special though is that all of these moments build on one another. That’s why this was a slow burn at the start where you might think pretty but aren’t seeing all that much more but all of those small moments and details have a snowball effect as the series goes on.

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But let’s get back to Yuri and Victor. The are they/aren’t they arguments have raged, the fan art has gone crazy (and is incredibly beautiful given the short time frames some people have worked on) and both of these characters have been analysed to within an inch of their animated lives at this point. For me these characters became amazing at episode 7. Up until then I’d enjoyed watching them grow closer and how Victor had learned how far he could push Yuri before he would have to draw back and how Yuri was starting to take steps toward Victor, but they were still just two good characters in an anime I was enjoying. At episode 7  they crossed some sort of line as they showed such an incredible depth of human emotion and their relationship became something that felt genuine. It is in that sincere expression of emotion that the audience is completely blown away. These characters have real conversations, real conflict, they don’t understand each other sometimes, they try to understand each other, they dither, they hesitate, they act impulsively; they just feel real.

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It’s really odd for me to say because normally when I talk about seeing genuine emotion or human expression it is relation to a psychological thriller or a moment in something that’s fairly dark. To talk about two characters in a reasonably feel good, rom-com, sports anime (not trying to be condescending to any of these genres) in this way is a fairly unique experience for me as generally I don’t connect with the characters in these stories the way Yuri On Ice has achieved.

I’m honestly going to say that I do not care if Yuri wins the competition. I don’t care if Victor and Yuri get married or whatever. I am watching this show to watch all of these characters grow and show us what they will do and what choices they will make. While I would be delighted if Yuri get’s a fairytale happy ending I will also be really satisfied with him coming to a sound realisation about who he is and where he stands in the world.

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When I come to review this series as a whole I have no idea what I will have left to talk about but I’m certain I will talk at length anyway given I just never get bored of these characters at the moment. But now I’ll turn it over to you; why do you think Yuri On Ice has appealed?


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Yuri on Ice Episode 10

Review:

Normally, in a show like this when we have an episode almost entirely devoted to the characters taking a break from fighting (sport) what we end up with is a shallow filler episode filled with comedic moments that don’t really work and some very casual characterisation. Yuri on Ice shows us what an episode like this can really do in terms of furthering the plot and the character development.

Having Victor narrate and give his view of the events up to now and the skaters was a great choice given Victor has taken the back seat for the past four episodes. Bringing him back into the mix this way was fantastic and also gave us a bit more insight into his character and proved once again he isn’t just a narcissist.

We also spend time with each of the skaters who’ve made it through to the final and none of these encounters fill meaningless. Each one gives us insight into the skater and their relationship both with the other skaters and with skating itself. Probably my favourite moment in this episode came when all of the skaters (minus JJ) were eating together and Phichit announced that Yuri and Victor were married (then corrected by Victor to engaged) and everyone was celebrating until Victor said they’d get married after Yuri won gold. The change in tone was palpable and very effective. Every person at that table wants to win. They’ve all got their own reasons but they want to win and while on a personal level they may be happy for Victor and Yuri they aren’t going to hand over gold without a fight. Of course JJ shows up and breaks the tension by being his usual self and they all return to their hotel.

This episode was exactly what we needed and hit all the right notes. The charcterisation was spot on and it felt like we grew closer to the entire cast. The upcoming competition was never far from anyone’s thoughts so it wasn’t like they just ditched the plot for a week. It underpinned everything the characters were doing. And the closing credits were hilarious.

Too many good moments to decide on an image this week.

Yuri on Ice is available on Crunchyroll.