Yuri on Ice Guide 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 2
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