After a very brief recap by chibi-Yuri that I’ll just ignore because I’ve already made my feelings about the narration clear, we get straight into Victor demonstrating the choreography for the Yuri’s routines. All things considered, we don’t see very much of Victor on the ice during the series, though it is worth noting that the season begins and ends with Victor skating, in episode one alone in the dark and at the end with Yuri.
Still, there’s something really beautiful about the way Victor moves and it isn’t just that the anime has told me I should appreciate the world champion. He really is something special to watch and that draws you all the more to him as a character.
What really becomes clear as we move from Agape to Eros, is that Yuri is still very much a Victor fanboy at this stage (not that I can blame him). His eyes never left Victor while he was performing Agape and as Victor prepares to demonstrate Eros, Yuri feels this is an incredibly important moment where he will see the choreography Victor has prepared for him.
One of the criticisms I’ve seen of Yuri on Ice is the repetition of the routines throughout and while I kind of get that we do see Agape and Eros many times, I feel that each time something new comes out of the routine and we see where the characters currently are in their journey. At this stage, having Yuri watch the routine he will later perform, the distance between himself and Victor is still very clearly established.
The moment of seriousness however is swiftly broken as Victor begins his skate and Yuko’s nose explodes in a fountain of blood in one of the most often used anime tropes. Of course, it is followed by Yuri contemplating that he might get pregnant from just watching Victor (and people still want to argue about whether there are romantic feelings in this show despite the repeated statements that imply more than a coach/student relationship).
However this quickly turns to Yuri’s panic as he considers whether or not he can skate the routine. Yuri’s biggest issue is his confidence and self-image and while Victor who oozes confidence regardless of the occasion can pull off the routine to Yuri it feels like it will be incredibly out of reach.
The conversation that follows between Victor and Yuri again demonstrates a very different relationship than between Yuri and his previous coach. Again they stand facing each other meeting each other’s eye and Victor doesn’t shy away about asking the most important question: Why can’t you make it happen? Even at this stage, in the few days Victor has really had a chance to get to know Yuri, he realises that Yuri is the one standing in Yuri’s way. He doesn’t know why and he doesn’t really know how to fix it, but he wants Yuri to overcome his own block and show the world what he can do.
And that was probably what Victor saw in the video in episode 1. He’d seen Yuri skate in competition but seeing Yuri skate when he was calm and relaxed with Yuko in a rink he was familiar with and no other audience (that he was aware of) Yuri performed smoothly and without hesitation. While I’m not certain about Victor’s motivational methods, his intention is clear as he asks Yuri to practice the basics and chooses to train Yuri Plisetsky first.
I love the next part where Yuri is considering what Eros actually means and he talks about the story he saw in the routine. As the routine takes on minor changes and refinements, so to does the way Yuri visualises this story. However at this stage, Yuri is seeing the routine as Victor’s and so the story centres on a character who is very much the way Yuri still sees Victor.
This also reveals Yuri’s fear that after Victor is done he’ll cast him aside, much as the playboy left the girl once he’d finally won her over. It is obvious that forcing Yuri into the same role won’t work and it is great that as Yuri finds his way the story modified to accommodate his view and personality.
After discussing the story, and acknowledging that the way it plays out at the moment sounds more like Victor than himself, Yuri also laments that just copying Victor won’t allow him to surpass him. This is a real glimpse of the competitive Yuri who wants to come out on top even if his own doubts keep holding him back. Victor is the world number 1 and Yuri wants to do better than him.
This is what drives Yuri over and over again regardless of how hard he has fallen and it is what ensured he wasn’t going to quit skating even after his last disastrous year. However, when Takeshi calls him on wanting to be better than Victor, Yuri realises the ‘audacity’ of what he has just said and quickly denies it. And yet, this is a rare case where Yuri has clearly and without his usual filter spoken his mind. Victor would have been thrilled if he’d actually overheard.
I also love that after the first day of training both Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky end up in more or less the same sense of exhaustion and exasperation. As much as Victor has good intentions, neither one of the Yuri’s really understands what he wants of them or how to achieve it.
While this process will later allow them to rise to greater heights, right at this point in the series they are both a little bit lost. I like also how the image of them in the hotspring together compares with the image from the end of episode 2 where they were first told what they would be skating. The distance between them hasn’t narrowed at all and yet they continue to be a warped mirror of one another in their reactions.
Next we get the training montage. I’ll admit though, I really enjoy this one (though much as I observed in my original episode 3 review, there’s some really cringe worthy dialogue. Some of that comes from the fact that Yuri is using a pork cutlet bowl as his image of Eros (the entangling of the egg line still makes me crack it every time and I don’t quite think that’s what it was going for).
But some of it just comes from the fact that at this point Victor isn’t really sure what he needs to say for the two Yuri’s to really find what they need so he’s just kind of spouting whatever comes to his head. The first time I watched this it was really odd and on rewatches it makes more sense in context, but it still makes for some fairly odd lines.
That said, for a training montage we get a nice richness of variety in activity watching Yuri skate, then Yurio, watching them run and do other fitness training, and cycling through the range of activities, all punctuated by short snippets of dialogue and finished with a great choice in background music that gives us a sense of forward movement and a need to hurry.
They also take the opportunity at the end of this sequence, while the Yuri’s are standing under a waterfall (that will help) to fill in a little bit about Yuri Plisetsky and we see him remembering his grandfather. This is the first real step for Plisetsky is finally finding Agape, which won’t happen for awhile yet but when it does it is stunning to watch. However, what is even more noteworthy is that this is perhaps the first scene where we see Yuri Katsuki reach out and touch Yuri Plisetsky.
For all that they have been side by side in a number of scenes, and Plisetsky had no trouble with kicking and then standing on Yuri, this is Yuri’s first time initiating contact and showing that the distance between them has narrowed somewhat through this shared training experience.
It’s important that this scene occurs because soon after Yuri asks Plisetsky to show him how to land a quad. Barely days before there was no way Yuri could have asked, blocked by both Plisetsky’s confrontational manner and by his own need to overcome things alone and not looking vulnerable, but now he wants to perform the routine Victor has made for him and he wants to do it better than Victor. Yuri is willing to ask for help and the distance has narrowed sufficiently between the two characters that it doesn’t seem like it comes out of nowhere.
The way the characters and their relationships organically grow throughout the series is one of the things I love most about it. There are small steps along the way showing how things are gradually changing even if sometimes they aren’t noticed. Though it is worth noting that he asks from across the room giving himself plenty of space. Yuri may be able to ask for help, but he still isn’t comfortable doing it.
However, if we thought the slightly cringe worthy dialogue was over and done with, Yuri decides to throw his own line in there. There’s just no way to listen to someone say “the Eros of the pork cutlet bowl” with a straight face and not just burst out laughing, which kind of takes away from the rest of the tone here. I get that comedy is one of the listed tags on this anime, but I’m not entirely sure if this line was meant to be that laughably bad (though it is pretty memorable).
The choosing of the costumes is a scene that is over with quickly and yet there’s a lot to think about in the sequence. Firstly, we have Yuri still showing how much a Victor fanboy he is when he remembers where each and every costume came from. Then there’s the costume he picks up that Victor explains was used to suggest both male and female gender at once.
This line might be fairly throw away in the scene but it does suggest that Victor is not exactly hung up on gender norms, and more importantly it allows Yuri a hint as to how to start realigning the story of the playboy to more suit his current self. Yuri’s face as he chooses the costume speaks of the fact that he hasn’t just chosen something pretty or flashy, but something that spoke to him loud and clearly.
It’s fairly clearly in contrast to Yuri Plisetsky’s response to choosing a costume. Firstly he comments that there’s a lot of stupid costumes before he warns Yuri not to pick a costume more flashy than his own.
When Yuri Plisetsky draws close to the end of his performance, we finally shift perspectives to see how he is feeling about it. During the early stages we saw the audience reacting, we heard the commentator praising him, we’ve seen Yuri pointing out that he was an evolving monster, however Plisetsky isn’t happy at all with his performance and as he goes into the final spin he just wishes for it to end.
That said, he finishes the routine as best he can but he’s aware that the lesson Victor has tried to impart hasn’t stuck at all during the performance and he wants to be better. That is probably the true genius of Victor’s motivation with these two. He makes them see their own flaws and want to be better. This drive will fuel these characters through a lot of the rest of the series.
But knowing he didn’t do his best, Victor’s words immediately after the routine cut deep and you can see it in his expression. Victor praises him for the best routine he’s seen so far, and all that makes Yuri Plisetsky feel is inadequate. Victor does this a few times during the series where he doesn’t realise the feelings of those who haven’t found it quite so easy. That isn’t to say Victor is being insensitive (although at other times that might be true), he just sometimes misreads the situation.
Then it is Yuri’s turn and he certainly knows how to get pre-performance jitters. This is something I can definitely emphasise with as I had many similar instances of freaking out before dance performances or musical performances growing up. Incidentally, as I got older I realised the nerves do not get any better, you just acquire more strategies for dealing with them and even then, freak-outs were still a pretty standard part of the preparation.
But, rather than focusing on Yuri losing the plot, I’d like to focus on what he says to Victor right before he takes to the ice. It is the same thing he said to Yuko in episode 1, but the delivery is incredibly different.
Episode 1 Yuri looks slightly away and as though he is ready to be rejected by Yuko even though he’s known her almost his whole life and trusts her enough to skate in front of her. Episode 3 Yuri looks straight at Victor and speaks far more emphatically. As much as he is still worried about rejection, he’s demanding Victor’s attention and given his usual passive demeanour this sudden demand certainly catches Victor’s notice.
This isn’t the last time we’ll see this scene play out between Yuri and Victor and it is again, through repetition, that we can see how Yuri changes incrementally over the course of the series.
Of course, after such a demand, Yuri kind of loses his nerve and more or less begs Victor to promise he will before hugging him. The hug does two things. One, it shows that Yuri is desperately trying to close the space between them, but it also means that Yuri doesn’t have to see Victor’s expression. He’s still worried about rejection and being cast aside and Victor returning to Russia. In short what seems like a bold move by Yuri is actually weak camouflage for his real intentions: he’s still hiding.
In contrast to Plisetsky who lost the image he wanted to hold onto while skating, Yuri’s vision has never been clearer. He knows he is skating for Victor and between his choice of costume and then his all night practice with Minako he now knows exactly how he wants to perform this routine. While it will change and evolve again in later episodes, Eros has already given us a great insight into Yuri’s character.
As the performance ends, Yuri Plisetsky concedes and leaves the rink without even hearing the official result. He knows his own performance and he saw Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s performance. It is a testament to the competitor he is that he doesn’t take this too hard but more as a chance to return and train again to get better. A battle may have been lost but the war is not yet over.
Still, it does make Victor’s reactions kind of questionable when Yuri Plisetsky was unahppy with his performance, Victor praised him. With Yuri, who is fairly happy with what he just achieved, Victor immediately begins dressing him down for one of his jumps. It’s interesting how Victor’s response managed to keep both of them motivated even if they both found the experience slightly crushing.
And that brings us to the end of the episode where we see Victor and Yuri side by side, and totally comfortable in each other’s space with Yuri proclaiming their journey forward. While it might not be very subtle, it is highly effective at framing the next leg of the journey.
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 3
Next week the results of the poll for favourite minor characters will be out.
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