(I’m not going to discuss the ongoing transitions in the OP because I’m pretty sure that has been analysed to death already but episode 4 is where I first noticed the visuals during the OP were changing when I watch this the first time.)
In stark contrast to the first three episodes, episode 4 begins without dialogue or narration. We see Yuri waking up, realising he is late and then running across the bridge to the ice-skating rink with only the sound of his footsteps, breathing, and a few comedic sound effects while changing clothes at double speed. It’s a nice change given we’ve just overcome the first arc where Yuri has ‘earned’ the right to keep Victor has his coach and fended off his first rival for Victor’s attention.
Victor’s passive aggressive comment about being kept waiting also works really well at ensuring we remember that he can at times be quite snarky even if he says it politely. We also see that Yuri is still very much feeling subordinate to Victor as both his panic and his apology attest.
After this sequence the episode goes into a brief narration by Yuri. However in case it hadn’t already been established by the previous sequence, Yuri outright says that having Victor around is more like having a god around than a coach. There’s a lot I absolutely love about Yuri on Ice and a lot of the repetition in ideas and themes help to make it a very cohesive work, but occasionally it feels like the show wants to hit me over the head with a hammer rather than just letting me see what is happening.
Though, that blushing face, the upward gaze, Yuri truly adores Victor and having him around is an absolute dream come true so its no wonder Yuri is a little bit of a mess.
After a brief practice session we return to the hot springs where we once again get a narration dump, but this one is actually really useful considering the conversation being had and the fact that we’re going to be watching ice-skating competitions for the rest of the series.
I’m really glad that the show didn’t just assume we all knew how the scoring works. While I watch ice-skating occasionally (one of the few sports I enjoy watching), I watch it because I like the music and its pretty. I don’t pay attention to the scores and had no idea how they decided who won. So while this does intrude upon the pacing of the episode, I feel like they timed when this information was given to the audience well.
I find the other coaches’ reactions to Victor becoming Yuri’s coach interesting. Yakov was obviously annoyed and pointed out that no one as self-centred as Victor could coach. Celestino simply asks him if he is ‘playing’ at being a coach. And for a professional coach it probably does look like Victor is being whimsical and playing around.
However, one thing that comes through clearly, is that while it may have been a whim that brought Victor to Yuri, it wasn’t done without thinking it through or without committing to it. Victor may have his rough edges as a coach but he’s definitely got Yuri’s best interests at heart when discussing reducing the difficulty of the jumps and the choice of music.
Returning to Russia, we catch up with Yuri Plisetsky, and while he’s still quite sharp tongued calling Mila and then Lilia hags within a few minutes, it is clear from his expression, his movements on the ice, and the way the others see him that his trip to Japan helped him grow up a lot and made him that much more focused on improving himself.
Where prior to his trip to Japan, he wouldn’t have taken instruction from Lilia, he now accepts her instructions as long as it will allow him to win. Where before he was full of raw ambition and arrogance, he’s now driven toward a goal that he is not willing to miss and will do anything within his own strength to achieve it.
The search for the piece of music is interesting, technically because Yuri already knows what he wants he just can’t say it. Starting from the call to Celestino, Victor listening to the original song and pretty much shutting it down, the discussion with Phichit about the composer, Yuri is progressing to where he will make the decision consciously, but it is clear he isn’t seriously considering any other possibility. It is going to be that song, it just isn’t finished yet.
However, the song allows Yuri to focus on his qualities and his career and how it was going and where he wants to go, and so this time of reflection ends up being fruitful to him in consolidating what this routine will end up meaning.
The music however ends up becoming a sticking point between Yuri and Victor. Having asked Yuri to choose the music, Yuri has become incredibly stubborn about it and pretty much shuts Victor out while he contemplates. This is shown really well through three attempts by Victor inviting Yuri to do something with him with the final one being answered with a slammed door. We’ll see this pattern repeat with Yuri throughout the series.
When he has a decision to make he very much turns inwards and that leaves no space for others. This is also the first time since Victor became Yuri’s coach that there’s been clear distance and barriers between them. However, if there’s one thing Victor is very good at doing, it is inviting himself into Yuri’s personal space. When he throws the door open the next morning, having essentially been stood up at the skating rink, Victor isn’t in the mood for any more excuses.
Again, this plays well with the relationship dynamic the two will develop and maintain over the course of the season. Yuri will push away and Victor will step in to close the gap. The two are both stubborn in their own ways but both are trying to achieve the same goal.
It also shows how Victor covers over his own frustration. Despite the dark cloud that literally covers his face on entering his room, in the next breath he has his public smiling face on and greets Yuri happily. Honestly, I think fake Victor is almost scarier. At the same time, he realises a new approach is needed and so he drags Yuri out to the ocean.
The scene by the beach is one of my favourite in the entire series. The sound of the seagulls, the wind, and the waves dominate, though there is some light piano music in the background of the scene. Initially we see Victor separated from Yuri with Yuri sitting with his knees bent up under his chin, arms wrapped around them, closed off and defensive. Victor, in typical style, asks Yuri directly what does Yuri want from him.
On getting no response he prompts him. Father? Brother? Friend? Boyfriend? on that last one Yuri jumps up and declares he just wants Victor to be who he is. And that’s when we get the line that really paints the picture for why this relationship works: “When I open up, he meets me where I am.” We’ve seen this in action since Victor arrived in Japan. He pushes, but never too far, he prompts but ultimately he waits for Yuri.
It’s a beautiful scene and one where the clarity of their relationship is emphasised by the grey clouds parting and giving way to rays of sunshine, but not clearing entirely. There’s still a long way to go until these two might find blue skies.
There’s the final choice of music and theme, but we’ll talk about those endlessly in future episodes, so let’s skip to the assignments. I find this really weird that the triplets are explaining to Yuri’s family how it all works. I get that Yuri is pretty independent but how can you have someone who has represented your country in a sport in your family and not even understand the fundamentals of that sport? It just seems really weird.
I remember my dad learning how to transfer taps from one pair of shoes to another when I was learning tap, and my mum having to listen to me playing scales endlessly and count time for me when I first started practising clarinet. While I ended up doing a lot of dance and music stuff alone as I got older, when I was in primary school at least my parents were heavily involved by default of having to supervise and drive me to the various events (I should probably have been more grateful).
Even if they’d had no interest, they’d have picked stuff up by default. Still, if I have to choose between the triplets or Chibi Yuri breaking in to explain stuff, I prefer this flimsy excuse because even though it creates a weird tone for the Katsuki family than a complete break from the narrative while Yuri narrates it to the audience.
The episode closes out with us hearing Yuri’s completed music for the first time and a montage of Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky’s training and preparation as they both practice their routines. The growth in both characters over just 4 episodes is amazing and we know they are just getting started (and did I mention how beautiful that song is, Yuri on Ice).
This episode write up is slightly shorter but that’s because I’ve tried to avoid things like the skating itself that I’ll be writing a lot about in future episodes. In truth, this is one of my favourite transition episodes in a series ever. Episode three gave us the beautiful drama of the showdown between the Yuri’s but this is where we see the characters ground themselves and launch forward onto the next phase of the story. In short, it perfectly accomplishes its narrative purposes despite some of its flaws.
I didn’t really have any use for this picture above, but I couldn’t not include it:
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 4
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