Yuri on Ice 1.2: Two Yuris?! Drama at Yu-topia

Two Yuris, one Victor, zero patience.

Katsudon and conflict! Yuri is hard at work losing weight and training. Meanwhile, Yurio discovers that Victor has left for Japan and decides to chase after him. When Yurio arrives, he demands that Victor fulfil his promise to choreograph his next performance, and Victor comes up with a plan: he’ll give Yuri and Yurio two different themes, and they’ll battle for Victor’s coaching in a skate-off competition.

First, a word about words. Yuri On Ice is obsessed with katsudon, a Japanese dish made of deep-fried pork, vegetables, and rice. It’s a major element of the show, often used as a reward for hard work or a metaphor for some aspect of Yuri’s life. It’s a great little detail I love about the show, but there’s always been a slight translation issue : in the English subtitles, “katsudon” is translated as “pork cutlet bowl”.

This has always felt clunky to me. In English we would just steal the word and call it “katsudon” (like we do with “sushi” or “pizza”), but the subtitles always, always take the long way round and call it “pork cutlet bowl” instead. This just feels awkward to me, like if you’re watching an Italian television show and a character says he wants “baked pepperoni pie”. It doesn’t flow at all, and it sounds odd to boot.

But enough about pork cutlet bowls katsudon, let’s talk about the episode at hand. Drama at Yu-Topia is our first real exposure to Victor’s character, and it absolutely throws us into the deep end with him. There’s no prelude or explanation for his presence, he just appears right in front of Yuri and immediately starts berating and interrogating him. It’s disorienting, but for a good reason: the show wants us to feel as confused and as dazzled by Victor as Yuri is. He’s mesmerising, and the show wants our relationship with him to begin with us mesmerised.

(A good — albeit strange — comparison would be the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas: it’s a whirlwind little scene that sweeps us off our feet and makes us feel how amazed and confused Karen is in that moment. And yes, I just referenced Goodfellas in my anime blog; I’m that good.)

This was a note, now it’s a paragraph: It’s fascinating how this show uses social media as a bridge between Yuri and Yurio’s stories, and as a tool to bring them together. Most media utterly fails at portraying social media well, or at using it to progress the story in any meaningful way. Here, it’s used well as a character motivation for Yurio and for some nice little jokes with Victor and Yakov. It’s the simplest and cleanest use of social media I’ve seen in television.

My last major point was about how the show teaches us about Yuri’s character from two different but complementary angles. First we get a ton of Yuri’s own internal monologue as he processes what’s happening to him and tries to deal with all the emotions he’s feeling. Then we see Victor going around town talking to Yuri’s friends and family, getting to know his history and how they feel about his current situation. We get to see inside and outside the character: how he feels about himself and how others feel about him. It’s a simple idea but one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Genius.

Some more notes before Macchan wakes up:

  • I love how animated Victor’s coach is; the guy has never had an obedient student.
  • Ced-Ex has got to be the laziest fake brand name ever.
  • Yurio buying the tiger shirt is a great character moment, it shows he actually has some soul to him and he’s not just an obsessive hard-ass.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Yuri on Ice!

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