It’s time to get serious.
The first challenge! Yuri heads to the Japan Figure Skating Championships for his first competition of the season. His performance is a little sloppy, but good enough for first place. During the event Victor’s coaching takes a serious turn as he begins to understand just what drives Yuri, and we meet Minami, a young and vibrant rival who idolises Yuri.
This episodes marks the first serious competition of the show, and it’s a real turning point for the story. No more practice, no more training, no more screwing around. Yuri and Victor are in it for real now, and you can definitely feel the tonal shift that takes place between this episode and the last. While I’m glad the story is finally progressing into more serious territory, it also feels a little sad to leave Hasetsu and all its frivolity behind.
Another major change that’s currently underway is Victor’s transition into a full-on coaching role. He’s not the playful troublemaker we’re used to: he’s committed himself entirely to coaching Yuri and preparing him for competition. You can see it most clearly during the free skate: instead of hearing Yuri’s internal monologue — like we have so many times before — we instead hear Victor’s thought process as he analyses Yuri’s free skate and tries to understand what he’s trying to do.
The third and final change is in Yuri himself. When we first met Yuri, he was a nervous wreck being pushed around by external forces: his family, his opponents, his anxiety. When Victor showed up on his doorstep he just went along with it, because he didn’t have the strength to say otherwise. But after so much training we finally see Yuri come into his own, a new and improved Yuri with the strength and the agency to do what he can: win.
I do like how slow and deliberate Yuri’s progress is, however. Most media tends to show “progress” as a binary state: from bad to good. A protagonist wants to do something, they initially suck at it, but then they receive some kind of teaching and immediately become a master. But Yuri on Ice has a richer arc: instead of immediately getting good, Yuri gradually gets better. We see it all: failure and success, what works and what doesn’t, how Victor helps him and how he helps himself. It’s all those subtle details that make this show so good.
Some more notes before Minami starts crying:
- Minami is an interesting foil for Yuri. He’s not a snotty rival, he’s just a talented kid who wants to share the spotlight.
- I really liked the subtle mouth animation with Yuri this episode. Such great emotion from a such a simple element.
- I do wonder how all those high school kids feel about the juggernauts Yuri and Minami immediately wiping the floor with them.
- Yuri hitting the wall was a shocking, even having seen it before. You really feel that impact.
That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Yuri on Ice!