Free Skate isn’t free / it costs folks like you and me.
The China Cup concludes! Yuri doesn’t get enough sleep the night before, and he suffers a massive nervous breakdown while the other skaters give their performances. Victor realises his skills as a coach are still lacking and accidentally makes Yuri cry, but the emotional release gives Yuri an unexpected boost of energy and he manages to win silver.
After six episodes of Yuri, we finally get some time to focus on Victor instead. This episode is largely about him: his abilities as a coach, his misunderstanding of Yuri’s mental state, and his capacity to learn and grow. It takes a nervous breakdown for Yuri to finally make a stand and tell Victor exactly what he needs from him.
Yuri doesn’t need someone to yell at him or berate him into success like the other coaches, he’s far too sensitive for something like that. Instead, he needs someone to support him, someone to bolster his fragile ego and give him the strength to overcome his fears and win. He needs love: strong, consistent, unconditional love. He needs to know that Victor will be there for him regardless of how well he performs or how badly he’s feeling.
Victor, unfortunately, doesn’t know this. His coaching style has been largely improvisational until now, relying more on intuition and willpower than any kind of real personal knowledge. That’s great when you’re just screwing around at the hometown rink, but in a serious competition Yuri needs a little more guidance and a lot less flakiness. I don’t know why Victor thought that threatening Yuri would work, but it’s the exact opposite of what he should have done.
(I honestly think the shot of Yuri crying after Victor threatens him with leaving is the saddest image in the entire show. And yes, that includes the dead puppy shrine.)
Fortunately Yuri’s tears were helpful, but unfortunately that raises an issue I have with the show. Yuri on Ice has an odd problem where characters occasionally go through an intense emotional change off-screen, without showing us how the character transitioned between those emotional states. We go from “screaming and crying” Yuri to “quietly confident” Yuri in no time at all, and I don’t really understand why. It just happens, and we have to fill in the blanks ourselves with what little the show gives us.
Oh, and the kiss happens this episode! I was literally about to post this article without discussing it, but I’ll quickly interject to say this: it sucks. I know it’s anime, I know Japan has its reasons, I know there are all manner of excuses for this, but I don’t care. This moment is the cornerstone of the entire goddamn show, and to not show Yuri and Victor having a real, full-on kiss is like making Titanic and not having the steamy window scene. It sucks, and I boo the people who made it suck. Boo!
A few more notes before Christophe makes a mess:
- Guang-hong’s coach seems harsh. “Become China’s hero” is a little too heavy.
- Georgi’s performance is hilarious, as always. Poor Georgi. Poor Anya!
- I still don’t understand how Victor looked at Yuri and thought “if I break this guy’s heart, he’ll surely get better!” Dumbest decision ever.
- There sure are a lot of re-used audience shots in these episodes, but I can forgive it since the skating must be so much more difficult to animate.
That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Yuri on Ice!