The Gist: Yuri and Yurio train train train, each homing in on different strengths and motivations. Yuri’s first hurdle is choosing music for his next event, which leads him through a few of his professional contacts and more exploration into why he’s so bashful.
Meanwhile, Yurio joins a former ballerina for serious training, which he plans to capitalize on with his adolescent build. The training is harsh, but it pays off quickly and, in the eyes of his fellow skaters and coach, the fact that he is so dedicated to his craft, is a great sign of his emotional maturation.
Victor and Yuri continue to bond, which harmonically allows Yuri to contact the woman who he once asked to compose his music (but didn’t ever use), which finally anchors how he will approach the season.
And the Season is already set — he will compete in a National meet first, followed by China and Russia. Should he survive as a top score in all of these, he will finally be able to compete in the Grand Prix.
I love the choice to make Victor use Engrish instead of Rusianese. It really fits his personality quite well, somehow feels believable, and the voice actor generally gets the pronunciation close to correct to boot.
I also love the cell phones in this universe. Specifically, that they function just like our phones, with characters staying in contact by voice, tweets, photo shares, chat and email, seamlessly across multiple platforms and significant distances. It really works in this show because it is not used as a ‘cell phone scene,’ but rather something that happens naturally during any particular scene.
I also love that Yuko has a lovely understated crush on Yurio, and who’s texting is the vehicle through which Yuri and Yurio remain aware of each other. This works much more naturally than having to force the boys into news programs or to talk directly, which wouldn’t fit their characters.
even the characters of this world aren’t sure where the line is between sexuality and the physicality of this sexualized male sport…
The Verdict: This was a top shelf build up episode, only falling short of a 10 because it had to explain several aspects of skating to the viewer and ratchet up the cast size to make the world feel more populated. If not for these structural pieces, Yuri’s relationship growth with Victor and coming to terms with his past errors through the growth of that relationship, was masterful.
Special note is definitely warranted by Yuri’s musicless practice: watching Yuri move without sweeping camera work and melody is hard to watch. That chases away the fantasy aspects of montaged training and really grounds the viewer in the hard-as-hell world of elite sports.
Finally, the parallel routines of Yuri and Yurio that cap the episode are wonderful. Not only does it include the music that pulls us back into the fantasy, but the boys have dramatically different body types, which make their movements different. Roll in all the growth they’ve had in a single episode, and we get a pre-pay off to their eventual showdown.