The Gist: Yuri competes in a small-fry national match that’s necessary to qualify back into the Grand Prix. His principle rival there is Minami Kenjiro, an annoying little boy with red streaked blonde hair and watery eyes. While Minami is quite young, and not particularly good, Yuri lost to him the previous year during his mental breakdown.
Yuri is cold to Minami at first, and also overly consious of his moves, leading to a luke warm performance. However, Victor’s mix of hugs and scorn drive home the importance of cheering other’s on — motivating them to do more — as a vehicle to motivate yourself.
Yuri’s second performance is better, leading to the inevitable local victory. (although he falls and smashes his nose at the end)
Capping the episode is Yuri’s interview pre-China Cup, where he talks about his theme, which is Love. Not romantic love, but an abstract sense that love is all around him, from his home, his family, his friends and Victor.
“That’s a costume from my dark past!” – Yuri
In an interesting move, Yuri’s first dance is almost completely reused from the previous time we’d seen it. This makes sense from a budgetary stand point, and because it is, in fact, the same routine. While that stood out to me, the fact that it was set against a different background and foreground, and that it was very nicely rendered in the first place, there’s nothing to really complain about.
Another interesting decision was to make Yuri the narrator all the way to the second performance, where it flips to Victor. This gives us all of Yuri’s insecurities right up to Victor’s cold reading of the situation, where we are suddenly in the unknown. It plays with the tension but it also plays into Yuri’s later note that he was enjoying himself so much, he wasn’t really thinking at all. He doesn’t really remember the performance.
The Verdict: Yuri on Ice has the remarkable ability to initially make me think it’s lost its way, only to sell me on its decisions by the end of any given episode. This week, I found Minami really annoying at first, only to appreciate that his character served as a lens for Yuri to see himself ‘a few years back.’ It didn’t hurt that nearly half of Minami’s screen time was dedicated to a spunky dance and cheering for his friends.
Ultimately, Yuri’s interview was the crown jewel of the episode. It really captured the line this show is walking with overt boy-love themes, but with a heterosexual male who’s awakening to greater nuisance in life. Yuri doesn’t know what to call it, but Victor’s arrival and all of the confusion it brought, made him aware of the love his family and town and friends all shared with him and he can’t be thankful enough for that.