Houseki no Kuni – 07

Phos lies prostrate before the Amethyst twins as Rutile repairs them, but once they’re whole enough to speak, it’s the twins apologizing to Phos: they were overzealous in their efforts to show Phos how badass they are and let their guard down.

Phos doesn’t feel any better about freezing up, and runs off, both to try to outrun the shame, but also because that when circumstances necessitate an immediate retreat, Phos has to be able to do it. Phos’ legs lead to Cinnabar, whom Phos still doesn’t feel right speak to quite yet.

Phos’ state of incomplete development comes at a bad time for them; Winter has come, and with it the time when all gems hibernate until Spring—and sufficient sunlight for them to function—returns.

The only two who normally stay awake while the others sleep are Master Kongou, and the heretofore-unseen Antarcticite (whom I’m going out on a limb in guessing is voiced by Takeuchi Junko, also the voice of Naruto).

Antarcticite was unseen because they only become solid when the temperatures drop enough; when it’s warm, Antarcticite occupies a vat in their room, in a liquid state. “Antarc” also has a particular like of Kongou, and cherishes the time when they patrol together.

Then, while the two are hugging, Phos emerges from behind a wall. Unable to sleep, Phos requests to be allowed to stay up and train up in these harsher-than-usual conditions rather than waste them hibernating. Kongou agrees and partners Antarc with Phos.

Antarc is initially quite annoyed by this decision, but only because they remember Phos of yore, not the present Phos, willing and able to grow. When Phos tells Antarc of the desire to become better and more useful, Antarc takes a more patient tack.

Phos is particularly sluggish in the dim winter chill, but toughs it out until the two reach their destination: a field of eerily gorgeous and hazardous ice floes that let out blood-curdling screeches when grinding together.

Like Amethyst, Antarc is quick to demonstrate their duty to Phos: cleaving the surfacing ice floes with a saw in order to stop them from disturbing the hibernating Gems. Watching Antarc spring into action, balance a high heel atop the ice, then unleash a massive blow, is really something to behold.

The spectacle, and the utterly pristine whites, blues, purples and aquas of the frigid winterscape lend this episode a unique beauty, backed up by some of the most conspicuously excellent music of the show.

I’ve always liked “ice levels” as a kind of aesthetic palate-cleanser. Winter turns the Land of the Lustrous into another world, and it’s a glorious thing to see and hear. The stark beauty is nicely complemented and warmed up by the understated Phos-Antarc buddy comedy.

Antarc shows Phos all of the various duties they must perform; some menial, others herculean, and others downright weird, like making sure to put down the sleepwalking gems—and, occasionally, cover Master Kongou when he smashes into a wall—with blankets. Phos simply tries to keep up, but it’s a lot of work and has to be done with a minimum of energy due to the low sun.

Then, just as Phos is wondering whether they bit off more than they can chew and ponders the hopelessness of achieving their goals, the ice floes seem to call out, echoing the anxieties in Phos’ head. Kongou warns Phos to ignore the voices, giving Phos yet another challenge to overcome among all the others.

It ultimately proves too much. While out on patrol, Phos considers sawing off both arms so that they be replaced with a stronger ones, as Phos’ legs were. Phos stops themselves, but slips and falls into a frigid pool. Antarc pulls Phos out, but Phos is missing both forearms—and if they can’t be retrieved, many more memories.

Antarc has been shown to be proficient in making minor repairs, but this is a job for Rutile, who is hibernating. So yeah, we close another episode with Phos’ existence at another crossroads. Here I thought Phos would find a way to attach saws to their legs and use them to cleave the floes; now I just hope the Phos I know and love can get out of yet another spot.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 05

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Two of Lotta’s stalkers bond over sandwich bread

I continue to be both bemused and delighted by the sheer obsession with food, eating, and dining in ACCA and the culinary minutiae therein. The fact that these characters need their three squares a day, plus the occasional snacks, really anchors them in the land of reality. It also mirrors real life in its lack of traditional “action”, but that lack hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for the show in the slightest.

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One of the most important moments of the episode—and of the show as a whole—surprisingly happens not during a meal, but during a car ride (which is also, in its utilitarian practicality, a tether to reality). In that car, Lilium basically lets slip to Jean that he has a tail, and the reason he can’t detect him is that he’s someone by whom he’s used to being watched.

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Jean’s a sharp guy, so it doesn’t take long for him to narrow it down to his friend the photog. And when he arrives in the wintry, hearty Birra district and Crow is already there with his camera, we finally see a look of shock on his face as Jean stops and turns back to look for…him. It’s not clear whether he sees him or not (Crow seems pretty far away, though he’s wearing black in the snow), but that look back is all Crow needs to know he’s been found out.

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“Could you two young brats flirt somewhere else? I’m trying to run a bakery here.”

Two elements of the episode that are a little more obscure in their intentions were the plotlines of Eidar very unsubtly showing up to see Jean, only to be crushed when he’s not there, and Maggie pursuing Lotta, only to learn where she lives, that her parents are deceased, and that she loves sandwich bread. I’m hoping we’ll find out soon what Lotta’s significance is, if there turns out to be any, of course.

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After a rather stern dinner with Birra’s ACCA supervisor, Jean walks into the tranquil, snow-covered forest to confront his tail, and the resulting confrontation is wonderfully offbeat. Jean doesn’t seem betrayed; on the contrary, he seems like he could care less…though he doesn’t wonder if all those times Niino got him drunk he was pumping him for information.

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Back home, Jean and Niino share a meal with Lotta like nothing happened, and Jean even makes him promise to stay with Lotta and take her out to eat every day he’s off on his next audit, this time of the Western-style Rokkusu District. Niino obeys, likely hoping he doesn’t miss anything good.

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The final scene during sunset in Rokkusu is full of intrigue, as is the little chat between Lilium and Pastice at the airport. Is Jean simply saying hello to a vaunted superior in his hometown, or is something else going on? Something…coup-y?

For the first time it looked like Jean was doing something counter to the person we’d seen up to that point; that he was finally showing us something he’d been hiding. I may be dead-wrong, but I’m having fun guessing as I enjoy the food-filled ride.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 12 (Fin)

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“If you retire now, I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your life” – Yurio, snatching Gold from Yuri by .12

The Gist: 6 skaters give 6 performances, marked with their own narration of objectives. The many competitors and supporters who we’ve come to know watch along as the scores come in. JJ seals third place by growing stronger emotionally and in performance as he goes, just shutting out the Khazak skater. But the first big upset is Yuri, who blows the crowd — and the judges — completely away with a world record setting performance. Above even Victor’s world best.

But Yurio is having none of it. Frustrated that ‘beating Victor’ is good enough — that just retiring after only one good year — Yurio puts on 3 minutes of beautiful animation plus flashbacks that add to our understanding: that he was in that bathroom all the way at the beginning of the series because he was intrigued by Yuri’s footwork, but disgusted by the emotional damage he saw.

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Yurio wins by .12, entirely due to his advantage going into the second round but the result is the same. Yuri holds a silver at the end and finally comes to realize he never wanted to give up skating. Nor does he have to worry about Victor, who too will rejoin next year’s rotation.

After a lovely duet preluding the next season to come, Yuri find himself training with Victor and Yurio the way they had before, but as truer, closer friends. Their feels out in the open.

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The Verdict: That was a fantastic conclusion for all the obvious reasons. Animation, character, world building, sport, and above all else, enjoyable characters that bounce off of each other. Yurio’s reveal was especially fulfilling, as it gave his tsundere personality the final rounding we needed, following last week’s friendship growth with the Khazak skater.

Another fun trick was undermining Yuri’s first episode narration, in which he says this would be his last year as a skater, to retire on a gold. It totally played with our expectations all the way to the end, but gave him a believable reason to stay.

I can not stress how good this show is and how completely un-boy love too — despite the obvious bro-mancing between Yuri and Victory. There’s no date side episode or quiet ‘they did it’ episode. The sexuality isn’t part of the story at all, even if you can imagine it being part of their lives. If that changes your mind about giving YOI a watch, dive in. You will not be disappointed!

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 11

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The Gist: the final 6 skate off, with Yuri giving the first performance, followed by the skaters from Thailand, Switzerland, Russia, Kazakstan, and Canada. Yuri lands in the middle, having fallen short of his new quad but otherwise performing his tough program well.

The surprise twist comes at the end, with the pressure to perform finally catching up to JJ, who crumbles into last place. Brave face and silly JJ hand signs flown high, he braves his crushingly low score and stands tall before an emotional audience.

The majority of the episode is delivered as a broadcast, with commentators explaining what is going on and skaters sitting in the press booth receiving their scores. These scenes are inter-spliced with interior monologs from the skaters, as well as observations by Yuri, Yurio and Victor, who’s early performances allow them to watch from the audience.

With the scores set, we are ready for the final, final, final show down next week.

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The Verdict: The long build up and tight scripting for each of the cast members is really playing off in the end. There is a strong sense of community, friendship, rivalries and engagement between the skaters and their support people. Yurio’s budding friendship with the Kazak is especially fun, as it pumps them both up in subtle ways, and the results hit JJ’s subconsciousness enough to nerve-him-out of contention.

The result is a believable world with a broad spectrum of likeable people — even when they are jerks — pushing themselves higher. Chris’ performance was especially well animated and, since we haven’t seen the Kazak’s routines at all, his time on the ice was a smart way to keep it fresh. All of the music was wonderful too.

What seals this week’s 10 rating is its master treatment of skirmish before the final battle. I can name few, if any other shows that set the stage for their show down so completely, without being over the top or gimmicy. YOI is matter of fact about it, with real world constraints on the time spent with scores and people. We know those scores, and the emotional placement of each skater. All that’s left is to see who can seal the deal and bring home a gold.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 10

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The Gist: Victor narrates the pre-grand prix festivities in Barcelonna. We see a few relationships develop or reconcile from his perspective — even some he could not have seen like Yurio and the Kazakstani skater.

We also learn that Yuri got black-out-drunk after losing the previous year and had asked Victor to become his coach, after winning a drunken dance-off with most of the other top skaters. The photo-stream of the event, which we see in full during the credits, it just great and really grounds Victor’s arrival at the hotspring.

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While Victor is the only one to notice, almost every skater at the top has become stronger and happier because of Yuri…

The Verdict: I love the use of cell phones in YOI, and this week’s intermixing of twitter and photo streams with recollections of the past, and reveals were fantastic. I love that the characters see where the other characters are in real time from these feeds, see what’s popular with fans too, and I love that some of the touching scenes aren’t recorded. It’s an interesting note that Yurio doesn’t remember the Kazak skater from training — that they don’t have photos of it or do not check — but share an awkward but interestingly human conversation talking about it.

But the show stealer goes to Yuri giving Victor a ring as a good luck token. All the elements around that, how Victor (and the show itself) toy with the BL expectations, yet keeps it sincere and un-BL enough for the rest of us not into that genre to keep watching.

The only reason I’m not giving it a ten this week is because the chibi/deformed narration and recapping the story so far that took up 5 minutes of the opening was a little clunky. It wasn’t unusual for YOI as a show, but it lacked the passion that followed. Otherwise, still the best show airing this season – go watch it!

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 09

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The Gist: The Czech skater dances to techno with the theme of no longer being human, but he falters towards the end. The Italian skater dances a sad goodbye to his twin sister, also a skater, who wants them to move on with their lives as separate people, and his melancholy brings a masterful performance. The Korean skater falters under the pressure that built during the first section. But those were just the appetizers.

Yurio’s performance is grueling, fluid, and full of internal insight before and on the ice. He pushes 6 of his jumps to the second half of his performance to up the technical difficulty and point potential and he nails it, earning a personal high score and landing in the 2nd place slot of the competition.

Yuri’s performance is not as strong, though it is fluid and respectable, his mind isn’t as clear nor focused on the actual technique as much as the what ifs and long term motivations to keep Victor by his side. In the end, he places 3rd, just enough to qualify for the Grand Prix.

The episode comes to an end, arm in arm with Victor, a safe and healthy Vic-chan by their side, and a promise to win a gold, Yuri’s first gold, next time.

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The Verdict: Calling Yuri on Ice beautiful to watch is repetitive but this week’s 3 major animated performances were just that. But the beauty goes beyond that, and beyond the interior of of character and the depth that even quick check-ins among the many skaters gives us. This is a living community, with family, relationships, aspirations and realities. It’s a rich world and, were this not a middle arc episode, it could have won a 10.

I loved the continued expansion of the Coaches this season, with Yukov giving a little insight into what is going on, and about to go wrong, and what could be better. It grounds the whole spectacle in reality that the animation alone, and my limited familiarity with skating would not capture.

But the true stolen scene was at the end. Victor’s glow that Yuri’s declaration is like a marriage proposal hits the dancing nail of Boy x Boy or not Boy x Boy on the head. Male romance or not, on the surface or deep down, all that matters is the good company and growth as people.

Go on, this remains the season’s top must watch!

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 08

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The Gist: We meet several new skaters in Russia, JJ being the only direct challenger to Yuri (and Yurio), and see some great skating. Yurio has a rough but acceptable start, and his relationship with Yuri and Victor gets a little boost when they cheer him on lovingly.

But on the eve of the final showdown, Victor’s beloved Dog Maccachin is rushed to the vet, having choked on buns left at Yuri’s family shrine. Maccachin may not make it and Yuri begs Victor to rush home just in case. In desperation, Victor asks Yukov to coach Yuri in his absence, which puts Yuri and Yurio on the same team in a way. The stage is set for an epic showdown.

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In YOI’s world, all skaters are crazy… but in a crazy family sort of way that obsesses internally about their relationships and reason for being…

The Verdict: Awarding a Masterpiece grade mid-season is always more challenging than the beginning and the end because a build up, even perfectly executed, is predictable by design. This is why successful shows employ a mid season twist — a sudden death of a loved character or a reveal that a greater enemy was lurking all along — to make the audience reassess their belief in the Hero’s chances of success.

What puts Yuri on Ice above the rest is how it spins this convention on its head — how it fully bends it to the show’s own style and needs. Yes,  Maccachin may die and that means Victor will not be beside Yuri during the second half of the performance, where Yuri is at his most vulnerable. Yes, Maccachin’s injury subtly setup and Yuri’s insistence that Victor go to his pup is emotionally resonant, but the masterwork is in YOI’s lightness.

Victor runs to his former coach, his current antagonist of sorts, and asks that he coach for Yuri on the coming day. This entirely reshapes the relationship between several characters, totally diverts what would be a strong but conventional conflict (Yuri’s coach isn’t there to bolster his nerve) and absolutely locks next week in for an exciting and totally unpredictable showdown.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 07

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The Gist: Yuri earns a silver… but there’s a silver lining.

After his flawless skating in the first half, Yuri completely freaks out and looks like he’s going to death spiral in the second half. In an attempt to get Yuri back on track, Victor says he will take responsibility if Yuri fails and resign as his coach.

This sends Yuri over the edge, but in an unexpected way: he’s used to living with his mistakes and has been worried that people would tie his failings to Victor. The cry does him good and he has a ver relaxed, thoughtful, and above all else surprising match.

Next up, Russia with love…

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The Verdict: I was critical of last week’s episode for throwing an pile of characters at us, each with their own agenda and relationships. This week, I have to look back on that choice more positively, as all that info has had a chance to sink in and — only from that experience — was it possible to really enjoy all the other skating going on while Yuri and Victor wait.

Yuri’s emotional responses were top notch, with his freak out in the basement and his playful monolog coming so close to earning a 10. However, a few short cuts (reused crowd clapping a few too many times) and the overwhelming ‘mid point’ nature of the episode held it back from a perfect score.

Can’t wait for next week though!

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Kuromukuro – 26 (FIN)

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With Ken planning to leave Earth to help Zell and Muetta fight another battle, Yukina is forlorn, but she regains the will to do something about it thanks to her supportive circle of friends, who have always served as a kind of Scooby Gang, performing impressive feats by utilizing and pooling their individual talents. Akagi in particular takes one for the team, as ultimately Yukina’s happiness is more important to him than being her husband.

 

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When it comes time for Ken, Zell, and Muetta to make their move, trying to open a wormhole to Zell’s world with the Pivot Stone, Yukina and her friends descend on Kurobe lab armed with their wits, the press (so there are eyes on the military’s actions), and Yukina’s unyielding determination to accompany Ken on his journey, lest he go and get himself killed.

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Sebastian also lends Yukina, Sophie and Kaya a hand, while we learn with shock that Dr. Hausen is Kaya’s dad (good for a chuckle). It’s understood that Ken, Zell, and Muetta, along with Yukina and her friends, are violating international law through their actions, but neither Graham nor Scully are quick enough to stop them.

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Even when Scully corners Ken, Zell and Muetta, Yukina manages to pilot Medusa, bursting through the wall and giving Ken an open path to the Kuromukuro. And when she grabs a hold of Kuromukuro and Ken demands she let go, Yukina…doesn’t. She’s in this for the long haul, whether he wants her in danger or not. Ken accepts that Yukina (whom he calls his “wife”) won’t take no for an answer.

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Unfortunately for Yukina and Ken, Tom and Shenmei have orders to stop them at all costs, and while Ken ultimately succeeds in going through the wormhole, it isn’t with Yukina, and they are in an instant separated by perhaps thousands of light-years.

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Cut to a few years later, and thanks to the technology lifted from the Efidolg mothership, mankind has developed interstellar flight, and have built a spaceport a slightly older Yukina, Sophie and Sebastian utilize to finally meet up with Ken (whom Yukina knows is still alive thanks to a bauble given to her by Dr. Hausen).

After a tragic separation, this epilogue paints an optimistic future for Yukina as she says a temporary goodbye to her family and strikes out in the vast expanse of space to join the man she fell in love with. Like him, like the samurai, she is always going forward.

And that finally does it for Kuromukuro. The ending episodes weren’t quite as good as when all shit hit the fan and everyone had to deal with the aftermath in episodes 6-8, but they were still solidly entertaining.

P.A. Works took an offbeat, novel approach to the sci-fi mecha genre, but with lovable characters above-average animation and taut action, and a good helping of the all-important “not taking itself too seriously”, the studio churned out another winner.

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Kuromukuro – 25

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After some “sorta back to normal” scenes with Yukina and Ken back at school, we start to enter the full aftermath of Earth’s victory over the Efidolg mothership. A lot happens behind the scenes, like Yukina’s mom’s firing (which she kinda had coming after that whole mutiny thing).

But front and center is the fate of Muetta, who not only learns from the brainwashed Lefill that she was manufactured using Yukihime’s genetic information, but would have been disposed of as soon as the mission on Earth had been completed. It means if she hadn’t betrayed her allies, they would have eventually killed her off.

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Everyone also has time to sit around and listen to Zell complete the story of how he and a team of colleagues rammed an Efidolg ship, crashing both on Earth, and how of the Washiba clan, he only manged to save Yukihime and Ken. It sounds like Ken’s surviving came down to luck, but Ken is still determined to consider what Zell did a life debt he intends to repay.

As for Muetta, she learns from Zell’s description of his homeworld’s sky that she possesses memories from that world; possibly even those of his daughter who was killed by the Efidolg along with his wife. She’s heartened by the fact such a place actually exists, and wants to go there to see it for real.

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The humans in charge aren’t going to make that easy; again, Hiromi has been fired, Scully is back at the lab, and Dr. Hausen is given carte blanche to experiment not only with Muetta, but the surviving Efidolg pilot as well. I’m worried his fatigue-inducing “medication” could disrupt the nanomachines making Muetta and Ken “conditionally immortal.” To be continued.

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The recipient of the gut punch that ends the episode, however, is Yukina, who has not forgotten Ken’s earlier proposal (and has taken it seriously) and wants to stay by his side no matter what; even if he goes to Zell’s planet with Zell and Muetta.

The only problem is, Ken doesn’t want her to go, and marrying her is no longer possible, because repaying his life debt must take precedence. Ever the samurai, Ken. We’ll see if Yukina lets things stay this way, or if she decides what future she wants and reaches out and grabs it.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 06

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The Gist: Yuri dominates the short program section of the China Cup, which sets him up for a rough second half of the event butterflies in the stomach and all.

We meet a torrent of other skaters and coaches and even an ex-girlfriend this week, blitz through all top 6 ranked skaters’ performances, and glimpse a little off the court social life too. It’s a ton of information, it’s a ton of animation, and the speed vs time to show it to us tugged at Yuri!!!’s quality this week. Faces and figures are occasionally drawn weirdly, parts of the crowd are animated at times, in a mechanical way, while others are not. It works, but it’s a step down from the YoI highs.

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The Verdict: While I could argue that the clips-show or trailer vibe of this episode may capture the overwhelming feelings Yuri himself is experiencing, the show doesn’t really play with that. Rather, it feels like a standard ‘competition’ arc, but compressed into a two parter instead of a half season.

On a final note, YoI’s choice to put bizarre fem-eyes on certain characters just doesn’t work — and it works even less when the general animation is stretched for time and budget. The giant eyes with long lashes look totally out of place and don’t capture anything about the characters’ personalities or relationships.

What salvages it all is not only the amount of content rendered here (6 routines, 5 of which are ‘new’ for us) but the emotional growth seen in Yuri. His new spin is to want to be hated by the world as the guy who stole Victor away. That’s the only way he can shake the identify of dancing like Victor, but as a student, as a lesser shadow.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 05

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 04

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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