「顔まっ赤！！初戦だョ！中四国九州選手権大会」 (Kao maaaka!! shosen da! chu shikoku kyushu senshuken taikai)
“Face Beet-Red!! It’s the First Competition! The Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu Championship”
If you prefer Yuri!!! on Ice when it’s more about the ‘on Ice’, then this episode was made for you. We got three nicely animation figure skating performances, and plenty of amusing moments in between to make this an entertaining watch from tip to toe. It still lacks the vibrancy and relentless pace of the premiere, but Yuri!!! on Ice seems to have found its comfort zone between it being a sports anime, a comedy, and a character drama. Personally, I prefer the episodes that delve deeper into the characters’ backgrounds and motives, but I’ll take a performance packed episode any day of the week.
Is it just me or was this the first time Yuri’s performance was actually as impressive as it was made out to be? Often times I feel like the character art in his sequences is below standard or just a little choppy compared to the rest. I appreciated that in the first episode as it showed the contrast between him and Victor performing the same routine, with the experienced prodigy being more polished. But up until this episode I felt Yuri’s moments weren’t as breathtaking as we were led to believe. Perhaps I’m alone in that notion, but thankfully his second performance was brilliant; much more fluid than usual and showed a nice variety as he tried to hold back and deliver something more confident rather than a risky routine. Yet he still fell and actually injured himself in what looked like painful blow to the nose. That impact made me a recoil a little, but I liked that it was played for humour in his final moments while he tried to maintain his sexy persona.
We got a formal introduction to Minami Kenjirou (Murase Ayumu) this week, and he is way more loveable than I thought possible. A character as energetic as him can quickly become irritating, but he fits into the series perfectly and brings out the best in the comedy. I especially love the fact that he seems to be the only one bewitched or even aware of the closeness between Victor and Yuri. I got plenty of laughs from this kid, and his performance was even more impressive – like him, it was full of energy, brimming with character, and something different from what we’ve seen thus far. I like that he had fun with his routine, and even though Yuri was destined to win, I think their performances were neck and neck. Either way, I hope to see him return later on in the series, even if just for his blushing cheeks and apparent ‘admiration’ for Yuri. He’s a funny one, definitely a keeper.
As for Victor and Yuri… wow. These two get gayer every week. I don’t want to spend my reviews focusing on what could just be unfair teasing, but each week there is a more convincing case that this could actually be going somewhere. Victor is as affectionate as ever, and Yuri seems way more receptive to his touch than before, and by the end he straight up confessed that he loved Victor and was using that as his theme for his performances going forward. There was clarification that it’s not necessarily romantic love – though Yuri doesn’t quite know how to label it – but whatever the case, a series this popular and of this quality embracing the idea of two men together is remarkable to say the least. And going by next week’s preview there’s going to be even more homoeroticism and intimate touching between them, which is something to look forward to. By next Wednesday we’ll know whether America has voted for their impending doomsday, but at least we’re safe in knowing that Yuri!!! on Ice will be everything we expect it to be.