「ユリ対ユリ！ホラー！ロストエレコムカップ、フリースケート」 (Yuri tai Yuri! Hora! Rosutoere Komu Kappu, Furo Suketo)
“Yuri vs Yuri! The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Free Skate”
Yuri!!! on Ice has definitely found its comfort in these competitions. This isn’t a fanservice show with sprinkles of sports scenes to keep the plot afloat – this a genuine sports anime with bundles of adrenaline and passion, and a diverse cast of characters we can all root for. Haikyuu!! is of course my favourite sports anime out there, DAYS hasn’t gotten as much love as I’d expected, and I’m too behind on All Out!! to comment, but Yuri!!! on Ice certainly has them matched – and in two of those cases, beaten – when it comes to the execution of the sport. An anime about ice skating seems like an obscure thing, and a difficult one to animate since the characters are constantly moving. And if you also told me this was going to feature a heavily implied gay relationship between the two main characters as well, I would never believe this would be one of the most popular titles of the season (both in Japan and Overseas). Sometimes the anime industry offers these rare blessings…
This week’s episode mainly followed the same routine as the previous competition showcases; which is to say it was another great episode that had me entertained from the moment the OP ended to the final scene. There’s never a dull moment here whether on or off the ice, and the fact I can care about all these new characters to some degree says plenty about Yuri!!! on Ice’s appeal. There’s all so damn likeable, even the borderline-incest siblings. Their storyline is the most ‘out there’ of the bunch, but it’s delivered with the same passion as the rest, so even if it’s an absurd motive for the characters, it’s amusing and touching when it needs to be.
The other highlight this week has to be little Yurio, who has proven yet again that he’s developed so much from the beginning. He gave his best performance yet, and that showed on-screen, and seeing him actively rooting for Yuri against JJ was both adorable and admirable. He’s come a long way… if only he’d accepted Yuri’s hugs.
That brings me to Yuri. Poor Yuri. With Victor having to rush off he’s feeling the pressure and unable to do the best he can. I personally thought he delivered another impressive performance, but he barely scraped by in making it to the next stage. It would have been a twist if he didn’t go any further, but that wouldn’t make for a satisfying end to his arc that we’ve established thus far; sometimes the predictable route is the better one. I did love his hug spree after the performances, which I read as him trying to replace that affection and support he gets from Victor. He hugged everyone in the cast apart from Yurio, but nothing compares to his coach, which is obvious as even when he’s not there, Victor is on the only thing on Yuri’s mind.
But the best part of the episode was the final scene. Yuri and Victor’s reunion was so heartfelt it almost seems surreal to be happening before my eyes. I never expected this much care and effort put into the depiction of love between two men in anime, but it feels so good have my hopes exceeded. They’re one of the best couples of the year, even if they’re nothing “officially” canon. But seriously, how can they not be at this point? As Victor notes, Yuri practically proposed to him at the airport as he asked him to coach him until his retirement, to which Victor hoped he would never have to retire. I welled up a little when Yuri did, because their bond feels so believeable. It truly feels like they love each other, and that’s amazing to watch.