Born to Make History: Yuri!!! On Ice episode 9 recap, absence makes us laugh and get mushy and cry, and I want to punch JJ more than ever.
I had so many thoughts about where this episode might go, and worries about where it might go. This is the problem with groundbreaking stuff: you never know exactly what ground it’s going to turn over. You hope it’ll be the earth you want them to go for, and at some point you start to trust them, but as everyone who had their heart ripped out of them over The 100 last season (and so many other shows and stories), we know queer representation doesn’t always do what we need it to do. This is why romance novels are so treasured and why readers are so loyal. But we want to see all media give us some HEA. So we show up hoping.
I wasn’t sure at first if the show was going to be there for us, but today I knew for sure Yuri!!! On Ice is definitely in the ring. One hundred percent, not just hat in the ring, but coat off, knuckles wrapped and dusted, and I’m hoping to all that’s holy strapped in for more than just this season. I knew there was subtext. I longed for more than just baiting. I wasn’t entirely sure what to hope for after a while or even what I was watching until I got to episode seven, and then I thought, holy shit, we went there, we really went there, we’re here, oh my god. Even then, I still doubted. Call me Thomas, because I kept concocting scenarios in the back of my mind where that was a blip, Victor being overcome with feels and crushing Yuri later. Look, I’ve been burned before. I was ready for everything. I am not one of these young lads or lasses watching from bedrooms or dorm rooms. I have been taught well not to hope.
And then today happened and now I’m so toasted, so screwed, so lost to these boys and this show even more than I already was, because I believe, all the way down. This is not anything but a love story. No question. No apology, no bait and switch. Not unless they violate every code of storytelling on earth, and I don’t believe they’ll do that. They are here for the love story.
They are here for the queer love story.
THE JAPANESE ANIME WITH WIDE INTERNATIONAL RELEASE NOT TREATED LIKE YAOI AND CONSIDERED WITH TOTAL SERIOUSNESS AND GRAVITY IS A QUEER LOVE STORY. Drag every soul you know to this show. Subscribe to Crunchyroll. Tweet and Tumble and Facebook for your life. You do not only vie for season two. You are lobbying for a shattering of a wall through which more Yuris and Victors and Salas and Milas and so much more can pour.
So. The recap.
Makkachin has eaten steamed buns and is near death, and Yuri insists Victor go back to Japan to be with him. Now, we’re going to set aside a bucket full of logic here: Victor going home doesn’t change the dog’s prognosis, this isn’t a terribly adult thing to do, and there’s a strong argument for saying the responsible thing would be to stay and further the thing he can affect, which is Yuri’s performance. However, none of this is the point, from a narrative perspective. The entire goal of this episode is to separate the lovers to show them they can exist without each other, but that they don’t wish to. Makkachin is a MacGuffin, ill entirely for the purpose of maneuvering our heroes. So let him maneuver.
Victor leaves. Victor isn’t present for most of this episode, in fact, though he’s also never absent. When Yuri does his press interview and they worry because it didn’t look like he had much to say to his stand-in coach, Yuri says, with pure-Yuri bravado, that it’s fine, he’ll simply do what he always does with Victor. He’s carrying his coach with him. The other skaters think of Victor too, continually trying to best him. Yurio thinks with Victor gone he’s the only one who can win.
Yurio’s grandfather is here this time, with more pirozhki—pork cutlet bowl pirozhki, which he made we assume because of Yurio’s offhand remark last time. Which, god bless, Grandpa. How much does he love Yurio, and wants to not only be there for him, but impress him, and keep him happy? Coming to see him skate even though he’s not well? And while we’re handing out compliments, I’m frankly stunned that Yakov just took Yuri on without a blink. I thought there’d be some kind of condition, some bribe, but no. Yakov simply did as Victor asked. Yakov who lets people design their own programs, even if they’re weird stalkers. Yakov who will live with his ex wife if that’s what it takes for his skaters.
Lotta feels up in this episode.
We watch everyone skate, first Emil Nekola, who doesn’t do that well and I’m happy to see go. I mean, he’s fine. He’s just…I dunno. I don’t have much to say here. I think I probably should, because the more I rewatch the more I’m realizing every secondary character feeds into the main thread, but I don’t have anything for him yet.
Sala and Mickey, though.
The Italian brother and sister duo have a ton more reflection on the main plot than I first thought. Yes, they’re still a little odd, that brother and sister thing that creeps me out a bit, but what we’re supposed to be focusing on is the super-attachment and the need to let go and grow independently. This is what we’re doing this whole episode, even though it’s just one day and it’s over a dog. Sala is telling Mickey she’s not going to be his emotional jockstrap (hat tip to you, Lucifer) every time he performs, that she’s going to start dating, and he needs to let her go. He breaks down and is a little insane about it, but then he goes out and skates his heart out. He lets her go, and it’s good for the both of them, and really great for his performance. This is our subtle note for what we should be getting out of the Victor-Yuri separation.
Sala is also badass. There are some serious Sala-Mila shippers out there, and I’m here for them. I don’t have any problem with a Sala on Ice spinoff where the two of them start lesbian pair skating or something. Let’s do this.
I’m not sure how much to address the “perv” remark Mickey makes in reference to Yuri, because I suspect it’s a translation thing and I’m waiting to hear from the experts, specifically Tumbleweeds Escapism who said to expect a new lost in translation post Saturday. I have a feeling the “perv” thing is actually a gay slur or is at least some reference to Yuri being gay or abnormal because he is gay, in which case, fuck you, Mickey, and I’m glad for the way this episode turns out. Also, you should maybe see a therapist for this whole incest thing you have going on.
I feel bad for poor Seung Gil. I know he’s a robot and kind of a jerk, but he was only rude and stand-offish, not mean to anyone. Sadly his skate didn’t do that well, and I’m going to miss him in Spain.
Yurio’s skate was intense and wonderful. He wasn’t pissed, and if anything he bloomed in Victor’s absence. He deliberately moved his jumps to prioritize his points, and he nailed them all. He pushed himself, almost brutalized himself, and it should have been enough to take the gold. You saw it and you wanted it for him, especially here in front of his grandfather, here in Russia, with the crowd cheering so loudly for him. He wanted to beat JJ, and he pushed everything he could out of himself in order to do that. I watched him and I cheered and hooted like it was a real event, man. Like he was a human being, not an anime character.
And then Yuri performs.
He’s in a fog the whole time. He’s there, but barely. He isn’t nervous, but his heart isn’t in his performance, and he’s psyching himself up the entire time to keep himself in the game. He’s not nailing his jumps, and he keeps replaying every bit of coaching and encouragement Victor had given him, trying to get through, but he’s in that fog. He can’t push through. He’s not really getting this whole strong enough apart memo. He’s not Mickey. He can live without Victor, and he can function. But he can’t thrive.
Yurio watches, and he can’t stand it. He has an internal monolog running the whole time, trying to figure out why Yuri isn’t getting it together, and eventually he calls out, trying to encourage him.
JJ cuts him off. Goddamned JJ.
Sharp little whistle, stopping him short. A tease, a reprimand, then a subtle dig. “All supportive now that you have a spot saved for yourself? Going to cheer for me too?” Because heaven forbid anyone be allowed to cheer for Yuri without cheering for JJ too.
But we’ll peel the skin off that turd in a minute. Let’s finish Yuri’s skate.
Yurio gets called away, and Yuri keeps going. He never really gets his groove, but he pulls through. He has his moments where he does well, but he doesn’t shine like he should. He touches down, makes mistakes he never makes, not when Victor is there. I can’t say I love just how dependent he is here, but I understand it too. This is in his character. He didn’t fuck up, didn’t lose it. But he didn’t shine.
The kiss and cry was adorable. Yakov chews him out for dishonoring Victor’s coaching, and Yuri hugs him. He didn’t do great in his scores—good, but not good enough to cinch his spot. And of course who is up?
Now it’s time to take this bitch apart. Here is what JJ has to say about himself.
Yuri Katsuki, Victor may have chosen you, but you’re no king. I can tell that much by your free skate. I am the only king!
The announcers muse if he will replace Victor as the next prince of figure skating but he says,
Wrong, I’m no prince. I’m already king! I’ll be the hero who stops Victor from becoming the consecutive five-time world champion. That’s what I was thinking when I made this program, but I had no idea Victor would go on break. I bet he ran because he was afraid of losing to me. That poor guy, Victor Nikiforov! Dad, mom, my precious girlfriend, the great people of Canada, the people who love skating, this one’s for you. This isn’t enough love! It’s not just that I land all the jumps with ease. They’re integrated into the overall performance, are they not? Hey judge! This is JJ! Let’s go!
I suspect there are translation issues in that speech, but the gist is there. This guy is a pile of ass. I’ve seen a few people defend JJ, which is…amazing. Certainly he’s talented, and there are aspects of him that have no specific fault of their own. As a package, he is an ass, a bully, a nearsighted egoist, and from a perspective of narrative, he’s the bully and you better get ready to watch him go down, because that’s where he’s headed. He better be ready to stand in third place, because that’s where he’s landing in episode twelve or whenever the Grand Prix is.
JJ’s introduction to us was tossing kitten ears on Yurio’s head, a move Yurio clearly detests, as he detests everything about JJ. But before I go too deeply into that, let’s complare JJ to Yuri and Victor, because Yurio has said he hates them both, but we don’t just suspect we get to see those are different emotions entirely in this episode.
Yuri and Victor don’t ever do anything to Yurio except be kissy kissy in front of him—the only thing they do to him that could be worthy of anger is they misname him, and that’s a big thing. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not it’s okay to misname Yurio, but he seems to have gone with the nickname, only complaining about it a few times and now he’s down with it from the Japanese crew. So this is teasing with consent. If Yurio complained about the misnaming too much, I’m sure Yuri for sure would undo it. So that’s it. Everything else is Yurio’s own bullshit, which deep down he knows. Yuri and Victor ignore Yurio’s sour moods and cheer him on to the point that half of the internet is a meme about how they’re his gay parents. Even Yurio has to get that message, with or without a Tumblr account.
JJ on the other hand goes out of his way to bully Yurio. He doesn’t misname him. He misgenders him, and he means it to be rude and insulting, not a fun pet name. He sees him as a threat and makes sure to intimidate him because JJ might think he’s a king, but he’s a king with a really tiny penis. He reminds me in fact of a certain President-elect I hate as much as I hate this stupid skater. Full of ego and self-inflation, except JJ at least has some skill. If JJ were content to let that stand, that’d be fine. But he is cruel to Yurio at every turn, inflating the kitten meme which Yurio doesn’t like, trying to psych him out at every opportunity, and then here during Yuri’s skate when everyone knows exactly why Yuri is so down, JJ won’t let Yurio root for his friend.
Won’t let him root for his friend. Yurio is the youngest one here, he’s only fifteen. My kid is fifteen. I know Yurio’s badass, but my kid is this kid’s age. Nobody is badass enough at fifteen not to be intimidated by older assholes, and this guy knows it and is using it. Jesus, if I were backstage at this thing I would be up this guy’s nose so fast, finding every little burn I could and giving him the stare of death, basically giving him someone to worry about so he could stop fucking with other people. I hate people like him who can’t stand on their own, who have to tear other people down in order to exist, who think other people are their things to use for their own betterment or because they know better or are better. I would stand naked in subzero weather on shredded glass and eat guys like him slowly with a dull spoon and a smile just to get the job done. I would take off my own arm just to take guys like him down, I hate his kind so much. These kinds of assholes don’t see other people. They use them.
Such a tiny penis. Girlfriend must be hoping for the medal and all the cash that goes with it. We sure as hell know she’s not here for the personality. Because sitting around and listening to someone talk about how they’re the king gets old so fast.
And yes, let’s go to that too, because it’s relevant to what’s to come, why this guy will go down, must go down. Because he thinks this whole game is about domination, about stepping on necks and proving who is the best. This is the asshole who needs to mark territory, to fuck everyone not for pleasure but to prove he’s the big bad top (in booty shorts). The kind of guy who’d put his name on a million buildings, in gold. He doesn’t see Victor as an artist, as someone who furthered the sport. He sees him as someone in the way to his own glory. When JJ gets to the top, he has no plans to share the love, to give himself away. He wants to piss all over everyone and then tell them to be happy they got his kingly shower. He’s a frat boy. He’s an egotistical jerk, and he’s going to get worse. Now—I did think for a moment he might be Secondary Gay and he could be flirting with Yurio. But I don’t think so after this episode.
There’s a redemption arc for him, but I don’t see it happening in three more episodes. He has to fall first before he can rise, and he can’t do it from the top of the podium. The only other way is for Yurio to win and Yuri to get second or third and then go into retirement with Victor. But man. I’m counting on these guys to do better.
Anyway. Fuck JJ and his tiny penis. No gold medals for him. People can like him if they want to, but I’m not having anything to do with him. He’s a bully and he doesn’t get any katsudon. Not in my house. He gets a spanking and a lecture on how to treat people and a lesson on what “winning” really means.
So the overall scores for the event were that JJ was in first (asshole), Yurio was second, Mickey was third, and Yuri was fourth. Overall Mickey and Yuri were tied, but because Yuri got second in China, he gets to go to Spain, and homophobic incest boy is benched. Which is a good choice, writers, thanks. I’d rather have JJ around to hate than Mickey creeping me out, though I suspect he’ll be there for Sala.
Yuri has a cute hug-fest in the hall, where he hugs Sala, then Mickey, then everyone. Basically everyone freaks out except Sala. Mickey has gay panic, then everyone else is varying degrees of WTF? Though I think Seung Gil is my fav. JJ’s not a bad second. Yurio just runs from him, which is hysterical. Presumably Yuri gets some rest, then he’s out on the bridge, chilling, and Yurio comes up to him and kicks him over, chews him out for being glum about Victor being gone when Yurio’s the one who had to lose to JJ again, and then Yurio gives him a pork cutlet bowl pirozhki for his birthday.
What Yuri had been thinking on the bridge there, though, was that while he’ll do his best to win gold at the Grand Prix Final, he’ll have Victor step down as his coach afterward and let him go back to Russia. To skate, one presumes, or simply to go, because he doesn’t want to keep him longer than he should. And he’s unhappy about that idea, naturally.
Yuri goes home, and the whole way he’s wondering, what does he say to Victor? He has a lot to tell him. What does he say first? He comes down the hallway to the waiting area, and he’s walking past a glass wall and we hear a dog bark. Dog comes up to the glass—Makkachin, completely fine, like nothing happened. We see Yuri look through, meet Victor’s gaze, and they both get this look on their face. Yuri’s wearing a mask, but he pulls it down. Victor’s not, and he just looks…like nothing he’s ever looked like. There’s no playboy here. He looks tired, and worried, and lost. And desperate to get to Yuri.
They both are. They start running, down the wall of glass, not looking away from the other, moving faster and faster, trying to get to each other. It’s a moment more iconic than The Kiss, honestly, because it’s the reunion moment, and while the kiss is what we say we want, and we do, this is the romance part, this is the bit they can’t explain away as high spirits or anything at all. This is lovers reunited. There’s nothing else it is.
Queer lovers reunited. Again. Soak this shit in.
When Yuri finally gets to the door, Victor stops, opens his arms, but this isn’t like a skate kiss and cry. This is welcome home, not to Japan but welcome home to me, I’ve missed you so much. And Yuri goes to him like this is the water he has been unable to drink and has needed like fish need oceans. Into his arms, into his chest, an embrace so tight your own chest hurts watching. And just to make it more dear, the dog comes up and wags its tail, nudges them. Perfection.
“Yuri,” Victor says, “I’ve been thinking about what I can do as your coach from now on.”
“Me too.” Yuri pulls back, looks him in the eye, braces against his shoulders.
And now we’re going to pause, because apparently Crunchyroll has let us down.
The official sub says, “Please be my coach until I retire.” Multiple Japanese speakers on Tumblr have cried deep fowl, saying this isn’t what he said at all, and it’s all the worse for what the actual translation means. I’ve heard enough people say it that I do believe Yuri says, “Please be mine” until I retire, or “Please stay with me” until I retire, but the bottom line is he says stay with me, and he says it in a way which has cultural significance.
ETA: There seems to be yet more discussion on what the meaning is. Sounds like it’s not quite as clear cut as it first sounds, still not quite coach, but not quite a total proposal, but at the same time, I’m going to land on the side of they’re trying to push something and have to work within parameters. To say they’re doing anything but shouting HEYA GAY ROMANCE UP IN HERE is ridiculous. To think anything but higher ups on all sides have to be saying TURN THE GAY DOWN is naive. So probably split the middle. And also yeah, the arc isn’t quite done. But it’s also done.
Victor pauses like he can’t believe what he’s hearing, kisses his hand, and says, “It’s almost like a marriage proposal” because this was basically a Japanese marriage proposal. Put that in your ship and sail it.
Then Victor adds, “I wish you’d never retire,” and all our ships fly into the sky.
Here’s the best part: honestly? Like I said above, the romance arc here’s pretty much finished. Not quite, because he’s got to find a way to keep Victor with him, to understand Victor isn’t going back to Russia because home is Yuri now, but it’s all over but the shouting. Because this isn’t exactly a romance. This is a new-fangled romance, a new adult type romance, where what we’re mostly after is Yuri’s growth, so these last few are going to be about him making history. And finishing falling in love with Victor, yes, but about winning with him. But you just got your big gay sendoff.
I bet we get another kiss, another big gay moment. This, though? This was paydirt. This was some serious normalizing here. Because I can’t stress this enough. This was not trivialized, or made comedic, or made tragic. This is simply a gay romance inside of a sports narrative. It’s doing fairly well and having a decent anime release. Queer rights are definitely on the rise, but Mickey’s perv comment isn’t an anomaly. You can bet this was a risk to make and promote like they have.
Promote this anime. Support this anime. Buy the crap out of this stuff. Buy it in digital, DVD, everything when you can. Spread this far and wide. Let them know we want more and we want it because of the queer factor.
I both can’t wait for next week and fear it, because I hate that we’re coming to the end. I yearn for them to give the story full closure and crave an open ending where they can make a season two. I want it to go on forever because this was the first thing like it and I don’t want to say goodbye to these boys. My daughter asked me why I was so obsessed, and I said it was because all the boys remind me of the boys I write myself, except I didn’t have to write them. I just get to sit down and watch. Similar but different. Uniquely familiar. The magic combination.
More soon. And see you again next week. But hit me up here or on social media if you want to chat about the episode or the anime in general. Obviously given the insane word count I just gave this recap, I could talk about this show all damn day.
Though, as a parting note… as my kids would say, “Who dis?”
This is a guy from the credits. And it looks like he takes Yuri on a motorcycle ride. At first I thought it was JJ, but I think it’s a NEW SKATER. Oh god, let’s keep JJ from the podium ENTIRELY. And let’s give Yurio a boyfriend. Let’s give him this guy. I mean why not, right?