Yuri on Ice Rewatch/Review: Episode 5: Face Beet Red!! It’s the First Competition! The Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu Championship
Sorry that there was such a long break in these manga/anime reports. The spoiler is I’m going to keep doing them well past the end date for this Rafflecopter, and I’m going to do more Rafflecopters, so, see you next level, I guess.
Anyway. Yuri on Ice, episode five.
As I tweeted today, after being at Animefest, I will forever hear “History Maker” and hear huge crowds of world-wide fans singing along and then cheering as the YOI team enter the room, which is what happened for every panel. Also at every panel either Kubo or Hiramatsu videotaped the room going crazy and Yamamoto brandished an American flag, waving it at us and then tucked it under her name plate. They were as excited to see us as we were them. Kubo said hearing us sing “History Maker” like that fulfilled a dream of hers. I think I mentioned in one of my posts (probably the angry one about how crappy the organizers were) that the YOI people stayed hours and hours past the one hour scheduled signing time every day. They were just so full of love. Truly the most wonderful people. Hiramatsu and Kubo wished we would order their books—Kubo’s manga are getting English releases this spring—and I’m probably going to buy his book even though I think it’s all in Japanese just to support him because HE IS SO NICE. They’re all so nice. I hope they are all having trouble walking to their front doors for all the money in the way.
Where was I? Oh yes. Not even through the opening credits. Sorry.
So the thing that really struck me this time watching this episode was how important it is. I feel like before I’ve always felt like I sort of endured it to get to the Grand Prix, but there’s actually a ton here that sets up so much growth for both Yuri and Victor individually and as a couple. Like we start out and Yuri is still crazy critical of himself, obsessed with the fact that he had to go first, that he’s the oldest guy there, that he fucked up last time, that he’s been practicing with Victor but he’s not sure about himself. Meanwhile there’s so much going on around him and he’s completely oblivious to it—things which by the end of the series he would never miss, not ever again. Victor eventually points this out, about how Yuri doesn’t support Minami, but it’s deeper than that. Yuri is shutting out everything, focusing like a laser on his likelihood of fucking up, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t know how much the creators of the show meant this to be a narrative about anxiety, but man, this is the episode where they really start to hit those notes well, I feel. I’ve written several books about people with anxiety but most notably live with two people who openly talk about their anxiety as part of their lives, and what Yuri goes through is exactly what my husband and daughter experience as people with clinical anxiety. It’s like this second skin, this third person you have to watch out for, and if you aren’t careful, it will drive your bus. It’s very much driving Yuri at the beginning of this episode, and the way things are initially set up, it’s going to continue.
Victor, meanwhile, is debuting as a coach and I think he is about as nervous as Yuri, but he shows it differently. He comes off as a dingbat, and I’ve written about him as such, but I think this is an act, in hindsight. I think Victor is scared. I think he wants to do well by Yuri but doesn’t know how, so he tries to keep it light and goes for his knee-jerk which is to play the ditz. Except as usual with Yuri this doesn’t work. He can’t fake his way with Yuri. Yuri just ignores him—literally just blanks him. I mean, Victor tries to shake this off by interrupting Yuri and talking for him, lending his confidence, but Yuri interrupts back and says no, I’ve told you, I was a mess and will be a mess most likely, you don’t understand. So Victor dresses up, to distract, to be professional, to make Yuri hot for him—all of the above? But no dice. Yuri is too set on being a mess. Victor tries to give him a cheerful pep talk and Yuri just walks off.
The only thing that works is for Victor to literally grab him. To hug him, to embrace him and whisper seductively in his ear and remind him, not in his ditz voice but in his real voice, what he should do. And while Yuri skates, we hear this is the voice Victor has used in practice. This is their private voice.
Now, also notice that as soon as Victor does this, Yuri changes. Suddenly this is a private performance. Yuri is sassy to the audience, and he remembers private times with Victor, as if the competition has faded away and there is only Victor and their time at Hastesu together. Even when he makes a mistake, he remembers Victor holding his hands in onsen and telling him his body makes beautiful music. It’s not his best performance of Eros, but it’s his personal best of his skating career so far.
They’re still learning each other, though—Victor reprimands him for not doing his best, which isn’t the right way to go—Yuri needs praise. And then he fucks up more, telling him to focus on his performance and lower the jump levels. None of these bits of advice are wrong, mind you—they make all the sense in the world. But Yuri is stubborn, and he doesn’t want to lower the jump levels. He wants to do both at once. So he’s frustrated with Victor all over the place. And then when Yuri is interviewed and doesn’t answer right away, Victor leaps in to speak for him, lending his confidence again. This might be for the best as Yuri doesn’t seem to know what to say for himself yet. But it’s not ideal, and it seems clumsy.
Yuri is also screwing up, with Minami. Minami is so eager to please Yuri, to show him his skating, which is modeled on a performance from Yuri’s past, but Yuri is too obsessed with his own past mistakes and potential for screw-ups now that he can’t see he’s being idolized the same way he did Victor. So he steps on Minami’s feelings and his motivation and misses a chance to lift himself up too. It’s just a mess.
Victor sees this and scolds him, which initially upsets Yuri, but he seems to eventually figure it out and then encourages Minami. This isn’t enough, though. He starts to watch Minami, with Victor’s words in mind, and he finally sees himself in the younger skater, both skills and flaws. And between Victor and Minami—both of them are required—Yuri finally finds himself. When he arrives for his free skate, he arrives. He is, at last, the Yuri Katsuki we will know throughout the Grand Prix, the one who will eventually get his moment on the podium.
I love the moment when Yuri stalks down the aisle to meet Victor—love Victor’s admiration of his costume and how beautiful Yuri looks in it, the lip balm, the embrace. The embrace in particular caught me this time around. It’s more than just a good luck hug, I think. Victor acknowledges Yuri has overcome his demons, that he’s gotten his shit together and is ready to do this thing. He doesn’t need to be propped up this skate. He’s just going to fucking skate.
I love too that we get Victor’s narration while Yuri skates. I remembered while I watched what it felt like to watch this skate for the first time, to feel that tension. It’s so wild to watch it now knowing everything I know, having seen it so many times. To know what Yuri’s added, where this skate took them both. I love all the cuts to Victor’s super-blue eyes. I love the way Yuri looks so uncertain still, how this really is him still refining the skate and you can tell.
I also love knowing we’re getting a fucking movie full of skating. And that Victor will skate too.
There’s something so sweet and still about this ep, though. The calm before the storm. The brilliance of this competition is the same as the inclusion of episode four. We need to see them here before they take off. And we need that damn wall nosebleed too. I love that Yuri gets a nosebleed not as an anime stereotype for Victor but literally a nosebleed, for effort. And that Victor rejects his embrace because of it. I’ve loved that this whole time. And the next time they do this skate…
Sigh. So much happy sigh.
We end this skate with Yuri not nervous and eaten by his anxiety but giving autographs and reporting he got lost in his skating because it was the most fun he’d ever had at a competition. Then he gives his press conference and basically declares, to the world, that he loves Victor—not just loves him but loves him in this complex, important way only the Japanese language has a word for, and he does it with the exact opposite of feeling as he was radiating when Victor had to step in and finish his sentences for him. He is confident and powerful and amazing. This is our boy, our Yuri. This is why Victor, and all of us, love him so much.
Oh, tomorrow is episode six. Except tomorrow is busy with a lot of stuff, including my birthday, so I might not be able to get there until Saturday. But we will get there. Make no mistake.
A single stroke can change your world.
Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.
Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.
Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.