If there’s one thing I’ve learned from anime fandoms, it’s that there will always be a long-lasting ship tease between two male characters that will never be resolved. One such case stems from Free!, with the characters Makoto and Haru – all the signs of an emotionally close bond, and something much more than just a friendship, but it’s all a big fat tease to entice the audience. And that is, unfortunately, a long-standing problem that a bulk of anime series have, and even more unfortunately, it branches out into a larger problem of the Japanese public’s stance on homosexuality. That, in and of itself, is a much larger discussion to be had, but regardless, even if the audience thinks the proof of an emotional and romantic relationship is in plain sight, the creative staff behind the show refuses to pull the trigger and go all the way with it. And when they do, you get odd cases like with From the New World – again, discussion for another time. But then there’s a show like Yuri!!! on ICE, and in the case of this week’s episode, this show has gotten farther on that trigger in only 3 episodes than some shows do in whole seasons.
When last we left our trio of figure skaters, the routines for Yuri and Yuri have been set, so now it’s time to run through the programs of “Agape,” a soft piece meaning unconditional love, and “Eros,” a more energetic piece meaning sexual love. During Viktor’s training with Russian Yuri, things aren’t going as smoothly as they should. In short, there’s no agape in “Yurio’s” performance, and that’s a problem; too much showing off, not enough emotion. Russian Yuri seems to get the picture of “Agape,” while Japanese Yuri is a bit flustered from watching Viktor run through “Eros.” How flustered is he? Here are his inner thoughts, verbatim: “Damn, he’s so hot! It’s enough to make even me, a man, pregnant! Such eros!” I kid you not. Viktor’s duty in all of this is, of course, to help Yuri feel confident on the “stage,” which leads to another moment of extreme closeness with Viktor, tilting Yuri’s chin up with his finger and thumb, wanting to see, in short, Yuri’s true eros. But what is Yuri’s true eros, to begin with? What is his drive, his motivation, his muse? That’s all to be seen. For both Yuris, their rigorous preparation continues onward, with runs on the rink, proper exercise regimen, and even some meditation time under a waterfall. All the time spent together seems to have eased their tension, and as for “Yurio,” he seems to have found his agape, in the memories of his grandfather, but as for Yuri, he still hasn’t figured out what his eros truly is. Time’s running out, though, the curtain’s about to be raised.
It’s the day of the big show, and a large crowd has gathered at Ice Castle Hasetsu, as well as a large media presence, brought in to cover the event. Right away, let me just say that what I say and cover will not do the second half justice; watch the episode and reel in all of the brilliant animation and choreography. Up first is Yurio, skating to “On Love: Agape,” and his performance certainly did wow the audience, but he seemed to have performed the routine with a bit of thoughtlessness, almost as if it was all on auto-pilot. The applause and reception has Yuri a bit worried, though, thinking he won’t top it and Viktor will go back to Russia after all of this, when, out of the blue, Viktor appears before Yuri, saying it’s his turn to go on. And what does Yuri do? He hugs Viktor, wanting Viktor to promise that he’ll watch him. Yuri, of course he’s gonna watch you. And watch him, he does, giving a whistle as he sees Yuri perform his routine, seeing a proud display of grace and allure. How did such a large turnaround happen in such a small amount of time? Well, in the late hours before the event, Yuri paid a visit to his sensei, Minako, wanting her to teach him how to move in, quote, “feminine ways.” In short, Yuri has learned how to be the seducer, and not the seducee, and despite one small slip, he finishes the program to a large pop form the crowd. Yurio knows he’s been beat, so he slips out of the building, but I’m sure we’ll keep seeing him throughout the show. Viktor is certainly proud of Yuri and his performance, pulling him in for a hug of his own, before they both head to center ice and, with a mic in Yuri’s hand, he announces his intention to win the Grand Prix Final with Viktor.
I swear to Jebediah Springfield, this show gets gayer with each passing episode, and I love it. In 3 episodes, there’s been more contact between the ship-tease would-be couple than most shows do in entire seasons. Of course, some gratuitous fanservice always helps, with a scene featuring our main trio lounging and resting in the hot springs with Viktor, buck nekkid in plain view, asking for a picture to put up on Instagram. I’m almost certain it would’ve been without the naughty bits in view. Going to all of that amazing skating animation, it’s too much for me to try and encapsulate in words; it really is some of the best choreography I’ve seen in animation in quite a while. Now, I’m certain many of you reading this saw the transformation one Shinichi in Parasyte went through, mostly in the body area, and this week saw the same fate befall Yuri; out on the ice, he transformed from “dweeb Yuri” to “hot Yuri,” going from “ohh, hello there, sir,” to “your son calls me Daddy, too.” And you can’t tell me that there aren’t some kind of lingering feelings that both Yuri and Viktor are feeling, all the classic signs are there: lingering gazing, physical contact, standing naked with zero sense of self-consciousness. This could very well be the show to finally, after so many years, pull the trigger all the way and let these guys actually be gay, without all the signs of ambiguity or “fanons” or anything of the sort. And God only knows that a lot of us want it after being constantly teased with the possibility. I mentioned this at the end of my recap of this week’s Nanbaka, but Funimation’s simulcast dub of Yuri!!! is starting up, this Monday night, and for the sake of no backtracking, I won’t be covering it. With that said, keep J. Michael Tatum FAR away from this show. (He said, not knowing the dub cast as of this writing.)
In whole, this was a pretty big episode, with plenty of moments that’s been giving its audience tons of gay feels, and with a pretty large amount of storyline progression, as well. The train is still rolling at full speed, but… seriously, though? Sayo Yamamoto? I will respect you forever and ever if you give us a shot of lip-on-lip action with Yuri and Viktor near the end of this series. Scout’s honor.
Yuri!!! On ICE is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Wednesday at 3:00pm EDT. An English simulcast dub is available from Funimation, starting this coming Monday, October 24, at 10:00pm EDT. Additional screenshots are available here.