If you’re following along from part 1, welcome back. If not, start with part 1, right here. Otherwise, let’s begin.
Episode 8 – “Yuri vs. Yuri The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Short Program” (Part 1)
You know, we had so much emphasis on Yuri and Viktor in the last two episodes, how has the Russian prodigy Yurio been doing? Well, upon arriving in Moscow, he’s immediately accosted by a LOT of his fangirls, all of whom are wearing cat ears, for some reason. Elsewhere, at a pretty fancy hotel, Viktor is being interviewed by the local media about his coaching debut, and he’s rocking the rock star look, with sunglasses, an unzipped jacket, and a cup of Starbucks in his hand. Boss. There’s a lot of folks that Yuri are either unfriendly with or just don’t know, such as Seung Gil Lee from Korea, Italian too-close siblings Sala and Mickey Crispino, Canada’s cocky heel Jean-Jacques Leroy, and professional Pewdiepie cosplayer Emil Nekola, from the Czech Republic. And, of course, there’s Yurio, the resident tsundere bitch-face himself.
Now, speaking as someone who has Italian heritage, I can attest that we generally have a strong closeness toward our siblings, but not to the extent that Mickey has toward Sala. Let’s just say, he gives off some serious sis-con vibes. Anyway. Can of Coke to all the folks in Japan who are watching the Moscow event on backdoor Russian streaming websites, since it’s not on Japanese TV for whatever reason. Y’all are the real heroes. The competition is pretty tough, this time around, but Yuri’s not sweating it, here. Before going on the ice, Yuri grabs Viktor’s tie (ooh, aggressive, I like) and simply tells him that he’s going to show his love to all of Russia. Ballsy kid, he is. Knowing that Viktor is beloved in Russia, Yuri takes it upon himself to cast himself as the villain, the one who will intimidate the whole crowd, and the one who will take Viktor away from everyone, just for him and him alone. As Alyson Hannigan said on How I Met Your Mother, “That’s love, bitch.” The first run was flawless, and the crowd erupts in cheers for him. It’s Yurio’s turn to shine, though, and upon first glance at his new attire and appearance, both Yuri and Viktor give a look of pride for him. Oh, and Yuri took a commanding lead; in celebration, Viktor does what any good boyfriend would do: kiss Yuri’s skate. Again, that’s love. Yurio isn’t quite feeling his performance, though, slipping up on a few spots and, as is a problem with him, running on auto-pilot for the most part. But he still finishes strong, and ends up with a cat-ear headband on his head; whoever threw that had some good aim. Yurio managed to rank second, so now, it’s time for, as Jean-Jacques would say, “JJ style.” What a cocky heel. Unrelated note: this dude has a damn tramp stamp. I want to hate him, but that’s enough to get me going… I’ve said too much, haven’t I? His performance was enough to secure him a first-place ranking, though, and I don’t blame the crowd for getting into it.
Back in Japan, though, something’s gone awry. Makkachin, Yuri’s dog has fallen ill after catching some food in his throat, and Yuri’s family is unsure that he’ll make it. Yuri, thinking on his toes, tells Viktor this and insists that he fly back to Japan immediately. Viktor, seeing his old coach Yakov nearby, asks him to be Yuri’s coach for the next round of the competition. There’s gonna be some strange bedfellows, for sure.
Episode 9 – “Yuri vs. Yuri The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Free Skate” (Part 2)
It’s time for the free skate programs, but even though Viktor isn’t there with Yuri, he’s not overly nervous about what’s to come. The bulk of this episode is centered around the side characters, and although I’ve heard the complaint that we don’t know nearly enough about them, I’d argue that that’s kind of the point of it. These are side characters we get to know in a capsule, not knowing their entire backstory but knowing enough to get a good shape of their characterization. We see their designs, their personality traits, and their styles of performance; it’s like watching a skate competition on television, in that regard. All we, the viewers, know is who they are and how they present themselves. JJ is a cocky and egotistical pretty boy, Mickey is an overprotective brother, and Yurio wants to win, no matter what. Small glimpses are all you need for side characters.
Yurio, for his free program, decides to change up his routine, intending to pull off six jumps in total, and he lands every single one of them. Gotta say, I’m impressed. He’s still a grade-A douchenozzle, but he’s good at what he does. And it paid off, taking a large lead in the rankings and securing his ticket to Barcelona. But now it’s Yuri’s turn; can he pull off his free program without Viktor on the other side of the barricade? The short answer: yes. Whether in physical presence or in spirit, Viktor’s coaching has stayed with him, despite a few slips from overthought. The crowd erupts in cheers for Yuri, but he only ranks in third. It’s gonna be a close race to see if he qualifies or not, but now, JJ is up to close out the event. And of course, the cocky heel takes the top spot.
With perfect finesse, he comes out on top, with Yurio placing second, and Mickey and Yuri tied, overall, in third. For Yuri, though, since he came in second at Beijing, this means he’s going to Barcelona! And Yuri, in a show of gratitude to his fellow competitors, unleashes his inner Bayley and becomes one hell of a hugger; Yurio, however, was gonna have NONE of that. But there’s one piece that’s missing from all of this: Viktor. Fortunately, once Yuri arrives back in Japan, Viktor is already waiting for him at the airport, and once they see each other, they run toward each other and lock in a warm embrace. And then, something truly beautiful happens. Yuri tells Viktor that he wants him to stay by his side, until he retires, and Viktor, smooth as he is, simply takes Yuri’s left hand, kisses it (and his ring finger, subtle little detail), and states “It’s almost like a marriage proposal.” Now, before, Yuri would sort of spaz out over this kind of thing being said, but now? He just gives Viktor a really big smile, and the two hug again as Viktor says, “I wish you’d never retire,” in a way saying that yes, Viktor will be a part of Yuri’s life, and he wants to always be there by Yuri’s side. And Yuri, hearing those words, wells up and starts to cry into his shoulder, in a way, understanding what Viktor meant by that.
But wait… WHAT ABOUT MAAKACHIN?
Maakachin will live.
This show, man. This frigging show. Honestly, that Nostalgia Critic GIF sums up all of my feelings about this show. It always puts me in a great mood, it just gets better and better with each episode, and it’s really gearing up for one hell of a final arc. I’ll save my much larger thoughts on this show until the final review, but so far, Yuri!!! on ICE has not skipped a beat throughout its run. Sure, the animation did start to stumble at the midway point, but the animation is only one factor as to why this show is so wonderful. You have great characters, great visuals, a great story, and for once – for ONCE – a great romantic connection between a queer couple that doesn’t feel romanticized, nor fetishized; instead, it feels completely organic and very much akin to what a real queer relationship would be like. And I would know a thing or two about that kind of thing, thank you very much. Sure, some folks would argue that shows like Izetta or Flip Flappers or even Keijo!!!!!!!! deserves the title of “anime of the season,” but in the perspective of this queer man right here, Yuri!!! on ICE is the true breadwinner of the fall season, and a very top contender for the title of “anime of the year.” Take it from someone who can relate to Yuri and Viktor’s ongoing character arc: it is that damn good. Oh, it’s true. It’s true.
But then there’s the preview for episode 10, wherein Yuri talks to Viktor about giving him “something round and golden.” Surely, that implies a gold medal in Barcelona, and it could mean absolutely nothing else. Nope, no sirree. Especially something like, oh, I dunno… a gold wedding ring. They’d never get away with that.
To Be Continued…
Yuri!!! On ICE is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Wednesday at 3:00pm EST, and on FunimationNow as an English simulcast dub, every Monday at 9:00pm EST.