Continuing on from last week’s ridiculous cliffhanger, Yuri says he wants to end it with Viktor…the coaching, that is. While his reasons are selfless – he truly believes that he is holding Viktor back and keeping him from returning to the ice like he seems to want to – Viktor is incredibly upset by this, to the extent that he ends up getting mad. However, they both decide that they’ll make the decision after the final round of skating is over.
Viktor lets Yuri know how much he wants to continue coaching, so Yuri shows him in return how much he loves him with his stellar performance of Yuri on Ice. Unlike last time, he successfuly lands the quad flip and impresses the pants off Viktor (figuratively and presumably literally), and, like Yurio, smashes Viktor’s own record.
But despite Yuri putting his most impressive performance so far, Yurio somehow manages to up his own ante and beat him by a hairs breadth. The final results thus are JJ – who made a spectacular recovery after coming last before – in third place, Yuri in second and Yurio in first. Yuri is a little miffed that he wasnt able to fulfill his promise to Viktor to win gold for him…but they decide they’re going to do it all again next season. Only this time, Viktor wants to skate as well…
I really don’t understand why it is that some anime get 13 episodes to work with while some get 12. (And then there are ones that only get 11). It’s almost painfully obvious how badly Yuri on Ice should have been 13 episodes, because this is sadly one of the most rushed finales I’ve ever seen.
The good news is that it’s not technically a finale, it’s just the end of this season. The end of the episode confirms a season two – because Mappa would be bonkers to not put their new cash cow out to pasture yet. If you look at this episode as the end of season 1 rather than the end of the show, it’s not nearly half as bad. If you look at season 1 as an entire stand alone show, however, there are several glaring problems, but I’ll go into them later.
There’s definitely problems unique to just this episode, though. I already complained about the pointless cliffhanger of episode 11 last week, but the delivery here honestly fell kind of flat. On one hand, THANK YOU, Yuri on Ice, for not going with the stupid misunderstanding thing. To be honest, after Viktor got mad and it immediately cut to them looking rather miffed inside the ice rink, I was a little worried that’s where we were headed. Instead, they promptly resume their usual loveydoveyness before Yuri goes on to skate. What exactly happened here? There wasnt remotely enough time for either of them to have the heart to heart that was clearly needed (it’s seriously just glossed over with Yuri’s voiceover saying WE DECIDED THAT WE’D DECIDE LATER which was also pretty ridiculous) so what should have been an emotional scene of them being honest with eachother was cut short and rendered almost pointless. I’m glad they included some of it – such as Viktor crying – but the awkward transition back to the ice rink kind of ruined it for me. What the hell happened after that? These kind of awkward pacing moments are unfortunately not uncommon.
There’s not a lot I can really say about the skating – it was fun to watch, but all the while I was just watching it eat up the episode time and wondering how they were going to squeeze in everything they ought to. Also, Otabek is still disappointingly underwhelming and I really hope he gets better treatment in season two.
A lot of people were incredibly disappointed in the way the series ended for two main reasons – first of all, Yuri doesn’t win gold. To be honest this doesn’t bother me too much – especially if you only look at this is as ‘part one’, although I do wonder if they decided to change this once they confirmed season 2 would go ahead. What does bother me about it is that – even though Yurio did try very hard on his own – he’s been so sidelined for so much of the series that his comeback kind of came out of nowhere. It’s an unfortunate pitfall of a show with so many characters. JJ coming in third bothers me a little more and I kind of wish it had been Phichit. Phichit’s whole schtick was based around him wanting to bring pride to Thailand, while JJ’s felt more like the proud guy who needed to take a fall. And he did take that fall in the previous episode…but now he’s suddenly back. I’d be more satisfied if Phichit had come 3rd – even if he is happy to just open his ridiculous hamsters-on-ice show rather than win medals.
Second of all, there’s Yuri and Viktor’s relationship. A lot of people were actually pissed that the two didn’t kiss or declare their love explicitly. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed and I did spend a lot of the episode’s run time wondering when the kiss was going to happen…but at the same time, it’s kind of ridiculous to me how far people are shifting the goalposts in relation to this, especially the ones saying that its proof of queerbaiting or that their relationship is still ‘ambiguous’. No one would do this if it was a het relationship, after all. There is nothing ambiguous about these two remotely (unless it’s the cool thing to get engaged to your hetero dude friends), however my own issue is that the series had always had their relationship gradually escalate with every episode, and after the frankly amazing episode 10, it’s hard to not expect something even greater for the finale. Unfortunately, with everything else happening in this episode there just wasn’t enough time. As for a wedding not happening – well, that’s what season two’s for. Also, with how rushed everything was I’m actually glad there wasn’t a wedding if not only because I wouldn’t want it treated as a footnote. If it happens in season 2, I want it as not-rushed as possible.
What we do get is an absurdly beautiful pair-skating part with them performing a duet, which is what I wanted to see all this time. There’s no words, and no kisses, but you’d honestly have to have your anti-gay goggles on as tight as possible to not see it as anything other than a lover’s dance. It was so lovely I had to watch it twice, and I think it was enough to make up for my gripes about the episode.
It wasn’t a perfect ending, but it wasn’t a perfect amount of time for it. And it’s now confirmed that it isn’t the end, but the half-way point. Let’s hope season 2 gets 13 episodes – it happened with Free!. Exactly how the hell Viktor plans to go about simultaneously being a competitor and a coach I have no idea (if that’s what he was actually implying), so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Of all the shows to air this year Yuri on Ice was that made me most impatient for the next episode, and the one where the waits between them felt the longest. I haven’t enjoyed a show to this extent for quite some time. Well, since the first season of 2015 when Yuri Kuma Arashi and Death Parade were airing, anyway.
I knew I was in for something special from the first episode, and not only did it deliver on that promise, but in ways I never expected it to. It was enough to have adult characters with adult problems, to realistically depict the sport in question to the extent that skaters on twitter are enamored by it, and to show off a part of Japan rarely (if ever) featured in anime. What I didn’t expect was as instantly relatable portrayal of anxiety in Yuri – possibly one of the most involving main characters I’ve seen in a while, and the wonderful, completely equal relationship he has with Viktor. (I also never expected Viktor to be that goddamn adorable)
It’s not a perfect show – it’s got severe pacing issues that make me wonder if some things were changed once it started to get wildly popular, and the sheer amount of characters may be its greatest weakness. And for a show called Yuri on Ice that features two characters called Yuri, which implies they are equally important….Yurio felt really sidelined to me. Not only that, but some things about him are hinted at as thought they could potentially be a big deal and are then never spoken of again. There are some weird parts that implied he had a crush on Yuuko – Yuri’s childhood friend – but these are promptly forgotten. It’s implied that his grandfather would be an important character and that he relies too much on him – but not a lot came of this, either (although it did kind of tie in with him making friends with Otabek and thus finding someone else he could love platonically). Most of all, he gets his highest scores when he pushes himself to near breaking point and this, to me, seemed like it was going to be a bigger deal, like he’d end up injuring himself and have to drop out. To be honest, I can’t help but think that maybe that was what was originally going to happen if there really was an alternate ending in which season 2 wasn’t happening. On that note, the last two episodes feel almost weirdly disjointed from the 10 before them in a way that makes this theory plausible to me.
I also wish we’d gotten to know more about Viktor. It was good to get those bits of narration from his point of view, but I felt this happened too late in the show. We know a lot about Yuri, we know his friends and his parents and all the important people in his life and his hometown and his childhood…but in comparison there’s not a lot we got to know about Viktor at all, due to most of the show being from Yuri’s point of view. It gives us plenty to work with for season 2 of course, but I found it a little disappointing that it didn’t take the opportunities it could have – such as Yakov briefly being Yuri’s coach – to shed more light on him.
The overall look of the show is very pretty, with attractive character designs that manage to be memorable without falling into the common sports anime trap of making them too outlandish (looking at you, All Out). Unfortunately it frequently lacked the budget required to really make a show with this subject matter shine. The important routines look decent, and some look great, but the less important ones are often almost laughably bad. It doesn’t help that – despite everyone getting their own signature style, Yuri’s own repertoire is only two routines and we have to see them a lot. By the end of it it’s pretty hard to not start getting sick of them.
I think that a lot of the issues I had with season 1 could easily be made obsolete in season 2 – especially now that we don’t have to introduce the characters, only build on them (not that I don’t expect there could be new characters too.) With the series ability to generate money, there could be a much better budget to play with, also. I’m excited to see what else the franchise has in store, I just hope Yamamoto doesn’t lose sight of what she wanted to do originally.
Despite its many problems, I think the show has enough good points to make up for it, which is why I think it was probably the best show I watched this year. Not as good as Death Parade last year, but it definitely came close in places.
Out of 5,