- A bit flatter than the two previous episodes, which I found wonderful. Why? Hm…probably that we didn’t get as many funny Victor faces, and the payoff was two skating sequences, the second of which didn’t quite hit.
- To me, Yurio’s performance towards the end of his program was too…passionate, for want of a better word. It didn’t really reflect agape. I wish I could turn off just the dialogue, but turning off the sound completely helps a little—his performance appears too frantic. Of course, that’s to be expected, given that it was the end of his program, when he would have been exhausted…but I’d guess that this was the main issue. And furthermore, his suggested attraction to Yuko raises the possibility of that affecting his performance as well...
- (edit): Actually, there's an even more interesting interpretation of his interactions with Yuko, who is, of course, around 10 years older. She's like a mother figure, unlike his own mother, who didn't come to his skates!
- But on the other hand, Yuri was meant to be sexy (besides the name, the song seems to be based on the flamenco rhythm—it’s written by Taku Matsushiba and features Japanese flamenco guitarist Jin Oki)…and whilst you can see it in some of his movements, it wasn’t really sustained throughout the performance. In particular, the step sequence at the start didn’t quite show it. I hope it’s improved for the Blu-ray release…but that would involve so much reanimation that I’m not sure they’d be able to do that. We know that the first three episodes were finished for a screening event on Sep 25, so is this that finished product? If so, then it might explain why this third episode was not quite on par with the first in terms of the skating animation. And to be fair, they had two programs to work on this time, even if only partially. I hope this was just a little blip that should be rectified as the show spends a bit more time building character until the Grand Prix competitions start a few episodes down the track.
- Perhaps it was the camera angles? Personally, the angles from which a program is viewed can make a difference to just how impressed I am by a performance. For example, Hanyu's performance at the 2015 GPF is objectively better—and that’s reflected in the higher score, even accounting for the score inflation that’s been going on over the past few years—but I prefer the camera angles from his NHK Trophy performance.
- On the other hand, the general viewer reaction of “I wasn’t convinced that Yuri was better” reflects what happens in real life. The casual viewer, the one who tunes in once in four years whenever the Olympics is on, is probably more impressed by jumps successfully landed. Especially if you know how difficult the jumps are (quads and a triple axel…definitely the most difficult jumps in the game today). I have to admit, I felt a bit disappointed myself.
- After watching the performances several times more, however, it’s clear just how tricky Yuri’s step sequence is. Of course, we don’t get to see Yurio for much of his—which is significant—they made sure that his costume is more sparkly and that we got to see all the flashier elements of his programs (the jumps in particular). They were also perhaps overly reliant on the voiceover as a means of ‘telling’ us that Yurio hadn’t been able to maintain the agape character of his program. I’d like to see someone put Victor and Yurio’s skates of agape side-by-side so that we can see how they compare.
- Or maybe they need to do what KyoAni did with the music performances in Eupho: exaggerate the differences a little, so that it’s evident not just to people who are more familiar with the field in question. They really need to be able to convince us that the winner deserved to win, and that was definitely lacking in this episode.
- But putting aside this rather important issue, one thing I really liked about this episode was the slight bonding between the two Yuris, despite their rivalry. It’s nice because that’s really what the figure skating world is like—no matter how much fans fight about who’s best, most of the skaters seem to get along quite well with each other. Well, with a few exceptions (Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding in the 1990s; there has also been a bit of a tif between the camps of Mao Asada and Yuna Kim, though there are questions over how much of it is them, and how much of it is the people around them and their fans).
- I also enjoyed the extra little glimpses of Victor’s personality. For example, the way he launched into a tirade about Yuri’s poor jump performance before he even got off the ice—this echoes how he commented on Yurio’s step sequence in episode 1. Victor: totally anal about giving one’s best performance.
- I should note that the moment in episode 1 is actually pretty strange—at the GPF, the Junior Men’s FS is usually held the day before the Senior Men’s FS, so why would Victor have waited until the end of his own competition to comment on Yurio's performance? The fact that Yurio had his own suitcase there suggests that he had skated that day as well… I can’t imagine that a skating fan like Yamamoto would have missed that—did they just hope no one would notice and point it out?
- Oh, yes, and the big elephant in the room: Victor is probably gay…the way he invades Yuri’s personal space is just a bit too suggestive there. That said, I don’t think all of his actions necessarily should be read as being representative of that. The hand around Yuri’s shoulders at the end, for example? It comes almost naturally to skaters--a point proven by a recent exception to the rule. Nice photo-op, after all.
And some skating technicalities.
In this episode, we got confirmation that Yuri probably substituted all of the quads for triples when he skated to Victor’s program in episode 1 (he can land 4Ts and 4Ss, though hasn’t done the latter in competition yet). I doubt he would have done even the quad toe-triple toe at the end, even though he can obviously land it, because doing that successfully at the end of a four and a half minute free program is really quite difficult. Besides he’d have been out-of-shape. So yeah, Yuri definitely substituted them all for easier jumps (though that would result in Zayaking problems). I wouldn’t be surprised if he did at least one double-axel as well, instead of both triples-axels.
The Zayak rule states that, for full credit, skaters may not use more than two of the same jumps in the same (free) program, and one of them has to be in combination. If Yuri simply downgraded Victor’s quads to triples, he’d have Zayaked at least twice, with two triple lutzes and two triple flips—assuming he kept the 4T-3T as is. Again, given how he wasn’t in shape at that point, I expect that he downgraded that to a 3T-2T instead.
3Lz, 3F, 3A, CCSp, FSSp, StSq, 3S, 3A-3T-2Lo, ChSq, 3Lz, 3F, 3T-2T, CCoSp3p.
He could have swapped some jumps out for others. For example, there's no triple loop. But since it was a private performance, I expect he wouldn’t have cared about the Zayak rule. He may even have downgraded the jumps even further, to the point of just running through them as singles or doubles. That’s what some figure skaters do in their efforts to drill run-throughs of their programs without putting excessive pressure on their knees.
And for the record, here's how I think the short programs are composed...