On Yuri and Victor's relationship
- Might as well start by addressing the elephant in the room: I don't think Victor and Yuri are "an established couple." Yes, I know Victor kissed Yuri—I know there’s been a bit of a debate about this, but Kubo-sensei seemed to confirm that there was a kiss on twitter, so let’s go with that. However, I think the people arguing that “they’re obviously already in a (romantic) relationship!” are reading a little too much into it. I’m hoping to write a longer post on this for my main blog, though I’m not sure yet if I’ll be connecting it with the other two series for which it is pertinent...
- But in the meantime, the way I’ve been thinking about it is here. I’ll just add two things. First, Yuri’s reaction to Phichit’s instagram post is just one of several pieces of context-based evidence that I’ve used to arrive at my interpretation. And second, I would actually love to see Yuri and Victor end up in an exclusive romantic relationship. I think it’s one ending that fits both of their character arcs. However, depending on how their story plays out, I may also be willing to accept them not ending up in such a relationship. But I’ll leave this here for now.
- Let me take the chance to segue into my next point: character development within the context of their world of figure skating. I’m really impressed at how Yamamoto and co. have weaved the developing relationship (NB: in a general sense, not in the specific ‘romantic relationship’ sense) between Victor and Yuuri into a pretty realistic look at what figure skaters and coaches go through. Admittedly, we rarely get to hear what figure skaters truly think about when they’re competing somewhere — though choreographer Miyamoto Kenji has indicated that at least some of the emotions hit home with him. However, the things that they’re thinking on the ice, the pressure that they feel (from fans and the people close to them), the desire to live up to and even surpass those expectations…all of this feels so real!
- This is something I’ve thought about ever since Your Lie in April aired in 2014/15. The vast majority of us have never been in the kinds of situations that that show’s protagonist—and all the figure skaters here—experience regularly. They are elite competitors who are expected to perform. And that pressure can get to you. I’ve never been in anything close to what they deal with either, but I distinctly remember a piano competition from my youth where I stuffed up really badly and let first place slip right away. Even now, imposter syndrome really gets to me—I’m always second guessing myself, my ideas and my writing. So I understand it to a certain extent…this may be one of the reasons Yuri’s story resonates so very deeply with me.
- And just so you know, an interview that I hope will be posted sometime this week goes into this a little as well.
Yuri!!! and the real world of figure skating
- Let me now turn to the technicalities of the skaters' programs and the Grand Prix series. This is something that most other anime fans probably aren’t that in interested in, but which gives us a bit more insight into Victor’s development as a coach. I’d like to start with the free program at the regional competition (episode 5). I had a little discussion on twitter the other day about the changes that Victor pushed Yuri to make: in the end, I suspect that he asked Yuri to perform the following jumps instead (NB: A = axel, F = flip, Lo = loop, Lz = lutz, S = sal, T = toe):
- 4T-3T, 3S, 3Lo, 3A, 3F, 3A-1Lo-2S, 3Lz-2T, 3T
- (versus the jump elements in his actual program)
- 4T-2T, 4S, 3Lo, 3A, 3F, 3A-1Lo-3S, 3Lz-3T, 4T
- Victor had recommended that Yuri lower the difficulty of the jump content in order to focus on performance. The modified program sees the latter two quads reduced to triples, and the first jump combination upgraded to a 4T-3T to in order make up for some of the reduction in the technical score. It’s a more difficult combo, but is easier to pull off at the beginning of the program when his legs are ‘fresh’. This meant that the 3Lz-3T combination at the end also needs to be reduced in difficulty to avoid violating the Zayak rule (maximum of two of the same type of triple or quad jump in the program). An alternative option for the 3Lz-2T would have been a 3Lz-3Lo, though I think 3Lz-2T makes more sense because changing a toe jump to a loop in a combination like that would change the timing of the element slightly.
- (edit: 2016-12-27) Actually, the Zayak rule is more complicated than I thought. Skaters can't excute more than 2 types or triple of quad jumps more than twice...so Yuri may also have had to reduce the 3S on the end of the axel combo to a 2S...
Victor developing as a coach
- As these last three episodes have shown, Victor doesn’t really know what he’s doing. After the short program in episode 5, he said a few insensitive things about how Yuri could have gotten a much higher score. He also tried to get him to reduce the difficulty of his free program in order to concentrate on expression etc. But what Yuri himself wanted, and what the spectators wanted to see, was for Yuri to live up to his position as Japan’s top skater, which means going all out no matter who the competition is. The narrative is that, at first, Victor was not paying attention to how Yuri was connected with the rest of the competitors and with the crowd, who were all his fans—even though he chastised him for not being able to inspire Minami! The worst thing about it was that Yuri may have thought that Victor wanted his student to give a perfect performance because that would show him in the best light: someone who’s succeeded as a coach! Thankfully, Victor seemed to have realised the disconnect between what he thought was best and what everyone else wanted from the reactions of the crowd and the other competitors.
- I trust that Yuri opening up about his actual fears in episode 7 taught him even more. Around episode 3/4, one of my friends told me that she feared that Victor was just going to leave Yuri in the lurch at some point. I personally think that, on the contrary, the last few episodes have shown that he is truly interested in bringing out what he saw in Yuri. Though as episode 7 shows, he still has a loooooong way to go! I’m really glad that Yuri was able to tell him exactly what he wanted!
The CoC free skate
- Let us now take a look at the free skate scores in the Cup of China (episode 7). Giorgi’s FS score was terrible…just 154.27…which probably means that he fell at least twice more after we cut away to Yurio.
- Phichit (199.01) and Chris (198.21) did incredibly well, which means they probably had clean skates (all jumps landed, no falls, step outs, turn outs of hands down) or a maximum of one poor jump element. Only three people have ever scored more IRL—Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez and Patrick Chan.
- We don’t find out what Yuri’s score was, but given that it was between Phichit and Chris, it has to be around 177-178 (SP: 106.84, FS: ~178, Total: ~285), which is reasonable for this time in the season (3rd GP event). What this tells us, however, is that if Yuri had landed the 4T instead of going for and falling on the 4F, he’d have won. But this gives us wonderful development for Victor. Gone is the scolding from episodes 3 and 5. Victor doesn’t even comment on the score later. Instead, his instinctive reaction is to try and surprise Yuri just as Yuri surprised him. Like...yeah, it's just wonderful to watch.
Looking ahead to the GPF
- The last thing I wanted to touch on was to look ahead to who was likely to qualify for the GPF, but I might leave that for after this week's episode. Leo, Guang Hong and Giorgi are pretty much out of the running, but I expect that Phichit and Chris will qualify. For a guaranteed spot, the former needs at least a bronze at his second event, whilst the latter will need a gold. But we’ll find out exactly how they did at the start of episode 8, at which time we’ll learn exactly what Yuri and Yurio will need to do to make it.