In the first episode of the first season of Yuri On Ice, oh no. oH NO NOOOOOO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Yuri On Ice.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of mental health and depression, body image/weight loss.
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Now that that is out of the way: Oh no OH NO WHAT IS THIS. Oh, is this really happening??? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THAT FINAL SCENE.
Let’s back up.
The beginning of Yuri On Ice opens on such a strange note, though it’s one that becomes necessary once you settle into Yuri’s story. “Easy as Pirozhki!!” is about his failure, at least initially. Despite his talent and ambition, we find out that Yuri placed last in the Grand Prix Final. (Referred to as the “Grand Prix Final of Tears” in the episode’s title.) Right from the start, y’all, I was pulled in because despite that it might not seem obvious to most people, I did competitive sports all throughout high school. I ran cross country every fall and track every spring. And I was pretty good! Not record breaking, but I was solid enough that I was often a strategic member of the varsity team, used solely to get us more points or to be the “rabbit.” That position was a lot of fun because of how easily other runners took the bait and chased after me, only to tire themselves out halfway through a course. Of course, one cross country meet my junior year, I was the rabbit and then… almost no one caught up to me??? I kept waiting for people to pass me and I ended up coming in third with my fastest time ever??? THAT WAS A GREAT DAY. My coach was SHOOK, y’all.
Anyway, my senior year was upsetting because of other factors, and like Yuri, my mental health contributed to me feeling like I just couldn’t win. Granted, our situations are very different, and I don’t know exactly why Yuri felt off. I do know that depression affects athleticism and desire BIG TIME. It’s hard to feel motivated to do anything when you feel worthless, and honestly? I’m still dealing with it! I do like physical activity, but some days, it’s hard to do anything at all.
That’s the same sense I got from Yuri. After his failure at the Grand Prix Final, he slipped into a depression that caused him to mess up further and gain weight. And I do feel a little weird about all that stuff? I can’t tell what the show is going for here, as if it’s poking fun at Yuri for being chubby or it’s trying to comment on the physical demands of figure skaters. Hopefully, I’ll get to return to that, but I’ll say this: it felt very real. Weight fluctuation and gain is something I’ve had to deal with a lot since I stopped running absurd distances every day for four years straight.
More on that in a second, as there’s something else I want to talk about. Yuri transitions from a sports drama—one that I’m already invested in because SPORTS and MOTIVATION are deeply relatable—to something closer to a slice-of-life or a family drama. That switch is astounding, especially since the writers find a brilliant way of introducing us to a large cast of characters in Yuri’s hometown of Hasetsu, Kyushu. His family is well-meaning, if intense at times. I feel like we’re going to get some more conflict over that because… well, I expected that maybe someone in his family might be brutally disappointed in Yuri. Instead, these people are all generally supportive of him. There’s Minako, who I think is more of a family friend? AND SHE’S SUPER INTO ICE SKATING, Y’ALL. Super, super, super into it. But she’s not cruel to Yuri, just a bit overbearing about his role in the skating world. His parents are supportive and loving, but I don’t know that they understand him. That’s more of Mari’s role, Yuri’s older sister and resident excellent-hair-character. SERIOUSLY, SHE LOOKS SO PUNK ROCK, I LOVE IT.
It’s Yuuko, though, who seems most important to Yuri’s life, and she is the first witness (technically) to Yuri’s attempt to return to skating. Given that he feels like he flunked out of ice skating and missed out on truly meeting his lifelong idol, Victor Nikiforov, as an actual competitor, I get that he wanted to escape from competitive skating for a while. Through flashbacks, we come to find out just how instrumental Victor was in influence young Yuri. Despite only being four years apart, Victor was almost godlike in Yuri’s life. Yuri even got a poodle to match Victor’s because of how much he idolized him. CUTE POODLES EVERYWHERE.
Anyway, it felt important to me that Yuri let Yuuko watch his Victor imitation routine. Now, y’all, the animation for that sequence was INCREDIBLE, and I was impressed how much of it managed to capture the excitement and fluidity of figure skating. Is this what I have to look forward to? BECAUSE YES. THANK YOU. THIS IS VERY PLEASING TO ME. But it’s also a cool sequence because Yuri is just as good as Victor is—as graceful and emotional, too—while being pudgy. WHICH I LOVE. One of my favorite, petty things to do at the gym or while running outdoors is to pass people or run faster than them when they give me disgusted looks because I’m not skinny. GUESS WHAT, I CAN STILL RUN A MILE UNDER 7 MINUTES ANY DAY OF THE WEEK WITHOUT EVEN TRYING. So, I expect he’ll probably lose some weight just from training more heavily, but I just want to appreciate the chubby athleticism from Yuri that we get in this episode.
And then Yuri’s life changes because of Yuuko’s daughters, who upload his routine to the Internet, causing him to go viral, and lord, I am still reeling from the escalation that we witness here, y’all. Look, all I know about this show is gay figure skating? I don’t know if this is that thing where a show queerbaits the audience or just hints at queer/gay content, but… holy shit. The fact that Victor’s first appearance in Yuri’s hometown is a naked shot of his muscular body from behind as he rises out of the hot spring… excuse me.
what the fuck!!! I wasn’t expecting that at all??? And that’s such a… oh god. I am fine. I’m fine.
(Yuri has a huge crush on him, right?)
(PLEASE LET THIS BE ACTUAL CANON THIS TIME, I SWEAR.)
The video for “Easy as Pirozhki!! The Grand Prix Final of Tears” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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