Despite being generally upbeat, Yuri!!! on Ice does melancholy particularly well.
- The premise is the opposite of most sports anime: instead of "struggling rookie trying to get into the big leagues," it's "professional sportsman facing the twilight of his career having not achieved his dreams". The show regularly stops to remind you not only that Yuri will quit if he can't improve his competitive performance, but that he'll probably quit even if he does — there's a sense that, whatever the outcome, this really is his swan song.
- The fact that Yurio is such a bully to Yuri when Episode 12 reveals that he admires Yuri and wants him to keep skating. Yurio can only heap on the abuse when he sees Yuri fail and sees him get closer to Victor.
- This episode has Yurio following Yuri to the bathroom. There's the entire scene of Yuri sitting in a bathroom stall alone, trying desperately not to cry while talking with his mom on his cellphone, only to break down in tears over the succession of failures he'd gone through that day after he hangs up, which is already pretty heart-wrenching. Then Yurio violently kicks the door of Yuri's stall to get his attention, only for Yuri to suffer the additional indignity of having a Teen Genius and his idol's rinkmate scream at him about what a failure he is and how he should just give up already.
- How's this for a Trauma Conga Line? Yuri, who was preparing for the Grand Prix Final, finds out that his dog has died. Then he chokes on his performance, falling dead last. Then one of the upstart skaters berates him in the bathroom while he's trying to hide from everyone, and then he fails at every other of his competitions, meaning he can't finish the season. In between, he binges on pork cutlet bowls and gains weight not fit for an athlete. Instead of going home, Yuri goes to finish college in Detroit, wanting to return inconspicuously and revive his love for skating.
- The death of Yuri's dog is already saddening in itself, especially to those who knows what it's like to lose a beloved pet. It doesn't help that when Yuri returns to Hasetsu, he goes to the family altar where Vicchan's picture has been put up and apologizes for not being there for him one last time.
- When Victor's dog leaps on Yuri and gives him kisses, Yuri's first reaction is "Vicchan?" It takes him a minute to realize his beloved pet hasn't risen from the dead and has come back to him.
- Victor looking worn, tired, and just plain unhappy at the press conference after he's just become the five-time consecutive world champion. His smile on the podium borders on a grimace, with pain clear in his eyes.
- The end of the episode is a sad reflection on the inevitability of time taking its toll on the characters:
- Yuri reminds us that this is "probably" his last season, and that both Victor's interest in his career and Yuri's own body are unlikely to last beyond it. He offers up a little prayer that Victor's attention will at least last until Yuri takes his final bow.
- Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, Yurio, who is just starting his professional career, is still up against time: his fay-like, graceful looks (which are key to his style and give him an edge in competition) will almost certainly fade as he matures, as well as the fact that he's a bit of a late bloomer puberty-wise and it's implied he's living on borrowed time before a probable growth spurt that will render his muscle memory and technical training counterproductive until he adapts to his body again. Also, Yurio's flexibility will most likely diminish as he ages, and he incorporates a lot of traditionally feminine spins, holds, and back bends that older male skaters are not built for. He pledges to make the most of his body while it lasts, since he knows he's only got one or two years in the senior division at best before he starts to really struggle.
- It's even more true for Victor. At 27, he already has a hard time keeping up with a man barely four years his junior, and in Episode 5 he earnestly announces that the Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu Competition is to be his official debut as a coach, so he may not return to the rink at all after this season. Even Yuri considers himself to be a bit old for pro figure skating, so Victor is quickly reaching the end of his glory years. The model for his character, Evgeni Plushenko, only made a short comeback in his thirties to have a go at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and was plagued by health problems for all of that short period, retiring permanently following the short singles because of a back issue — that is, while the Games were still going on.
- Yuri doesn't get any sleep before the free skate competition, making him more and more unfocused and stressed as the competition wears on him before he has to perform. Hoping to snap him out of his funk, Victor tries giving Yuri an ultimatum that will break his heart if he loses, Victor will resign as his coach. Yuri immediately breaks down into tears and snaps at Victor, wishing Victor would have more faith in him."Why would you say something like that, like you're trying to test me?"
- This is a generally upbeat Breather Episode after the emotional roller coaster that was Episode 7, until the end when Mari calls to tell Yuri that Makkachin is in critical condition and is at the vet's. Yuri briefly flashes back to his own dog's death, before telling Victor to go back to Japan.
- Yuri may have gone a long, long way from how he was in Episode 1, yet he is put to the test once again by having to perform without Victor around to watch him. He is on the verge of another breakdown, yet he struggles to do his best because he doesn't want to let Victor down. Even then, his pain and conflict is made obvious in his difficulty to skate properly, to the point that dancing an entire program about his life before and after Victor's appearance is far more exhausting emotionally rather than physically.
- Just one day without Victor by his side sends Yuri in a state of distress. At first glance, it may seem like because he is insanely clingy, but that isn't the case. He has grown accustomed to Victor's company, that when the day came that he had to leave (even if it was only temporary), it served as a huge wake-up call to Yuri about what would become of their relationship once the season ends, and the possibility that by then, Victor would leave him... permanently. And as it turns out, Victor has been worrying about the same thing.
- Though the scene where Yuri impulsively hugs everyone he sees is hilarious, it can also be sad if you look at it this way: he barely managed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final (he would have easily landed a higher spot under different circumstances), but even then it's still quite the achievement. Yet there's no one whom he's familiar with enough to share his joy with (and many people he actively beat out for the spot, who it wouldn't really be right to seek congratulations from) and he tries looking for a substitute, yet it's never enough.
- The entire airport reunion scene between Yuri and Victor is heartachingly beautiful, but the clincher is seeing them desperately running for each other, and all the while they never take their eyes off one another through the glass.
- The part where Yuri asks Victor to take care of him until he retires can be also quite upsetting, if you think about it. Even though they're in a relationship, Yuri believes that his time with Victor will only last until the Grand Prix Final, and even if it hurts him, is subtly giving Victor a chance to end it between them. Victor's reply subtly means to tell him otherwise, and Yuri cries in response.
- The whole episode seems to have been nothing but heartwarming, with Victor and Yuri's engagement and all, until you realize that Victor neglected living for the sake of figure skating for twenty years. He blatantly admits he didn't have a life outside of figure skating, not even having the time to go on vacations or to fall in love with anyone. One can imagine how dull and lonely that must have been for him until Yuri came along.
- In hindsight, Yuri blatantly rejecting him in all his attempts at flirting did make him cry at one point, even if it seemed a bit dramatic prior to Episode 10. Seeing as how he has been smitten with Yuri the entire time, it would hurt to see the object of your affections whom you shared very intimate moments with suddenly giving you the cold shoulder. Yuri may not be at fault, since he doesn't recall anything, but still.
- It lasts for only twenty seconds, but there's the scene where Yuri recalls how the other skaters perfectly land their jumps, before it cuts to flashbacks of him flubbing his own. It gives you the feeling that his stage fright is threatening to eat at him once again. Another interpretation would be that despite his evolving relationship with Victor, it doesn't mean that he has improved his opinion of himself as a figure skater.
- The series seems to love alternating between Breather Episodes and emotionally-intense ones, especially with this episode, which concludes with these words: "After the Final... let's end this."
- The Wham Line aside, this episode shows that J.J. and Yuri are not so different after all. Both are gifted skaters, and J.J. clearly has a lot more self-confidence than Yuri; but what they have in common is that they can still succumb to stage fright, and it causes them to mess up their performance — which is what happens to J.J. in his short program, and it causes him to place sixth with a score of 86.71, which already costs him his chance to win the Grand Prix Final. The image J.J. has in his head of the other skaters at the time is particularly stunning: we're used to seeing Yuri as the glass-hearted skater, but in J.J.'s panic, he sees Yuri as a relatively terrifying figure, giving him a cold and intimidating smile of pity as he falls.
- "It's J.J. Style"◊. The difference is heartbreaking.
- Unlike what many fans had expected, Yuri's final performance of the Eros program doesn't go as flawlessly as hoped, in comparison to the last two times he did so. He doesn't bomb his performance, since the only thing he flubbed was cleanly landing the quadruple flip (which replaced the quad-triple toe loop combo at the end). But as landing the jump means more to him than just the points, he is clearly devastated, as he bends down to the ground and takes harsh breaths. It's highly possible that he even broke down into tears.
- More subtle, but no less painful is an already-disappointed Yuri seeing his beloved coach getting fired up about the other skaters, eyes shining as he sees the younger generation — Yurio and Otabek — discover their own distinct style and surpass all expectations. He looks stunned and thrilled when Yurio breaks Victor's own world record, and doesn't even bother to defend Yuri when Yurio starts needling him, gushing over Otabek's performance instead. At a point when Yuri desperately needs support and reassurance, he's suddenly smacked over the head with the very thing he's been dreading, and that everyone else has been telling him: the assumption that Victor belongs on the rink instead of at the side of it. No wonder he delivers the episode's Wham Line: for Yuri, this must feel like the end of the line for his skating career and, worse still, possibly his relationship with Victor.
- The Mood Whiplash: Yuri and Victor are being adorable together just before Yuri's short program, with Victor kissing Yuri's ring for luck. When Yuri performs the quad flip, Victor also performs the jump at the rinkside. When Yuri's score disappoints, the viewer knows that Victor is keeping faith with him via interior monologue, and he is probably adhering to Yuri's "Don't stay anything, just stay by me!" rule... but Yuri doesn't know that. What he does know is that Victor barely speaks to him throughout the rest of the episode...
- After Yuri delivers the Wham Line from Episode 11, Victor cries, before telling Yuri that he's angry at Yuri telling him to continue skating even though he himself would retire. Also, notice that Victor is shedding tears non-stop, even as hes talking to Yuri in an indignant tone; in fact, when Yuri repeats that he's retiring, the tears in his eyes well up even more and fall down faster. It's like Episode 7 all over again, but this time the roles are reversed, and it's far more heartrending.
- It's even sadder when you remember that Victor grew to see his skating career as "fetters strangling him by the throat", yet is able to enjoy the sport once again, as well as life as a whole, because of Yuri. Therefore Yuri abruptly declaring that he'll retire from the sport (even if the audience already knew about this beforehand) would be heart-shattering for him.
- To add, there's Victor's expression when he cries. He doesn't break down into sobs, his face doesn't even contort in sorrow; he looks utterly calm even as tears endlessly drop from his eyes — which is the expression you'd see in those who are too broken to even cry properly. It can also mean that while he's hurt, it hasn't fully sunk in yet, explaining his strangely blank expression. However, if you pause at the moment right before he raises his voice at Yuri, you can see that his lips are clamped and his eyes are slightly squinted — as if the situation finally hits him and he's trying to stay calm.
- It gets even worse when Word of God explained that he looked so blank when he started crying... because he isn't used to crying at all. Given that he must have his share of past hurts and tragedies, Yuri's decision broke him so much that he shed tears for what may have been the first time.
- There's also the way Victor's voice sounds when he starts crying in both languages:
- In the Japanese dub, his voice initially sounds detached albeit clearly pained, before eventually sounding pissed and upset, and at times it seems like his voice is about to break as he shouts at Yuri.
- In the English dub, his voice is already shaking when he starts speaking, and it sounds like it's taking all he has to not lose it completely, even as he's raising his voice. What's worse? When he does just that, he interrupts Yuri with "Stop! I don't want to hear it!", which was absent in the original line, adding a whole new layer of heartbreak to what's already an emotionally-difficult scene.
- J.J. crying and hugging his mother, saying he doesn't know what to do because he messed up his short program. It's heartbreaking to see the most confident character in the show in such a state.
- During Yuri's free program, his thoughts reveal that he doesn't want to lose Victor and treasures the time they spent together as student and coach. He doesn't even want it to end at all, nor does he want to retire, only sticking with his decision to quit and send Victor back to the ice because he wants Victor to be happy. Eventually, Victor concedes after being motivated to skate again from seeing Yuri's free program, although he's saddened because he believes that by the time he comes back, Yuri would no longer be on the rink. Essentially, both of them pulling an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy even if it almost destroys them to do so is both sweet and tragic, especially when this all happened because they still have problems in properly communicating their true feelings.
- Yurio's reaction when Victor reveals that Yuri might retire after winning the Grand Prix Final. Instead of feeling overjoyed or relieved, he's devastated, to the point that the entire time he skates his free program, he thinks about how he finds it unforgivable and how he'll make sure that Yuri will regret it if he does retire. After spending almost the entirety of the show being a jerk towards Yuri, it's simultaneously surprising, touching, and saddening to realize that Yuri is actually the one skater he looks up to the most, possibly even more so than Victor.
- After he skates his free program, Yurio breaks down crying. There are many possible reasons why, like the pressure finally getting to him and leading him to vent out his relief and exhaustion; but it's likely that another reason is because he fears that Yuri would still retire whether he wins or not. There's also the possibility that he cried because he didn't skate a flawless program, and feels that his efforts aren't enough to keep Yuri on the ice.
Meta and semi-canon material
- Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Yuri's Japanese voice actor, admitted in an interview that during recording he actually cried due to empathizing with Yuri's struggles.
- Victor's entire Overcome Chihoko Crazy Jealous Guy escapade in Yuri on Stage that continues into Yuri on Festival. While it is Played for Laughs in the show, seeing Victor so clingy and insecure regarding his place in Yuri's life is heartbreaking. It isn't indicated whether the fact Yuri was talking about shachihoko, the golden fish on top of Hasetsu Castle, was explained properly to Victor, since he descends into a cold murderous rage as soon as "Chihoko" is mentioned again in Festival.
- Similarly, Yuri's attack of anxiety and insecurity in Festival that made him vulnerable to Demonic Possession by the squid entity. He went through a lot of character development in the show, but anxiety and self-esteem issues - realistically - do not go away with judicious applications of The Power of Love.