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I have seen other studies on Yuri and his connection to Agape, but I feel there is more yet to add. So please read on, and feel free to comment!
Agape is described in the series as selfless, all-encompassing love. In real life, agape is a Greco-Christian word defined as “the highest form of love, charity” (Wikipedia). Viktor choreographed the program, intending it for Yuri (not that he told him that at first, classic Viktor).
Yuri shows a lot of disdain for the song, specifically saying it’s the innocence of the piece that disgusts him. Keep in mind that he’s 15 years old at the start of the series, so he’s still fairly young himself – so why such loathing in someone so young?
There are a few factors involved in this. Firstly, you may recall that Yuri was the main source of income for his family since his early competition days. The government aid for his skating kept him and his family going, so he’s not your average 15 year old in that he’s the bread winner of the house, not his grandfather who raised him.
On that note, agape is also focused on pure, unconditional love – like that of a parent. And Yuri grew up without either parent actively in his life. His personality is based on independence, pride, and strength. As a child without his parents, he did what most children in that position do: try to find a reason why they weren’t there.
Only he took his own path. Based on how he is now, it looks like child Yuri decided it didn’t matter why they left him with his grandfather, he didn’t need them. And he was very young when those thoughts first occurred to him.
So he resolved to support himself and his grandfather without parents, and I’m pretty sure that part of him wanted to make them regret leaving him for the rest of their lives. Yuri Plisetsky doesn’t need your innocent, unconditional love – he’s too powerful for something as silly as that.
Even when he agreed to skate to the program, it was because of his career, because he wanted his senior debut to succeed, and he wanted Viktor to come back to Russia as his coach. On the surface, these are all ambitious reasons that fit the image of himself that Yuri shows publicly.
As Viktor explained to both of them, he assigned these programs the way he did so they could surprise the audience by doing what they didn’t expect. And surely no one would expect the Ice Tiger of Russia to skate to a song about pure love.
Skating to the program requires Yuri to find an “in” for conveying agape well enough in his program so he can win. This pure love he scorns so persistently is now something he’s not just going to have to understand, but depict on the ice as a competitive skater.
As we all know now, he finds that inspiration through memories of his grandfather. But it’s easy to forget that he struggled to get there. Viktor told him not to skate with so much confidence, that this was not the place to show it off. He suggested going to a temple twice, and then Viktor said maybe a waterfall would help.
Yuuri had already picked katsudon as his eros by then, so Yuri was actually falling behind. Losing, at least in his eyes. When they both end up at the waterfall, Yuri says:
“Who cares about agape? Forget all of them.”
Which is odd because agape is not a “them”. He’s talking about people, people who have told him that love is pure and valuable and should be prized – directly contradicting everything Yuri had taught himself as a child. And before, he was right, but by then he needed to understand love, or he would lose.
Why was Yuuri able to understand eros, but he couldn’t understand agape? It was beyond just his external need to win, evolving into a feeling of missing something critical as a person. This is unspoken, of course, and shown most plainly in his expression just after saying those words:
The words are angry, and he even swore moments before that, but this is not an angry expression. This is unease. It’s not just the audience he’s surprising, but himself. That self-awareness catches him off guard more than once, whether he struggles to get to agape or he reaches it well.
This is the end of his performance of Agape in episode 11, but I would encourage everyone to see all of his performances of this short program to compare his thoughts and final reactions to preforming it. This is a physically challenging choreography, true, but there’s an emotional vulnerability that Yuri experiences with every performance that is intriguing to see.
This is a side of himself he’s shown to select few people (his grandfather, Otabek, Yuuko, and sometimes Yakov, Lillia, Viktor, and Yuuri), and that is something you catch a glimpse of when he performs Agape. Not only that, you can sometimes see the vulnerability that Yuuri saw in Yuri when he first found his agape.
For someone who has never valued pure love, never thought he needed it, and indeed looked down it, the realization that he always had it and it did motivate him… It’s not just knowing himself better. It’s a touch of fear because he didn’t realize that he’d needed that all along, and the knowledge makes him face that fear in relation to the person he holds himself to be – fierce, righteous, unstoppable – and now, loved and able to love.