WARNING: This article contains spoilers for episode 9 of Yuri!!! On ICE. If you haven’t seen it yet, catch up with the series today!
At the end of episode 9 of Yuri!!! On ICE, Yuri reunites with his coach Victor after spending the episode competing on the ice without his support. During this time, Yuri realizes how much Victor means to him as a mentor and as a figure of inspiration. Without Victor, Yuri could not have made it this far. And thus, Yuri is determined to the win gold at the Grand Prix Final with Victor at his side.
During their emotional reunion at the airport, Yuri expresses these feelings to Victor: “Please be my coach until I retire!”
And in response, Victor says…
In order to understand this conversation better, we need to take a closer look at the overall context and what was said in Japanese.
After the two men run up to each other and hug at the airport, the conversation goes like this:
Translation: Yuri… I’ve been thinking about what I can do as your coach from now on.
Translation: Me, too.
Translation: Please be my coach until I retire!
Translation: It’s almost like a marriage proposal.
Translation: I wish you’d never retire.
Translation: Let’s win gold together at the Grand Prix Final.
During the scene, soft piano music plays in the background, and Yuri is tearful, as if he has been overcome by bittersweet emotions. One thing, above all, is strongly implied by this conversation: Yuri is planning to retire soon, most likely as soon as the Grand Prix Final is over. Yet until that time, he wants to stay by Victor’s side, unconditionally.
His wording when he asks Victor to stay with him is particularly worth focusing on here, because this is the part that actually does sound rather romantic.
Here’s the thing: Yuri doesn’t explicitly ask Victor to be his coach here. He says, “onegaishimasu!” which is a humble way of saying please. It’s a fairly general expression to use when you’re introducing yourself to someone, asking for a favor, or entrusting yourself to someone’s care. Yet because of the vagueness of the expression, it could mean any number of things when used in isolation.
It’s worth noting that Yuri is using a contracted version of a common polite expression. Onegaishimasu makes up part of the phrase douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu (or yoroshiku onegaishimasu). Not only is that a mouthful to say, it also sounds a bit too distant and formal for Yuri and Victor’s relationship. It’s common to just say yoroshiku between friends, but because Yuri sees himself as a student of Victor’s, onegaishimasu hits the right note for their relationship.
The Crunchyroll translation was not wrong when it made this line of dialogue about coaching. The sentences before this line were clearly talking about coaching, after all. In Japanese conversation, it’s extremely common to omit words when they’re understood by the participants. Both Yuri and Victor understand that coaching is the subject of their conversation, so there’s no need for either of them to state it after it was initially mentioned. The translator is usually not making things up or adding things willy-nilly by providing more information than a particular Japanese sentence does in isolation.
So, it’s not wrong to translate “Boku no koto onegaishimasu” as “Please be my coach.” But the context also tells us that Yuri can’t just be talking about coaching, because otherwise Victor would not compare it to a marriage proposal. Yuri is likely talking about a more general kind of mentorship rather than just skating instruction. In previous episodes, we have seen Victor provide emotional support, and even in this episode we see them acting physically and emotionally intimate. “Please be my coach” has a greater significance for them than it would for mere acquaintances.
If you’re a romantic, you’ll be happy to know that the phrase onegaishimasu also gives the impression that Yuri is entrusting the entirety of his being to Victor. In an indirect fashion, Yuri is asking Victor to stay by his side until the end. It’s a very Japanese way of expressing strong feelings. As an outsider, Victor is much more direct, but he understands Yuri well enough to read the subtext behind his words.
And that, in short, is where the “It’s almost like a marriage proposal” line comes from.
Japanese can be a difficult language to get one’s head around, especially in cases like these where the language and cultural conventions are intertwined so closely. For all the physical closeness between Yuri and Victor, their dialogue may seem strangely vague and distant in translation. But it’s also very characteristic of the Japanese language to express strong feelings in vague terms. This may seem like one of those cases where the intent is lost in translation, but if you look at the Japanese dialogue closely, Yuri really was asking Victor to be his coach… in the most romantic way possible.
Special thanks to @karice67 for translation-related feedback and assistance.