I see a lot about Viktor in context of other characters, but nothing on the man himself.
Here to change that, I bring to you a close analysis of Viktor!
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Actually, I want to start with his name. Names do have meaning both in IRL language and in anime in particular.
His full name is:
His first name, Viktor, refers to victor, of course, as in victory.
His last name, Nikiforov, has its prefix rooted in Никон (Nikon), the Russian name referring to the Greek word for victory.
Looking further, I need to establish some background in Slavic naming structures. Suffixes containing -ov, -ich, or -ev in Russian are patronymic. <Source>
Let me put that in casual speak. His last name, Nikiforov means “son of Victory”, leading to his first and last name to mean “Victor, son of Victory”.
And of course his last name is passed down from his father, grandfather, etc. Continuing with the high expectations on people in the Nikiforov family.
Combine all of this together, and you get a picture of what Viktor’s family life was like and the expectations placed on him since birth. You don’t name your son “Victor, son of Victory” if your dream for him is to be average.
It’s safe to say that Viktor grew up with immense pressure on him to succeed at whatever he chose to do. He had that choice, and I have no doubt that his parents were both been loving and supportive. They did want him to succeed, after all.
But this meant that Viktor was raised with good enough not being good enough. His accomplishments became who he was above all else. As a result, his close interpersonal skills such as keeping promises are rather weak (Yurio’s senior debut, anyone?).
But his presentation as an accomplished person was important. Compare how he acts with fans to how he acts and is treated by people who know him personally.
Public Viktor is charismatic, playfully flirtatious, free-spirited, calm, confident, and decisive – and his pride is in surprising people as a skater. He has a reputation for treating fans well, and he goes out of his way to do so.
But you talk to people he knows, and the impression changes. He’s insensitive in emotional situations, forgetful, and a bit callous.
Yakov is the best source in seeing the changes from public to private Viktor, since Viktor had been trained by Yakov and grew up under his study.
He said Viktor only cares about himself, and yet he calls him Vitya from time to time, an affectionate name for someone you care about. In light of Viktor’s upbringing for perfection, it should be no surprise that his coach, Yakov, was like a father to Viktor in that sense.
And looking beyond that, consider how Viktor reacts when Yurio shows up in Japan. He’s casually dismissive about having promised a debut to him, and he turns it into a contest between the two of them.
Yes, it was in their best interest as skaters, but not the most personally supportive thing to do. That’s a side effect of how Viktor was shown affection growing up – if someone loves you, they help you grow in skill. Your feelings come after.
Hence, this gem of a line:
But speaking of his connections, what makes his connection to Yuri special to Viktor? First, you needing know his other bonds.
Yurio admires him, but only so he can overcome him on the ice. Yakov’s interest in him is in the context of skating, even going so far as to tell Viktor not to talk to him unless it’s to beg to return as a skater.
Then there’s Yuri. The first time Viktor noticed him, Yuri was drunk, granted, but he was honest and open with liking Viktor. Keeping that in mind for Viktor’s mental state, when he saw the viral video of Yuri’s performance of Viktor’s routine, the most surprising thing Viktor could do was to find this person he’d been interested in and work with him.
And that video hit right when his accomplishments, everything Viktor lived for, were starting to feel stale to him. He was at the peak of figure skating at 16 years old, and at the start of the anime, he’s 27.
Viktor had won five consecutive World Championships, five consecutive Grand Prix finals, and several European championships. 11 straight years of non-stop success and “Viktor wins again”. Unsurprising, and then in comes Yuri with an opportunity to do something surprising.
This is subtext talking, but I also think that stagnant feeling made Viktor think about the rest of his life. If 11 years was enough to make him feel stagnant, what would the next 40 years be like? Would anyone be at his side if not for his skating?
I think he was craving an emotional bond that was for him, as he was, not his accomplishments. All the more reason to leave the ice and find a way to spend time with Yuri in a way he wouldn’t refuse. He doesn’t even ask Yuri if he wants Viktor to train him, that’s how certain he was he wouldn’t refuse.
But what interests me about this is that Viktor was still expecting to succeed easily as he had for the past decade. The goal is an open, honest relationship. And if you watch the early episodes, you can almost see Viktor going down a checklist.
See if he’s single or in love.
Know a lot about the other person.
Have trust between you.
He’s treating the relationship like it has clear criteria and a grading system. That’s what Viktor knows and he’s treating this the same way he would any other goal he has.
And when Yuri scuttles back in the scene above, Viktor is surprised he backs off. Viktor is attractive, and he was smooth. What did he do “wrong” is his internal question.
As Viktor trains Yuri, he actually starts to earn the closeness he was trying to get on his checklist earlier. He transitions from trying to achieve the relationship for himself to focusing on Yuri. During training in Yuri’s home rink, Viktor says, “My job is to make you feel confident in yourself.”
Not to make him the best skater, or make him love Viktor, but help Yuri be confident. This is not something Viktor has experience in – deep emotional connections – but he’s learning through Yuri how to do the right thing by his heart, not by his successes.
And as he learns, he starts to feel secure in their relationship. That he has truly earned what he was after, and he’s succeeded where it truly matters. Aaaand then episode 12. (Just need to watch the beginning in the hotel room, but feel free to continue, haha.)
Line by line analysis:
Viktor finally lost something and there are no clear rules to win it back. And he was unprepared in every sense. He’d developed the ability to be close and trust, but he’d fallen short in communicating that to Yuri, who stepped on every landmine without knowing.
I’m curious to see how they go with their decisions, and the end of last season did seem very promising! But hopefully this gets you more insight into why Viktor acts how he has thus far.