I think we can all agree that Yuuri’s speech was a central scene this episode, and although I’ve seen a lot of people giving great explanations about Yuuri’s use of 「愛」 in his speech and the difference between 「愛」(ai) and 「恋」(koi) there aren’t many people who go further into his speech than that.
Firstly I’ll just briefly gloss over 「愛」 and 「恋」because what they each connotate in the Japanese language is important to the Yuri!!! on Ice plot
「恋」is kind of like a physical love. It describes one’s longing for someone, but lacks a deeper emotional bond. Used for boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.
「愛」 is a deep love, it encompasses 恋 but also describes emotional love. While it does mean you long for someone, it kind of implies that you’re willing to do, give, or change something to be with them. Used for family/spouse.
***note: on the contrary, while「恋」does imply a physical romance/love, 「恋人」refers to you’re true love, you’d call your fiancé or spouse that, and「愛人」implies someone you’ve had an affair with. So when Victor uses the word 「恋人」…. ;)))
So when Yuuri says
He’s saying his「愛」is not just the physical and emotional love he has for others, his love is literally his relationship with Victor, it is literally his family, and that it is the complicated/abstract feelings he has for others around him (aka Yuuko, Minako, Nishigori). It is a tangible THING such as actions and words as implied by Yuuri’s use of 「物」 instead of 「事」which would describe an idea or a concept.
Another interesting thing to note is when Yuuri says he has “no name for this emotion”
At first I thought Yuuri might have been downplaying his emotions but then I realised it wasn’t that, it was that Yuuri really just doesn’t know exactly what 「愛」is just yet despite describing it briefly before because he’s still exploring what it truly means for him.
Before Victor, we all know Yuuri had a big crush on Yuuko, hell, he was going to confess in the first episode. But that’s all it was, a crush, which would take neither 「愛」nor「恋」, but 「好き」(suki).
Now I’m sure you know the difference between 「愛する」and「好きです」but just in case
「好きです」refers to a wide range of types of “like”. You use it for objects, hobbies, and topics, or people-wise, friends and crushes.
Through Yuuri’s speech, we are witnessing his growth and exploration of what 「愛」is, what it means to him, and who the word applies to. Most prominent are his developing feelings of 「愛」towards Victor. The phrase
Does mean “to hold on to”, but it also means “to fasten” or “to tie”, and this implies that while Yuuri does not want to let go of Victor, neither does he want Victor to let go of him. Yuuri wants to create a mutual bond with Victor, and he has decided to call this bond 「愛」.
As a side note, here’s further meta on Yuuri and Victor’s developing relationship, shown through the episode preview. It’s very short but
I do think it’s a cute example of them becoming closer to each other.