Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu vaulted into first place at the NHK Trophy on Friday night behind two booming quadruple jumps in the short program.
Skating to "Let's Go Crazy" before a full house at Makomanai Arena, Hanyu opened with a quad loop that though fully rotated had a bit of an off-balance landing. He then tore off a sublime quad salchow/triple toe loop combination jump, before climbing way up the ladder on a triple axel.
Hanyu exuded confidence throughout in a purple outfit and the crowd roared its approval as he finished his program, showering the ice with flowers. Hanyu's score of 103.89 points is the highest this season in the short program on the Grand Prix circuit and gives him a huge advantage heading into Saturday's free skate.
American Nathan Chen is in second place with 87.94, while Keiji Tanaka is third at 80.49.
One year ago, Hanyu became the first skater in history to break the 300-point mark when he won the NHK Trophy at Nagano's Big Hat Arena. Hanyu shattered the previous record with a mark of 322.40 in an electric show.
Hanyu then topped the standard he had set two weeks later with another command performance, scoring 330.43 in his victory at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain.
The Sendai native's score in the short program at the NHK Trophy last season was 106.33.
"I was not able to cleanly land my quad loop," Hanyu stated. " I'm very disappointed by that. I could have done better. Looking back at my performance, I was able to enjoy my skating."
Hanyu, who will turn 22 on Dec. 7, did find encouragement in his effort this evening.
"I have now done a performance that will carry over until tomorrow and the next event," Hanyu noted. "I have been able to skate through a full program. I do want to practice on my loops and spins."
Hanyu, who was second behind Patrick Chan at Skate Canada last month, is looking to lock up a spot in this season's GP Final next month in Marseille, France.
"I'm skating better in my short program than I was at Skate Canada," Hanyu added.
The fans were not the only ones impressed by Hanyu's high-wire act.
"My jaw dropped when I saw Yuzuru's quad loop," said Chen. "I don't usually get to compete in the same event with him, so it is great to be here."
Ryuju Hino (72.50) is in ninth place.
Russia's Anna Pogorilaya leads following the short program in women's singles with 71.56. Pogorilaya, seeking her second victory on the GP circuit this season, skated to "Sway" and appeared smooth as silk from start to finish.
She was marked down for under-rotating the back end of her triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, but still impressed the judges sufficiently with her other elements.
Pogorilaya's compatriot Maria Sotskova (69.96) is second, with Satoko Miyahara (64.20) in third.
"I'm happy about my performance today," said Pogorilaya. "I think I showed everything I could do. I'm satisfied. I had some small mistakes, but I will be able to fix them for tomorrow."
Miyahara performed to "Musetta's Waltz Song" and fell on her second jump, a planned triple lutz/triple toe loop combo. She replaced the triple/triple with a triple loop/double toe loop combo later.
Miyahara appeared in good shape coming out of her step sequence, but did not get enough lift out of her skid and got her feet tangled on the triple lutz, before crashing to the ice.
"Today was disappointing for me," commented Miyahara. "I'm not satisfied. I'm still in third place, so I will do my best for tomorrow."
Miyahara, who received level-fours for her spins, said she put too much energy into the jump before her fall.
"I practiced hard after Skate Canada to land cleanly on my jumps," she noted. "I was much more confident today. I tried too hard to do my best. I put too much power into my jump."
American Mirai Nagasu is fourth with 63.49.
Wakaba Higuchi (62.58) competed to "La Califfa" and avoided a fall, but botched her planned triple lutz/triple toe loop combo. She improvised with a triple flip/double toe loop combo later and is in fifth.
Miyahara, Higuchi, Pogorilaya and Sotskova are all in the running for the GP Final. Pogorilaya (first at Cup of Russia) and Sotskova (second at Trophee de France) have the advantage coming in due to better finishes in their first GP assignments, with Miyahara (third at Skate Canada) and Higuchi (third in Paris) needing to best both Russians while making the podium to improve their chances of qualifying.
Yura Matsuda (60.98) performed to "The Piano" and put together a solid if not spectacular effort and is sixth.
China's Peng Cheng and Jin Yang took the lead in pairs after the short program. The duo posted a score of 73.33 for a narrow advantage over Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (72.95).
Peng and Jin's compatriots Wang Xuehan and Wang Lei are in third place with 65.66.
The ice dance competition will begin with the short dance on Saturday.