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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V

Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V

Reviewing a series this long is always a little awkward. In nearly a hundred and forty eight episodes, you can well expect a series to have occupied just about every point on the quality spectrum there is, at one time or another, and coming up with specific examples to support any point is more difficult than it should be. Still, we shall make an attempt.

Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V follows Sakaki Yuya, a young entertainment duelist who battles in action duels -- lively, moving duels meant to entertain viewers. While Yuya's goal in life is to make audiences smile, the appearance of a boy who looks exactly (apparently) like him, and the machinations of wealthy teenage CEO Reiji Akaba, swiftly throw him into a war between four dimensions: His own dimension, Standard, and Xyz, Synchro, and Fusion, each one themed after a kind of summoning. The Fusion dimension, and the duel school Academia, have begun invading other dimensions, all in search of four girls with mysterious bracelets -- one of whom is Yuzu, Yuya's best friend.

Reiji, whose deck seems to be a combination of 'demons,' 'contracts,' 'historical conquerors,'
and 'astronomers.' Pick a theme and stick to it, Reiji, you're as bad as your brother with his
camera/elementals/weapons themed deck.

The series is meant to be a crossover series, and it does so by doing the Kamen Rider Decade thing of having the characters traverse various worlds which are based on, but are not actually, the worlds of previous series -- the worlds are recognisably alternate universe versions of the series they're based on, and each one has at least (and in one case, at most) one AU version of a character from that series, along with several characters who are either homages themselves or have homage decks.

In that regard, it would work well were it not for director Katsumi Ono's obvious preference for 5Ds, the last Yu-Gi-Oh series he worked on. In an almost baffling turn, the Synchro Dimension, themed after 5Ds, gets not only more time devoted to it than the Fusion and Xyz Dimensions put together, but also gets its own miniature plot arc, several 5Ds characters returning to the fray, and 5Ds fan favourite Jack Atlas getting a prominent role in the final arc.

I actually enjoyed the Synchro Dimension arc, but I did so under the impression that we would be spending equivalent amounts of time in the other dimensions -- and when we didn't, I was actually kind of vexed. It felt like the director had let his own personal bias get in the way of telling a story that was actually a true homage to the franchise so far.

Serena weirdly stops being all that relevant to the series about two thirds through.

In a lot of ways, that's a minor quibble, but it represented something of a persistent irritation, enough of a dampener on my enjoyment to make it more difficult to tolerate the show's other flaws.

Not that the show is overburdened with problems: It's a mostly formulaic but nevertheless entertaining and engaging Yu-Gi-Oh series. The idea of a Yu-Gi-Oh protagonist with an evil alter-ego isn't new, but it's never been used to the extent it was here -- and while that might not have been enough to carry the series on its own, when combined with the show's doppelganger gimmick (where both Yuya and Yuzu have three doubles in other worlds), you get something that's actually pleasantly original.

The writing is usually more concise than previous shows have been, with fewer dragging two-episode duels and more quick one-episode duels. One of the results of this is that a lot of characters never seem to really get the chance to shine: Sawatari and Tsukikage, despite being major characters, never really seemed to develop identities as duelists in-show, and Renji, while he has a great many duels, never seemed to be given a chance to go all-out. The main result, though, is that the show usually has a much quicker pace than its predecessors, moving ahead with plot developments instead of being constantly stalled by lengthy duels.

This all starts to come apart a little towards the end, after building to a climactic duel with Zarc, the main villain, the final battle -- involving a succession of characters managing to get one turn off and then immediately losing -- is boring and poorly paced, lasting five episodes but somehow managing to not even have a hint of tension (and ultimately just being resolved by the timely appearance of Ray). From there on, the series speeds immediately into a slightly bizarre arc where Yuya has duels with all the Lancers (plus Jack, for some reason), which completely robs the show of any dramatic tension before its end.

Zarc, although we almost never see him in this form.

Its end is odd as well: Yuya and Yuzu are restored to the world, but Yuto, Yugo, Yuri, Ruri, Rin, and Serena all just 'live inside them.' Bear in mind, these characters were all fleshed out as fully realised people before, and Yuto and Ruri's absence effectively leaves Shun, a major character, with neither his best friend or his sister. It's a little perverse.

In spite of all that, though, I did really enjoy Arc-V. It was a fun, mostly well put-together Yu-Gi-Oh show, and I'm looking forward to VRAINS.

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