“Dear God, not another funky haired, necklace wearing card-slapper!”
…was my knee-jerk reaction to the news of YGO Arc-V.
It’s no secret that Yu-Gi-Oh! has had a special spot in the cockles of my heart. I still regard the first series (Duel Monsters) as one of the best anime of all time. While the spin-offs that have followed have engendered a mixed bag of emotions for me–anything from genuine interest, eyebrow-raising incredulity,
Duel Monsters was my life. GX was a mixed bag–I both loved and hated it. 5Ds brought some appropriately packaged edge back into the franchise- the plotting was consistent– though a little out there (especially with the time travel/post-apocalyptic thing going on towards the end). And we’ll just skip past Zexal and pretend it doesn’t exist.
(In all seriousness, as a YGO fan, I need to give Zexal a fair shot. I only made it through one episode before giving up on the series and from what I hear, the story supposedly gets loads better like ten episodes down the line. I sincerely hope it doesn’t actually take the protagonist that long to learn how to play a children’s card game because that’s kind of what turned me off in the first place.)
Consistency of tone’s always been an interesting issue with the YGO franchise. On one hand, the first series took itself very seriously. The idea of the fate of the world riding on a children’s card game was a bit hard to swallow but quite palatable considering that the cast takes it all very seriously.
On the other hand, you have GX take the opposite tone–it’s all fun and games, and if you happen to save the world while doing it, then that’s just an added bonus. (So apparently midway, fun and games wasn’t enough to carry the series so they decided to change the tone completed in season 3 and 4, transmorgifying the anime into something apparently quite dark and twisted only to attempt to reverse said progress through a little time travel. Scratching your head, eh? YGO helps build your stamina to wade through maddeningly nonsensical plots.
5Ds was an attempt to market Duel Monsters towards an older crowd–especially old fans who wanted some of the serious fun that characterized the first series.
What’s great about the spin-offs, at least, is how each series builds on the old-school gameplay of Duel Monsters. While you still see plenty of WTF moments where the protagonist just magically pulls out the card he needs at exactly the right time going on–it wouldn’t be YGO otherwise–the card game has evolved. I see that as a good thing, actually, and though some part of me mourns for the good old days when Blue Eyes and Dark Magician were formidable cards (lol, any monster worth its salt has got to have at least 1 special effect), new ways of play and new cards have kept the game fresh and complicated. In general, there’s been a trend towards a more streamlined and speedier game play, with polymerization (featured prominently in GX) and synchro summoning (in 5Ds) allowing players to bring out powerful monsters more efficiently.
Also, don’t be a total noob like me and go around pronouncing it Arc-“Vee” instead of “Arc Five.”
Now I generally reserve judgment until I’ve watched at least a few episodes but since I have a soft spot for card games and physics-defying holographic technology, I’m going to go ahead and talk a little about why Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V may be worth a watch.
It’s inevitable that every protagonist has to be compared with the mythical King of Games. Which is a pretty high standard to meet. But you have to appreciate how each series tries to do things a little differently. And how the protagonist is initially portrayed contributes a lot to the story’s tone.
For Duel Monsters, our impression of Yugi is that he’s basically your kind, naive little guy. You know, that geeky, game-obsessed kid with a “Please bully me!” sign practically slapped on his back. But with the power of his Millennium Puzzle, he gets a darker alter-ego that makes up for his wimpy, pushover tendencies, which definitely raises the red flag of bildungsroman–Duel Monsters is a journey about finding your own identity, and how kindness and courage are both needed to become a better person.
GX takes a lighter, more comedic tone with a goofier protagonist, which fits well with its overall message of “it’s important to not take things seriously and to enjoy the game for what it is–a fun activity.” 5Ds ramps up the seriousness with a serious, collected personality that is Yusei Fudo, who sees bonds with friends as the most important thing in his life (even more than Duel Monsters).
So what kind of protagonist does Yuya fall under? He starts off being annoyingly similar to Jaden Yuki (Yuki Judai) and Yuma Tsukumo (Zexal). And by annoyingly similar, I mean his clownish antics and questionable taste in Duel Monsters.
A lover of spotlights, his dream is to become an “Entertainment Duelist,” which is apparently where professional dueling’s taken its direction in the future. He duels with an Entermate deck, an archetype centered around circus animals wearing silly outfits.
Though he acts a little dopey, he also has a somewhat cool seriousness reminiscent of Yugi and Yusei. Like so many of our Yu-tagonists, Yuya’s dealing with some absentee father issues. Apparently, his dad, who was also a famous Entertainment Duelist, mysteriously disappeared right before a big match, a move that tarnished his reputation as a strong duelist and traumatized his idolizing son. So despite his buffoonery masquerade, people actually have high expectations for Yuya, simply given the fact that he’s the son of a famous duelist and somehow, good dueling is passed down by genes. Perfect YGO-verse logic as always.
Behold the Power of my Millennium Puzzle, I Mean Pendulum Thing…
The Pendulum that Yuya carries around also follows the Yu-tagonist’s tradition of carrying a mysterious magical object. He’s kind of like Yugi too in that he calls upon the magical powers of his pendulum to get him out of a tight pinch in a duel.
And interestingly enough, it’s something that he does subconsciously because he has no idea how to do it (in fact, it’s even stated that he doesn’t really remember how it happened). Huh…interesting. Yuya’s not an expert duelist like Yugi (screwing the rules since the late 90’s) but thankfully, he’s no novice. In fact, we later find out in episode 2 that Yuya, despite his upset victory over Strong Ishijima, is an astoundingly mediocre duelist, with a win rate at approximately 50%.
Though I’m not entirely sure what to make of him, I like Yuya. He’s roguish and has got a pretty lousy sense of humor at times, but he’s got some depth to his character, something I hope they’ll be exploring more throughout the series. He uses laughter as a defense mechanism to protect himself through hard times, a saying that he picked up from his father, who he clearly admires.
Pendulum Summoning and the Evolution of Dueling: “Really Solid” Solid Vision
I don’t think the show’s been giving enough credit to the advances that dueling technology has made.
I don’t think the target audience can totally appreciate the repercussions of the new dueling technology. I’m no physicist but the ability to create mass from pure energy is something that’s on the level of particle accelerators and black holes. So it’s totally possible to transform energy into matter on the subatomic level (we’re talking electrons and positrons), it’s not possible to replicate this on a macroscopic scale. The amount of energy it would take to make one Entermate Discover Hippo would be mindbogglingly enormous:
Assuming one Entermate Discover Hippo weighs exactly 100 kilograms, calculate the amount of energy needed to summon it via Solid Vision:
= (100 kg) (3.0 x 10^8 m/s)^2
= 9.0 x 10^18 J
To put this in perspective, that’s 9 exajoules (or 1 quintillion joules). That’s over 6 times the amount of energy measured from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan (which had 1.41 EJ of energy according to its 9.0 on the moment magnitude scale.)
That’s a lot of energy. All to manifest one hippo. And we’re not even talking about the energy required to make it move.
The physical materialization aspect of the game is a promising advancement to the anime’s mechanics and gives Arc-V a lot of room to work with in terms of outlandish plotting. The possibilities of Action Dueling are boundless so it would be interesting to see how the writers will take advantage of it. I do wonder how they’ll reconcile the hyperscientific “magic” of Action Dueling with the signature YGO ancient mystical canon of the Duel Monsters game, especially since Action Dueling has a good chance of overshadowing some of the more exciting aspects of Shadow Games and high-stakes dueling present in earlier YGO series.
My biggest concern so far is the role Pendulum Summoning will execute in Duel Monsters gameplay. Though the exact mechanics of the summoning have yet to be fleshed out in the anime, the deus ex machina Pendulum Summon was a flashy way of bringing it out. Rather than explaining it to us (as par the course for YGO), the move is pulled out of thin air (quite literally) and played with no lengthy explanation. It’s jarring on us and not entirely in a good way.
Given that the theme of the show’s duels is “entertainment,” embedded in action dueling is a necessary self-consciousness and hyperawareness of one’s surroundings. Duels aren’t private affairs–they’re monstrous public spectacles and the expectations are much higher. It’s not enough to win–you have to win spectacularly.
Does YGO Arc-V put on a good show? It depends on how smoothly they’ll balance the newly introduced game mechanics and how Pendulum Summoning will work with existing YGO gameplay. I know a lot of people were disappointed that 5Ds’ Synchro Summoning was virtually ignored in Zexal, so it would be interesting to see how Pendulum Summoning would diversify the gameplay. I honestly hope it won’t be a magical BS trick repeatedly used to forcibly elicit some shock from the audience. Ideally, Pendulum Summoning will be a new kind of summoning not exclusively performed by the protagonist but will be thoroughly investigated and exploited by other duelists in the show. As much as we love watching duelists screw the rules, it’s nice to have duels that make some semblance of sense.