"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"
“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

“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.

With each iteration, the "Yu-Gi-Oh!" part of the logo gets smaller.
With each iteration, the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” part of the logo gets smaller.

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.

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Meet our latest “Yu-tagonist”, Sakaki Yuya.

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A snarky Yuya.

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.

Card games...collateral damage included at no extra cost.
Card games…collateral damage included at no extra cost.

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).

I love you more than card games,
I love you more than card games, but if I can take the card games, why the hell not.

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.

Check out
Check out my duotone hair, a continuation of YGO’s proud tradition of protagonists with funky, gravity-defying haircuts.

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.

I know
Not that I have anything against Mardi-Gras dancing hippos, it’s just that much harder to take you seriously.

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.

Work that cape
Work that cape like Yami-Yugi does.

Behold the Power of my Millennium Puzzle, I Mean Pendulum Thing…

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Dear God, my cards are glowing!
Dear God, my cards are glowing!

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.

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"Wait, did you just summon a bunch of monsters in one turn? That's against the rules, isn't it--wh
“Wait, did you just summon a bunch of monsters in one turn? That’s against the rules, isn’t it–what do you mean it’s legal now?

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%.

Talk to the hand.
Talk to the hand.

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.

Father son moment. The crazy hair must have come from the mother.
Father son moment. The crazy hair must have come from the mother.
Not-so-subtle title drop with the pendulum arc metaphor.
Not-so-subtle title drop with the pendulum arc metaphor.

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.

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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:

E= mc^2

= (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.

If the monsters have mass, then their attacks would also--holy crap, that is a really big explosion.
If the monsters have mass, then their attacks would also–holy crap, that is a really big explosion.

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.

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The audience is a fickle friend.
The audience is a fickle friend.

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.

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Plot, what plot? Who needs plot when you have card games?
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12 thoughts on ““Are You Not Entertained?” First Impressions on Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V

  1. Yu-Gi-Oh! also has a special place in me even though it seems to just get crazier each iteration. I’ve actually gone through half of ZeXal and it’s terrible.. I never liked Yuma even one bit..but I’m still finishing it (just waiting for the subs~)

    anyway, I have yet to watch this one and when I browsed it one time, I was turned off because of how the art seriously just resemble ZeXal @_@ funny enough, how you talk about it seems to boost this series for me. but it’s kind of disappointing just when the XYZ summoning is starting to grow in me, we’re going to an entirely different summoning one again… either way, I’m going to pick this one up soon…

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    1. I think it’s the craziness that draws me (and you) to Yu-Gi-Oh! Wow, you went through half of Zexal even having judged it terrible? I applaud your tenacity.

      After having watched episodes 3 and 4, I like Arc-V even more–as I’ll explore in a future post what Arc-V is good at doing is taking all of these little moments from previous YGO iterations and integrating them into its plot and characters. Yuya’s likeable because he represents the best qualities of previous protagonists. He’s got some of Judai’s goofiness but it’s underplayed enough so it’s not incredibly annoying. He’s got enough of Yusei’s seriousness so he’s good at evaluating dangerous situations and making solid plays. The aura he projects is similar to Yami Yugi (they’ve even got the flared out cape thing working for them) and the pendulum plot device gives off the original YGO vibes.

      Also, if you’re concerned about whether or not Pendulum Summoning will throw out previous game moves, in episode 3, it’s mentioned that Fusion, Synchro and XYZ Summons exist in this verse, so here’s hoping we’ll get to see some of those plays in future episodes.

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  2. I must say Zexal was very interesting for me after the second season came out (Zexal II). As someone who has also watched all the episodes of all yu-gi-oh’s, i must say it did a good job in the end, sure Yuma was a pain in the ass but they gave us Astral for us to admire. If i hated something about it is that they promised 100 numbers yet they didn’t all apear but we got many other cards that could easily be numbers.

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    1. also i forgot to mention that i love how not everything in arc-v is futuristic and how most people have normal hair(not-important people)

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    2. Thanks for commenting! Huh, I will check out Zexal at some point, just because as a YGO fan I feel disturbed when there’s a part of the canon that I’m missing. I’ve heard similar things about the plot picking up in the second season but that’s a long time to wait before the going gets good. XYZ summoning seems really overpowered though, so I find it interesting that they’re bringing it back in Arc-V.

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    1. I haven’t been too impressed with the trajectory that Arc-V’s going either. Haven’t been able to get into Zexal, probably because like Arc-V, it’s gotten off to a pretty slow start but I’ve heard it gets much better later. Problem is, I don’t have enough patience to plow through 10-20 episodes before it starts to get good. GX and 5Ds were good in that they set up the premises and laid out the foundation for the rest of the plot more quickly.

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  3. Looks like this was written when Arc-V 1st came out. The beginning eps are pure lies! The series will break your heart as it goes on. Imo, it has one of the best plots I have ever seen. By far my fave ygo series ever!!! Currently watching 5ds and it’s okay (on ep 20) and have yet to watch Zexal.

    What I love about Arc-V is that there is so much foreshadowing going on in the series we were completely unaware of. And I just love the plot, like I want to talk about it, but it might be a spoiler if I do.. so… Well, I’ll at least say I cannot wait for HITOTSU NI this weekend!!! Everyone is going to die, omg!! And okay, I just can’t resist the Synchro arc with the whole Tops and Commons is so relatable and just the war going on in the series. Seriously, love the addition of Real Solid Vision. The stakes and damage really are so much higher. I seriously hope the 6th series is a sequel or prequel to Arc-V!

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    1. Lol, I see you feel very strongly about Arc-V. I wish I could say the same. I will give Arc-V for having credit for its vision–it’s interdimension realm hopping war is easily one of the most ambitious plotlines in the whole YGO franchise and it does get very, very dark. I only wish the characters were also charismatic. Yuya is not my favorite Yutagonist, nor my favorite character in Arc-V (that honor goes to Kurosaki Shun, who has unfortunately been sidelined for most of the second half of the series), but I’ve appreciated what character development they’ve managed to give to Yuya. I do feel that dueling in Arc-V lacks the same theatric energy previous series had. There’s just too much going on in a duel and turns are stuffed with 5-6 cards all being played with effects and counter effects being tossed around…plus the Action Card addition was probably one of the worst things they introduced in a duel.

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  4. ” And we’ll just skip past Zexal and pretend it doesn’t exist.”
    What Zexal? I dunno what you’re talking about. There isn’t such a yugioh series ever.
    Have you heard the new yugioh anime in April 2017 will on floating skateboards? Geezus.
    They also made the protag’s hair emphasize more on the downward hair spikes this time, personally speaking, it makes him look like a mob character….
    I thought for sure they would wait a while before giving a new yugioh anime, but I guess they’re just complete slaves to their money. dammit. if they had at least half a year after the Arc-V ends, I bet they could’ve come up with something better looking at first glance.
    Could’ve surprised me and made me fistbump if they decided to take their safe-diapers off and try a girl protag. Would’ve been the first in many shonen anime franchises to try (ToBerseria doesn’t count since that’s one ova and originally a game).

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    1. Floating skateboards? Dear lord…I know they tested that out in 5Ds and Arc-V but geezus, what are those writers doing? Given the dark turn Arc-V took, it does not surprise me that they’re wanting to go for a light-hearted approach that will appeal to younger viewers. Yu-Gi-Oh! is so assured in its money-making power that they don’t have to even try to come up with something original; why take the risk when a tired and done before plot will do? I would have liked a girl protag too but that’s too progressive for this franchise, unfortunately (I mean, look at the way they treated the girls in Arc-V…)

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