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(Review) Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V
#1
Well, it finally happened. Episode 148 aired. It's finally over. Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, the biggest Rank 10 train wreck I've ever seen, has finally concluded. It was...not fun to watch the whole thing. It started out okay, had great character designs, and had plot ideas that could be great if executed well. However, about 50 episodes in, everything took a nosedive as the plot became so incredibly nonsensical it started to rival Kingdom Hearts, which is pretty impressive. I can barely even put into words why it was so bad, but I'm gonna try it anyways.

Episodes 1 and 2 begin with the setting. In Arc-V's universe, technology has allowed holograms to take physical presence, which means Duel Monsters is literally a whole new game. The new kind of duel is the "Action Duel" in which "Action Cards" are scattered around the field for the players to pick up and activate, which in author-ese means "We can ass pull a save for a character in danger of losing any time we want". Watching characters ride their monsters is pretty cool regardless, though they don't seem to take any safety precautions to ensure people don't get hurt while they play. This technology will certainly not be weaponized in the future.

Our main character is Yuya Sakaki, a self-proclaimed "Entertainment Duelist", which means he has the worst deck in history, but the entertainment value means he wins all his duels anyways: a true anime protagonist. Yuya lives under a bit of a stigma because his father, the world-famous Yusho, was set to duel against the reigning champion duelist, Mr. "I'm not appearing in this show ever again after this duel", but Yusho never showed up to the duel, leading everyone to think he'd backed down out of cowardice. (Really? That's the first thing that came to everyone's mind?)

Yuya is offered the chance to duel the champion in order to redeem his family, so he takes the opportunity. Yuya puts up a good fight in the duel but finds himself cornered, until his pendulum necklace glows suddenly and transforms some of his monster cards into the new Pendulum Monsters, enabling him to pull off a Pendulum Summon and come back from behind.

Yup, he ass pulled an entire game mechanic! Joking aside, however, the crowd actually has a surprisingly realistic reaction: As far as they know, Pendulum Monsters are Yuya's invention, so he must have cheated. Yuya then realizes he can't actually remember the tail end of the duel at all, so he and his "Yes I am, no I'm not" girlfriend, Yuzu Hiragi, duel each other to figure out the new summoning method.

Okay, so so far, there's nothing completely awful or stupid yet, in fact this is actually a pretty good setup. You have the main character obtaining an entire mechanic nobody else can use, and the next four episodes deal with other characters who are interested in Pendulum Monsters, whether to steal them, outright copy them, or just to see how they work, meanwhile you have to wonder how they were even created and why they're compatible with everyone's duel disks. Unfortunately, these questions aren't answered for over ONE HUNDRED episodes, and it's a bit of a cheap handwave, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Episode 7 onwards is where the plot really gets going. A mysterious "Dark Duelist" and his comrade, Shun Kurosaki, begin attacking students of the "Leo Duel School" and at one point even start...turning them into playing cards...ulp. People initially think it's Yuya committing the attacks, because when the Dark Duelist takes his mask off, his face is revealed to look just like Yuya...except it absolutely does not and they look nothing alike but I'll let it slide for the sake of the plot.

Yuzu encounters the Dark Duelist later on, and he reveals his name to be "Yuto". He also seems to recognize Yuzu because she has the "same" face as HIS girlfriend, Ruri, who has been kidnapped. However, they're cut off when Yuya appears, Yuzu's bracelet shines and suddenly teleports Yuto away for some reason. These are very mysterious occurances, so naturally the characters should be trying to figure out these mysteries, right?

Nope, because it's time for a TOURNAMENT ARC. See this is my first big issue with Arc-V: They frequently delay any plot or character development in favor of just showing more duels even if they don't impact the plot, and even writing in more duels just to fill airtime, because they've got to sell more cards, and where do those get shown?...Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that to Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh is a commercial first and a story second. At least, that's what I'm thinking, considering some of the dumb ideas they come up with.

So Yuya and friends enter a Duel Monsters tournament, during which Yuto and Shun make the big reveal that they come from another dimension entirely. In fact, there are THREE other dimensions: The Fusion Dimension, the Synchro Dimension, and the XYZ Dimension. Yes, they're divided by monster type! And these dimensions also very closely resemble past Yu-Gi-Oh settings: Duel Academy, Neo Domino City, and Heartland City, respectively.

Yuto also reveals that every dimension has a boy in it who looks like Yuya, a girl who looks like Yuzu with a weird bracelet, and for whatever reason the Fusion Dimension, led by a guy named Leo Akaba (who also founded the Leo Duel School, hence Yuto and Shun attacking them at first) led the Fusion Dimension on a grand-scale invasion of their home, the XYZ Dimension, using the physical holograms as weapons. (Told you they wouldn't weaponize that tech!...oh wait. Also, insert Avatar: The Last Airbender joke here.) Yuya and Yuto duel each other, and find that their strongest dragon monsters seem unusually...attracted to one another. Then after they duel, Yuya and Yuto fuse together. Somehow.

The tournament gets interrupted by the Fusion Dimension invading Yuya's Dimension (just called "Standard" because they couldn't think of anything else). They aim to capture Yuzu like they did with Ruri, but Yuzu escapes into the Synchro Dimension with another Yuya-lookalike. The tournament's organizer and son of Leo Akaba, Reiji, decides the best course of action is to take the top winners in the tournament and assemble them into a team of TEENAGERS WITH ATTITUDE and search the Synchro Dimension for Yuzu.

So I just described Season 1 (out of 3) to you. You might be thinking, "well there's a few speed bumps but it sounds kind of okay so far", and really, it was, but Season 2 is where things take a nosedive for a lot of people, because this is the Synchro Arc. Yuya and his team travel to the Synchro Dimension, which is basically a giant clone of the setting of Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds in several, SEVERAL ways. From the caste system, to card games on motorcycles, to Synchro monsters...

Oh, and they also brought back Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan for no reason! Well there's a reason for it, of course: they wanted to sell more cards those characters are famous for using. It's about as subtle as a bunker on a Golf course, and they do it with three other characters later on: Aster Phoenix and Alexis Rhodes from GX, and Kite from ZeXal. Besides marketing, there's not a lot of good reason to include them, especially with the character cast already very much bloated.

Speaking of marketing, the most blatant "buy our cards" moment was one duel later on in which the winning player used an actual structure deck that was released just recently at the time, just in case anyone thinks I'm crazy about the whole marketing thing.

The plot of the Synchro Arc is equally as bad. It starts with Yuya and his team getting captured and thrown in jail. Then they escape and get re-captured again and again and then get forced into another tournament. Nothing of major value happens or gets accomplished throughout the entire season, no new information is revealed other than the Fusion Dimension really wants to capture Yuzu and the three girls that look like her for some reason.

The issue here is that aside from making allies out of Jack and Crow eventually, nothing that happens in the Synchro Dimension ever really sticks with the characters, so you could just skip to season 3 and you probably wouldn't have missed very much at all. And that's fifty whole episodes you'd be skipping, so it's rather unfortunate, to say the least. One of the episodes is even devoted to nothing but flashbacks!

Season 3 gave me a little bit of hope before swiftly shattering it. It starts with Yuya and co. going to the XYZ Dimension, where they witness the damage the Fusion Dimension left after their invasion, and they discover their ultimate plan: Leo Akaba intends to merge all four dimensions together, using the life energy of people turned into cards to do so, and he needs Yuzu and her lookalikes for some reason. Yusho found out and wanted to stop him - that's why he left home before his scheduled duel. And now...the FUN part.

While in the XYZ Dimension, Yuya frequently gets attacked by the Fusion Dimension. In just about every ONE of his duels, Yuya manages to get his opponents to defect to his side by putting on a circus performance with his monsters. I'm dead serious. Everyone just starts joining his side after they're taken in by the children's entertainment. Now, WE know that would never ever work in real life, and I'm pretty sure the writers do too, but this is Yu-Gi-Oh. It's children's entertainment anyhow, so nobody cares if the writing is actually good, right?

After getting Aster Phoenix to defect from the Fusion Dimension, he takes Yuya and co. there himself so they can all take the fight to Leo Akaba directly. More filler duels follow, there's a stupid subplot involving the kidnapped girls getting "physical-holograph" parasites stuck in their brains to brainwash them, Yuya confronts the remaining two boys, who have merged together as well and later force Yuya to merge with them. Then Leo, some ONE HUNDRED THIRTY EPISODES into this series, finally decides to do a plot dump. And if you thought things were stupid up until now, get ready.

First of all, there weren't originally four dimensions, there used to be just one. It was in this dimension that Leo Akaba invented physical hologram technology and used it to truly revolutionize the way Duel Monsters was played. Unfortunately, there's one thing Leo didn't account for: Duel Monsters HAVE SOULS.

Okay, I know this is something the other Yu-Gi-Oh anime all have, but you can't just drop such a big bombshell on us this late in the series! It's barely even foreshadowed aside from Yuya and Yuto's dragons roaring at each other.

sigh Okay so monsters have souls, and they use their newfound physical holograms as bodies, which means they can lash out at people whenever they get angry, and when you're constantly summoned for the sake of killing each other in a card game, you tend to get more than a little angry. Oh, and because the holograms can't be destroyed and evidently have no emergency kill switch, this leads to lots and lots of rampaging monsters. Great job, Leo!

What's more is that the champion duelist, Zarc (Like Zorc from the original series?! Do ya get it?!) is...he, uh...okay so he has four dragon monsters that apparently can make him do whatever they want so they make him turn into a giant evil dragon. Or something. Leo then...he...okay listen to me a moment. This is normally where I'd go on TVTropes to make sure I have all this right, but I'm pretty sure even THEY don't get it one tiny little bit.

So I'll tell you what Leo does to the best of my ability. Take a deep breath. Are you ready? Okay.

Leo Akaba........CREATES FOUR SPELL CARDS WITH THE ABILITY TO SPLIT ZARC AND THE ENTIRE DIMENSION INTO FOUR PIECES.

How? HOW is that even PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE?! Let me reiterate. He created four spell cards that can SPLIT THE GIANT MONSTER IN FOUR. I knew he could make physical holograms, I didn't know he could fucking ALTER REALITY ITSELF. What is he, a God or something?! Did a monster give him this power? The hell is this?!

Leo doesn't cast the spells them himself - his daughter, Ray, does it instead, splitting Zarc, the dimension, and herself into four pieces. Ray gets divided into Yuzu and her lookalikes, Zarc gets divided into Yuya and his lookalikes, and presumably every family from the original dimension gets sent to a random dimension, and of course they all lose their memories except Leo for some reason. He figures out what happened, and is now trying to put the world and his daughter back together despite the fact that doing so risks Zarc coming back and hurts a hell of a lot of other people. Guess what happens.

I mean, there's nothing WRONG with one dimension becoming four, and it's rather interesting to think that your main character and his ace monster is actually part of a greater evil villain (Pendulum Monsters are even stated to be Zarc's creation at the time of the split) but there's just so much wrong with how it was executed. Leo Akaba also never gets any real punishment for his stupid decisions, as even though Zarc is revived and spends about ten episodes blowing everyone up in duels, Ray eventually comes back to split him into four AGAIN. Then they spend the few remaining episodes, ah, "purifying Zarc" with "smiles". Then it just ends. Yuya and Yuzu also remain fused with their counterparts, meaning that the other six are basically dead. Doesn't that suck! Hey Shun, your SISTER is dead, does that mean NOTHING to you?!

Anyhow, I've skimmed over a lot of other problems and could probably go into way more detail, but my bottom line here is: we have too many characters that don't have much of an impact on the plot, a villain who's made to look sympathetic yet is also a complete idiot, a generic evil monster that's kind of just there, too many filler duels, too many actions likely taken solely to sell cards, a completely nonsensical "make it up as you go" plot...and worst of all, the missed potential. I could probably go on even longer describing what I'd change to fix the problems. Not that any of my fixes would make Konami more money, but I'm sure we'd at least wind up with something resembling a better product.

I suppose as long as Yu-Gi-Oh makes big bucks for Konami we can expect the franchise to not get destroyed by this mess...but THEY STILL TAKE BATTLE DAMAGE!
  


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