Episode 30: The Tested Heart of Steadfast Dueling
This is my first review of an ARC-V episode yet ironically it’s considered the last one of the first season. That’s right, from next week (9th November) Episode 31 onwards, we are going to bade goodbye to the current set of opening and ending themes and say hello to a pair of new ones!
Aptly titled “The Tested Heart of Steadfast Dueling”, this episode mainly features Noboru Gongenzaka, best friend of the main protagonist Sakaki Yuya and a practitioner of the aforementioned dueling strategy. As explored in previous episodes of the series placing the same character in the spotlight, Steadfast Dueling is the exact opposite of Action Dueling, literally meaning that the duelist would not run around the entire Action Field in search for Action Cards. Furthermore, Gongenzaka, in order to prove himself as a true Steadfast Duelist, built an entire deck consisting of monsters and no spells/traps.
However, Steadfast Dueling also has a metaphorical meaning to it, and this is exactly what the episode is trying to explore. In this episode, Gongenzaka’s unwavering, enduring spirit as a duelist is put to test, as his best friend Yuya lands himself in trouble due to a lowly scheme setup by Gongenzaka’s opponent in the Maiami Tournament – Ankokuji Gen. During the duel between the two, Gongenzaka finds himself unable to focus fully on the duel as he keeps worrying about his best friend.
Shown left is Ankokuji Gen, Gongenzaka’s first round opponent.
The episode definitely does a good job at illustrating the central theme that the writer wishes to convey. “Friendship” and “believing” are two key terms that are being constantly thrown around throughout this episode. Gongenzaka’s worry for his best friend during the first half of the episode is understandable given that we all witnessed how their friendship were over the past 29 episodes. Yet from the beginning till the end, he has complete faith that his friend has grown up and could care for himself, and this belief in his friend is what eventually encourages him to stand up once again despite being nearly defeated by Ankokuji. It is touching at the very end and you feel satisfied seeing the trust between the two best friends, and this is what I like a lot about this episode.
Moving on to the character Ankokuji Gen, he has been foreshadowed in the past and in this episode, we finally see what kind of a jerk he is. Being a big fan of Strong Ishijima, he of course uses the Barbarian cards, but his cards focus on controlling monsters on the opponent’s side of the field, representing his scheming personality. There isn’t really much to talk about him in this episode and that’s what I feel a bit of a letdown in this episode – there isn’t much fleshing out of his character other than the fact that he is a jerk.
The duel choreography is… somewhat mediocre in this episode. A couple of situational cards are being used towards the end, likely because the duel writer Hikokubo couldn’t think of a better way to allow Gongenzaka to win the duel. Personally, I don’t really like Ankokuji’s deck design – it seems too simplistic and unoriginal for someone who has such a great “plan” to distract his opponent.
However, the animation is absolutely superb in this episode. One thing I like a lot about the ARC-V anime is that its animation is just gorgeous, even if it is an episode with more dialogue than action. The faces and body proportions in this episode are some of the best-drawn throughout the entire run of the series and the animation director, Noh-Gil Bo takes credit for it. I like how this episode illustrates the fiery atmosphere of the entire duel very well through its fluid action sequences and close-up shots of the characters’ faces, making this episode a pretty intense one to watch.
Some samples of the better-drawn frames in this episode:
Sound-wise, this episode sees a number of new background themes that fit well into the duel, in particular the theme when Ankokuji summons his ace monster as well as yet a new remix of Gongenzaka’s awesome leitmotif. Props to Gongenzaka’s seiyuu too for his excellent voicework in this episode, reflecting the various feelings of the character throughout the episode.
So all in all, this is a pretty decent closure to the first season of the anime series, and next episode features Yuya back in the spotlight after 4 complete episodes, dueling the hammy-as-ever Neo New Sawatari! Also something to look forward to is the new set of opening and ending themes, and I’m curious to see what kind of new information we might get from them.
Duel Choreography: 6/10
Episode 31: The Howling Wind – Yousen Lost Tornado! Until then!