As mentioned, I would be doing reviews of older episodes of the Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V anime series every Monday, and today we are starting from the first two episodes of the series!
Note: As many might have already seen these episodes, the review may contain major spoilers.
Episode 1: The Trail of Light, Pendulum Summon!
Episode 2: The Strongest Evolution of Dueling!! Its Name is Action Duels
Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the whole new world of ARC-V! Set in the fictional Maiami City where dueling is once again the main sport of the people and cram schools are set up to teach children dueling, we have the story of Sakaki Yuya, whose father went missing two years ago, and his best friends – Hiiragi Yuzu and Gongenzaka.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to part of the setting of this entire series. Aided by a well-directed animation sequence and the narrator, we know all about this city and how duel cram schools work in this series. Fortunately, I would say it is more realistic and believable than the Duel Academy in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. I also like how the city looks: while definitely lacking the childish color palette of Heartland City in Zexal, it still retains that futuristic vibe and having its own uniqueness compared to the cities of other series.
We are also introduced to two new concepts in Duel Monsters – Action Duels and Pendulum Summoning. Powered via the new Solid Vision with Mass system developed by the highly successful Leo Corporation (who also owns the largest cram school in the city known as the Leo Duel School), this is the newest evolution of Duel Monsters, pitting players in a Duel Field and they can run around the entire field (or ride on Monsters), finding Action Cards along their way to aid them in their duels. These two episodes showcase two complete Action Duels: the first is between Yuya and Strong Ishijima. Holding a grudge against Yuya’s father for running away before their duel two years ago, Strong Ishijima is now much more menacing, fearless, and prepared to fight against our protagonist. Yuya, on the other hand, wants to prove to Strong Ishijima through their duel that he and his father are not weak. The second duel is between Yuya and the heroine Yuzu, in an attempt to show to the kids how Pendulum Summoning works. I’ll comment on the duels and the characters later.
On the other side, Pendulum Summon is shown in a, shall we say, traditionally Yu-Gi-Oh way – the protagonist, being forced to a corner during his duel against Strong Ishijima, performs his do-or-die draw and suddenly obtain his Pendulum Cards via magical powers. I say traditional because almost the first episode of every Yu-Gi-Oh series would always feature the hero drawing a card(s) from his hand that allows him to win that first duel. But eh, I don’t have any problems with that in this series so long as the writers could eventually explain the “magic” behind everything in a clear and well-rounded manner.
Moving on to the characters, I definitely love Yuya’s personality. While having that goofiness that protagonists like Yuki Judai or Tsukumo Yuma have in the past, Yuya is also a keen believer in “entertaining his audience through duels” and that duels exist for the sole purpose of entertaining only. He is shown to have a fragile side to him as well, for example hiding his eyes behind his goggles when he feels sad. Yet, he proves himself that he can still become strong and confident once more when he remembers his father’s motto of “laugh when you want to cry”.
The heroine character of Hiiragi Yuzu is also well-introduced in my opinion. Although Episode 1 does not feature her as much, Episode 2 is where she truly shines, when she shows that she is one of the more independent, strong-willed female characters to be written in the history of Yu-Gi-Oh. The writers even have the guts to allow her to win over the protagonist in her very first duel in Episode 2!
The rest of the side characters were pretty average for me at the point of watching Episodes 1-2. Strong Ishijima is the traditional obstacle that all protagonists must overcome in the very first duel and he is functional as such a character. Tatsuya is probably the newly introduced side character who really stands out in my opinion, with a powerful speech about his belief in Yuya to start off at the end of Episode 2.
On to the duels, I’m impressed by the quality of the duel choreography in the first two episodes of the series. Putting aside the final draw mentioned above that is hopefully linked to the overall plot, Yuya vs Strong Ishijima and Yuya vs Yuzu are two pretty enjoyable opening duels for a series. The first duel brings back memories for me as an old Duel Monsters fan, with Strong Ishijima actually using the Battleguard monsters as a homage to the first Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series. The duel has a nice flow to it as well, and I was surprised to see Yuya nearly One Turn Killing his opponent halfway through the duel using a combo consisting of Odd-Eyes Dragon, Wonder Balloons and a few Action Cards. All in all, the duel introduces the concept of Action Duels pretty well.
The second duel is just the icing on the cake. This duel showcases Yuzu as a duelist and possibly one of the best female duelists in the entire anime history of the franchise. I laughed sincerely when Yuya is actually unable to perform his Pendulum Summon, and he is left to be curbstomped by his female friend.
Speaking of that duel, it is worth mentioning that the duel proves that logic is finally back to the anime. With Yuya being unable to perform again his Pendulum Summoning during his duel with Yuzu, the kids who are interested to join You Show called Yuya a cheater and straight out leave the school. I must say that I was truly surprised at this sudden twist of events when the episode aired and was also glad that with a change of writers from Zexal to this series, things are turning out to be much better.
The animation these two episodes are of top-notch quality and I couldn’t have possibly asked for more. The Action Duel sequences look gorgeous and the monsters look awesome as well. Characters do not look out of proportions as they were back in some older series.
With a change of music composer, also comes a new set of background themes for the series as well. The music this series is composed by the famous Koutarou Naagawa, whose is perhaps more known as the composer for the Code Geass series. Utilizing his signature brass themes, Nakagawa manages to breath a new life into Yu-Gi-Oh’s music profile. Some of the faster, more exciting background music are pleasing to listen to, while the quieter, slower ones, although not as memorable, do fit the mood well.
All in all, a strong start to a promising series, that’s what I was thinking when I first followed the series. As you all might have read from my reviews in later episodes, the series still does not disappoint so far (34 episodes in), and let’s hope that it would be even better in the future.
Next Monday, Episodes 3 and 4! Until then!