Episode 41: The Land of Ambitions – Duel Academia
Note: Major spoilers for this review as this episode is basically all-plot. It is suggested to watch the full episode first before reading this review.
Picking up momentum from last week’s relatively slow pace of events, Episode 41 accelerates the plot at full speed ahead and continues to serve as a reminder why Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is such an exhilarating ride.
Last episode, we have already established Serena as a character with seemingly high relevance to the plot and has some kind of history with Akaba Reiji, the current boss of Leo Corporation. As previewed, this episode expands on that through a long flashback framed as a dialogue between the two characters. We now see what really happened three years ago, when Reiji accidentally went into Academia, how he eventually met Serena, and most important of all, the truth of Akaba Leo/Professor’s grand scheme. Serena continues to be a very intriguing character in this show, and her personality as well as back story could be considered to be the more original and well-handled ones in the whole franchise. If her brief outbursts of annoyance and anger last episode were good enough to captivate you, this episode, oh boy, will definitely impress you to no end.
But aside from Serena, the biggest star of this flashback-filled first half of the episode is still, ultimately, Reiji, since the story is told from his perspective. In his flashback, we learn this episode not only of his history with Serena, but also his relationship with his father, which eventually leads to his preparations known as the Lancer’s Selection in this Maiami Championship. While the idea does sound a little lacking in originality considering that we already have Seto Kaiba and Gozaburo Kaiba, in this episode we understand that it’s a different kind of feud occurring between Reiji and Leo and the former’s motives are actually pretty convincing following this flashback.
What happens after the flashback scenes, however, is even more tantalizing in my opinion. Back to the present, Reiji then try to parley with Serena just like what he did with Shun back in the first season. You see the eloquence in Reiji as he attempts to persuade Serena to join his side. And while it does turn out in a rather unexpected fashion, one can still witness the knowledge in Reiji with leveraging as he ensures that Serena does not foil his grand plans.
In the second half of the episode, we now turn to Yuya and co. as they are watching a summary report of the Championship thus far on the television. This half does move a bit slower, and they provide some good comic relief moments which serves as a good breather from the previous plot-heavy segment. It’s nice to see Yuya making some form of reference to his two previous duels, as he is now determined to be more like the entertainer he was during his match-up with Sawatari rather than his darker self during the duel with Kachidoki.
And finally, we come to the morning of the Best-of-16 Match, also known as when Battle Royale Mode begins. This whole scene is probably one of my favorite in the entire episode. We see the stakes building up as Nico Smiley reveals the Battle Royale to all the contestants. Then, cutting to a short sequence in the LDS building, Reiji, Shun and Himika are discussing the purpose behind the Battle Royale, it only serves to drive up the excitement. Coupled with very, very beautiful animation, excellent transitioning and a new piece of background music, the entire scene eventually reaches a climax as all the 16 contestants wait for the countdown to end and bam! Off we go to a new chapter in this championship storyline!
This is an excellent episode of ARC-V, perhaps one of my top five ever since I started watching this series. Masterful pacing, writing, direction and animation all together, if such a great plot episode like this isn’t enough to make a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan excited, then I don’t know what else will.
Animation – 10/10
Sound – 9/10
Duel Choreography – N.A.
Script – 10/10
Overall – 10/10
Episode 42: Battle Royale Begins. Until then!