And that’s it! Season One of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has just ended with Episode 49, and to paraphrase what I said in an earlier review, this has been one hell of an amazing ride all along. The first act of this series has been spectacular to say the least, bringing us everything a hardcore fan of the franchise could have ever hoped for: from the returning of all the Extra Deck mechanisms, to the darker and more mature themes present in the latter half of this season.
We started off slow and steady, with the first six episodes being mostly an introduction of the major cast. With Episode 7, we did get a glimpse into some of the major plot points of this show that would be expanded in later chapters. Episodes 8 to 13 introduced to us the LDS cast, with them acting as the main antagonists till the end of the first cour. The next two episodes dealt with the aftermath of the battle between You Show Duel School and Leo Duel School, and concluded off with Yuya determined to enter the Maiami Championship.
Episodes 16 to 26, or as I like to call “Yuya’s qualification duels with pure plot episodes in-between”, while admittedly weren’t the most well-received by fans in terms of its duels and pacing, did feature a couple of the better episodes in the first season. Then Episode 27 dawned on us and the Maiami Championship finally began. The next few episodes featured mostly duels irrelevant to the bigger plot, however it did end the Yuzu-Masumi rivalry side arc, while also introducing one of the more prominent cast member.
We started off yet another new cour with a new set of theme songs in Episode 31, in which Yuya had a rematch against Sawatari in what appeared to be a test of his ideal of “using duels to entertain people”. Episodes 33-34 featured the long-awaited Kurosaki vs Sora match, and that was the point in which the series did take a turn for a much darker tone (which I would briefly touch on later). The next episodes introduced us to the grand Four Dimensions storyline that have been meticulously built up over the previous chapters.
Finally, we came to Episode 42, the beginning of the Battle Royale story arc, which in fact is merely a disguise for the Obelisk Force invasion. While these 8 episodes, again, hadn’t been the best in terms of quality, this is the story arc that delved into the maturity, with the deaths of major and minor characters, as well as Yuya’s spiraling into darkness being major selling points.
What do we all get in the end? Sure, ARC-V’s season one has been slow in terms of pacing, but that is perfectly reasonable given its complex story. However, with the writers’ approach of meticulously building up major plot points, the Four Dimensions story has a very strong foundation on which the writers can now freely expand on in the second and third acts. We also have a plethora of well fleshed-out and likable characters, something which is crucial to a long-running series like any Yu-Gi-Oh! anime.
Moving on, I would like to talk about three of my most favorite episodes in the entirety of the first season. The following ranking is decided based on two factors: both overall quality (which comprises of the four scores at the end of each of my episode review) and rewatchability. While the quality of an episode is indeed important to determine whether it is excellent or decent, I feel that perhaps being able to rewatch an episode and still be entertained by it is crucial at the same time.
Without further ado, here’s my ranking:
#3 – Episode 48: “The Wounded Falcon”
I was debating between either Episode 11, 45 or 48 before I came to the conclusion that this episode would be my third favorite episode of the season to kick off this ranking. While Episode 11 did indeed feature perhaps one of the most intensive duels in years, part of the awesomeness of that episode lies with the setup an episode earlier, which had the return of Synchro Monsters as its major selling point. And while I did adore Episode 45 for its flawless animation and great dialogue, little plot happened in that episode to keep me entertained when rewatching it.
Episode 48 made it to this list for a number of reasons. This episode featured some of the best directing work this season, transitioning from scene to scene while keeping the atmosphere tense and exhilarating. The emotional aspects were excellently written, with the death of side characters and Yuya’s spiraling into darkness once again being chilling yet tearful. Not to mention the animation and background music which were simply of top-notch quality.
#2 – Episode 24: “The Wings of Rebellion – Raid Raptors”
To be honest, is there any doubt that this episode would make it to my list? Episode 24 featured Kurosaki Shun, a key player in the story for episodes to come, finally in action after his first introduction back in Episode 18. Written uniquely in a double-plot structure, one side had Shun spectacularly crushing the three Leo Duel School characters, whereas on the other hand Yuzu’s encounter with Yuuto provides the opportunity to throw out one plot point after another. The animation in this episode was crisp, and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given Ebina Hidekazu handled the episode to much fanfare.
As a duel episode, this was a great eye-opener, but as a plot episode, it did its job fantastically as well. However, one episode still exceeds it, and that is…
#1 – Episode 34: “Chimeric Beast VS The Evolving Falcon”
As I have mentioned earlier, this is the turning point for the series. Shiunin Sora being forced to the point of madness and finally revealing his true identity as member of the villainous Academia, and the transition was haunting yet well-foreshadowed. Whereas on the other hand, Kurosaki Shun kept his cool all along, beautifully countering Sora’s moves with card after card. But perhaps the most impressive of all is with the tonal shift in this episode, which makes the first 33 chapters (save for Episodes 7, 24 etc) look like Barney the Dinosaur compared to the Jurassic Park in the later 15. War and violence are prominent themes from this episode onwards, and the writers’ brutal deconstruction of the Solid Vision with Mass system is a clear indication of that. The animation in this episode is nothing short of perfect, and Mie Sonozaki’s chilling performance of Sora in this episode still etches deeply in my mind till today.
While I did not mention other episodes, it should be noted that ARC-V’s episodes in general are on par or even exceeding some of the better episodes in previous series. In a nutshell, I would say that Season One of ARC-V rivals that of some of the best story arcs in the whole franchise, and if the production team can carry on with this high-quality work in the second and third acts, then this show would be my favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series of all time.