Disclaimer: I’ve never seen Yugioh Zexal. I always see people talking about it, and it seems to be a pretty divisive show. But at the time of this writing, I have no real opinion on it, so I won’t be using it as any basic for discussion of Yugioh Arc V.
Yugioh Arc V is a really good show. And I don’t even mean good by typical Shonen anime marketing standards. Shows like Pokemon and Yugioh are typically used primarily for marketing the product that they are being adapted from, and that often shows. Now I’m not saying that these shows are bad by any stretch, but acknowledging this sentiment is an important part of talking about Arc V (and the Pokemon XY anime, that show is really good too).
The Fun Has Just Begun
Before I get into this, I have to say that Arc V is still a show that is meant to promote the real life Yugioh card game, meaning characters are always debuting new cards and strategies. But the marketing feels much more subtle in Arc V, especially when compared to other Yugioh series. While characters are always showing off new cards, they also have consistent combos and strategies, some of which mimic those that are used in real life.
It’s not uncommon to see many duels that feature realistic plays, and smart counter plays. The characters in Arc V are very aware of real life dueling concepts such as card advantage and resource management, something that is very odd to see. While the duels are by no means perfect (characters do often walk into very obvious traps), these are perhaps the best scripted duels of any Yugioh anime.
The Latest And Greatest Evolution In Dueling
In the same vein as previous Yugioh series, Arc V features a new game mechanic, Pendulum Summoning. In short, Pendulum Summoning is a way to summon multiple high level monsters at once. This occurs through the use of Pendulum monsters with varying scale numbers. An entire article could be dedicated to explaining the intricacies of the Pendulum mechanic, so for the sake of time, I’m just gonna link to the wiki page.
Arc V’s second big addition is Action Duels. In the world of Arc V, Entertainment Duels are the most popular form of… well, entertainment. Duelists can ride their monsters across the battlefield to pick up Action Cards, special cards that can turn the tide of a duel. Action Duels are a really cool and fun addition to Arc V. They add just enough to feel new and different, but never make it seem like the characters are playing a different game.
A Strong Story
All of the different Yugioh anime have had varying levels of quality when it comes to story. I don’t think any of them have bad or poorly written stories, but each of them has flaws that hold them back. While Arc V isn’t a perfect show, I can easily say that it’s the most well written Yugioh series (and this is coming from someone whose favorite Yugioh anime is Yugioh GX).
For starters, Arc V has a fantastic cast of characters, and each of them gets a nice amount of screentime. My biggest problem with GX, specifically the first season, is how little anybody besides Jaden duels. Almost every duel, filler or otherwise, is done by Jaden. While Yuya, Arc V’s protagonist, does participate in plenty of major duels, all of his friends are given a healthy amount of duels as well.
Arc V also has a story that picks up pretty quickly. The show starts out as what seems to be a lighthearted school comedy, and it kinda stays like this for 10 or so episodes. But during these opening episodes, Arc V also begins to sprinkle in tidbits of what is ultimately the focus of the show.
Arc V has a plot that wants to go somewhere, complete with tons of parallels and foreshadowing. To once again compare Arc V to GX, GX’s first season doesn’t really have a story until close to the end. While subsequent seasons of GX featured more consistent storytelling, Arc V does this the entire way through.
It’s not long before Arc V becomes a story about way more than having fun with duels. If you can believe this, a few of Arc V’s central themes are actually war and loss, occasionally dipping into other territory, such as the ramifications of being a child soldier. I know it sounds really weird for a show about a children’s card game to deal with heavy topics such as these, but Arc V handles them with a very nuanced level of maturity.
Yuya Sakaki has the best character development of any Yugioh protagonist, partially because he actually has character development, both in his personality and in his dueling. Previous protagonists don’t really have strong character arcs, or at least not very consistent ones. Yugi and the Pharaoh had to share the spotlight, with Yugi obviously getting the shorter end of the stick (but to be fair, Yugi’s development really shines in all of the post Duel Monsters stories). Jaden doesn’t really change at all until the third season, and Yusei doesn’t really change at all.
This also applies to their dueling. All 3 (technically 4) characters are extremely skilled duelists from the beginning. Even Yugi was actually really good, he just lacked the Pharaoh’s confidence. Yuya’s a bit of a difference case. He’s starts out as a good duelist, but he’s not nearly as good as previous characters. He’s skilled, but there is definitely room for improvement.
And this improvement shows in later seasons. If you watch Yuya duel in the first two seasons, and then watch him in the third season, it’s almost like seeing a completely different character. He displays a level of confidence and competence that demonstrate really strong character growth.
Part of why Yuya has such strong character development is due to the fact that he has a history and a goal that pushes him along. Yuya’s father was a world class Entertainment Duelist that mysteriously disappeared three years prior to Arc V’s story. This causes Yuya a great amount of stress, not to mention the fact that he is forced to deal with the ridicule of the public (his father disappeared on the day of a Championship Duel). Yuya is a character that you want to root for, someone that you want to see succeed, and I think he makes for a really good protagonist.
Celebrating The Past
One of Arc V’s biggest draws is the way it pays homage to the franchise’s history. While Duel Monsters and GX had connected storylines, Yugioh 5D’s and Yugioh Zexal placed their stories far away from any past series. Arc V doesn’t directly connect to any other series, but it does feature many of their famous elements.
Things like featuring all of the Extra Deck summoning methods and showing off classic monsters and archetypes go a long way towards making Arc V feel like a celebration of the series as a whole, especially considering that 2016 is Yugioh’s 20th anniversary.
Arc V is an excellent anime series, better than any Yugioh series that has come before it. The show features a well rounded cast of characters, an interesting and engaging story arc and plenty of tastefully done nostalgia for people like me that have been with the series since the beginning. Whether you’re a fan of Yugioh or not, I can’t recommend Arc V enough.