Yu-Gi-Oh ARC-V Overall Review: The Untapped Potential
☆ WARNING, THIS OVERALL REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ☆
Three years ago, on April 7, 2014 , I watched the first episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V. My first impression was confusion, the first episode was bonkers, to say the least. At the time, little did I know just how much I was going to fall in love, only to come out with a broken heart.
This is the first time I have been able to complete a coverage of a Yu-Gi-Oh! Series, let alone first show to have covered for three years straight. It an understatement to say it has been one hell of a journey, an emotional roller-coaster bringing about happiness, laughter, despair and frustration. This overall review will be delivered in a different format in order to properly breakdown the series. Together we will address the good, the bad and the ugly. Running a diagnosis of what when wrong, and how it ended on the path of self-destruction. It is time to finally put ARC-V to rest, and move on in hopes of better days ahead for its successor, VRAIN.
I believe there is a a consensus among the viewers that it was sometimes during the Synchro Realm Arc when the series started to get a little shaky. So let’s take a look of where the time was spent:
BREAKDOWN: Where the Time was Spent
Standard Realm: 53 episodes, (Ep 1 – 53)
Discovery of Pendulum Summoning: Ep 01 – 28
Miami Championship Tournament: Ep 29 – 51
Synchro Realm: 46 episodes, (Ep 54 – 100)
Friendship Cup: Ep 55 – 90
The Dragon’s Reckoning: Ep 87 – 92
Coup d’état: Ep 95 – 100
Heartland: 11 Episodes, (Ep 101 – 112 (Excluding: 103))
Nothing to see here, no joke
Academia/Fusion Realm: 27 Episodes, (Ep 113 – 140)
Academia: Ep 113 – 133
ZARC: Ep 134 – 140
Pendulum Realm: 7 Episodes, (Ep 141 – 148)
It’s binge rush of repeating every major fight Yuuya ever had starting from the Miami Tournament.
Now when you seen where and how the time has been spent, you can see why many criticize the Synchro Realm Arc the most. They spent 46 episodes there, when in reality, they probably should have only spent 23 – 25 episodes. One of the main reasons why it dragged out the way it did was because of the introduction of many pointless characters, along with the city’s conflict of the Commons VS the Tops. This was also to blame for forcefully stalling the core plot, making little to no progression, and as result they ended up wasting at least 40/48 episodes.
I firmly believe, had they done it right, it definitely could have been executed in 25 episodes, period. The introduction of all these needless characters who contribute little to nothing to the plot, and severed to benefit the development for only one character (Shun) ate too much time. Furthermore, instead of bringing back Jack and Crow, they should have given that role to Yuugo. It was his dream to participate in the Friendship Cup, it would have benefited everyone if Yuugo were able to actually have a chance to interact with Yuuya, and put an end to this ridiculous goose-chase or provide an alternative reason for Yuzu being unable reunite with Yuuya despite being in the same proximity. This would have also given him some time to flesh out his character so that he wouldn’t be reduced to a running gag.
However even if they were to reduce the Synchro Realm Arc to 25 episodes, there was still a major problem they must face. One of the biggest obstacles ARC-V had was the fact it had far too characters. Many of them were useless minor characters or cameos from the past, who in turn, ate of too much time that should have belonged to the main and key secondary characters in the first place. For the Synchro Realm in particular, they brought out a whole village, and I’m talking about a dozen irrelevant characters. That’s way too many. I think they definitely could have narrowed it down to six. If I had no choice but to keep six, it would be keep Jean, Shinji, Sergey (for the sake of the tournament), Chojiro, and keep one two of the kids (we don’t need three obnoxious brats, thank you very much) and throw in a new character to serve as the current King (instead of Jack). By doing so, then maybe they could have actually spent time more time characters like Yuugo, Sawatari, Gongenzaka and Yuzu. Or actually, they could have even spent more time on Reij, by actually making him do proactive than a passive preacher. But I will expand on that further in a bit.
Then we have Heartland. You can clearly see it is the most neglected one of all. They spent little to no time there, and it showed because they hardly introduced any new characters, and before long those said characters (with the exception of one, being Kaito) were long forgotten. I think it goes without saying, that Heartland was the one arc everyone was looking forward to the most. It is a real shame that they couldn’t spend more time there. Heartland should have been a more difficult experience, since Academia had complete control over it. It would have also been better for them to have spent more time there for both Yuuya and the others to train further before they rush into Academia.
Academia was more or less a gauntlet run. Much like the time spent in Heartland, it was incredibly rushed. It would have been more appropriate to have given Heartland more episodes in place of some of the episodes that were spent in Academia, such as Battle Beast event. This event was a complete waste of time and was a sorry excuse just to have the group drop like flies, at the expense of permitting the Cameos from the Past to hijack their screen-time.
During this time, Yuushou who re-emerged for the first time in Heartland finally takes action. But the script did not make him look good dad. The girls were also neglected in this arc as we finally got to meet Rin and Ruri, but they were ultimately under mind-control (with the exception of Ruri who managed to have a bit of freedom for a bit, poor Rin didn’t get the luxury to be herself, ever). They each had a chance to duel independently once against their loved ones, and what was going to be their last fight was the time the creepy parasite dude were controlling them as they fought and provoke Yuuya/Yuuto, and drew out Zarc’s powers.
The Return of the Supreme Dragon King Zarc was one of the most pathetic final boss battle I had ever seen. It would have been so much better had they kept the Cameos from the Past as far away from this fight as possible. But no, they just had to get them involved. Ugh.
Finally, the events that took place over the course of the Pendulum Realm arc was a total waste of time. It was nothing more than a rushed rematch of each major event that took place up to Zarc’s revival. It was quite infuriating to see them go as far to have Yuuya duel Jack Atlas AGAIN when it hasn’t even been fifty episodes since he last fought him. (IT’S NOT HIS SERIES. GET THAT SHIT OUTTA HERE.) No matter what, I think it would have been better had they made the true Boss Battle against Zarc take place during these episodes. By doing so, it would have given them enough time to establish a bit more development and take care of that Zarc’s Backstory that we should have got.
And so that brings us to the Worst Ending Ever! Seriously, who would have thought three years ago we were in store for such a half-baked ending. Having the final fight be Reiji VS Yuuya, sure – that shit was long overdue but it was also way too fucking late to even bother following through with it. It was also unpleasant to watch just because of Reiji’s ego, claiming he has the right to judge Yuuya when he did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The duel itself was underwhelming, with the outcome of the duel literally being determined on who manages to grab five action cards first. If that’s the true way of Action Duels, then I hope we will never see anything of the sort again.
Where did it all go wrong?
The Lancers, Wannabe Heroes
What an epic failure. ‘The Lancers’ are the most dysfunctional group of so-called heroes I have ever seen. There was no substance, no true alliance, it was just a group slapped together by Reiji, who claimed to be the leader – when in reality, he failed to provide actual leadership. The way they had written Reiji, made it so he did absolutely nothing and was all talk. Nobody was on the same page, some were left in the dark, some were left to their own devices, hell- they had no reason to even proudly announce they are The Lancers, the heroes who will oppose and fight off the invading forces of Academia. In the end, they were nothing more than just a bunch of kids who were unwillingly dragged into this mess, without their content.
ZARC’s Lost Backstory
It is astonishing how they failed to make Zarc’s much needed and desired backstory a priority, let alone have the guts to skip it altogether! This was a necessity so that both the audience and Yuuya could learn about how Zarc grew up, who he was before he became famous and how he descended into madness and how it psychologically affected him. I would have loved to have seen what was going through his mind as he became such a cruel and violent duelist. What was he thinking as he set the world on fire? What did he think of Ray, who decided to took up the challenge on behalf of her father to defeat him? Did they know each other? Were they acquaintances or simply strangers? How was their relationship different in the past, and does their relationship among their fragments changes things? It is almost romantic how both Zarc’s and Ray’s fragments ended up developing a very close bond in each world, some even harbouring romantic feelings for each other. There was so much they could have touched up on, and that I would have liked to have seen instead of a numbers of useless episodes that were put to waste.
The Fragments Part I: The Boys
This was a piece of the plot that had always been bothering me. In the beginning of the series, I didn’t pay too much mind to it because at the time, the boys being fragments of Zarc’s soul never crossed my mind. But by the time we understood the connection between the boys’ and their Dragons’, I realized this was something that should have been addressed far earlier in the story. When we learn that the Yuuya, Yuuto, Yuugo and Yuuri are all fragments of Zarc, the first thing that crossed my mind was, “Why didn’t they indicate this sooner?!” Now don’t get me wrong, there were some foreshadowing, just barely, but was there. But no matter how much I think about it, I am surprised they didn’t go with the idea of the literal step by step process of Zarc’s inevitable revival. By that I mean making it so whomever they absorb, they will inherit their personality trait. Because at the end of the day, while each of Zarc’s fragments all started living their own lives, the core of their very existence is a piece of Zarc’s soul, therefore they are a part of him that makes him for who he is, as well as a piece of who he was. If we were to label which personality of Zarc’s each boy was supposed to represent, then we get a gist who Zarc was before he was driven into madness.
Yuuya: The Playful, and Self-Doubt.
He is the part of Zarc who wished to bring happiness. He was someone who always had a bright outlook on life and on others, but was prone to doubting his own abilities when things got tough.
Yuuto: The Calm and The Skeptic.
Yuuto has always served as the voice of reason. We saw this with his interactions with Shun, being his rock when the guy was too hot-headed for his own good. Most likely due to the invasion, he had became skeptic, reluctant of trusting others and questioned their intentions.
Yuugo: The Passionate.
From the surface, Yuugo and Yuuya share a lot in common with their overall personality, but when you try to dig deeper to see what makes them different, it becomes a bit tricky to figure out. This is only because he was the one of the two boys with the least amount of screen-time, and when he was on screen, he has been reduced to a running gag (which quickly grew old). So with the little amount of time he had, the one thing we did see from Yuugo consistently was his passion. Among the four boys, Yuugo seems to have the most passionate personality. He was a character who was always bursting with emotions. From enthusiasm, love, despair, and anger. He was incredibly passionate with his adoration towards Rin, the D-Wheel they had built together, as well as the dream they shared.
Yuuri: The Madness, and The Lonely
Like Yuugo, Yuuri had also been sorely neglected of necessary screen-time to further develop and establish depth to his character. The sides of Yuuri we often saw were the bored, the unamused and the psychopath. He embodies the characteristics of Zarc’s inner darkness. He harbours the personality that brought forth the destruction of humanity. Yuuri would always win, there was no one to defeat him, and at that point, he decided he was going to card everyone in the world, leaving him the last man standing. It’s very much the same idea Zarc had but on a much smaller scale. This trek to self-destruction was rooted by the fact because of his incredible power, he became feared upon and isolated, and thus was lonely because of it. In a sense, one could say both Yuuri and Zarc were driven to this point by their despair of being unable to be stopped. It is the outcome of the ill fate that followed when they appealed to those who desired such destruction. (Zarc received the wishes for more violence by the audience, and Yuuri received encouragement as well orders to card people from the Professor).
When you put all of these personalities together, it provides a bit of an inside look of who Zarc used to be before he became the Supreme Dragon King. This is why I think it is they missed a really cool opportunity that would have provided such an epic development in the story, as well for the characters. It is because we now know, the boys were meant to become one again, with the last one standing to serve as their main host. However they could have pushed the envelope further, by making it so rather than the host having the privilege to essentially return to the life they were living, make it so the one who survived (in this case, Yuuya), their body would serve as a vessel of the essential rebirth of Zarc. This would would give Zarc the fresh start he needs, especially when was defeated as the Supreme King, this time was not split up like the last time (which was weird given the the results was supposed to repeat what had happened in the past, but I will get to that in a bit…)
This kind of development could have created quite a dramatic impact. I think it could have been quite fun to see Yuuya inherit the personalities, which would result carving a very different character of who he used to be. The progress of his evolution would have been quite a journey, one that would carry the burden of the loss of self-identity, as he forges a new destiny for Zarc.
But, if they were absolutely against this idea, I am more surprised they didn’t just go with the same concept as ARC-V’s manga (completely different to the anime series), where Yuuya still served as the main host, but Yuuto, Yuugo and Yuuri at the very least had the ability to be themselves, as well as use their own decks.
The Fragments Part II: The Girls
Then we have the girls, and their roles as Akaba Ray’s Fragments.
Ray is the character who appeared pretty much out of nowhere at the very last possible minute. She is Akaba Leo’s long lost daughter, and is the reason why the Professor decided to embark on this stupid ass Revival Zero plan in the first place. The most frustrating part about this concept was the fact the only hint we had, with the girls having any sort of connection with the boys were the fact, they were the only ones with that existed counterparts in these other realms, and that the bracelets had some sort of connection with both the boys and their dragons. It was as early as episode 18 and further followed by by Episode 40.
Each bracelet represented a magic card that was used to ultimately defeat Zarc. En Flowers (Yuzu), En Moon (Serena), En Wind (Rin), En Birds (Ruri). The girls’ (subconscious) roles were said to stay close to Zarc’s fragments in order to prevent them from meeting and becoming whole again. This is why we saw whenever Yuzu was at the scene, her bracelet constantly teleporting the one of the boys elsewhere when the other one drew near. Unfortunately we never got to see the rest of the girls’ bracelets do the same.
Frankly speaking, I am not certain of what could have been a better approach to the girls’ being put back together to become Ray again. At least with Zarc’s fragments, the groundwork had been properly establish, so we understand how it would work and what the outcome was supposed to be. But with the girls, it was not prepared at all. There was no support whatsoever to back-up these new developments taking place. Instead it only created a bigger mess, and nothing good came out of it. In fact, just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, they make another stupid ass decision, by making it so Reira ends up hijacking the roles of the girls. How so? They made Reira, Ray’s Whisperer and for some stupid reason, Ray couldn’t manifest a god damn body- EVEN THOUGH THE GIRLS EACH HAD A GOD DAMN BODY!!! Seriously, this makes my blood boil. This should have never happened. Reira, should have NEVER, been a apart of this. If one is to bring everything to a full circle, you follow the circle, NOT GO OUTSIDE OF IT. I don’t know if Reira’s role had to happened because they fucked up so bad because of the production problems, or they just fucked up. Either way, it’s a lose lose situation, and the girls had to pay the heaviest price for it.
The Fall of ZARC
Of all the terrible things that had happened in this series, the final battle against Zarc was the biggest disappointed of them all. It was the one thing we were all looking forward to, the impending return of the Supreme Dragon King – only to watch five episodes of utterly pointless battles that ended up being led up to the one thing we did not want to see, Reira being the one to take him down.
Furthermore, it made absolutely no sense for Reira to have “absorbed” Zarc and his inner darkness because Reira did not inherit Zarc’s fragments, which are the actual building blocks for making his soul whole again. If there were some demon possessing Zarc, then yeah, I would get it, but that’s not the case because what drove Zarc into madness was the decisions he had made, while being influence by others. He had chosen to be the violent and cruel king. He chosen that path because the audience desired it, so he made their wish a reality. On top of that, when the special magic cards were used once more, for some odd reason, this time round, Zarc’s fragments were not split up and sent back to their respective realms. (Had they done so, the boys and girls could have very well all returned to their daily lives). So it makes absolutely no sense how the outcome had changed. And if you were to follow the logic of how Zarc was not split up again, technically speaking Yuuya is the newly reborn Zarc, and the one they are looking at with Reira is not the same threat, but simple bullshit because nobody fucking cared about anything making sense anymore.
Make Reira Smile Again
“SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME.” – Me.
Now this, THIS is the one thing that I cannot overlook nor will ever bring myself accept. God, they got some nerve to do this. What the fuck were they thinking? First of all, this like I had just pointed out in the above, should have never been a thing. I cannot put into words just how infuriating it was for me to have to listen to Yuuya and the others go on and on and on like it was supposed to be important, as if it mattered.
Well spoiler alert, it didn’t nor did any of us care. Not one of us cared about Reira not being able to smile meaning the time bomb to the revival or Zarc – like what the fuck. IT DIDN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE TO BEGIN WITH, SO WHY ROLL WITH IT?! ARG! You know what mattered? Yuzu, and her fellow sisters! The fact they actually went as far to make it so Reira’s smile was more important to Yuuya than finding Yuzu was an absolute disgrace, insult, and disrespect to both Yuuya’s and Yuzu’s character. Those two are extremely close, and it makes it incredibly out of character for Yuuya to think of Reira most importantly than Yuzu.
Action Cards were a new feature introduced in ARC-V as a part of Action/Entertainment Duels. Practically speaking, this feature was really meant to serve as a wild card to create interesting combos. Originally, right in the beginning of the series, Action Cards had both good cards, and bad cards. However the ‘bad cards’ (which would end up punishing the player who picks it up) were quickly scrapped altogether and never seen again. Looking back, I think this was a mistake to scrap this because without a risk, it permits players (like Yuuya) to senselessly abuse it as a ‘Bail Out’ card. It ends up negatively affecting the growth of the duelist because they become dependent on it by utilizing it as the easy way out of a bad situation. Also, by making it a risk, it would make it so characters would have to carefully consider whether or not it is worth the risk to pick it up when they are in a pinch. And lastly, rather than using it simply for the shits and giggles (which is how the bad Action Cards has debuted as), it would have also added an interesting dynamic to the Action Duels.
Internal Conflicts during Production
It was no secret that there was some sort of internal conflict taking place during the production. At Episode 112 I had my suspicions something was amiss, and felt the series was heading in a bad direction. By Episode 130, it became incredibly evident that nobody knew what was going on anymore, and the series continued rapidly deteriorate even further. This concern was later confirmed in December 2016, when a tweet came out from one of ARC-V’s animators, complaining how they are not given proper instructions of what needs to be drawn, because nobody knew what was going on (or appear there were a struggle make an agreement). It was so bad, there were endless contradictions, the characters were running in circles doing nothing, and there was whole lot of stupid decisions being made. It was Episode 130 when I grimly acknowledged this series was not going to end well. A couple of good episodes followed, but before long, it was back on track to its ultimate demise. At that point it was very clear the staff had long given up on salvaging the series, and leaving fans utterly heartbroken by their lack of effort to make the best of the remaining episodes.
Sometimes I wonder to myself if did the ones leading this show even cared about this series. Every single character born from ARC-V was neglected of their development in favor of something stupid. It felt as though the characters were not loved, or cherished in any shape or form. There were episodes you could tell based on the writer who was responsible for it for their affection and their effort to create something good. But in the end, it was not enough, and they never got a chance to untapped the series true potential.
So it is an understatement to say, the decision to feature Cameos from the Past was one of the biggest mistake they made. As soon as these characters showed up, ARC-V started to fall apart. This one stupid decision, wounded up being directly responsible for the catastrophic consequences affecting everything else. And once they continued to roll with it, (even when it was hurting the series) there was no going back. The damage has already been done.
Characters & Development: Progression, Regression
It goes without saying, the Internal Conflicts during Production ended up significantly having a negative on many of the characters and their development. And not one single character came out of this unscathed.
Yuuya: Admittedly, I think I was trying to convince myself that Yuuya had any form of decent character development. I was pretty much grasping straws at his potiential. Yuuya did undergo some major character growth, but the problem was that it never came to fruition. Over the course of his journey, he was dragged into a dimensional warfare, and went through so much pain and betrayal, that he learned his naive ideals of bringing peace was going to need a different approach. It did him no favour that the villains he had to face were so easy to flip to the good side, it was laughable. Even by the end of the series, after having become Zarc and hurt so many, his character regressed, instead of realizing after all he has been through, he needs to come out stronger than ever. This is one of the reasons why I think plan in regards of Zarc’s fragments should have been handled differently. The other thing that bugged me throughout the series was the fact Yuuya never broke out of that bad habit of his to rely on Action Cards as his bailout cards. It would have benefited his growth as a duelist to learn not to depend on them when he is in a pinch, but to use them to creatively to create new combos like some of the other characters. While he had done a bit of that in the finale, I wished we had seen more of it much, much earlier in the series. In return, it would have helped us believe Yuuya is on the right path of becoming an excellent duelist.
Yuzu: Her best days were literally the first fifty episodes. After that, she has been more or less subbed out and put onto the bench in turn for Selena, and then later removed from the picture altogether. Yuzu was also one with incredible amount of potential. Her main role in the series was to string the plot together during the time the plot had been avoiding Yuuya for the longest time. She was the one to investigate, take the initiative and be actively involved in stopping the conflicts, and communicating what is going on. It is thanks to her that Selena had been saved early on, by being brought under the wings of the Lancers. She has also made several attempts to warn people of Academia’s impending invasion. She was a girl on a mission. But by forcibly separating her from the group, they made no attempts to make her more active when she was trekking solo. As result of this, Yuzu’s impact on the plot became very minimal, and she was left to her own devices of trying to figure out a way to reunite with her friends, while also hiding from the enemy.I would have loved to see Yuzu evolved further as a duelist, even more so, I would have loved to have seen a finale with her and Yuuya doing an Entertainment Duel together, as I think we only got to see them duel once, or maybe three times max? Either way, they should have duelled with and between other more often.
Reiji: Sometimes I wonder why Reiji’s character even exists. From start to finish, Reiji pretty much just sat on his hands and did absolutely nothing to contribute to the fight against Academia. No really. He didn’t do shit. He has a loud mouth, but that’s about it. He never walked the talk, and even had the nerve to judge and criticize other characters. It is laughable how this guy was supposed to be perceived as the Lancers’ Leader. He did nothing to bring the group together, did nothing to establish an actual game plan, did nothing to contribute to their efforts, and did nothing to help them get back on track when they were caught up in the Synchro Realm’s civil unrest. His character was unbelievably poorly written, and I don’t think he had even grown the slightest since day 1.
Reira: I still don’t know what this kid’s gender is supposed to be. One minute he’s a boy, the next he’s a girl- I pretty much given up trying to figure it out. Reira was one of the rare ones who had actually undergone believable character growth. In the beginning of the series, Reira was pretty an empty soul who followed orders from Reiji. She suffers from PTSD, and is a survivor from the time when Zarc was running rampage. Throughout the series, Reira learned how to forge her own identity, create a will of her own and have the courage to make her own decisions. But then everything changed when they made her into Ray’s Whisperer. You will see me say this a bazillion times in this article, but I will say it again: THIS SHOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED.
Gongenzaka: The Man of Steadfast Duel. He was the cool under fire dude, who’s style involved the absolute refusal to pick up Action Cards – until the very end of the series when the writers decided to say, “WHO CARES~” and winged it. He was one of the main characters who were sorely neglected in favour of Cameos from the Past. Being benched so often and so early on did no favours to him. It is hard to say whether or not Gongenzaka had undergone remotely any development at all, because he like Reiji, looked and behaved more or less the same as he had since the beginning of the series.
Sawatari: God damn it. Sawatari was one of the key characters I wanted to see shine. This arrogant egomaniac with seven lives had come so far. SO DAMN FAR. He cared for nothing but himself, stole people’s cards, your typical school-yard bully, weak and without a style of his own – and by the end of the series, he learned that well shit the world doesn’t revolve around him and managed to create his own unique entertainment style. It was so infuriating to see Sawatari be benched in turn for cameos from the past. The fact they even took away his duel-disk until the boss fight made me want to rip my hair out. I was looking forward to him fighting Zarc, but didn’t even get a chance to shine. See, Sawatari acting like the little shit he is, getting under people’s skin is the best possible thing he could do against Zarc. It was his ace up his sleeve. Unfortunately he never got the chance, and pretty much suffered the same fate as Yuzu, bench in favours of irrelevant characters that should have had nothing to do with this show.
Tsukikage: Everyone’s beloved Ninja was taken out almost immediately once they reached the Fusion Realm. He was everyone’s favourite ninja, and with his brother having been carded a hundred episodes earlier, it was essential for fans to have him to survive. He was one of those characters who was pretty shallow in terms of necessary development. His grudge against the one who had carded in brother in the first place (Sora) was put to rest once they duelled and he had decided to forgive him. With his stealthy ways, he was one of those characters who was always in the shadows, and had very little to say, but it goes without saying that many of us would have liked to had seen more of them. Hell, he was more useful to the group than Reiji ever had been (and that’s the guy he kept on reporting to, good for nothing leader).
Shun: Our beloved Angry Bird. Shun came a very long way, and was probably the one character who had undergone the most significant character development. In fact, he is probably the only one who had any sort form of complete growth. The only criticism I have was how his character reacted to the news of both his sister’s and best friend’s death. While they will live on in another, they are no longer part of his life. I did not find it believable for him to accept this fate so easily, and be happy about it. I would have liked to have seen him grieve their loss properly and then given they are still alive but in another form. They really shouldn’t have skipped that, but since they were attempting to cram everything on time for the finale, they clearly didn’t have the luxury of time to do so.
Sora: This two-faced double agent was quite an interesting character to say the least. I always knew Sora had a secret from the very beginning. It goes without saying that is was definitely one the most interesting characters of the Academia organization. After having attacked Yuuto and revealed his true alliance, Sora had to flee back to Academia and pretty much stayed there a prolong period of time. Among the characters, he was one of the lucky ones who was provided the opportunity for proper character development and a chance to redeem himself properly. Thank to Yuuya not giving up on him, Sora was able to make the difficult decision to switch sides and gain forgiveness from Tsukikage, for carding his brother.
Yuuto: Before Yuuto had merged with Yuuya, he was a cool character. One of the best things we got to see from him before he lost his physical body was his interaction with Yuzu. These two had quite some chemistry, so seeing the two of them interact was always something to look forward to. It was Yuuto who had provided Yuzu the information in regards of Academia, and about her own counterpart Ruri. Unfortunately his time was also short in this world, and he didn’t get any opportunities for further development, besides working alongside Yuuya. And speaking of which, it surprised me how long it took for Yuuto to finally communicate with Yuuya after having been absorbed by him. They shouldn’t have waited as long as they did. It was a loss of precious time to establish a greater connection and friendship with each other, as the first time they met, was when Yuuto and Yuugo were duelling, and Yuuya was trying to stop them.
Selena: I would say Selena is probably the third character with the most favourable experience of development. She has come a long way, from a cooped up prisoner believing Academia’s way is the right way, to recognizing Academia’s Crimes and wrongdoings, to learning how to be free again. Selena was a fairly uptight character, rough around the edges, but wasn’t entirely sure how to break out of that ‘soldier’ shell. It was a true delight to have seen her have so much fun at the friendship cup, and seeing her be free and have fun like that was the best memory we will ever have of her.
Dennis: Another two-faced double agent (seems to be Academia’s speciality). I never liked the guy to begin with, like Sora, I always knew something was off about him. Only when we learned of his true colours, it only made me hate him even more. (I absolutely Loved his deck though!) Once Dennis’ role as Academia’s mole was revealed, he threw away his playful act, and stuck with his twisted one. Later in the series we see Yuushou trying to persuade him to switch alliance, but Dennis, having been one of Yuushou’s students ended up taking his own life (by carding himself). He later returns in Heartland trying to make up for the damage he had done, by putting on performances and helping rebuild the ravaged community.
Yuushou: Disappeared for four years without a word, all to stop Leo’s plans of doing stupid shit. He really got the short end of the stick with the way he was written. It honestly made no sense for him to have even doubted Yuuya the slightest, they probably could have given him a better explanation and make better choices so that he wouldn’t look like a shitty dad. The one thing that they were able to do though was put on one hell of a performance with his duel against Yuuri. It was definitely one of the highlights during the time the series seemed was steaming rolling straight to hell.
The Neglected Counterparts
For a story that revolved around both Zarc’s and Ray’s Fragments, it is quite unexpected to see how their respective counterparts were badly neglected. Besides Yuuto’s and Selena’s minimal activity, Yuugo’s, Yuuri’s, Ruri’s and Rin’s their impact and active roles in the story were virtually non-existent. We didn’t get to learn about anything of them, especially Rin – we know absolutely nothing about her. Her character, is literally just a stand in doll. It’s baffling to me how we never even got to see her be herself. The one time she gets an entire episode to herself, she’s brainwashed and cruelly takes out Yuugo.
That’s it. And let me just be clear, brief flashbacks does not count because all of that was in the past. We wanted to see present Rin in action. The most tragic part is, that in the end, she and Yuugo never got the chance to be truly reunited – because they both ended up killed off. And if you thought it couldn’t have possibly gotten worse? Yuugo was reduced to nothing more than a running gag. God damn it, he did not deserve that.
Actually now that I think of it, it is quite ironic how the Synchro Realm Fragments ended up with the short end of the stick. Gee, I wonder how that happened? Hm….
Ruri and Yuuri were given a tiny bit more screen-time than the other two, but still, neither gained enough time to showcase their characters.
Ruri was given the privilege to at the very least be able to resist the Parasite within her in order to communicate with her brother, Shun. And like Rin, we were only really able to see what kind she girl through memories. It was yet another case of a diamond left behind. There were several implication of both she and Yuuto were mutually in love with each other. Sadly, they left it at that, never attempting to expand on their special bond. God damn it, I know this show isn’t about romance, but if you are going to imply it- come on, at least roll with it. Ugh, and to think they rolled with a whole bunch of other stupid things instead of this…
Yuuri was the psychopath who liked to play with his food. Aside from being bored, he was pretty much batshit crazy all the time. There was no room or opportunity given to us to empathize with his character. The one thing we learned is that he was lonely growing up, and because he was isolated and he was too strong, he decided he was going to card every single person in the world!!!!! Yuuri’s character was linear, with no growth or decline. He was more or less the same till the very end, and I can count with one hand how many fights we actually see him in.
I think the most troubling part of all of this, is how despite all the mistakes staff had made… Not once did they ever attempt to make up for it – and they had plenty of time and opportunity to do so, but had deliberately made the decision not to. So why in the world was this not a priority? Why was there no attempt to make it so they could all be a part of the story? Did they even try at all? Probably not. Not enough time? Bullshit. There is no excuse for this error. I genuinely would like to know who is responsible for this mistake, because it really took this series down a notch.
Badass Girls, a Taboo?
I just don’t get it, I simply cannot wrap my head around why it’s seems to be a taboo to have badass girls in the spotlight- let alone more than one at any event. It’s not the end of the world to have female main characters in a shounen series!!!
To add insult to injury, Yuzu is supposed to be the main character, and much like Izayoi Aki from 5DS, she soon enough suffered from the same problem. (One which I had hoped early on the in the series, would learn from their previous mistakes with 5DS… and boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.) Yuzu could be considered lucky to have been active for as long as she did, because aside from Selena… Ruri and Rin didn’t even get so much of a chance to even actively participate in the story. These girls, who we seen through brief flashbacks of how awesome they were, were reduced to a princess who was trapped in a tower, only instead of being saved, met their demise. Look, just because they are girls, does not mean it’s going to ruin the show. Instead, these girls had the opportunity, to make it even better. And not to mentioned the audience LOVED them – that’s why people are so pissed off of how they were treated.
I don’t know about you, but I honestly expected the girls, or Yuzu at the very least, to be the one to fight Zarc at the very end. I always thought that it only made sense for them to do so. This way everything comes to a full circle, but only this time, it’s different because of the relationship both the girls and the boys had with each other. That kind of distinction was something that should had not been be ignored. But alas, they decided nah, let’s just go with Reira and this half-assed fight.
But what really blows my mind is: Why bother making badass characters if you’re just going to make them helpless, passive characters. It only causes regression to their development. It only sets the audience up for disappointment. If you’re going to create badass characters, you hard commit to it till the very end.
The joke is on the staff members who made these stupid decisions and allowed it to follow through. Because in the end, it was the characters they have chosen to virtually replace them who came back to haunt them.
The Joke of the Villains
So let’s talk about the villains. The joke is really on them, because they are hands down the worst villain I have seen in the a very, very long time.
Akaba Leo, the Professor: And the award for Worst Villain of the Ever goes to… THE PROFESSOR~
This motherfucker is so poorly written, I wish he didn’t even exist. His motives, his course of actions, everything about him is utter crap. There’s no sugarcoating it. It’s beyond me how they thought this was acceptable, and it’s infuriating to know how his character and the way he was written, ended up negatively affecting everything in this series like a god damn plague. So here’s a little backstory. Basically this guy had retained his memories from Zarc’s apocalypse and decided he was going to search for his long lost daughter, and if he can’t find her, he will just revive her. And his attempt to revive her came at the expense of peace.
In fact, this motive of his make no freaking sense at all, because at the end of the day he did the one thing he wanted to avoid, reviving the Supreme Dragon King, Zarc. His course of actions in order to accomplish this, contradicts everything. It was so bad, that we are basically forced to assume, it was a deliberate decision to make this villain so fucking stupid, has tunnel vision goggles on and could care less about the consequences which will follow, so as long as he gets his daughter back. His selfish plan involved created Academia, to manipulate a bunch of kids to go out and invade realms in order to card people for the great Utopia (which was utter BS). Then they were to return the cards to him, when then he would use the use people’s energies trapped in those said cards in attempt to revive his daughter. So basically he decided he’ll kill a bunch of people, even though there was no guarantee it would even work. And because he interfered with the peace that had been established in the new worlds, this makes him the one to blame for Zarc’s revival. Zarc ended up reviving because the Proffessor ordered the kidnapping of Yuzu, Ruri, Rin. Little did he know, Yuuya, Yuuto and Yuugo all traveled across the realms, just to find them so they could bring them home, which as result allowed them to meet and merge once together again.
The stupidity is strong in this one.
The Tyler Sisters: What the fuck were they thinking? They blew this one, really, really badly. The only thing that was great about Grace and Gloria, were their fabulous character design. Seriously I would cosplay that – IF THEIR CHARACTERS WEREN’T BUTCHERED FOR THE SAKE OF RUSHING THE PLOT!!!!!!! We jump into the XYZ Realm, and there we are introduced what initially perceived as new super badass villains. However much to my dismay, simply after watching Yuuya’s performance, they jump onto the good guys bandwagon. Tch, what a waste.
Edo Phoenix: He is just as bad as the Tyler Sisters as he flipped just as fast. Nuff said.
Jean Rogers: Among all the villains, Jean Rogers was probably the strongest one of all. At least his genius plans actually made sense, and he behaved like a true villain with legit motives. Awkward moment is when the secondary villain was written better than the main.
Yuuri: Neglected, never given any time to shine. As mentioned before, you can count with your hands how often he appeared in the series. Of all the main villains, he had the second to last amount of screentime.
Dennis: Probably the only villain that actually got any decent amount of screen-time. He was a pretty twisted villain. Though I don’t like the guy, I will say this: he was given better treatment than Yuuri. Welp, well that’s awkward.
ZARC: Long story short, the guy was invincible and could only be defeated thanks to magic cards. He didn’t even get a proper backstory.
The Curse of Cameos from the Past
With the existing settings of the Synchro Realm (5DS), Heartland (Zexal) and Academia (GX), they brought back one or two characters from each series. However, despite the fact the settings and characters have appeared in previous series, they switched it up by making it so they were an alternative universe of the existing settings. And sure enough, this decision ended up backfiring as well.
The following cameos from the past were:
Synchro Realm: Jack and Crow
Fusion Realm/Academia: Edo Phoenix, Asuka
And if I may be so frank, bringing back characters from the past was the biggest mistake they made in the entire series. Anyone who had been following my coverage of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5DS and ARC-V knows that the one character I cannot stand is Crow, from 5DS. There is nothing wrong with his character per say, but goodness gracious, I can’t help but have a negative association to him. This is all because of somebody’s obsession, and how they choose to plug him into the story. They had this exact problem in 5DS, (which resulted Aki being demoted to a passive secondary character), and repeated it yet again in ARC-V. They have learned absolutely nothing from their mistakes – all because of their bloody obsession/favoritism with Crow. Only this time, the results were even more catastrophic because it impacted more than one character. Only this time there were multiple casualties, ie: Yuzu, Ruri, Rin, Selena, Yuutpo, Yuugo and Yuuri… And the list goes on.
Of course Crow isn’t the sole cameo to blame, (he is just an example of a mistake from the past), the rest of the cameos were just as much at fault. Jack, Kaito, Edo, Asuka (well… she is hardly to blame because among the five came ons from the past as she had the least amount of screentime, (and yet they still butchered her character, along with Edo)). The worse part about the cameos even being added to the series was the fact THEY PARTICIPATED IN THE BOSS FIGHT.
Of course there is nothing wrong per say to bring back characters from the past for a brief appearance, but to make it so they replace the original characters of ARC-V? Now that is unacceptable.
What happened in the past, Stays in the past. Jack, Crow, Kaito, Edo (Asuka excluded because she wasn’t part this particular event) all had their chance to shine in their respective series. ARC-V was not their series.
And this, perhaps may have been related to the internal conflict taking place during the production.
Too many Irrelevant Characters
Of all the arcs, again it was the Synchro Arc that introduced way. Too. Many. Characters. JFC. And 99% of them were incredibly annoying, served no real purpose to help progress the plot and we just wanted them to disappear ASAP. But no they pretty much stuck around for all fifty bloody episodes. As I mentioned earlier, there were well over a dozen of them!
The Fusion Arc/Academia is the next and final culprit to this particular problem. They introduced a bunch of unnecessary Academia soldiers, when really what they should have done was focus and use the Academia Characters that had we have seen before, and if it was absolutely required, should have introduced and properly establish new characters earlier on. Having the fight against Battle Beast (the whole thing was a fiasco) and its conclusion was basically Yuuya shitting rainbows and unicorns with his SMILE Mission he had decided to embark on. Bringing out these useless characters only hindered the series.
The Best of ARC-V
Everyone has their own preference of when ARC-V shined the brightest. In my view, the highlight of the series was hands down the Miami Championship Tournament that took place between Episode 29 – 51. Though they aired almost three years ago to this day, they remain the most vivid in my memories. The events that took place during these episode was what made me realize the amazing potential in this series.
My personal individual favourites were Episode 69 (my bias for Yuzu being a badass), Episode 117 (one I had wished they had a better follow up to that incident), Episode 125, (simply because Berserk Yuuya is always fun and epic to watch) and Episode 134 and Episode 135 (it was sheer insanity, also the animation during those episodes, were hands down, the best of the entire series on point).
In the end, Is ARC-V the new worst of the Yu-Gi-Oh! series franchise? It is up to you to make that call.
Despite the fact this series ended up as a train-wreck, I won’t go as far as to say it is now the worse Yu-Gi-Oh! Series of all time. ARC-V started off on a very high note, the first fifty episodes were its strongest. At the time, I was convinced it was going to be my new favourite. And in a way, it is still close to it. It was only when they dragged out the Synchro Realm arc for far too long, and spent to little time in Heartland that was when it fell into disrepair. Even then, the worst of the series would only happen by Episode 130 and onward (with a few exceptions). Though the characters were unfairly treated, I for one, loved them dearly. It was because I saw them all brimming with untapped potential. They were a hidden gem waiting to be polished. For whatever reason, be it production woes, or poor choice of priority… in the end their potential were not realized. I think it is because of the promise this series held, dissuades me from claiming it to being the worst one of them all. Regardless of its horrendous flaws and abusive treatment it has received from the production team due to internal conflicts, and how it broke my heart… At the end of the day, I still love ARC-V. Not for its outcome, but for the characters and the the story of this series I had fallen in love with. Yuuya will always be my precious puppy, Yuzu will always be my queen, their respective counterparts will always be remembered for all that they could have been in my heart, the concept of the ZARC’s fragments being divided into different realms, his dragons seeking out each other to make him whole again. Maybe, just maybe, had there been no production woes, ARC-V’s true potential could have been realized and could have ended differently. In all, ARC-V is a show that will make you feel the mixed emotions of happiness, sadness and frustration. It is up to you whether you wish to take that journey, to see all what it sincerely, could have been.
I would like to take a moment to thank you all for be a part of the journey with me. Now we will be embarking on a new adventure with YGO VRAIN! See you then! <3