Braiiiinsss eh- I mean VRAIIIIIIINS
Sooo, depending on how you’ve been following me in this blog for some time, you’ll probably find the fact that I’ve been following Yu-Gi-Oh as not all a surprise to you (well I’ve been following it again since Arc-V which is a pretty good Yu-Gi-Oh season, clunky ending notwithstanding). There’s a very shonen-like quality to the franchise that I like ,and the use of card game as the extension of said qualities and as a dramatic device is actually pretty cool when done right (granted, the actual game itself is pretty broken when you think about it).
And you do have to appreciate the fact how each iteration tries to bring something new to the table. So after we had card games on duel school, card games on motorcycle, card games on space, card games on a interactive arena plus dimensional hijinks, with the latest season VRAINS we have……card games on virtual reality. Considering Yu-Gi-Oh has always dabbled with hologram, you’d think they would have done this premise sooner.
Sooo, how is it exactly? Well, I’m not completely sure. Unlike the original series and Arc-V, VRAINS doesn’t seem to have any central idea or thesis that it wants to convey which is pretty a disappointing step down. And the first episode is pretty much busy with front loaded exposition and conflict set-up, both of which left the motivation and the backstory behind the characters so far written in a broad stroke (plus the dialogue is pretty awkward and clunky in some place). The mechanics behind Link VRAINS that’s been introduced so far are also kind of a letdown. Rather than depicting Link VRAINS as an actual cyber reality created through data within computer, Yu-Gi-Oh pretty much goes with the Digital World route where Link VRAINS is depicted as a fantasy setting that just happened to be inside computer (although this isn’t necessarily bad). This is pretty obvious from the terminology such as “data material” and “data storm”, phenomenon which from the sound of it doesn’t reflect how computers or virtual reality actually works (again, not necessarily bad).
As for Yusaku himself….well he’s a mixed bag so far. Initially, I kind of turn off on the idea of another hyper-serious Yu-Gi-Oh main protag like Yusei from 5D, but VRAINS do try to distinguish him somewhat. Through his dialogue and action, it’s clear that Yusaku is analytical and kind of a recluse, but fundamentally has a good heart. This is apparent from the scene where he psychoanalyze one of his classmate, Naoki. Apart from mentioning that Naoki doesn’t have much dueling skills, Yusaku do note Naoki’s passion for dueling which Yusaku seems to see as a valueable trait to mention it as Naoki’s good point. But the tactless way Yusaku goes about saying all of that makes it clear that he is socially awkward to a degree. Also, I do like the hostile dynamic that he shared with Ignis, the rouge A.I. that Yusaku trapped in his duel disk. They trade cynical barbs and snide remarks to one another (with Ignis calling Yusaku with -sama suffix in a sarcastic tone) which is pretty entertaining to see and pretty refreshing from Yu-Gi-Oh usual trend of otherworldly being partnership. The fact that Yusaku is also active participant in the conflict (he has the idea to trapped Ignis, he challenges the Hanoi knight directly) is also nice to see and hopefully a good sign in where this is probably the first Yu-Gi-Oh series that has a character-driven plot. Unfortunately, his backstory and motivation of trying to regain his past doesn’t make the most compelling reason to follow a character.
But enough about all of that plot and character stuff, what about the duel themselves? Well, I think the duel on the second episode is pretty fun. There’s a clearly established problem and stake with the enemy’s monster along with some natural escalation. The solution to the problem and Yusaku’s path to victory are also comes out of the conclusion from the various variables in Yusaku’s hand and Yusaku’s own analysis. Granted, the duels in Yu-Gi-Oh are often resolved through the use of one card that’s conveniently fit to the situation (something that VRAINS literalize through the use of Yusaku’s Skill which allows him to draw one monster out of the data storm when his life points is below 1000), but considering we’ve only just been introduced to Yusaku’s deck (which interestingly is a new type deck), it all remains to be seen. But if it does fall into that pit, I hope VRAINS can at least makes it thematically appropriate to the duel.
I guess that’s my impression on VRAINS. It still has some rough spots, but it is potentially promising. I’m sad that we’re not getting anything like the original series and Arc-V though.
- In the process of writing is, I suddenly want to write my overall thought to Arc-V. Welp, adding it to the backlog.
- Speed Duels and Skills are also pretty interesting inclusion. I’m fine with it even if its just going to be inclusion for the sake of inclusion.