In the city of Den City, thousands of duelists take part in a virtual reality space known as Link Vrains, where users can create unique avatars and participate in games of Duel Monsters with each other. As a mysterious hacker organisation known as the Knights of Hanoi threaten this world, a high-school student named Yusaku Fujiki battles against them under the guise of Playmaker.
One day, Yusaku encounters a peculiar artificial intelligence program, which he names Ai, who sets off a digital maelstrom in Link Vrains known as the Data Storm. As the appearance of this storm gives birth to Speed Duels, in which duelists surf the wind as they duel, Yusaku battles against Hanoi in order to uncover the truth concerning an incident that happened to him years ago.
#1: "Believe In Magic" by Ryoga (龍雅-Ryoga-) (eps 1-24) #2: "Writing Life" by Goodbye holiday (eps 25-46) #3: "BOY" by uchuu; (eps 47-70) #4: "Glory" by BAND-MAID (eps 71-95) #5: "Are you ready?" by Bis (eps 96-119) #6: "With The Wind" by Hiroaki TOMMY Tominaga (富永 TOMMY 弘明) (ep 120)
Alright, I’ll be real here. I owe an apology and a warning beforehand to everyone who did enjoy this show, but in the end, this is simply my honest opinion about a show I invested a bit too much hope and expectations in when it first aired back in May 2017.
As someone who has followed the Yugioh franchise ever since I was in middle school, I can honestly say, without a shred of reconsideration, that this Yugioh installment was perhaps the most disappointing, if not the worst, installment out of all the anime series up to date, and probably one of the most underwhelming anime
series in general that I watched up to date.
(P.S. THERE WILL BE A FEW SPOILERS.)
So exactly what is this show? Well, Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, or simply known as VRAINS, is the fifth spin-off series of the Yugioh franchise, and actually the ninth overall. It was made as a means to introduce, familiarize, and promote the then-new Link Summoning format to the countless anime followers. Initially directed by Masahiro Hosoda for the first 13 episodes, the director role was abruptly switched to Katsuya Ayano for episode 14 and onward. It is animated by Studio Gallop, whom are well known for their role in nearly all the other Yugioh series, and directed Shin Yoshida, another all-too-familiar face in this trading card game franchise.
The anime series takes place in an alternate timeline/universe in an urban setting called Den City, where virtual reality space, under the official name of LINK VRAINS, is a commodity and normality for the people. In this VR space, users can customize their avatars and participate in Duels against each other, so from the get-go, the show is basically the Sword Art Online version of Duel Monsters. The story follows a young man named Yusaku Fujiki, who goes under the alias and avatar of “Playmaker” and gets involved in the underlying conflict and revelations of LINK VRAINS, and in the process, meets and teams up with an extremely peculiar self-aware artificial intelligence program, whom he then calls Ai. The show’s theme is to “Take a step forward, and try!”, on the assertion that kids should try things out instead of just giving up easily after the first try due to feeling overwhelmed by the challenge ahead.
This’ll be rather long. However, considering the sudden change of directors early on in the show, I should’ve known where this story’s direction was headed right then and there. Even the apparent supervising of Katsuya’s directing by Tatsuo Satou, who’s directed shows like Martian Successor Nadesico and Lord of Vanadis, wasn’t enough, apparently.
The initial premises of VRAINS are pretty much fairly similar to the likes of the aforementioned Sword Art Online series (though more so the Alicization arcs) and other virtual reality MMO shows like the Hack series, Accel World, and King’s Avatar. The aforementioned shows have a collective focus on both the virtual and real world, drawing the link between the two realities. The settings initially get interesting as the show goes along with all the revelations regarding the underlying forces and events going on that was supposed to ultimately add more structure to the story. However, as the series progresses, the show proceeds to ignore certain aspects of the story that should’ve been made more relevant.
For example, Dueling in LINK VRAINS has two options: Speed Dueling or Master Dueling, and being similar to the Action Duels in Yugioh Arc-V, Dueling in LINK VRAINS is supposed to bring the high risk of physical and/or psychological harm to individuals, which doesn’t exclude the possibility of death. That aspect is quite similar to the dangers during the Aincrad and Alicization arcs of Sword Art Online, though to a rather limited extent. Because of this, nearly every single Duel featured in the show should feel like actual high stakes being made; however, there was little consequence from this important plot element, as the show pretty much drags and brings most of the attention to the main conflict of each arcs. As a result, the feeling of high stakes from just Dueling in VR, even on Speed Duels where the players are literally surfboarding on “data currents” several meters, just seems nonprevalent, and any brushes with danger don’t actually result in severe or long-lasting consequences, anyways.
VRAINS also seems to be on one hell of a short end in terms of worldbuilding. While Yugioh shows aren’t exactly the best in worldbuilding compared to most other popular anime franchises, VRAINS seems to try way too hard in terms of trying to establish and explain its settings, as opposed to naturally letting the worldbuilding conduct itself with the story narrative. Instead of utilizing the freedom to dive further into other notable plot elements that would help give a better siegeway from Point A to Point B, VRAINS devotes nearly all the focus on the current conflict at hand, only briefly mentioning major key terms here and there. There is no further diving into how and why LINK VRAINS was made. There’s not enough explained context on the hi-tech aspects of the world. There is no in-depth exploration and explanation on other terms and plot elements like Data Storm, Storm Access, Link Sense, The Deleted, and the company SOL Technologies as well as the androids produced by them. We end up being left asking and resorting to assumptions a lot more often than not, which is not really a good thing most of the time.
The lack of explanations, as well as the questionable writing of the characters, makes the storytelling feels quite soulless and rather pretentious, as with each arc, it tries too hard to set up the conflict without properly building it up or fleshing out other important plot elements more. The separate arcs themselves are rather rinse-and-repeat, where it always just ends up with the main protagonist having to deal with the main threat himself while tossing practically every other character to the sidelines. While the setups in Yugioh 5Ds and VRAINS are not that much different (considering Shin Yoshida being responsible for the series composition of both shows), the former functions extremely well because it was able to establish other aspects and characters in the shows that are not immediately tied to the main conflict at hand, thus allowing for a far superior buildup. VRAINS does not really give itself such a padding because the roles of characters not named Yusaku / Playmaker are part of some self-contained subplots that actually don’t contribute anything beyond an overly sappy backstory and a halfhearted reason to be involved in the main plot in the first place.
Two additional things I should add. First off, the story also seems to feel extremely dragged out due to how it handles the action and dialogue. Like seriously, there is SO MUCH tedious dialogue and exposition in the middle of nearly all the Duels. Turns can feel like they last forever, and dialogue and attempts at emotional impact get rather pretentious like it’s some soap arena. Why must a show from a franchise I really loved...become a soap opera and somehow feel boring, broken, and dragged out all at the same time? Second and lastly, the lighthearted comedy misses A LOT. It felts half-hearted, awkward, and out-of-place. The characters initiating the humor feel like they’re trying way too hard to be funny and be a running gag. While I’m kinda forced to get used to Ai’s cases, other characters like the derp-ass Banjo Kazooie pair (okay, it’s just two people whose avatars are a frigging frog and a pigeon...lul) and Naoki are practically insufferable.
ANIMATION AND SOUND: 5/10 and 4/10
There’s nothing particularly special about the animation and soundtracks overall, but not necessarily bad, either. The 3D designs for the Monsters are quite alright, and the new Summon animation designs for Synchro and Xyz Summoning are pretty cool. The 2D animation can range from adequate to subpar depending on the episode, as each one is usually animated by a different individual or group. The characters designs are average and there’s not much to really divulge into beyond the typical Yugioh character design tropes (aka funky-ass hairdos).
The soundtracks in this show feel like they’re trying way too hard to be grandiose overall. This is likely due to the entire story itself being rather underwhelming in terms of the showcasing. As a result, you get this out-of-place trumpet-filled instrumentals in otherwise very underwhelming scenes. Like honestly, the OST from the Hack series would’ve better fit this show in all honesty. The lone great soundtrack was Yusaku’s theme, as it does come in timely fashion during the more climactic parts of the show. Otherwise, it’s only really good by itself. The voice acting is rather subpar, as it feels like the characters are trying too hard to be sound serious most of the time. There is no strong sense of flexibility and variety in the voices to where it would feel more natural as the characters interact with one another or express emotions during the melodrama parts. As a result, the sound aesthetics feel very disjointed.
I can’t really call these guys characters. They’re more like husks. There was so much groundwork in their backstories and ongoing subplots to where the cast members could’ve turned out as great characters. However, the development feels extremely hollow and not genuine, and ends up tossed to the side, anyways, as the characters other than Yusaku and Ai get tossed aside like fodder. What’s really sad is that every following arc tries to build back up these characters, but it ends up forced, contrived, pretentious, and unnatural. They might as well be just robots, as their composition ends up extremely dry and half-baked. I’m pretty sure the story would’ve went on fine without introducing them in the first place.
Yusaku as a character is extremely bland and tasteless. He is basically an epitome of a Gary Stu protagonist. He has not been put in a position of genuine struggle or hardship. He doesn’t really have any case of natural character development. His so-called ties with the other characters don’t even qualify as “bonds and friendship”. His initial goal for revenge becomes non-relevant in the end. The only thing he’s good at is sounding “cool” while Dueling.
Revolver, the main rival, could’ve potentially been one of the better ygo main rivals if he had more prominent roles in the following story arcs after the first one with the Hanoi Project. There isn’t even a good old final duel between him and Mister Gary Stu MC. Ai, being the secondary protagonist, didn’t have a particularly interesting role other than being that wisecracking jerk of a partner for Yusaku, so when his role switches to an antagonistic one near the end, it felt extremely disjointed, as the setup for it was not a very well drawn-out one.
Being a rather devoted Yugioh fan, I can understand the production value issues the show encountered throughout its entire airing duration, to where it had around four recap episodes early on (hence why I temporarily called it V-RECAPS at one point). However, due to the overall showcasing I got, I can’t exactly overlook how much it affected the series, and at the same time, it doesn’t give me enough reason to have the benefit of the doubt. I got bored by most of the duels, with the exception of the most climactic moments during the final “boss battles”. Even then, such moments are rather temporary and do not really quell out my overall boredom. I genuinely did try to find enough interest in the plot to at least if there would be any sort of good payoff in terms of story, cause I was starting to give up on the characters’ development halfway through the show. At best, the show is more like a low-value time-killer when I don’t have much else to do and watch at that moment in the day. Trying to get hyped for every episode like I did back when I watched the likes of 5Ds and Arc-V was out of the question, due to practically all the other aforementioned reasons.
VRAINS tried to be something amazing, it tried to be mature, it tried to be unique from the other spinoffs, but it just didn’t have the adequate content, depth, storywriting, and characters to even make it halfway there. Even if you’re a Yugioh fan, I honestly cannot recommend this show, and even FAR less so if you’re not even a fan of the entire franchise in general. If anything, you’re better off watching the original DM series (NOT the season 0 series, screw that one), 5Ds, and Arc V...heck, even Zexal, with all its issues, was still far more entertaining and sophisticated in terms of story and characters. VRAINS is a prime example of absolutely wasted potential, and an extremely mediocre show that otherwise gets excessively high praise by its fanbases. Again, I really apologize if I offended anyone who did love the show, cause honestly, I wanted to love this show, too. But in the end, the numerous shortcomings and flaws did in this farce of a series, and I was left with nothing except to reminisce what could’ve been.
You know folks. There's some animes where you pick them up and try to watch them then you start to question why you even bother doing anime reviews in the first place because an anime like Yugioh Vrains comes along and I got to be perfectly honest with you. I have no idea who this anime was actually made for because I thought this was made for me because I liked 5Ds with its realistic written characters and gritty setting but Yrains is not that at all that, I also thought that Yugioh Vrains was made for people who like tightener plot and characters but
once again Yugioh Vrains isn't that. Finally, I thought Yugioh Vrains was made for people who loved MNORPG games but once again Yugioh Vrains isn't that.
Even though the series has quote ''sightly has improved towards the end.'' with its somewhat interesting third season but when I got to a point I stop caring because by then I wanted this show to end or to a very least get cancelled due to executive meddling or poor ratings in Japan. To be perfectly honest with you. When I watched this anime. When I commuted 2880 minutes of my life to this show the only thing I could think while watching it while experiencing what the anime had to offer from start to finish it only took me about 6 episodes to come to this conclusion.
This is quite simply the most soulless tedious, broken and uninspired anime I have ever watched in my entire life.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I have more fun watching Darling in the Franxx, Fire Force and Wise Man Grandchild than this because to know what I can work with bad anime because with bad anime I can find some things that I can laugh about or I can see where the anime went wrong and I can point out aspects that could have improved upon but what I cannot work with is something that is soul-crushing boring and tedious and Yugioh Vrains is the embodiment of that.
First and foremost I loathe the writing in Yugioh Vrains.
Not only it was horribly written to the core but it's embarrassingly cliche. The sci-fi elements in Vrains is what happens when you take the most generic and stock sci-fi story imaginable and shove it in without any context. It was painful to watch and it constantly made me facepalm and roll my eyes out of embarrassment. The same thing can be said for the duels which were predictable as hell especially with that annoying link spam that is on par with Yuya action card asspulls from Arc V in terms of annoyance.
This is only made worse by how pathetic the world-building is if you can call it that. The series is set in a virtual reality space known as Link Vrains, where duelist from all over the world can duel each other for fun or competitive.
If that's the case so why does Link Vrains feel so empty and lifeless. There's barely anyone interacts with the world of Link Vrains and the VRMMORPG aspects more often than not feel like a hamfisted plot device for the show soulless writing. In many ways Link Vrains is no different from the virtual reality worlds of Sword Art Online as both worlds were heavily unexplored, and they often used as plot device. There's no casual to competitive weekly tournaments for players to participate to win prices, no adventure quests, no online store nothing. What kind of competitive VRMMORPG game is this?
The one thing that really infuriated me about Vrains is how it tried to be more epic and deep than it actually is. Compared to any other Yugioh installments Yugioh Vrains is story focused which was great on paper but it all comes crashing down thanks to abysmal writing which I already mentioned as well lack of self-awareness that exposes its pretentious nature, I honestly hate using the word pretentious when I review an anime that has an inept story but Vrains is a special exception. Vrains tries to tackle serious topics and themes of abuse, virtual reality, loneliness yet not only they were executed badly but the series at many cases shouts out how mature and smart it is when it actually not. Just because you threw away many story elements in the franchise such as a laid back tournament arc in favour of mature sci-fi/virtual reality elements doesn't automatically make you series mature. You have to prove yourself that these new story elements are well written enough to justify of removing key aspects that the franchise is known for. Vrains doesn't do any of that and your left with an insufferable pretentious sci-fi series that barely resembles Yugioh at all. Now I mentioned it Yugioh Vrain doesn't feel like a Yugioh show at all as it feels like I'm watching a awful sci-fi series that has been rejected by various Japanese TV producers and I believe that the only reason the badly written script even saw the light of day because they had to slap in a well-known franchise in to the mix that being Yugioh. You can tell that from the very first episode that the tone, pacing, character establishment and dialogue were off even for Yugioh standards.
You could say the same thing for 5Ds but it proved itself that even with its mature approach was still a Yugioh show. Vrains feels like an unneeded gimmick just like the link format itself. I can write an essay of how it four of it's summon methods being Fusion, Synchros, XYZs and Pendulums were shut down thanks to the forced link mechanics that effectively killed a big wave of decks and archetypes but I won't do it here because this review will end up being over 3000 words long.
The kicker of Yugioh Vrains is the atrocious pacing. If you thought Black Clover, Naruto, Tokyo Ghoul re, Index Season 3 and Darling in the Franxx were atrocious in pacing you have not seen an episode of Vrains. I am not exaggerating when say I this but Yugioh Vrains has the absolute worst pacing I have ever seen in my life. It's so padded, so rushed especially for seasons 2 and 3 I cannot help to notice that the series was going through serious production issues which it actually did because the people who worked on Vrains actually talked about the numerous production issues to the public. I will give the Vrain's staff credit for addressing the production issues to the public on social media but I wish the Vrains staff had handled its plot, charterers and visuals better because they were garbage.
Season 3 is not much better either.
I will give the season some credit for having a interesting final villain and the somewhat decent ending that managed to better than Arc V ending but unfortunately the damage from the poorly constructed first 2 seasons has already been done.
Now we have the characters who are somehow even worse than the lifeless plot.
Yusaku is the main protagonist of the series and my main problem with him is that he is a Gary sue brick. He has zero personality just as he barely has any facial expressions other than a straight face. He also has little to no character development as by the time you get to season 3 he's still the same brick character from episode 1. Let's not forget he is a complete dick to he's friends as well the fact he's an overpowered duelist who never loses. One of the main reasons why I liked Yusei a character from 5Ds is that the cool and relatable character. Sure he never lost a duel in the anime, but he's character chemistry towards the cast as well he's well-written backstory and collective personality completely make up. Yusei is a character. Yusaku is an emotionless sack of shit husk who has no friends, no personality and no ideals. That is why he is the worst protagonist I have ever encountered in an anime.
When I was binge watching Yugioh Vrains with a friend he mentioned that the supporting characters are nothing more than soulless archetypes, and he couldn't be more right. The supporting characters like with Yusaku don't develop at all and unlike the protagonist they are utterly useless with a few exceptions like Ai and Revolver.
The Yugioh franchise has always lived with diverse and colorful cast of characters. There's a reason why both anime and yugioh fans grow to love characters like Yugi, Kaiba Ryo, Joey, Zane, Aster, Jaden, Akiza, Sheery, Jack, Leo, Kaito, Anna, Ryouga, Rei, Shun, Yuto, Sora, Dennis Serena etc.. They have personality and are interesting to watch, regardless of if they're playing card games or not. Characters from previous Yugioh series all have good to great character chemistry with each other due to amazing character interactions that play each other well E.g Sora and Shun, Sora and Yuya, Zane and Aster, Jack and Yusei, Jack and Carly, Jaden and Chazz. Rei/Vector and Yuma.
Yugioh Vrains doesn't do any of that as every single character apart from Revolver and Ai are lifeless husks that barely do anything worthwhile other to be plot devices and cannon fodder. How pathetic.
Now I mentioned before the visuals in this show were garbage, and I still stand by that. I can forgive the inconsistent character designs, the choppy animation, the crappy CGI and the messy shot composition since this is a long-running series and long-running series tend to have lower budget compare to seasonal anime but I cannot forgive is the consistent still frames, camera shake and motion filer that were heavily abused throughout the 120 episode run. It just makes an already poorly constructed series even more painful to watch.
The music is nothing to write home about. The soundtrack features a generic score of sci-fi, electronic and forte tracks that while fit the anime is not all that memorable.
The opening themes are fine, the ending themes are fine, the voice acting are fine. Overall the sound aspect of Vrains is the most harmless thing about it.
For the first time I will be suggesting improvements for series that I hate.
I know that's a bizarre move on my part especially when I just tor this show apart but I believe that with the rights tools and staff. Yugioh Vrains could have been just as great if not better than 5Ds.
First off give Yusaku a likeable personality. Until the end of the series Yusaku had little to personality as he was a Stoic guy just pulls a straight face. Not to mention he was a complete dick to everyone. I understand he was abused as a child, but he has no reason to take his frustration on others. My suggestion for Yusaku personality is to be cool and friendly individual who tries to move on with his past while occasionally having PTSD from his dark past that causes him to have a change of personality.
Also, have him lose a duel please...
Establish the world of Link Vrains. There should have been some downtime where the characters are just hanging exploring Link Vrains doing in-game activities It could help spice Yusaku characterization early on as he mostly Stoic. Even Gundam Build Divers did that and that show was more unfocused than Fallout 76.
Have a tournament arc. Having an arc like that in the show could have not only brought the world of Link Vrains to life but it could have fleshed out it's supporting characters. This is something that Cardfight Vanguard and Future Card Buddyfight did as it made many of the supporting characters for those shows are just as memorable as the mains.
Feature a child character like Leo (5Ds) or Sora (Arc V)that accompanies Yusaku on his adventures in Link Vrains. Having a kid character could have made the plot more interesting. It could have showcased the lighthearted side of Vrains with the added comedy. Finally, the kid charterer could have helped Yusaku come out of his shell as well paralleling Yusaku's old personality from childhood before the abduction that caused him to be an anti-social individual.
So that was Yugioh Vrains. A broken, soulless, half fast, insufferable mess of a show that has some of the worst characters, production values and writing I have ever seen. It is a series that tries to be different compare to any other installment yet it lost its own Yugioh identity along the way it devolved into this boring and uninspired sci-fi series that barely resembles Yugioh at all. On top of all that there's no passion whatsoever. Everything that Yugioh Vrains did were done better in different anime. This is not only my least favourite Yugioh instalment but its also one of the worst animes I have seen in long while and that is sad because as much I hate to admit it Yugioh Vrains had the potential to be great. It had a lot of great ideas that could have made Yugioh relevant again in the main stream side of anime but instead we get a broken, unpolished and soulless mess an anime that will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
I've always been a big fan of the Yugioh series. Each iteration managed to improve upon it's predecessors in some way or another, while still keeping things "fresh". Yugioh 5D's pushed the envelope with its outrageous concept and it succeeded. Coupled with strong characters and a great storyline, 5D's is easily my favourite of the series. Comparing the later seasons to the earlier ones, it becomes clear that the newer yugioh anime take a similar route to a specific earlier part; especially in the tone, character designes as well as themes. Zexal has it's roots in the original DM, ARC V in GX and this
yugioh Vains in 5D's. I was taught not to judge a book by its cover, so I kept an open mind towards Vrains despite my high hopes. Whether people want to overlook it or not is up to the individual, but I believe it fails at many fundamentals for writing a good story. This review will go into details why I feel this way.
First, let's get this out of the way: Episodes 13, 21, 29, 38, 59, 83 and 103 are recaps which only re-tells the old story without much new stuff. At most, it has one single new scene splashed at the end to seem not completely purposeless. These point are nothing you don't pick up later and I suggest to just skip these episodes completely.
Now about the actual story: The series is based in a world of the near future where a massive Virtual Reality Network called LINK VRAINS has been established. By using LINK VRAINS, Duels unfold where Duelists change their appearance separate from their real life identities. However, in LINK VRAINS, a mysterious hacker group that hacks via Dueling has appeared: The Knights of Hanoi. Their goal is to destroy a specific Ai known as Cyberse that exists somewhere in the depths of the Network. There is one enemy who stands in their way, Playmaker. His true identity is ordinary high school student Yusaku Fujiki, who wants to find out the truth of an incident that happened in his past.
Vrains plot is easily it's biggest problem. It follows a straight line and doesn't take longer ways, even if it should. We go from 1 duel to the next, not showing the impact each individual conflict and event has. Because of that, it feels rushed more often than not and doesn't leave the characters nor the viewer any time to breath. On the other hand, at some points the show feels slow and dragging. The another arc or the first half of the lost memories arc could easily be reduced to half the episodes, but includes unneccesary duels and fanservice with almost no story. And the problem about no story shows itself in almost every big arc. It usually means 10-20 episodes of only duels with pretty much nothing but duels. The entertainment goes down to zero and stays there until something plot- or characterrelated happens, which usually takes a lot of time. That becomes very boring very quickly and at some points, watching the recaps instead feels like the right way just because it doesn't consume a lot of time. Unfortunately, the anime isn't able to ever recover from this issue and you can only hope it will ever have something to show besides the duels. Sadly, you lose interest before that moment comes.
And now I got to adress the ending arc of the show. Comparing different Yugioh Anime with one other is simply not fair, as it always prevents a neutral view on each individual installment; but there is a point to be made here. The 3 prior yugioh anime went from 146 – 154 episodes, which shows their similar planing and execution over all series. Yugioh Vrains drops in at only 120 episodes, already giving you an idea that something didn't go as planned. In fact, I'd consider only the first 102 episodes to be the actual plot and the last 17 episodes to be the epilog. That could have worked on it's own, if they just wanted to complete the character arcs and give an actual ending to all the main and side characters. But unfortunately, it rather tried to put in an unnessesary longer plot into these episodes too, which prevented the writers from giving each character the respect and time he/she deserves. Some characters even got worse treatment than the first two seasons gave them, which is a shame since the anime certainly had the time to give everyone a satisfying conclusion.
The characers are the strong point of the show. I'll separate the main characters and lump together the not so main characters:
Yusaku Fujiki/Playmaker: Yusaku is the Main Character of the anime and a hacker who fights against evil organisations in the Network alongside his Partner Ai. Being written in the typical "OP Badass" Archtype, he doesn't show emptions while being very powerful. This Archtype needs 2 basic things to be able to work: The Character needs negatives, in some way or another, and needs to be an actual character with personality. The first point was made fair enough, with him being social unable to speak normal to others or form real bonds. What the writers forgot though is his personality. Most of the time, he is just a puppet like figure saying the obvious things without anything resembling a human being. It is good to make a character flawed, but leaving out a personality is unexcuseable. Adding to that his lack of development makes him one of the anime's worst characters, which is a shame since protagonists should be the driving force behind the show, not a continuous brake.
Aoi Zaizen/Blue Angel: She is Yusaku's Classmate and an entertainment duelists in the VRAINS known as Blue Angel who gets caught up in the multi-sided war. Aoi is one of the anime's best characters, both in her personality and goals. In the real world, she is a quiet and shy girl with difficuties in private relationships. In the Network World however, she becomes an active, happy and free dueltainer who just does the things she wants to do. This duality is very important, as her differences between her real self and online avatar are drastic and undeniable. This makes her feel alive and relatable, as everyone in the internet nowadays has an avatar where everyone can be whoever everyone wants to be. Unfortunalely, Vrains lacks this important theme for most of it's run, as every other character is the same in real life and in game. Her Goals are (without getting into too many spoilers) relatable and basic, making her again more human. They shift multiple times over the series, showing her development as a character and different views on the world around her.
Ai/Dark Ignis: Being a member of the Cyberse, his life is sought after by the Knights of Hanoi. He is your expected partner, or more pet for most of Vrains run. He is often there when action takes place, but doesn't do anything besides looking. And the consequence is, that he feels uninteresting and unneccesary. He does have some important moments, but is mostly just doing things in the shadow, if at all. As the anime continues, he gets more development, a personality other than pure comedy and becomes more realistic and mature. By the end of the series, he is one of the best characters not just in Yugioh Vrains, but in the whole Franchise. It just takes a long time to get there.
Ryoken Kogami/Revolver: He is the Leader of the Knights of Hanoi and wants to kill the Cyberse. Ryoken is the most developed character in the anime. His character is vastly different from the beginning and end of the show. Besides being gone for 10 – 20 episodes occasionally, he drives the plot forward and is the most active character. Unlike the others though, his character arc constantly develops with every duel he has, which makes him more interesting and deeper.
Takeru Homura/Soulburner: Takeru is a friend and ally of Yusaku who appears first in the second season. He is a self confinend and energic teenager who is trapped in his past and wants to be able to move forward. Therefore, he contacts yusaku and follows him to eventually find a way to let his past behind. Takeru is the most relatable and realstic character in the show. We get a lot of backstory and everyday life displayed, which lacks in many other aspects of the anime. His character arc is mostly the same as yusaku's first, but far better executed. The one problem is that he feels too much like a Playmaker 2.0, which lessens our interest and investment in him and feels unoriginal. Besides that, his writing is pretty much flawless.
Villains: The Villains are the strongest points in the whole show. Especially the major antagonists of each season are relatable, well developed and have a good motive for their action, Going deeper would be a spoiler, but they are certainly the highlight of the anime. Even though not all are great, most of them are.
Other/Minor Characters: The other characters mostly do their job. Some are better than others, but none are very outstanding. They have unique arcs and expand the world building in individual ways. Vrains isn't able to let it's characters drop, which later on leads to some duelists just hanging around in the story without any influence or point to it. Instead of writing them out of the story and giving them individual endings during the story, the team made them stay in the plot far longer than needed, which keeps the focus away from our protagonists, as we first have to somehow get these characters out of the picture to let the important characers duel.
The animation really isn't that breathtaking and only works most of the time. As a long running anime, you can clearly see how they often had to re-use old animation and backgrounds. There was also the change in directors very early in the series, where there was supposed a huge improvement; apparently, animation wasn't one of them. It works most of the time, and sometimes they show where the budget went into: These moments are usually the summoning- and attack animations during the duels. The animation and Art is good when it counts, but isn't worth pointing out otherwise.
Just like the Art, the soundtrack isn't at all breathtaking and only works most of the time. Some of the music that was used was fitting for the themes and atmosphere of the anime, but it normally just appears without any other reason than a "cool moment" or "amazing strategy" being displayed in a duel. It is often enjoyable, but nothing more than that and adds nothing to the series other than having sound at all.And having the same music play over 100+ episodes becames boring and repetetive either way.
There isn't anything else to point out besides the good and bad points that weren't already mentioned. Vrains was often entertaining, but the huge problems just stuck with you during most of it's run.
Yugioh Vrains has a few good points, but fails at many basics in story development and character building. My recommendation: If you are already a fan of the other yugioh anime or are interested for any other reason, you might want to check it out and decide to stop or continue after 20 episodes.
And so ends another Yugioh series. Though ending shorter than expected. Though really, there wasn't much else you could do with the world they've set up. Which isn't a bad thing really. But it just meant the story wrapped up quicker than expected.
As for the show itself? It got me back into Yugioh honestly. But I can see that's not without it's faults still. While I did enjoy it. There were a few things, like with some of the characters, that weren't really that great at all. Let alone the pointless recap episodes. Though thankfully those stopped after the first season.
Sooo...Does Vrains hold up
as a Yugioh anime? It does. But certainly isn't the best at all. But still an alright series overall.