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.
The first season of VR has come to an end, and so I've determined this would be a good time to give my thoughts on the season as a whole. I will state at the outset that I think that this is a bad series, that it suffers from numerous flaws of such severity that they render it impossible for me to enjoy the series. If reading criticism of the series would make you angry, please turn away now. If you are able to keep a level head, then go right ahead and read what I have
to offer, and hopefully I will have something to offer.
Note: This review is going to be spoiler heavy and assumes that you are already familiar with the show.
So, first thing's first, the main character. Yusaku Fujiki, AKA Playmaker. He is the hero of the online world of LINK VRAINS, single-handily taking on the cuber-terrorists known as the Knights of Hanoi in his quest for revenge against them. And he is absolutely flawless. Seriously. He has no character flaws at all, he has no character traits that either serve as obstacles that he must overcome to achieve his goals, nor does he ever make mistakes or take morally compromised actions in his quest for vengeance. The show 'says' that he has flaws, it plays at the idea that Yusaku is an edgy badass antihero, but it never commits to Yusaku doing anything that would in line with that characterization. In every situation he knows more than everyone else, he is never out of his depth no matter what situation he is in, and despite being anti-social and having no charm or presence, he is somehow able to draw numerous people to himself to serve as his allies. Mind, Yusaku doesn't have much in the way of character traits to begin with; he has character tics and repeated behaviors, most notably his habit of listing things in threes, but none of this gels into a coherent center that would carry his character from one scene to the next. All Yusaku really has is his backstory; as a child he was kidnapped and tortured, and now he is all grown up and will stop at nothing for revenge, so long as that doesn't require him to do anything morally compromised as stated above. In short, Yusaku's backstory is used as a subsitute for writing an actual characgter, leaving him a power fantasy. He is designed for you to imagine that you too can be as badass as Yusaku, a point that is hammered home in an otherwise pointless scene where we see a little kid with a mini-playmaker Avatar who wants to be a great hero just like Yusaku.
Next up, the supporting cast. They don't hardly do anything or have any impact on anything. Go Onizuka is the epitome of this; he only shows up when he has a duel to participate in and otherwise does not appear in the series. Aoi Zaizen AKA Blue Angel meanwhile only exists to suffer and be humiliated; her introductory duel has her being possessed and then going into a coma, she has two token duels of no plot significance, and then she duels Specter, the man who'd infected her and put her in a coma to begin with. This duel is an absolutely one-sided slaughter that luridly lingers on her broken form as she is smashed into the pavement while her opponent finishes the duel with nearly twice as many life points as he'd started with. And just to rub it in how pathetically outclassed Aoi was, Specter immediately after duels Yusaku, who not only forces Specter to bring out his most powerful monster, but in fact he has to take a hostage to keep Playmaker from winning an entire episode early. Then there's the salt on the wound that the only character who cares about Aoi is her own brother; even thirty odd episodes into the show, she hasn't built up meaningful bonds with anyone else, so her defeat and humiliation don't even serve to motivate Yusaku, the only character who matters. Speaking of Akira, he along with Emma and Kusanagi represent the “responsible adults” in the show. Akira and Emma are both useless and pointless, unable to do anything that will affect the course of the show, while Kusanagi is useful but is completely unappreciated by Yusaku who acts entitled to all his myriad services in his quest for revenge.
The only supporting character who merits individual discussion is Ai, the rogue Ignis. He is basically the living McGuffin of the series that everyone is fighting over. He is intended to be a quirky, comic-relief character with a tender, dramatic core; he is on the run from everyone and Yusaku himself takes Ai hostage and has no regard for Ai as his own person. Much of the show tries to hype up their relationship, but Ai's overtures of friendship towards Yusaku are continuously rebuffed for no real reason, leaving the relationship hollow. Not to mention in the end, once Yusaku has gotten his revenge he just lets Ai go without a second thought and no guilt at all about using and endangering him in the first place.
Onto the villains! The Knights of Hanoi are not good villains! Their existence as a group is baffling; despite being cyberterrorists who believe that their destructive acts are morally necessary, they never make use of propaganda to make their case to anyone, leaving it a mystery as to how they recruited anyone, much less the hordes upon hordes of nameless faceless mooks that they throw out all over the place. There are three lieutenants, but they only show up for one arc, only get one duel each, lose their duels, and have no impact or lasting impression. Then there's Specter; he's your bog-standard annoying psychotic villain who makes goofy faces with an even goofier backstory about how he has a mother-complex towards a tree. Yes. A tree. A magic tree that protected him as a baby. Which he is able to remember despite that he was a literal baby at the time and you literally can not remember anything from when you were a literal baby. Oh, and also it turns out that he was one of the Lost Children who was captured and tortured just like Yusaku, but it just comes out of nowhere and gels poorly with the rest of his backstory. Its like, he straight up says that he enjoyed being tortured since he didn't have anywhere to belong on the outside, only to then say that he actually did miss his mom-tree and was very sad when he returned only to find that it had been cut down in the middle of the mountain-forest with all the other trees left alone. This is a thing that actually happened.
Even that though, is peanuts compared to Revolver, the leader of the Knights of Hanoi. He is supposed to be Yusaku's rival and is hyped up in the show as a big deal, but is in fact a total joke. Technically, he duels Yusaku four times, but in two of those duels he forces a draw and then immediately starts up another duel with Yusaku, so as far as the narrative and character beats go, its still the same duel. And in both cases, Yusaku wins, leaving Revolver a non-threat. The show gives him two more duels that he does win to try and hype him up for the rematch, except that both people he beats are people that Yusaku himself has already beaten, so it doesn't make us think that he could become a threat to Yusaku. Beyond his failure as a rival, it turns out he is Yusaku's special person who'd reached out to him when he was a child and being tortured; that Revolver never tried to reach out to the other five children who were kidnapped and tortured and brought to the same facility is never addressed. Regardless, Revolver has no regard for Yusaku in the present, except when he stands around pontificating about how he is totally so obsessed with Yusaku that he'll just stand there and not do anything about him, even when he discovers Yusaku's real-life identity.
In addition, there is the matter of the motivation behind the Knights of Hanoi; Revolver initially claims its all about how the internent is bad because people lie on it and junk, but it turns out that Revolver's dad was the one who had abducted and tortured Yusaku along with five other children and the torture was for the purpose of creating AI with free will. How he was able to capture so many children undetected and cover his tracks so that his own son had to leak the information to the police, and why he had to torture children in order to create his free willed AI is never explained. Regardless, after the creation of these free willed AI, Revolver's dad decides to run a simulation on what will happen when they try to guide humanity. I repeat; he runs a computer simulation about what will happen with state-of-the-art FREE WILLED AI. The contradiction of this flies right over Revolver's dad's head, and he decides that since the simulations say that humanity will be wiped out because humans will resent the AI trying to guide them LIKE HE WANTED THEM TO, that he must therefore destroy the AI to save humanity. Oh, and something about his Free-willed AI lying and so therefore they must be plotting the downfall of humanity. Even though they are literally just chilling in their own private network and aren't interacting with humanity at all.
Really, the writing in general is clunky and poorly thought out; there is an entire sequence where Revolver's dad shows up out of nowhere in front of Akira, drops some exposition at him, and then leaves. There is literally no reason why Revolver's dad would do this, and it has no impact on anything as Akira ends up “killed off” before he ever has any opportunity to do anything with the exposition that has been dropped on him. The series is littered with awkward “as you know Bob” exposition that does not so much foreshadow as it just spills what's going to happen. There are also all the rampant inconsistencies; Kusanagi has Yusaku infiltrate SOL technologies hidden database so that they can find out their role in the Lost Incident, only when they find out, Kusanagi is shocked that SOL technologies was involved! These sorts of writing flaws are everywhere in Yugioh VRAINS, undermining scenes, episodes, and even entire plot lines.
Then there's the issue of the pacing and plotting. The storyline of the first season consists of four different arcs; the introductory arc, the SOL invasion arc, the Another arc, and the Tower of Hanoi arc. The introductory arc establishes the characters and their relationships, and while it does suffer from the character issues mentioned above, it isn't drawn or dragged out too much. The SOL invasion and Another arcs on the other hand, are empty padding; the SOL invasion arc ends with our heroes learning nothing that they can actually use in their quest for revenge, while the Another arc fails to establish the character bonds and dynamics between Yusaku, Go, and Aoi. In fact, Go's duel in the Another arc is hilarious from a writing episode; his duel is a two-parter and the second part just ends in the middle of the second episode, so the episode just goes on into Aoi's part of the arc without any transition or connection; WHIPLASH! Oh, and out of 46 episodes, 4 of those episodes are recap episodes!
The animation and set designs are lackluster at best; LINK VRAINS is an online environment that can look like anything and anyone in it can look like anything, yet the environment itself is always the same dreary empty cityscape and most everyone has an avatar that looks just like them with maybe some cosmetic changes, maybe. The “Speed Duels”, where the characters ride on flying surfboards on the “Data Stream” lacks any sense of motion to it and adds nothing to the experience, and facial expressions are frequently stiff and fail to convey the intended mood. The music is also generic and uninteresting, leaving no lasting impression.
May as well talk about the duels in this series. They are boring as sin. Not only are the duels predictable in their entirety, the outcomes never in suspense, but the structures are repeatedly repetitive; Yusaku almost always goes second and wins the duel on the fourth turn after using his super special Storm Access skill to get a random Link monster that just so happens to be just what he needs to win, and as mentioned above both of his duels with Revolver have the same structure and even end in the same way. In addition, everyone duels the exact same way, spamming Link monsters; everyone's decks feel very samey because of this and so everything blurs together in a mushed up mash of indifference as each turn consists of anywhere from two to ten link summons in a row. That the show does a poor job explaining the Link Summon mechanic does not do it any favors either.
Finally, there is the matter of theme. Yugioh VRAINS doesn't have a theme, it has no message or purpose or anything like that. Yusaku fights a bunch of bad guys, he beats them all by himself as everyone else is ineffectual, and he gets his revenge and now he doesn't have PTSD anymore. That's it. The show is so fixated on “Plot” that it never gets around to having any of it mean anything. Sure, plenty of characters stand around and pontificate and say things that sound deep and meaningful, but none of it matters.
In the end, the show is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Is it possible for the show to improve in the second season? Yes. But then, lots of things are possible, like the show doubling-down on all its flaws to churn out cheap, schlocky, familiar tropes without any heart or soul behind them. The only true character I really like is Revolver and the Ignis. This show treats the viewers like jerks and thinks It's cool shit, but outside the box it ain't nothing more than a nuckclear bomb.
P.S. The show queerbaits the hell out of Yusaku and Revolver's relationship, only for Revolver to just up and leave on a speedboat, leaving behind his father and all his comrades that he supposedly care about. That is all I have to say about that.
First impression of the VRAINS series is that the anime has a more mature theme much like the 5D's series, which in my opinion is a plus. So far the story is about the high school student Yuusaku who secretly works as a hacker fighting against the criminal hacking organisation "Knights of Hanoi" due to a yet unexplained background that involved these two. Duels are now carried out in a futuristic VR system called the VRAINS that allows players to manifest as an avatar inside the cyber realm.
The story so far is very well-paced and enjoyable - all the duels have had meaningful for the
story and all of them have been very exciting precisely for that very reason. I also think the show's brilliance lie in the very well-done introduction of the characters. The protagonist is very likeable character who is cool and serious but at the same time not emotionless and able to show his enjoyment in dueling (much like Yusei from 5D's). The rivals have all got a few episodes of introduction which covers why they are the way they are and what reason they have to duel and be part of the VRAINS community. And finally, the villains have been excellently antagonised early in the series by first hinting that they have a valid humane reason for their criminal activities, and then dissipating our sympathy by showing just how ruthless and inhumane they are in achieving their goals.
In the animation department, needless to say that since it's a Yu-Gi-Oh series, you can expect top-notch battle scenes that can probably be considered as another upgrade from the past series. As another plus, the music is also amazing (and I think the general concensus would agree with me on this one) that I don't actually skip both the opening and ending song in each episode, which is a pretty rare case for me.
TL:DR The show so far has been great - the story is very enjoyable and well-paced, and the characters are well-introduced and very relatable to the audience. Animation and duel scenes are amazing as usual, and the music choice is also one of my personal favourite this season. As a Yu-Gi-Oh fan I'm immensely enjoying the anime so far, as it seems to be another step-up from the past series.
*THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS SO BE CAREFUL.. BUT I WILL MINIMISE IT.. *
Spring 2017 season is already over. With the return of the phenomenal Attack On Titan, to the so called ''Trash'' anime Eromanga-sensei, the animes last spring season was quite alright with the shows it offers to us.. But I was not expecting of a return of one of the most famous childhood animes we've been watched, though on this date, almost no one doesn't remember or even care about this collection of animes. That's right. The YuGiOh! franchise... As a fan of the franchise (I still am), Ive watched almost all of
the series ever since I get to like it. Then comes the anime ''YuGiOh! VRAINS''... A very YuGiOh like anime that I bet focused on the ''heart of the cards'' things and of course... A card game. (I still dont know why I watch it). So here's a question.. ''Is this new YuGiOh! anime even worth it? What are the differences?'' We will all come to that.
The story of this anime VRAINS is very simple and yet it's a detailed one. Guy has a horrible past then after 10 years he becomes a terrorist/hacker invading the so called SAO of YuGiOh which is ''Link VRAINS'' to try and find out who was behind what happened to him and his friend. Simple.. But dark as well.. You see in the YuGiOh franchise, its mostly about gaining superpowers and partners (counterparts) like Yugi with his counterpart, Jaiden with his so called ''sharingan'' eyes, Yusei with his dragon mark, Yuma with his ''ghost'' partner and Yuuya with his 3 counterparts, are all... Common.. That's why VRAINS offers us ''Playmaker'' or Fujisaki Yuusaku where his only power.. Well.. Pure talent in dueling. He is indeed in fact a hacker but you can't hack on to someone's deck when dueling am I rite? The story is fast forward itself. No cliched duels and all. Straight to the point that is why VRAINS is very unique among all the other franchises (and its almost like SAO, though not the plot of SAO just the VR + Card games)
Simplicity as its finest. Its a good thing they still followed the same art style from the previous YuGiOh franchises because if they don't, well.. it will be ruined. Not only the character's art involves here but also how they represent VRAINS itself to be like a massive city of data. It's impressive.
A fair sound. For some reason when I hear the opening, the sound just cracks on some parts not only on the opening but some parts of the anime. Ive checked so many times if I have problem with my headphones and all but it was not the gadget's problem. Its the anime. Though I can proudly say that the sound tension when they duel is quite pleasing and impressive.
As I said earlier on the ''story'' part, the main character is very unique among all the other YuGiOh main characters/protagonists, but what lacks here is the development of other characters. Hacker will be a hacker, duel idol will be a duel idol. It was quite rigid though the MC's spotlight is important as well. Since this is still an airing anime, we might see lots of things about the character's traits and all so get ready!.
It's not only the duels that are enjoyable to this show (well almost any YuGiOh franchise out there), but its ending when the MC is on the verge of defeat gives you thrills then when the ending song starts, you are like ''Give me the next episode please!!''
Overall.. I rate this anime as a good old 7/10. With its sound being fair, to the MC being different than others and the story's uniqueness of blending the dueling with straight to the point fights.
Yugioh VRAINS taps into the older Yugioh fan brilliantly, while creating a compelling and interesting story-line that always keeps the viewer guessing.
When I think of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" I always think back to the original manga, and first decade of the franchise, DM, GX, and 5Ds. I think after 5Ds the direction of the franchise became a lot more light hearted, at least for the beginnings of Zexal and Arc-V which I could never really get into. However, VRAINS brilliantly recaptures what made me fall in love with this franchise. While the show is dark and realistic, it is also funny at times which makes for a
really good balance. The anime has many complex characters so far, and there are countless amounts of mysteries in the storyline and character lines. So far, VRAINS has been the first Yugioh show to really hook me since Yugioh 5Ds, and I am on edge every episode waiting to see what new secrets and plot lines will be revealed! A must watch, especially for any old school Yugioh fan! You will appreciate the dark tones which made Yugioh, Yugioh.