And so we have a new Yu-Gi-Oh! manga that’s been running in Weekly Shonen Jump, based on the Arc-V anime spin-off of the main series, much like GX and 5D’s. Let’s give this a look! Is it good?
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written by: Shin Yoshida
Artwork by: Naohito Miyoshi
Translated and Adapted by: Taylor Engel and John Werry
Lettering by: John Hunt
Here’s the description for the first volume:
Action Duels have become a global sensation, but what is the dark secret behind them that threatens to destroy the world?
Yuzu Hiiragi and her father run a Dueling school that’s seen better days. If only they had a star teacher to bring in new students; when a rogue Duelist known as Phantom appears in the city, Yuzu may have found a savior, but Phantom will have to deal with the Leo Corporation’s special forces before he can get into any community service.
The Initial Impression
I watched pretty much the majority of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series (never finished the last season, but I saw almost all of it). I also watched the first two or so seasons of its first spin-off, GX, which was about a duel academy. I haven’t watched or even read any of the other spin-offs beyond that, but I did enjoy the original and first spin-off series quite a bit. I even loved some of the anime filler as well. So entering this manga, having not seen the anime it was based on, I figured I could easily jump right back in. Unfortunately, for people who are old veterans of the series just coming back or who’ve not seen this particular anime, I feel you are in for a disappointing experience.
What Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V Vol. 1 most reminds me of is the manga adaption of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. In a sense, it’s basically an alternative universe take on the same material. It reuses the same characters, keeps most of their personalities in check, follows the basic premise and setting, but goes in its own direction with its own story. However, if you have not watched the anime, the manga is not going to feel as fulfilling and satisfying unfortunately. In order to get the most of the GX manga, you needed to get attached to the characters in the anime, learn their backgrounds, and see their connections and relationships to one another. I have not watched Arc-V at all, but that’s the same impression I get with its manga: I need to watch the show to get more out of it.
Yuzu! We can’t afford to have flowers in our panels! Stop wasting money!
Because otherwise, I don’t feel that the story or even the characters are all that well-defined. Maybe this whole Action Duels thing was introduced in a different spin-off or in this series’ anime, but I don’t feel like I have much of grasp on it nor does it really work for me after reading the manga. I don’t quite understand the concept of dueltainers or how they got started; I barely understand what the Leo Corporation is about other than they made Solid Vision and seem to have their own police force; I don’t quite understand why L.C. is after Yuya Sakaki, our lead character, other than his dragon card is special and will change the world. This manga does not explain anything especially well to those not in the know. I don’t expect the series to explain how dueling works or the rules of it, since that was already covered in the main series, but the lack of world-building and providing the basic rules to this story dampers the experience.
The characters themselves don’t especially dazzle and stand out either. Yuya is just your bare-bones Shonen protagonist at this stage, not doing much to separate himself from the crowd. His most intriguing aspect, ostensibly having multiple identities, is not really expanded on in any fashion. Almost all the members of the Leo Corporation don’t make an impression in the slightest or have much in the way of a personality sans antagonistic force to the protagonist. The closest is Kurosaki, who is sort of a thrill seeker that puts himself into the worst positions in duels so he can get some sort of high and challenge from it. It’s not much, but it does give him something. The best character in the manga is Yuzu Hiiragi, who is desperately trying to keep the dueling school her father created up and running. As such, she seeks out Yuya to become a teacher, despite putting herself in plenty of danger. She’s greedy, manipulative at times, and delivers some of the best jokes in the manga. There’s not a lot to her like the other characters, but she does at least stand out amongst them.
Even when piloting a helicopter, there’s always time for a lollipop.
Overall, the writing on the book is average; not bad, but not particularly great either. The storytelling is too quick and too fast, barely taking any time for character development or laying down the basics for the plot. The dialogue tends to get way too exposition heavy during the duels themselves (though, that admittedly happens in every other Yu-Gi-Oh series) and can be a bit too corny and silly to take serious. Most characterization and character traits are told to us more rather than being shown to us (like Yuya rescuing more people than the Leo Corporation), outside of a few moments here and there. There’s no sense of excitement or intensity to the duels either, since everyone is just constantly explaining things or just pulling out twists on top of twists over and over. It gets tiring maybe the anime is better at handling all of this, but it’s not a strong point for the manga.
Lastly, there’s the artwork and it’s not especially bad. The character designs all feel reminiscent of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, which at least keeps the art consistent even with different creators. The designs are extremely, stereotypical anime and manga designs with the wild hair, silly outfits, and such, but they do work in an equally silly and crazy universe where card games are the most important things ever. The designs of the monsters and cards look nice and do feel unique enough from each other. The major problem is that the dueling and storytelling isn’t exactly great, being a bit too hectic and visually noisy at times for you to really get invested in what you’re looking at. It just keeps things from feeling all that exciting or engaging ultimately, which really hurts in a Shonen action series.
Is It Good?
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V Vol. 1 is underwhelming. If you are fan of the Arc-V spin-off and have watched several episodes of the show already, perhaps there is something to this manga that you may enjoy. However, if you have not watched it in any capacity, than this series will not really work for you. It’s both underdeveloped and feels like you need to have experienced the series in somewhat in the past to get the most out of it.