All this time I thought it was 5Ds.
With a link to the hub out of the way, let’s start with some backstory and expectations. I remember Cartoon Network airing some episodes of season 1 back in 2009 back when I was eagerly watching the small Saturday morning anime block the channel had with Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, Bakugan: New Vestroia, and Beyblade: Metal Fusion (all part of other nostalgic series I plan to do a retrospective on at some point because exploring my nostalgia fuels my attention-whoring ego). After I started watching anime on the CW 4Kids Saturday morning block, I caught the last few episodes that 4Kids dubbed for this show before they started airing Zexal alongside reruns of Duel Monsters in 2011.
As for expectations, I’m nervous with this one. Some say this is the best Yugioh entry of the lot, and others only attribute that to the first season, saying that after episode 64, the show’s transition into the second season following well-documented production issues (which I will be bringing up) felt more akin to a car crash the show never truly recovered from even by the end which many either consider better than most of season 2, or worse. I’ve been notified of what will inevitably be some of the more frustrating aspects of post-S1 5D’s, and it has me wondering how long I’ll last and if I’ll end up agreeing that this is somehow still the best Yugioh or if GX is still the best I’ve seen so far. I’ll be dividing things up a bit differently than with the previous installments. Seeing as 5D’s only has 2 seasons, I’ll be dividing them into each arc rather than each season.
You’re gonna need to pace yourself with this one, as it’s gonna be even longer than the GX blog. It’s gonna be a long, wild ride.
Fortune Cup Arc
Much like the first 26 episodes of GX, the first 26 episodes of 5D’s are actually pretty decent but for largely different reasons. I will say right up front that I’m not quite as into these characters as I were to the better GX characters from even back in S1. Yusei is an ok protagonist. He has some badass moments and he does want to get back at Jack for stealing Yusei’s shit and abandoning everyone, but is a bit of a meh kind of stoic moralizer character. Certainly better than Yugi from Duel Monsters, but not quite Jaden from GX in terms of how fun he is or how invested I am in him. The other characters such as Jack, Aki, Lua, and Luca, are all decent characters in their own right as well and either having fun enough personalities or interesting character arcs. Jack is an entertaining enough egotistical rival filled with ambitions. They explore him competently, especially after he damn near loses to Yusei in episode 5. Aki’s plotline of being an unstable psychic striking back at the world that shunned her while being emotionally manipulated by Divine is also engaging. I look forward to seeing this progress, especially since some her duels were among the most dangerous and interesting in the series. Lua is an adorable and energetic kid while his sister is an amusing deadpan snarker constantly annoyed by her brother’s bullshit. They’re likable side characters that appear to tag along with Yusei in the second half. Starting in the first half, he at least meets two alright characters named Tenzen and Himuro.
The former is an eccentric geezer who likes cards based on ancient artifacts, and the latter is a former pro-duelist who goes from an asshole to a tough but alright guy after dueling Yusei. Other decent recurring characters are Ushio (a prideful cop and duelist with some humanizing and engaging moments of his own) and Saiga (a bitter person about friendship who Yusei encounters and eventually wins over). The last character I feel like talking about is Bommer as he’s actually also kinda cool. In his first appearance during the Fortune Cup, he shuts up the audience that was booing Yusei for being a Satelight person, saying that in the world of dueling, they are all equal as human beings. He serves as an interesting mirror of Yusei, as he’s also a tough but caring badass but one who has lost everyone he wanted to protect and has vowed revenge against Godwin. This leads to one of the most intense duels in the arc, culminating in a glorious and thankfully foiled rampage against Godwin. Given that Yusei’s Satellite friends (who are kinda meh so I don’t feel like talking about them) were kidnapped in the second half of the arc and that he still wanted to settle the score with Jack, Bommer serves as a slightly darker version of our main character.
The setting and general plot are also ok. It’s interesting to see a YGO show from the perspective of older teens starting from the slums that get tortured and imprisoned, even if they can get ridiculously heavyhanded by making the opposition in the first half a bunch of shitty assholes cuz we must root for Yusei at all costs. Some of the reveals about this fucked up Neo Domino City and Satellite system that isn’t working quite like Godwin says it is as despite people being born into or arrested and thrown into Satellite, there’s still poverty and slumlike areas in Neo Domino. Learning more about how and why Jack left was also neat, and seeing Yusei’s run-ins with Ushio and a journey through prison is actually kinda neat. I’m of course, ambivalent about the whole lore regarding the signers and Yliaster and whatnot.
What makes 5D’s entertaining right now outside of having probably the most tolerable plot of any Yugioh arc so far is that it might somehow be the most over the top entry in the series to date. That’s not to say the whole show is like this, but there are several moments that need more recognition for how crazy and awesome they are. Let me go over my favorite examples.
- In episode 5, after a grueling duel between Yusei and Jack, as their two dragons collide, the Signer dragon appears since the two are both signers. What follows is a glorious introduction scene where the dragon ravages everything before disappearing, causing Neo Domino City to have a quick blackout. The two stand after getting tossed off their bikes as they grapple their arms that have a glowing signer mark on them, in disbelief as to what’s just happened before Yusei gets arrested for illegally escaping from Satellite (more on that later) to reach Neo Domino City.
- In episode 12, Yusei and Ushio are falling down an elevator shaft for over a minute and Ushio legit keeps on dueling, which causes Yusei to nearly fall out of his D-wheel during free fall. Then. they land at what has to be terminal velocity (but isn’t cuz anime), doing so with a wheelie, and then proceeding to continue the duel after Ushio busts through the elevator doors after Yusei exits and Ushio is locked in. They then continue dueling as if nothing fucking happened!
- In episode 14, when Aki Izayoi aka the witch, makes her debut, the visuals ramp up into overdrive once again as her psychic powers send everyone flying before the masked maiden comments in disgust after seeing Yusei’s signer mark. Her dragon is this intimidating silhouette, and after her remark and rampage, she disappears into a well-animated beam of blue light somehow.
- In episode 21, after Bommer loses to Yusei in the Fortune Cup semifinals, he decides that since he doesn’t have to do Godwin’s bidding and try to force out Yusei’s signer powers, he’s gonna out Godwin in front of the entire stadium. After stating Godwin’s signer dragon experiment wiped out Bommer’s village, he decides to crash his D-wheel into the tower Godwin was at in order to perform a murder-suicide on him. Then Yusei counters, breaking off one of the wheel spikes, and Godwin catches the spike as it’s spinning, revealing a metal hand he then conceals from the rest of the stadium, probably to show that he is not a man with any weakness.
I do note that some of the peanut gallery and overused flashbacks problems still exist, and the plotline of Saigi going to Satellite to find Yusei’s friends kinda disappears after episode 20 when Yusei is told that they’re missing and that he’ll keep looking. I’ve also mentioned a few minor issues as well since I don’t have any significant problems with the writing outside of those aspects and how annoying certain other tertiary characters are. Either way, this was actually rather solid, and I look forward to what season 2 has to offer. Hopefully more gloriously over the top moments as well as some time to explore these characters in a way that makes them more entertaining and not just solid or somewhat competent but meh.
Dark Signers Arc
I guess there really is no such thing as a good Yugioh anime.
I’m frustrated. Not in the “wow this arc/season was such a downgrade from before” kind of way, but in the typical GX style “I’m of two minds/this is a real mixed bag” kind of way. I’m gonna state upfront that I do not think this is as good as the first arc, but I guess I have to really split this into full-on positives and negatives like GX cuz there are two sides to this particular coin: the character writing and the narrative writing.
Almost immediately, we see Saiga just chilling with Yusei’s friends and generally kinda feeling at home with them, so at least we know the show didn’t abandon him, even if he, and the Satelight and prison buddies still don’t get to be particularly relevant. Speaking of side characters, Mikage and Officer Ushio from the Fortune Cup arc get a huge boost this season. While still serving as a bit of comic relief whenever he gets bossed around by Mikage and even Yusei, he finds himself needing to humble himself when coming into contact with Martha and a bunch of Satellite kids she raises just like she did with Yusei, Jack, and a certain newcomer I’ll get to. I have hope for his growth in the future. As for Mikage, she had no role in the first arc beyond being a meek verbal punching bag for Jack and Godwin when all she was doing is trying her best for her superiors. Here, this suit-wearing beaut actually has the honor of whipping officer Ushio into shape, making him do whatever she says at points. She’s never a particularly active character and she does still put up with some of Jack’s bullshit as she still clings to him out of implied love for him, but she’s more involved than last time as she flies everyone around and has her own romantic rivalry with Carly. Speaking of Carly Nagisa, she’s easily my favorite new addition to the cast, as she’s a bumbling
beaut goof just trying her best when the world gets her down, drawing fortunes and trying to find a scoop while simultaneously being comedic relief. She was already entertaining there, but after getting to know Jack somewhat, her relationship with him ends up being kinda charming as she starts up his character arc for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, the manipulative bastard Divine kills her off, and that turns her into a Dark Signer. I’ll just come out and say early on before I touch on the narrative that I don’t really care about most of the Dark Signers. There ends up being a total of 7 by the end, and I could only get invested in the plights of 3 of them, one of those 3 being Carly. I would have liked to see more of how awful she felt about realizing she had become a Dark Signer, and how guilty she feels about having to duel Jack to the death for a warped version of her desire to be with him, but what we got was still good, especially when we see visions of what she really wants for Jack as he contemplates tying with her that way they die together in the shadow duel (yeah, those are back). It was a pretty emotional scene, especially since she then dies in his arms after proclaiming her love to him just as he did during the duel. The other worthwhile Dark Signer characters are Misty and Bommer. Misty blames Aki for the death of her brother as well as for her near-death experience as a result of the grief. She also serves as the person who helps somewhat ease Carly’s transition into accepting the fact that she’s a Dark Signer as Misty, just as most put under this state still have some semblance of control of themselves despite being the dark results of their agonies and desires. She and Carly also make for 2 of the 3 characters that eventually try to fight the curse of being a Dark Signer when they truly realize where they’ve gone wrong and that they can still (but not really) forsake this darker path. Then there’s Bommer. He gets hung and then faces off against Crow (who I will get to shortly) and then has to come to terms with Crow and Yusei who are both rather similar to him in that they wanted to get back at someone for what they did to them and their friends. His village is gone and while the cause was retconned to something else (sorta), he nonetheless has to realize the fight is over. These characters and one more Dark Signer highlight a theme of how pointless and destructive revenge is, which is what Yusei realized and what Crow also has to learn through this duel.
Speaking of Crow, he’s the new addition to the main cast and I like him well enough. He’s a somewhat cocky and brash upstart who’s good with the kids and is influenced by the legend of the legendary D-wheeler who started the unfinished Daedalus bridge. He has some fun banter with Yusei and is an entertaining guy in his own right given his past connections with Jack, Yusei, and someone I’ll get to. Yusei gets spooked by said character after a duel went horribly wrong, and has to learn to get over the fear of facing a former friend who now hates him, and also the burden of being the son of someone involved with the catastrophe that split Satellite so many years ago. It’s an ok character arc to shake up an ok protagonist with some asspulls to his name. Jack’s development of letting go of his ego somewhat to pursue a new, more honest path thanks to Carly dealing with his BS and him being outed as someone who originated from Satellite now that he’s no longer the King of Duelists. His chemistry with Carly is pretty charming and while the idea of him loving her feels like it could have used more time considering who he is, it’s still a nice sentiment as he tries to find out what happened after she goes missing/dies/becomes a Dark Signer. Aki learning to deal with the “death” of Divine, what atrocities were committed by the Arcadia Movement, and how alienated she was by the world and even her now atone-driven parents also made for an engaging arc. Afterwards, she helps out the gang and gets spooked by Misty revealing how her brother died. Lastly, Lua and Luca have some fun moments regarding how Lua wants to protect his more important sister and overcome some of his childishness while Luca accepts her dangerous responsibilities and appreciates her older twin’s efforts.
A lot of these character arcs and developments feel like natural conclusions to what came before back in the Fortune Cup arc, and some of the newcomers further bolster this while being engaging in their own right. I wouldn’t say any character got shafted, and it’s clear that the writers knew exactly what they wanted to do with these characters for the most part. However, there are some weaker characters introduced, and they’re tied to an even shittier narrative.
I don’t particularly care for Kiryuu. It’s cool how the show slowly puts the pieces together on his past with the others and why he felt betrayed by Yusei when Yusei actually tried and failed to cover for him. It’s interesting to see how his desire to satisfy himself as a member of Satellite made him more violent over time to the point of committing terrorism. It’s clear that he went off the deep end, making it understandable why he’s a cackling maniac who wants revenge. Still, I find his constant laughing and goading to be obnoxious rather than an entertaining example of a villain reveling in his own villainy. They also don’t really play into his resentment that strongly, either which is somewhat retroactively justified by him not really hating Yusei but still feeling betrayed and like he was robbed of one last stand with his friends in their duel gang. He’s a decent enough character but eh. That’s still more engaging than the other antagonists.
Divine made for a decent manipulative bastard right to the end, though I take umbrage with a few things. The reveal of how Tobi actually died has me wondering how Misty remembers her brother dying when it’s a false memory. I guess she might have conjured up something like that due to all that hatred and I guess since Divine caused all this, he must’ve embedded that lie in her. It is a bit of a stretch especially since Yugioh is not a show that would actually delve into that kind of psychological aspect. Still, I don’t like how it was due to Yusei asspulling some app in his duel disk that lets duelists from multiple duels hear each other (which wouldn’t even make practical sense in a duel outside of retroactively explaining how people can hear each other during speed duels if not for the fact that apparently, it’s a feature of the thing being custom-made/homemade). It’s just there so that Divine could spill the beans and unknowingly have everyone know what happened so that Misty can make her Earthbound Immortal eat him alive as a sacrifice since it was somehow summoned without needing to use human sacrifices like all other Earthbound Immortals need and like it needed in episode 39. Divine surviving the fall from episode 39 is also rather blah but I guess you can make the argument he used some kind of fire power with his abilities to propel himself away from splatting on the ground and instead forcing him to move in the air to have a rolling landing, and you can argue that’s how he was scarred since they never go into detail on how he survived or got the scar (since the explosion that caused him to fall didn’t do that). Still, I’m not giving this show the benefit of the doubt on those two things. Maybe in a better-written show, perhaps. Still, he was fine and effective for the most part.
One of the Dark Signers is a fodder character and so is his Zeman dark synchro spirit. The duel he has with Lua while Luca has her Spirit World escapades is also obnoxiously long, with the whole thing being a 4-episode excursion when it probably could have been 3. The pace of the duel itself rivaled the most padded out of Duel Monsters duels, and the Luca quest was dull and sometimes rather annoying as she and the wizard she was with were astronomically stupid at least twice just for the sake of the plot when not being that could have shaved off enough time for the duel to have ended this episode. When they learn that Regulus being hit with minus made him perceive the opposite of what they were saying, they immediately kept saying what they were already saying for a good minute before Torunka (the wizard) figured to do the opposite. Then, just as they were almost done tricking Zeman the ape king into freeing Ancient Fairy Dragon, they trip and then reveal their entire plan while gloating when things weren’t done. Luca’s supposed to be the intelligent sibling. Rutger Godwin (the even more evil Godwin) is the boss of the Dark Signers who gloats and is just boring as sin. The only thing going for him is that in the past, he was goaded into learning about all of this, leading to the Zero Reverse catastrophe before casting off his Signer arm to Rex Godwin so that he can get the two to fight in order to fulfill the ancient prophecy when the time is right.
This brings us to Rex Godwin, the manipulative bastard of the entire first season (yes there’s an unnamed big bad who started it all but he’s not relevant for now). It turns out he and Rutger were with Yusei’s dad when this whole Zero Reverse incident happened, and that he was meant to assemble the Signers to fight the Dark Signers. He was always shady, so it was a safe bet that even after this, he wasn’t in the clear. He then intentionally loses to his brother in order to inherit both the power of the Crimson Dragon for the Signers, and the power of the evil god of the Dark Signers that way he can become a god. He wants to end this struggle once and for all and go above his limitations as a human which he learned about the hard way due to being the legendary D-wheeler who eventually lost his arm after disappearing via Daedalus Bridge jump. How did Rex Godwin hide his origin if he had a major accident after jumping the incomplete Daedalus bridge? Wouldn’t that have been a reported injury and incident that would make it so people who aren’t younger than like 15 in Neo Domino City generally know who he is, making it impossible for him to have hidden all of that away given that he still kept the same identity? Questions aside, he does not make for a compelling antagonist when he beefs up and becomes an evil, gloating bad guy who only really exists to highlight how far Yusei, Jack, and Crow have developed and to be defeated by the power of believing in bonds and friendship and the power of surpassing so-called destiny which he forgot. He serves a function in this regard and that’s it.
Speaking of all those thematics, boy does the show love to really shove that down your throat during this arc. I know the whole heart of the cards and believing in your deck thing was already bad in Duel Monsters and GX, and it’s still bad here. However, it might just be more blatant and hamfisted than Duel Monsters about the power of friendship given that it gets drilled into you every single time Yusei duels! He also gets the asspull of having a monster (Majestic Dragon) shine into existence just so he can turn Stardust Dragon into Majestic Stardust Dragon and pull out a lousy victory against Kiryuu cuz kizuna and tomodachi and nakama or whatever. Jack also does this with Carly a few episodes later but that alone doesn’t result in the win as he planned to do a double-suicide just to be with her before Carly foiled it and basically blew herself up using his card on purpose. Other problems include how Yusei suddenly has a lot of new cards in his rematch with Kiryuu in episodes 54 and 55, which reminds me of when Jaden suddenly had a bunch of new cards halfway into the actual arc portion of the Seven Stars/Shadow Raiders arc of GX in episode 40. In both cases, there’s no explanation for how they could have gotten a bunch of brand new cards since unlike every time Jaden and his friends get new cards past that point in GX, we aren’t dealing with a case of characters often opening booster packs and that being a thing the audience can assume happened between the end of one season/school year and the start of another. A card being pulled out of nowhere just to get Yusei out of a jam and/or into a victory for one duel and before never being used again that season or ever is also still a problem for this franchise, and is the last smaller thing I’ll talk about for now.
Then, we have the lore, which is another major issue. Every 5K years, this battle happens, and this is the 2nd time this happened so how do they know it’s supposed to always happen after 5K years? On top of that, Synchro and Dark Synchro mechanics weren’t introduced to the game until sometime between the events of GX and 5D’s given that there are continuity nods involving DM and GX monsters and there being a Neo Domino City. How did all of that work in the first battle? They needed the help of a bunch of humans, so did all of this take place in the spirit world or the human world the first time? Apparently, the Signer marks always light up whenever facing a Dark Signer or someone possessed by one, except sometimes that’s not true until a certain point during a duel, and they for some reason always know who is dueling when that happens. Also apparently, whenever a Signer is feeling like they really need that power of love or friendship right now, they can just absorb all of the marks to have the entire Signer Dragon mark on their back to bullshit out Majestic Dragon and therefore win with a beefed-up version of their ace monster somehow. I can somewhat tolerate them making force fields to deal with shadow duel collateral damage, but this is a step too far, especially since no pain comes of it or any resonance of Signer arcs in this arc outside of in the first half when facing those possessed by Dark Signers. On top of that, apparently Yusei can change it so that Godwin is no longer the final signer and make Crow one for some reason despite him not having a dragon synchro (for now). This screws over Lua because his Power Tool Dragon looks suspiciously like one of the signer-related dragons who fought alongside the others in the first battle, so the build-up done in ED 2 and a ton of flashbacks in the first 40 episodes of the season amount to absolutely nothing for the time being when it would truly matter in the context of the arc. So much for logic and foresight. I guess 5D’s production troubles were beginning to start near the end of this first season, which would help explain this and how…mixed the reception of season 2 would become…
Oh, and also all of the Dark Signer deaths sans the Godwins who I guess choose to stay in the afterlife, get undone. Guess now we can’t have any more character drama for Bommer, Misty, or Carly anymore regarding the Dark Signer stuff or what it’s like to be a living person who has died before.
Pre-World Racing Grand Prix Arc
Rumor has it that during production of season 2, news broke out that Li-mei Chiang, the seiyuu (voice actor) for Carly in the Dark Signer arc, was involved with the Roma Sophia cult. Said cult was already under a lot of investigation at the time, so once director Katsumi Ono and the writers learned about this, Chiang was fired and they panicked, realizing that they would have to make a ton of rewrites to the Yliaster plotline and therefore the trajectory of the show as a whole, and drop just about everything to do with Carly and the Arcadia Movement. They did not want their show being potentially perceived as pro-cult, and even tackling cults made them uncomfortable thanks to this information. Another rumor suggested that Aki’s seiyuu, Ayumi Kinoshita, was getting married and therefore had to request some time off. This didn’t mean she was written out of the show entirely as she still appeared in episodes here and there. However, her character had to be put on a bus (given a reason to be largely or entirely absent for a while like going to an academy that gets little focus in the show, for example) and had very few episodes where she was particularly relevant. These events actually took place well after 5D’s finished, so while Li-meu Chiang did get exposed as part of the cult and Aki did eventually get married, that doesn’t actually have anything to do with why she was replaced like common rumors claim. These rumors were likely made to help excuse or explain why S2 ended up the way that it did. Unfortunately, the reality seems to be that the writers didn’t quite know how to handle these characters.
Let’s start with how the arc handles its characters, or rather, mishandles them. In theory, I like Aki warming up to the 5D’s crew now that she’s on decent terms with her parents and her life. However, with the 6 month time skip, she’s a lot more cheerful and optimistic than I’d expect, and her levels of that vs her levels of standoffishness seem to vary wildly to the point where the latter is nonexistent by the 2nd half of the “arc”. I do like that the first half at least allows her to apply her psychic powers in helpful ways (including saving Yusei’s life from falling debris at one point), though that all but disappears by episode 80. I can understand why she was sidelined and put into duel academy to shift the focus away from her, but still, things feel lacking. She also gets a mini-arc about wanting to learn to ride a D-wheel in order to understand speed duelists after witnessing the duel between Yusei and the mysterious Sherry firsthand. It’s neat, I guess, and it does seem like it will go somewhere for a while given the last episode of the arc, but still. With the Arcadia movement vanishing, there goes any serious follow-up to anything regarding her from last season. At least they gave her a reason to be somewhat absent. Carly doesn’t even have that. She just shows up in all of 3 episodes as someone who helps out Jack as a friend, without any in-universe reason as to why they’re just gonna stay that way or why she never visits him and the gang now that they all live in a garage at Neo Domino City (we’ll get to that tidbit in a second). It is at least a little disappointing that this happened, though what’s worse is how this arc damages Jack’s character.
I see the writing team agreed with me that Jack feeling romantic attraction to Carly felt like it could have used more to it, so they decided to just drop that entirely and remove a lot of the effect their interactions had on his ego. He actively refuses to get a job, and in the episode when he’s forced to try, he’s so absurdly self-absorbed and moronic that he is incapable of doing anything anywhere or tries to make everything about him. He then says that no one can understand him and his greatness. Other times, he just bitches about not wanting to use a tuner monster that protects his Red Dragon Archfiend, and quits the team after a petty argument about that card. I get that he is supposed to be the awesome ego man like Kaiba is, even after lowering that sense of vanity like Manjoume did in GX, but they just made him a big-headed brute a lot of the time.
Yusei himself also gets kneecapped into being a bad character instead of just an ok one. His arcs are either absurdly ill-conceived or quickly dropped this time around. I’ll start with the latter. When dueling the mysterious Sherry during a speed duel, she explains her motivation and asks him what his goal is. This gives him pause as he doesn’t have any deeper purpose. He accomplished his major goals of bringing equality and proper citizenship to Satellite, bridging it and Neo Domino City by redoing the Daedalus Bridge. He’s with his friends and wants to compete in the tournament with them, but has no real ambition outside of that. It’s an interesting idea, but after a couple episodes, it stops getting addressed and there’s no real answer given. Now for the terrible character arc. After barely scraping by in a duel against a mysterious Meklord user robot called “Ghost”, Yusei decides that he can’t beat Meklord users like Ghost as they absorb his synchro monsters. He decides to look for alternatives because he is scared, and then is shown the way of the “Accel Synchro” by a mysterious D-wheeler.
There are several problems with all of this.
- Yusei always barely wins his duels. It’s basically an unwritten rule that a protagonist cannot win unless they have less than 400 life points. It was like this with the Earthbound Immortals in the Dark Signers arc, but that’s because a near-miss encounter with an attack from one caused him to crash and get injured, and the monster was summoned by sacrificing hundreds of people. On top of that, they were being used by Kiryuu, a former friend of his, so there were personal stakes involved. Finally, if the attacked connected, Yusei would have lost, which is something that has never happened in the show. Yusei can never actually lose, so even making it so he would have if something didn’t cause the match to end is actually reason enough to spook him given how abnormal it is. He didn’t almost lose to the Meklord “Ghost”. He won, even if the duel was similar to a shadow duel from the DS arc in that he feels physical pain from it. If you want to make the argument that “he almost lost to a lackey, so he must be imagining how much worse it would be to face more of them from stronger guys”, consider how he always wins a duel with almost no life points left, and how he wasn’t scared of the Dark Signers the first time one of them almost beat him with a Dark Synchro monster.
- They do know that ritual and fusion monsters still exist, right? Jack even uses polymerization to make one this season like he did against Yusei in episode 4. Why is Yusei like “whoa we gotta find a new method to take down these synchro absorbing robots” and not thinking about experimenting with those and trying to find one that would be in-line with his deck? Why isn’t Jack suggesting that he looks for this alternative power? I guess we need to further bolster the synchro mechanic with a new gimmick, but why not have Yusei face a fusion or ritual player with his synchros and then think about using some of those kinds of things in his deck? Oh wait, gotta prop up that new mechanic, reasonable storytelling be damned.
- The idea of warping while performing Accel Synchro by going uber fast thing makes no sense, especially since your speed in a duel is determined by speed counters. Feels like a dumb way to try to sell the Accel Synchro (tuning a synchro monster with a synchro tuner monster) mechanic from a lore perspective in a flashy manner, especially when it stops people from seeing the duel until minutes after “Dark Glass” warps back onto the field with an Accel synchro monster. It also only comes up in Yusei’s mind 2 or 3 times for the rest of the “arc” and this took place not even 10 episodes into the season. The idea is never seriously revisited for the rest of the “arc” and I doubt it will come up for a long time.
Outside of that, Yusei’s still a boring “muh Nakama” character who is always right and always winning, with character flaws being utilized in such limp dick ways that they may as well not really matter since they either don’t go anywhere, don’t make sense, or both.
Lua (who is annoying portrayed as a total fuck-up now despite him being a kinda decent duelist by the 2nd arc) and Luca also get sidelined entirely the same way Aki did, and without the reasoning of their seiyuus needing time off as far as I’m aware. They get a filler episode to further cement Lua doing whatever it takes to save his sister, a few more filler episodes and cameos, and then a 2-episode mini-arc with Lucciano, one of the big bads of the season as he tricks Luca and then obliterates the two of them. These all happen in the first 13 episodes before they just make cameos for the rest of the season becuase this is now the Yusei, Jack, and Crow show ft. Aki, Lua, Luca, and now Bruno. Yeah, Bruno is a character that shows up with amnesia and helps out the gang even though they initially don’t want him and Jack beats him up out of suspicion. He’s so whatever that the only interesting thing about him is when he “activates” so to speak, to send Sherry flying and chokehold her when in an encounter, she starts kicking his ass. There’s some mystery to him but I couldn’t care less.
To round out the main characters, Crow is also very whatever here. He barely has anything of substance to do until episode 94, so he’s there just as Yusei and Jacks’s brash, loudmouthed, yet well-meaning friend. He’s ok but still. When we get to 94, we get a backstory out of nowhere regarding two people Crow looked up to and the death of one of them that led to him taking care of all those kids and becoming a D-wheeler with his Blackwing deck. He finds the surviving friend and after some drama, they get into a duel with a wager that if Crow wins, he’ll know the killer, and if the friend wins, he’ll get Crow’s Blackwing Dragon (which neither actually know Crow technically has). It was actually that guy who felt that the guy he killed was turning down funds from the city for their D-wheel so he could gain recognition when it was actually to live up to the idea he was sending the kids about not needing the city to make it and in and have a decent life. He feels distraught when he finally understands, so now that he’s already a successful D-wheeler with a company that’s in the rough, he steps down. It’s a good storyline except for one major thing: Blackwing Dragon and how it was put into the D-wheel Crow uses. You mean to tell me that the dead friend put Blackwing Dragon inside a lock in the D-wheel that can only be unlocked by Crow unleashing signer powers while being emotional during a duel? NO! How would he even know! Crow wasn’t even a signer until Yusei gave the power to him! None of that adds up, and on top of that, now the 5th dragon that looks suspiciously similar to Lua’s dragon has been completely retconned for now.
As for the other characters, I find Sherry to be pretty neat. She’s a badass beaut out for revenge against Yliaster after some goons were sent to kill her family. She’s a no-nonsense type that can still be a bit laid-back or jovial at times, but generally serious and direct. She’s introduced in episodes 70 and 71, and while the show largely forgets about her until episode 93, whenever she’s around, that’s when you know something interesting is going to happen this season like when she and her badass butler bomb part of the security building as a diversion to try to scan the card Yliaster is after. Meanwhile, I cannot stand Zora, who is just an old lady that exists to hate on Crow and Jack but praise Yusei because apparently Yusei embodies all good boy qualities yet Crow reminds her of her good-for-nothing son despite sharing none of his traits. Said son is a crappy one-off character in a sea of terrible filler one-off characters this “arc” has because at best, it’s set-up for the main plot of season 2. More on that later. I enjoy what I see of Ushio and Mikage who are now working together as the latter is head of security (you go, girl, moving up in the world). Saiga exists and is ok. He actually reminds me that for some god forsaken reason, we never see any of Yusei’s friends from Satellite this season, let alone his prison buddies despite both being present during season 1. Hell, the Satellite friends were chilling with Martha in S1 last time we see them, so where are they?!
Speaking of oversights and things that make me wonder if the writers thought anything through, there’s also the world-building. I know YGO has regularly nebulous and ridiculous world-building where there’s a ton of voodoo nonsense and barely explored aspects, but I need to talk about the riding duel highways introduced this season alongside Neo Daedalus Bridge which was a replacement for the original, unfinished bridge Godwin tried making back in the day. The dueling road system selects routes from a limited number of possible options via GPS for the government to approve, and then kicks normal cars completely out of roads that these areas occupy (and they’re either one-lane or multiple lanes for no consistent reason). Wouldn’t there be a ton of riding duels going on each day, making this system one royal pain in the ass when it comes to trying to handle all these routes that never seem to end despite the city not being all that big? On top of that, since the areas change when a duel happens, wouldn’t that seriously affect traffic? I guess all that might explain why we only ever see like 1-2 cars on any given highway despite transportation clearly being a thing, and why we never see any riding duels happen in the distance even when we’re in parts of a highway where there are multiple converging lanes and roads. I was willing to excuse why riding duels almost never dealt with traffic or people when in public spaces since those weren’t that frequent and were largely limited to arenas or tracks made by Dark Signers. Now I can’t suspend my disbelief that far, especially given that the writing of this show has gone downhill past the first arc.
The writing in this season really went down the drain a lot of the time. A lot of the more plot-relevant episodes are pretty bad outside of the ones where Sherry is involved, and most of the season is mediocre to terrible filler episodes. The fillers often have tropes even children shows execute better, like Lua being unreasonably suspicious of Lucciano when he attends school for a bit and starts off rather unassuming, or when Aki tries to get her D-wheel license and her classmates antagonize her and try to sabotage her cuz “a girl can’t do these things, only BOYS can!” It’s worse than the most forgettable and annoying of GX season 1 and 2 filler episodes. Outside of fillers and set-up, there are a couple of mini-arcs for characters such as Crow and Kiryuu. That actually brings me to Crashtown as it certainly embodies a lot of what makes this season bad. So, during the time skip, Kiryuu was reincarnated and wandered into Crash Town, becoming one of the most feared duelists there with how powerful he is. He’s practically lifeless, haunted by regret over his time as a Dark Signer and wishing to fight a duelist that can truly beat him and put him to rest.
So…how come Kiryuu remembers his time as a Dark Signer when none of the others do? That would be prime character drama for Carly and Jack given the former’s turn into one of those. I get wanting one last duel to put him down since he can’t really find any satisfaction, as if chasing that high back in Team Satisfaction has finally led him nowhere at all. However, why the guilt over the Dark Signer stuff (sacrificing people temporarily, hurting Yusei and forsaking the friendship with the group cuz he felt they ditched and betrayed him)? He’s never had a conscience before, He knowingly blew up security buildings and beat up even kids associated with duel gangs and did so with glee. He leveraged his friendship with the gang whenever they threatened to stop satisfying his high. I can sorta buy him feeling guilt for hurting his friends now that he knows the truth if he had a habit of trying to do anything to keep his friends together because he didn’t want to lose them rather than just going “guys come back…fine whatever, I’ll keep going anyway” every time someone left. I get that the arc is about him regaining parts of himself and realizing that he wants to live, but there are some big logical leaps that need to be made for this to happen. On top of that, why didn’t Crow and Jack even try to tag along given that Kiryuu was their friend too? Oh wait, it’s so the plot could happen and so they can deus ex machina Yusei and Kiryuu into safety after they nearly get shot by the main bad guy of the arc, nevermind. Plotting over characterization, amirite? Clearly setting believability doesn’t matter when we have a wild west area not too far from the now borderline utopian sci-fi land of Neo Domino City.
There are a lot of smaller details wrong with this mini-arc and the entire 33 episode 3rd “arc” as a whole on top of that. When Yusei was dueling the main antagonist of the arc in the 4th and 5th episode of the 7-episode arc, the bad guy could have won the duel if he didn’t tribute his mon to summon a beefy boss monster. He had several face-downs and it’s not like they said he needed 5 face-downs to activate his 800 damage per face-down backrow effect. Also, a duel disk used as a gravestone activating when Kiryuu puts that dad’s pendant on some random grave was just…I’d almost laugh at that kind of thing. Of course, everyone survives such tremendous falls inexplicably as well when Lua could have died if he weren’t saved from falling onto the highway from a much shorter distance, and all Duel-wheels are perfectly fine too. Speaking of Lua almost dying thanks to Lucciano’s attack sending him flying off one highway road to another in episode 78, he’s saved because now if people feel strongly enough, they can call upon the signer dragon to make a force field for a falling younger brother when he’s out of range of the force fields they would normally make. In episode 81, 2 of the 3 main cyborgs of Yliaster (Jose, Placcido, and Lucciano who are now the directors of Neo Domino) send Jaeger to steal D-wheel data Yusei and Bruno had been cooking up, with Placcido cooking up the plan against Jose’s own plot and wishes while Lucciano couldn’t care less. How did Placcido know about the plans when they didn’t know Yusei or Bruno’s location, that they were together, or that they were making plans? You can argue that since the episode is implying they’re all the same person, that Lucciano becomes Placido so if Lucciano knows of this, Placido does cuz stable time loop, but then that doesn’t explain how Lucciano found out, and even then, he just doesn’t care. It’s Placido that found out, so we’re left wondering how? The show uses Lucciano just to say “don’t think about it” which is as confounding to me as it is to Jose. Also, sometimes when characters take more than 1K points of damage, they don’t lose speed counters, and no explanation is given other than I guess it’s so the plot can happen despite no one activating cards to prevent them from losing counters. So much for keeping your rules consistent, but Yugioh has always struggled with that, hasn’t it.
I desperately hope the World Racing Grand Prix arc (organized by the cyborgs to obtain energy for some nebulous circuit) is better, otherwise I don’t know if I’ll make it through this show. This third “arc” was bad. I understand that you can blame this on the confounding circumstances the production team had to deal with and that it could have been a lot worse. However, the show has already been declining somewhat since the Dark Signer arc, so this being significantly worse isn’t a huge surprise. Also, the only fun over the top moments were with Jack’s mini-arc as we see robo jack crash people’s D-wheels, as one time we see it land on the back of one to crash it. Jack also jumps his D-wheel from one highway lane to a lower one to attack the fake Jack. If only 5D’s kept the rule of cool nature of Fortune Cup going. Maybe this arc would be more acceptable instead of just painfully mediocre to god awful.
World Racing Grand Prix arc
Things get a lot worse before they get better
It’s kind of amazing how 5D’s can go from pretty ok to downright terrible and then ascend to being still mediocre. There are so many problems with this arc that I’m still not sure that the last 12 episodes make it better than the borderline aimless and bastardizing mess that was the pre-WRGP arc. I’ll tackle the overwhelming negatives I have before I list the positives due to this, and some issues I have with the narrative still appear in those last 12 episodes, regardless, and the first 14 might be the nadir of the series.
Now the tournament has started. The duel between Andore from Team Unicorn and Jack was neat and I like Aki going down on her own terms in a way that sets up Yusei’s play, but *of course Yusei has to take down the entire Team Unicorn by himself as only one member lost not even 3K life points because clearly the difference in skill between him and everyone else has to be absurdly immense even with Aki throwing wrench after wrench into Team Unicorn’s plans*. It’s rather annoying that Yusei has reached borderline gary stu levels of just being the overpowered character that everyone relies on to do everything because only he can pull off amazing feats. The second half of the arc isn’t nearly as bad in this regard, but still. At least they came up with a tolerable enough solution regarding Aki’s forced limitation in relevance, not that it isn’t still bothersome. That same arc, another member of Team Unicorn decides “I mustn’t finish off my opponent for the sake of the team cuz individual actions bad” which is nonsense. They may have had the game if he went and tried to secure the win, so why not make it so Yusei’s defenses made it so they just had to along with the plan they continue anyway?
This arc also answers the ill-conceived arc Yusei had with his fear of the Meklords and search for a counter that went absolutely nowhere. Out of nowhere, Yusei pulls off a fusion summon to help get him closer to victory against Jean, the leader of Team Unicorn. When and where did he get a fusion? Why was that never considered an alternative? Oh because we need to push this asinine Accel Synchro mechanic and the nonsense idea that is “Clear Mind” that comes up in episode 107 after Placido launches an invasion on NDC with his Diablos (or “ghosts”). Seriously, “I summon a meteor from space with a synchro monster despite the fact that synchro monsters were only ever an Earth thing as in GX, only card types that existed at that time were sent to space” (not that continuity has ever functioned from one series to another in this franchise). Of course it’s only there to magically create yet another new boss monster for Yusei and apparently it was sent from space by some guy from the future cuz he did the same for the robo future trio and has their general aesthetic. Also, since it’s confirmed that the cyborg trio running Yliaster (since now the mysterious guy from the end of the Dark Signers arc has been retconned, it seems) want to save the future even if it means sacrificing Neo Domino City, I have to wonder what the point of enabling a war where the Dark Signers and their god threaten to destroy the world and thereby create an even worse future than what they want to rewrite is. It starts becoming more clear that these rewrites just weren’t gonna cut it even though they had to come up with *something*. Maybe they’ll try to justify that but I don’t know if they’ll make it make sense. Placido did not need to fuse with his D-wheel to duel since he was dueling just fine a moment ago and I fail to see what the benefit in that is, how that helps him duel more seriously or gain any power in any way. It just looks stupid and corny, but not quite cheesy enough to regain the cheesym, over the top charm 5D’s lost a long time ago.
Somehow Placido summons a tornado in his duel with Yusei through sheer force of will and it’s not even the least bit cool. Aki, who has long since gotten over the fear of her powers as she’s used it both publicly and privately to help protect herself and others suddenly considers it a terrible curse again and that she mustn’t use it, instead opting to save a blown away hospital child through normal human means. They could’ve just said she didn’t have her deck with her at the time and that would’ve worked, but no, we need to regress Aki’s character just for the sake of letting her show off some “strength” of not always needing it, even though they could have done that without regressing her character in the first place. She’s fully healed anyway because fuck consistency, this is Yugioh! That only matters in our trading card game! No one ever gets hurt through glass or environmental damage, the tornado hasn’t at all done any damage to the dueling road despite Placido’s thunder energy ravaging the glass sides in the previous episode. Apparently asspulling Majestic Dragon to make Majestic Stardust Dragon is no longer good enough for Yusei and signer energy anyway and somehow Formula Synchron is also made because while it does make sense for them to make a new card so that the Shooting Star Dragon that was created can be used, they only showed one card being made from the tablet and “world of speed” and not the card that’s required to get us there.
Yliaster also just doesn’t seem to make sense at all this arc as now we get to the real bit retcons that throw everything into question now that they’re trying to work with this plot. They *do* regard Zero Reverse incident as a heinous tragedy of humanity’s reckless evolution, and an utter disaster that must not be repeated at all costs. So why did the organization cause it by telling Rudger about the Signer and Dark Signer war thing in order to get him to instigate it? Yusei’s dad was already off the project when he tried to shitcan it, yet everyone still blames him even now due to even trying this research in the first place while the Godwins are barely even mentioned in relation. After the duel is over and Team 5D’s plus Sherry and her butler meet the Yliaster trio, they *fully* retcon their active involvement in getting Rudger to *initiate* Zero Reverse to them failing to get him to stop it because fuck it, make more holes in the timeline as you to to justify this plot. Jose just spouts vague nonsense lines regarding their true goal of changing the future, which Yusei already knew from Placido, so the only new info is the latest retcon. He doesn’t actually give them the goal or motivation despite claiming to. It’s unenviable the position the writers were in but damn I still am flabbergasted by how bad it is. As bad as the fillers and mini-arcs were in the pre-WRGP arc and as much as the characters were butchered, at least the set-up to the main plot was sometimes kinda neat back then and things weren’t quite this broken. Now, good lord.
Let’s backtrack to the few episodes that come between Unicorn and the invasion, as they also have their own problems I had to put on hold for the sake of flow. Of course Crow (mostly) heals immediately after this 6-episode match because Aki cannot be relevant anymore, and Jack heals completely too. Crow, despite putting a lot of pressure on his arm in the duel, which should probably set him back, gets all healed by the end of the invasion incident. It’s not like Aki’s seiyuu seiyuu was requesting decreased time at this point as the wedding wouldn’t happen until after the show, so we can’t use that to explain her crash that blew up her D-wheel. Even if we could, it wouldn’t excuse that or the nonsensical character moment they gave her during the invasion. Then again, people have had worse crashes than Crow all the time (namely Jack) yet somehow never get actual injuries or when they do, it lasts for 2 episodes.
Also, since Team Unicorn lost round 1 of the prelims, why are they competing in round 2 (albeit they get crushed soooooo…….)? How does this tournament work, then? How are the brackets organized and what is the structure? Top 16? Top 32? Is this a “whoever beats the most teams gets to move onto the top whatever” situation? Not that it matters because the writers don’t care about specifics, and due to one reason in the second half that makes all of this not even worth questioning anymore. 2 of Unicorn’s D-wheelers crashed with no help. How can they continue from the first member to the second when he didn’t make it with his busted D-wheel back to the area where they can switch riders given their stuff was still laid out on the track? Was that why they stopped after 2 crashes? How come no one actually stops the duel to get the paramedics to take the crashed duelists away in this damn tournament? What sense does that make? Also, I should have mentioned it in episode 99 but what is that nonsense rule of “if a team gets lapped to 0 speed counters, they lose”? Everyone starts the duel with 0 counters until turn 2 and we see characters with 0 counters multiple times throughout the duel? Why does it suddenly matter when it comes to switching members and getting one into the race/duel proper? Oh wait, for contrived, artificial tension that makes no logical sense because this tournament is *broken!* Fucking Duelist Kingdom had more consistent rules than this, and the rule breaks were actually fun, ridiculous, and amusing instead of jut dumb contrivances and oversights. Also, no one in the audience but Carly, Ushio, Mikage, and the teams saw the shadow hook, the footage never picked up on it just so that this whole thing could remain a mystery with a nonsensical payoff, and no one tried reporting anything to try to get them disqualified? Really? This isn’t even a Seto Kaiba situation where he let everything happen cuz he wants to see the Egyptian Gods, and having the NDC directors say “fuck it” would not bode well for the reputation of the tournament, so there’s just a bunch of no-win scenarios regarding this writing choice and the integrity of the script. This is just a series of oversights made so things can happen.
After all of this, Jose says they’ll host the finals at a later date, so we get a few mini-arcs from episode 111-117. The first is with Bommer somehow also remembering and regretting his time as a Dark Signer (albeit it’s a bit more vague than with Kiryuu). He decides to get Yusei and Jack over to test Jack, who has bee a man who is all about power. It’s all a plot by the Crimson Demon, an Earthbound Immortal from 5K years before the original Earthbound Immortal conflict because of course they’re gonna pull shit like that if they wanna make a tiny revisit to ideas they’ve went out of their way to move away from all season. Jack absorbs it into a brand new synchro card version of Red Dragon Archfiend because apparently he’s the burning soul signer who faced this fiend before.
Fuck it. At least Bommer was still ok. Also, this arc means nothing for Jack because even though it’s about him learning to not be so power-driven, that only happens during the end of the duel and he goes back to his old ways for the 2nd half of the arc. At least he’s not as badly-written as he was in the pre-WRGP arc, and I find the running gag about ramen cup noodles cute, especially when he and Jaeger temporarily bond over its involvement in their backstories after they capture him in episode 114. Jaeger’s somewhat entertaining and I like that he didn’t just run away to save his own skin as he also wanted to make sure his family wasn’t in danger. It provides some neat pathos so that we’re on some level rooting for the shifty bastard when Crow is dueling him in front of his family. This also gives Aki one final chance to do anything this season as she solves phase 1 of a puzzle needed to help them access information of who was working with the 3 Yliaster/NDC directors that told Jaeger to steal data from Yusei and Bruno. Then, the Yliaster people do some timey wimey shit to erase someone that tried to send Yusei, Bruno, and Sherry to a wormhole with no way out. Sherry is launched off and now the 3 directors are Team New World. I’ve temporarily checked out of trying to make sense of anything until it hit me in the second half. I hope the final arc explains why Yliaster has been orchestrating deadly wars and conflicts around the globe when all they’re trying to do is prevent a war-torn, apocalyptic future? Exactly what does that have to do with their goals? It just makes them seem more like the villainous war Illuminati they were built as in season 1 rather than what season 2 retconned them into being just so they can be eviler than they already are without any logic to justify it. Also, since they can go back in time and erase people, why didn’t they just delete Yusei’s father or the Godwin brothers? They certainly didn’t know Yusei was a chosen one, or at least, Lucciano wouldn’t have known since Placido and Jose are the same as him (so technically they would know but then why would they actively go against each other) so why wasn’t that even considered so that Jose could stop them and say “no, this technically cannot work cuz I know what will happen”? Then again, that would raise more questions because this is all a hot-bed of no-win scenarios when it comes to writing, as it’s just a series of being written into corners upon corners upon corners. I doubt they can salvage this Yliaster plot.
There are a few bright spots in the second half outside of the bits with Jaeger. Team Taiyou is a good parallel to Team 5D’s, as they’re a bunch of underdogs from the country working with spare parts and whatever they can find to participate. It’s a reminder of how far Yusei, Jack, and Crow have come, and the team members are genuinely likable. We see entertaining flashbacks of their motivations and escapades as they just want to prove themselves to get out of feeling stagnated in life. This culminates in the most hype thing I’ve seen since Carly’s final prediction to Jack near the end of Dark Signers. Everyone learns of Zushin, a card that’s extraordinarily powerful, but borderline impossible to summon. Team Taiyou has been playing defensively, dealing damage through annoying means as they protect their level 1 monsters for over 10 turns just so this card can be summoned for the first time in the history of the game. Everyone in the audience cheers them on as these guys, who have been ridiculed by everyone up until now, do the impossible and summon the mighty beast that ends up giving Team 5D’s a run for their money. Once they lose, they accept just how far they’ve come as the sun sets on Team Taiyou (sun). I didn’t expect 5D’s of all shows to employ visual symbolism.
Team Ragnarok is less interesting, especially because they’re a group with another set of god cards from ancient times that have IRL consequences on others but two of them make for interesting parallels with Jack and Crow. Dragan wants to settle the score with Jack after being forced to throw a match back when Jack was king in order to get money for his dad’s surgery. This causes Jack to wonder if his journey to become king back then was a fluke, something handed to him rather than obtained through his own strength. The two put their pride on the line to settle things and understand one-another. Brave was once a trickster and treasure hunter before meeting a bunch of orphaned kids and taking them in. As such, Crow and Brave empathise with each other while giving it their all. Harald is the least interesting with how he unites the 3 because of a duty regarding these Polar God cards and an end of the world prophecy relating to the Arc Cradle. They want to be the ones to fight Yliaster but otherwise he has nothing for Yusei to relate to, no parallels. He’s just the final boss of the arc for Yusei to win against via crazy combos and asspull new cards that weren’t even foreshadowed by letting us see them in Yusei’s hand. This series of duels was also ok, so while the first half was the worst part of 5D’s, the second half was a little better than the pre arc. I’m not sure which of these two was worse, but either way, they’re both still pretty bad and I doubt that even with this, the show will make a proper recovery as it heads into the last 25 episodes. Maybe pre is marginally worse than WRGP. Both make me wonder why Lua and especially Luca are still around, especially since they haven’t even touched the concept of the spirit world since episode 51, and the last time duel spirits were even a thing was episode 78. We’re on episode 129 now and all characters that were abandoned or sidelined at the start of the season are still that way now, and I am now disappointed with how Mikage is even less relevant than ever as she’s reduced to a Jack fangirl and love rival for Carly and a waitress that pops up often in S2.
Now that we’re at the endgame, I suppose it’s time to reflect on the best, or at least, least shitty arc of season 2. I say least shitty because there are still some major issues carried over from earlier in the season, as well as a new one that starts as early as the first episode, which is a series of flashbacks regarding each member of Team 5D’s. It’s nice that they got their dumb team recap episode done in a cute way with some banter between Carly, Mikage, and the absolutely shunted half of the 5D’s crew. I appreciate that they went the GX episode 156 route by giving characters fun and special interactions and presenting a decent framing device (even if I am still absolutely bitter about that episode and the end of GX season 3 in general). However, why in the unholy fuck did the show just decide “oh Aki doesn’t have her psychic powers anymore cuz friendship” when in the first half of the season, she was using those powers quite a lot to help herself and other people in danger without a living soul being afraid of or resenting her for her previous identity as the Black Rose Witch? 5D’s already removed a conflict for her and weaponized her powers for the forces of good so why take that away just for a needless and shallow excuse of making her “grow as a character” when you gave her the shaft anyway?
This also serves as a painful reminder that the twins have had next to 0 purpose after episode 78, with the spirit world and duel spirits concept disappearing *entirely* afterwards when they were touted as a relevant thing in the first half that was getting even more focus in some aspects than in GX. This arc thankfully gives them a bit more relevance than just being part of the peanut gallery, and we’ll get to that later on, but still. That is 52 episodes of having almost no purpose in the show when they’re part of the main protagonist squad. This episode also reminds us that 5D’s is very flip-floppy on whether it wants to give the Godwin brothers any culpability regarding the Zero Reverse tragedy or if it wants to solely pin the blame on Yusei’s dad just so that Yusei can feel bad.
After some ok duels against Team New World (with minor sticking points I’ll cover later) we finally get the reason as to why Yliaster and ZONE are doing this entire time travel plot, which is supposed to make the antagonists all come off as sympathetic because they’ve been through hell and are now trying to prevent it through their own dark means. They’re overcome by despair through experiencing a global apocalypse caused by synchro monsters, Meklord invasions, Moment systems across the globe, and negative energy. Unfortunately, this entire plot is absolutely broken for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are a bit more minor while others are tremendous issues with this entire plot, so strap in for a giant slab of text in this behemoth of a post.
- Episode 134 is when we get this and it implies that Lucciano, Plicado, and Jose are different people because we get a nebulous time frame for an invasion that seemed like it would have happened in the time span of a few years at most as opposed to Aporia’s entire life. It also implies that because Lucciano got caught in a deadly explosion after watching his parents die, and Plicado was seemingly evaporated by a laser from a Meklord just like with his girlfriend mere moments before he got hit. However, 135 then confirms that they are all entities created from the 3 worst moments in Aporia’s life as he suffered through an apocalypse that lasted from his childhood to when he was an old man and almost all life was wiped out. Them being different people would close a lot of unnecessary plotholes but make the question of “why didn’t the 3 cyborgs just try to erase Dr. Fudo or whoever invented synchro summoning from the timeline” more apparent because everything regarding these guys is a lose-lose situation in terms of narrative credibility. Now that it’s confirmed they’re the same except they initially didn’t know they can combine into a superior version of themself and therefore only have the memories of Aporia up to the point of the bad future and therefore are temporarily different entities. I guess that at least leads to the same conclusion in the end. It fixes some issues with the previous arcs, but could have been presented way better and still has a host of other issues.
- Why are the dueling streets crowded as all hell when up til now, it seems as if only one duel per road/route was allowed due to the dueling road system? They never really put things into a defined enough perspective for the system to make sense, but this really doesn’t help matters.
- Who built synchro-hunting Meklords to decimate entire cities? Why would it be the fault of synchro or mankind that giant war machines came in from the sky so they could eradicate life on earth indiscriminately? Why are Aporia and the Yliaster cyborgs using the very things that helped torch the earth? How were they even built and why? Have ZONE, Aporia, or the Yliaster cyborgs ever considered the idea that maybe the Meklords are the problem and that he should actively prevent their creation outside of just the whole nuke the city for positivity angle? Then again, that would require explaining how and why they were made and who was responsible for it since at best, we know negativity *somehow* led to them blasting everyone until positivity made them stop before negativity *somehow led to them exploding, causing their fiery remains to crash down while chain explosions did the rest*. That’s a retcon caused by episode 149, by the way. Episodes 135 and 136 directly show us that the Meklords were ravaging the city the entire time and that their onslaught caused so much negativity that they triggered the momentum crashes and the end of the world. This also is a case of thematics being put over things making sense, since we could have just had it so all the mayhem caused by the Meklords with all the explosions and physical energy being expended ended up triggering the Momentum explosions, but fuck it, synchros and muh negativity/despair vs hope cuz gotta make the main conflict directly tied to the mechanic and gotta teach a life lesson to the kiddies *somehow*. Also, where are the psychic duelists in the future? You think they’d play a vital role in combatting the Meklords just as Zone aka fake Yusei did.
- Wasn’t moment influenced by moment energy being implemented as the city’s power and into duel disks and Neo Domino City D-wheels as a result of the synchro craze? Why are synchros only tied to that in the future, and why does the despair and negative emotions of the world caused by the robots’ invasion trigger a global Zero Reverse incident when the only things that make a Moment generator go haywire are fights between signers that awaken the crimson dragon for the first time, and a general malfunction in the system. The former caused a blackout and the latter caused the Zero Reverse turning incident. Synchros don’t and in the flashback, certainly didn’t cause a global Zero Reverse. I don’t care that Moments were eventually put all over the world; this is not how Moments work. Is this another retcon for the sake of the plot? It must be. This is season 2 of Yugioh 5D’s, after all!
- What’s with all the giant card tablets? Are those supposed to be graveyards? How and why? Aren’t the only card tablets things summoned from the robo god from space for the “chosen ones”?
- If they’re implying Neo Domino City was the origin of synchro monsters, why not just try to wipe out synchro monsters before they were made instead of destroying the city at a time when synchro monsters have spread to other locations in Japan such as Crashtown, and presumably the world given that we have Team Ragnarok which has members from different parts of the world? Actually, since the Nordic Gods, Signer Dragon synchros, and Dark Synchros were from ancient times, this automatically makes their plan even mooter than before and they would have to find a way to personally eradicate those cards during ancient times dating back to 10K fucking years, except of course they’re not gonna do that. See why this time travel nonsense is BS?!
- Since that wouldn’t work and ZONE’s plan is to stop synchro monsters and Momentum in general, and ZONE is willing to go back to the past and get your hands dirty to do it, why not just kill Dr. Fudo? That’s the only possible alternative that could even make this plan function at this point on some level, and it still won’t be a plausible solution to everything they want wiped out. Still, Yliaster has already shown they can erase people from the timeline and cause changes to the future, so why not do that so Momentum doesn’t exist? Apparently Momentum has been retconned to feed off of people’s general emotions as an energy source and can be overloaded by overwhelming negativity so why not just nix the one who thought of the concept or nix the people who threw him out when he wanted to stop the project so they could continue it and lead it to the Zero Reverse disaster? SEE WHY THIS TIME TRAVEL NONSENSE IS BS?!
- Since they seek hope for humanity, I still wonder why they brought forth a Signer war that endangered the entire planet or why they’re causing wars and conflicts around the globe, presumably unrelated to the threat of synchro monsters. On the one hand, the show tries to say they simply failed to prevent it, which is a retcon. On the other, they retcon the retcon by saying that “yeah no, these guys triggered it”. DO YOU SEE WHY THI-
- Since guiding people towards general positivity instead of agony and greed is the answer, why destroy the damn city which will cause people around the world to hear about this and largely get riled up, causing lots of concern globally? Plus, that’s assuming that the only Moments are in Satellite and NDC when other cities such as Crashtown and fucking Peru because of the Nazca lines have D-wheels and duel disks powered by Moment energy which can only be present if there is an active moment somewhere around as demonstrated by D-wheels and just about everything not working when that gets shut down. I guess the idea is that despite that, there are still only 2 Moments and that they haven’t expanded to the rest of the world yet somehow? Still, that won’t guide the world to a more positive outlook in order to prevent everything. There will be lots of controversy and panic in the world regarding this decision and the need to rid the world of synchro monsters, which is the exact opposite of what he would want since that led to not only Moment crashing, but also to the Meklords somehow as they never get any justification for their existence by the narrative. This isn’t even a case of “the villain’s plan is predecated on a faulty line of reasoning and ideology that the protagonists challenge and find a better alternative to”. This is just bad writing.
Yeah, the overall narrative of season 2 is an absolute dumpster fire. Then again, 5D’s hasn’t exactly been the same since series composer Atsuhiro Tomoika stepped out after Fortune Cup and Shin Yoshida took over for the remainder of the show. Still, now that we’ve gotten the plot’s justification for itself out of the way and why none of it works, we can just go over the events proper.
The duel against Team 5D’s and Yliaster is a bit problematic despite the interesting plans of the latter tat get overcome. Why are people only just now worried about team 5D’s taking real damage in this tournament and contemplating cancellation when such actions weren’t even suggested after all the shit Team Catastrophe did back in arc 4, and almost no one bat an eye at the damage taken during the duel with Team Ragnarok? They’ve been ignoring how things work for quite a while now by this point as well. Yusei attacked Harald during Harald’s turn to finish the duel with the only monster on board at the end of WRGP arc. Multiple times, Jack stops a monster effect with Red Nova Dragons attack-stopping effect, which would have led to Lucciano and Plicado attacking Jack as he’s wide open if not for their plans. Also, and I should have brought this up during arc 4 but it’s weird how the announcer and audience reacts to the finalists doing weird or interesting things like they never saw them do those things during their previous matches that we never get to see. On top of that, and this has persisted throughout the majority of the seasson soon after its introduction, but what happened to the whole “for every 1000 points of damage you take in one battle or effect, you lose a speed counter” mechanic? They just stop acknowledging it so characters can have their required speed counters to do things.
The duel against Aporia suffers from this issue as well as the issue that plagues this arc more than any other. Throughout episodes 131-151, the amount of times characters summon a monster they’ve never had before/will never use again for the rest of the arc reaches its peak. In the Crow and Aki vs Sherry duel after she has a face-heel turn I’m ambivalent on, this is a problem, and it serves as Aki’s final duel outing as she clears up phase 1 of the battle and she assists Crow when he delivers the final blow. Then Aki somehow gets her psychic powers back to protect everyone because we have to feign character development since they have absolutely nothing good for Aki to do. It’s almost insulting, and I can’t even use the “Aki’s seiyuu taking time off” excuse anymore since she gets more lines and appearances this arc than in the previous ones.
The asspull card problem gets even worse in the Aporia vs Jack, Lua, and Luca duel in episodes 141-143 and it peaks in the final duel, which we’ll get to. The first half of the duel itself is good, as Aporia’s field spell torments out protagonists like never before, as he forces Lua to watch his sister and friend get decimated in order to make an example out of why clinging to emotions and ideas –especially hope– is such a terrible thing. However, as Lua is dying, a monster effect from a card he never had before lets him gamble to see if when he comes to 0, he’ll be revived just as Ancient Fairy Dragon and Luca wish. It works, this becomes the only remaining appearance of a duel spirit for the remainder of this original timeline, and Lua somehow becomes the 6th signer cuz character development clearly has to bend logic to its well for the sake of “wow factor”. There’s still emotional resonance in this duel given that it made me invested in the kids and Lua’s arc of trying to protect Luca and become stronger which this season has largely neglected.
Bruno reveals to the cast that he was Antimony once he got his memories back, and proceeds to duel Yusei in a (mostly) beautiful space track zone. He, Aporia, and Sherry were protectors of the 3 planetary gears that, along with the support gear, would make the Arc Cradle Yliaster’s been trying to summon all season crash into Neo Domino City in 12 hours. I have problems with the anime time this thing runs on, but whatever. Point is, it’s a twist for the characters rather than the audience, and Bruno places hope that Yusei will overcome it all as they duel and demonstrate the dumb “Delta Accel Synchro”. He gets a pretty decent death sequence, and it hurts a little to see the other characters get told all the bad news since while Bruno was meh as a character, his effect on the group was something to be felt.
Aporia regaining hope and failing to take down/save his friend ZONE who reluctantly puts him down made for a decent duel, and after somehow fusing part of himself with Yusei’s D-wheel by throing the former at the latter like a boomerang (fuck it), it grows wings so Yusei can duel Aporia in thye skies (fuck it). The duel is absolutely over the top as we see them avoid falling debris and crash into buildings. On top of that, in the midst of everyone in the city being evacuated, the nameless MC aka the Master of Ceremonies decides that it is his duty to commentate on the duel. This man commentated on the Yliaster duel after it was wreaking havoc on the stadium and absolutely everyone bolted, and now he’s commentating on the duel that will decide the city’s fate and world’s future. What a madlad. The duel itself is where Yusei primarily uses cards built and used solely for this duel, so it is perhaps the worst offender of this particular YGO trope in the entire series up to this point. The moral clash with him and ZONE is ok even though ZONE’s big reveal is that he tried to be Yusei in body and spirit because I guess the producers of the show didn’t want him to actually be Future Yusei like the show implied he’d be. Then Yusei flies into space, turns golden, bullshi-er I mean Over the Top Delta Accel Synchro summons Shooting Quasar Dragon, eventually faces an underwhelming boss monster, and beats ZONE who then crashes himself into the arc to save the day even with a bit of collateral damage.
Yeah this arc sucks. Also, remember Team Ragnarok? All they do is temporarily make a bridge for Yusei and co. to get to Arc Cradle. Remember Yusei’s Satellite friends? This show finally does by showing a flashback of them for one second when Yusei’s gathering the hope and emotions of everyone counting on him. They also come back in the series finale for a brief cameo unlike his prison buddies, so oh well. At least it’s something.
This brings me to the last 3 episodes, as they’re a pretty nice sendoff to the show, all things considered. We see everyone tackling new occupations and being uncertain about what to do in the future. All they know is that they want to get together in this utopic future one last time before they all split up. Jack comes back for one last big duel against Yusei in which he and everyone end up deciding on their paths. Yusei wants to stay in and further develop the city. Crow, who became a cop for a bit, wants to go pro. Lua and Luca are invited to live with their parents in the UK. Aki wants to become a doctor. Finally, Jack was always gonna set off on his own to become King internationally, and he don’t need none of the fangirls like Mikage (who helped with evacuations) and Carly (who has been thoroughly shunted) clinging to his coattails romantically. The duel itself ends on a pretty fun note as the versions of their boss monsters Yusei and Jack got in arc 4 clash and Yusei finishes Jack and his Red Dragon Archfiend off with a powered-up Junk Warrio. We haven’t seen this card be used since at least early season 2, so this and his friends seeing them for a bit as they duel in the Satellite district made for nice callbacks as the duel ends in over the top fashion. Seeing their futures, Yusei and Aki’s implied kiss as they set off on their own paths, and the final ride everyone takes as they leave, were all lovely. We even get one last convo between Yusei and Ushio as they deliberate on what Yusei’s gonna do. The city backdrop in this scene is particularly gorgeous, and the show ends off on a far better note than the vast majority of the season, with the show going back to its over the top roots and ending on a very emotional note.
Audiovisuals and Final thoughts
This might be the best-looking Yugioh show of the main timeline, though not by much. There’s certainly more animation going on now that the majority of the duels take place on D-wheels rather than in one spot as characters stand still. There are a few really lovely shots and animation cuts here and there, especially in the second season, and some episodes have some of the best backgrounds in the franchise as I pointed out in the Arc Cradle arc. However, the models are certainly less consistent than in GX, as they can go off-model or look very muddy quite often. It might be worse than than post-season 1, pre-season 5 Duel Monsters in that regard. There is also just as much reused animation as before, and there is a ton of CG for terrible establishing shots during duels, and whenever they decide they don’t wanna animate D-wheels or boss monsters in 2D, which happens a lot. This is where they started using CG models during duels, which become more rampant as the show goes on. The CG monsters often look like what you’d expect a toy model of say, Red Dragon Archfiend or Stardust Dragon to look like. On top of that, sometimes the shots can be incredibly weird and dumb. These visuals are barely any more of a mixed bag than they always were.
The music on the other hand, might just be the best of these shows so far. Yukata Minobe returns as the composer, and he gets better as he goes along. There are several bombastic and even orchestral standouts such as “Yusei Fudo”, “Yusei’s theme”, “Dark Tuning”, “Jose”, “Team 5D’s theme”, and “Z-ONE battle”. There are also more emotional tracks such as “Destiny”, “Solving the Puzzle”, “Mystery”, and “Aki Izayoi’s Unrest”. The sheer amount of great tracks rivals that of Duel Monsters and eventually reaches the heights of that and the most interesting GX pieces. On top of that, season 2 introduces insert songs to the franchise, with the somber “You Say…Ashita e” by La_Vie, the bombastic hypefest that is “Clear Mind” by Masaaki Endoh, and the beautiful, emotionally resonant “Yakusoku no Melody” by Masaaki Endoh. They’re about as good if not better than most of the OPs and EDs of the show. I know the mixing is a bit off on OP 1 and ED 5 due to them being rerecorded and therefore sounding a bit different than their full version counterparts. However, standounts still include: “Last train (New Morning)” by Knotlmp, “-OZONE-” by vistlip, “Close to You” by ALvino, and “Future Colours” by Plastic Tree (OP 2, ED 3, ED 4, and ED 5).
As for the show itself, I am disappointed in what happened. I understand that a bevy of circumstances got in the way of season 2 and that it’s amazing that the show didn’t finish catastrophically, but there’s so much that I cannot excuse about how the second season was handled. After a relatively decent first 2 arcs that were already starting to slip despite largely solid handling and development of its main characters, the show just stops knowing what to do with any of them or even a lot of the side characters from season 1. The show peaked in its first arc where things were at their most over then top and when the pacing was still somewhat solid. The moral of “you must keep hope for the future and not succumb to sadness or cling to the past in life” is a decent one to teach, and I appreciate some things they did to get there while testing more of its characters than GX season 4 did. However, 5D’s had to eviscerate the concept of logic in order to do so while GX had a better grasp of its characters in the long run despite how badly they fucked up their great cast and rushed aspects of their last season. 5D’s doesn’t even have characters I like all that much by comparison even back when it was still a decent show, and the writing was in danger of surpassing the worst of post-Duelist Kingdom Duel monsters. The peanut gallery problem was starting to creep up on that level of ridiculousness as well, and it’s kind of amazing that the show managed to pick itself up a bit in its last arc, even if the narrative somehow got even worse in some areas to do so. Would I recommend 5D’s? Maybe the first season. Despite what bright spots exist in season 2, you’re better off watching a bunch of clips of the Zushin summon, Lua’s signer acquisition, Bruno’s death, and what becomes of everyone in the future. The rest honestly isn’t worth the frustration unless you’re just *that forgiving* of a viewer or unless you don’t tend to notice issues in these kinds of shows in the first place. I guess now there’s the tie-in movie that has the most minor of relevance to the arc, and then I am done with the timeline for now. What do I mean by timeline? I’ll explain when I cover Zexal, though that won’t be for a while…I hope.
Arc placement: Fortune Cup>Dark Signers>>Arc Cradle>World Racing Grand Prix>Pre-WRGP
Episodes lasted: 154/154
Season 1: 5.5/10
Season 2: 4/10
Overall rating: 4.5