The Spring 2017 Manga Guide
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V Vol. 1
What's It About?
Leo Corporation has taken 3D to new heights – with their “Solid Vision” system, users can create images that aren't only 3D in looks, they're actually solid enough to stand on and interact with! Unfortunately for LC, their system has been hacked by Yuya Sakaki, a young Duelist. Calling himself a “dueltainer,” or a dueler who entertains people, Yuya is a master player, and he seems to think there's something shady going on a Leo Corporation. The fact that the company sends out their top duelists would seem to indicate that he's right – Kurosaki, one of the group set to take Yuya down, disdains people who duel for fun and says that he can really only feel alive when he “comes back to life,” or recoups a losing game into a spectacular win to take out the other player. Yuya's stated goal is to find a specific card, one which has the power to change the world, but Leo Corporation's president also seems to be after it. A too-public duel pairs Yuya up with Yuzu Hiragi, the daughter of a financially insolvent duel school, and somewhere in her efforts to get the school students by hiring Yuya as a teacher, LC kidnaps her father. Can Yuya allow himself to be sidelined by Yuzu's business and family interests? And who is this “Yuto” who occasionally shows up and can communicate telepathically with Yuya? Only time and duels will tell! Yu-gi-Oh! Arc-V is based on a trading card game and has an anime version that runs on Nicktoons. The manga is written by Shin Yoshida and illustrated by Naohito Miyoshi and is available from Viz Media under their Shonen Jump imprint. Volume one was released in April and retails for $9.99.
Is It Worth Reading?
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V is not terrible at achieving what it sets out to do—but as far as appealing to a wider audience beyond Yu-Gi-Oh! and collectible card game aficionados, it does a poor job. That's not to say it has the responsibility of entertaining beyond its niche, but its reluctance to do so does limit the audience that's going to be interested in reading this volume. The characters are two-dimensional and, as one would expect, wholly focused on card Duels. The most developed character is Yuzu Hiragi, daughter of the head of a Duel School without students that's so badly in the red, they're about to go bankrupt. However, even she's single-mindedly concerned about the Duels—in order to fill her dad's school with students so they can pay their bills. Other characters, including primary hero Yuya Sakaki, make minimal impact outside of the Duels, although the interactions between Yuya and Yuzu when she tries to convince him to let her be his manager all in the service of publicizing her dad's school elicit a chuckle or two. The highlight of the volume is easily the detailed monsters the Duelists summon during their Duels, which range from adorable to menacing, popping out from the page in oftentimes full-page spreads. They're definitely more interesting to look at than it is to read through the Duelists’ convoluted explanations of what cards they're using and how they work to attack or defend—although to be fair, a card battle is hard to express on a static page.
The character designs are reminiscent of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! characters—sharp, angular, and distinctive, which is a positive, even if details like the pointy, dark-lined eyes can get distracting at times. However, it's the overuse of screentones that's actually unappealing to look at. Far too many pages are more dark than light, as tones shade everything from the monsters to the background to add a dark and ominous feel to the Duels. There's texture in a number of the spots that rely heavily on screentones, but it results in a patchwork look that draws the eye too much to the tones when they should fade into the background more naturally. It does lend this fantastical world where Duels are ever-present a more cartoonish look, but it also distracts from the plot—what little there is. The first volume of Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V will satisfy longtime fans and younger readers who find thrills in the escalation of projected card battles, but it's unlikely to bring any new older readers into the fold.
I have to pity anyone who hasn't kept up with Yu-Gi-Oh! for a few years, or even has never experienced it at all, who picks up the Arc-V manga with no preparation. The franchise and the game have gone through so many changes over the years, and at this point it's kind of assumed that anyone watching the anime or reading the manga has at least a basic understanding of how the card game works. So while Action Duels and, eventually, Pendulum Summoning are explained for anyone who hasn't watched the Arc-V anime, readers are pretty much dropped in the deep end as far as knowledge of the card game goes. It's therefore safe to assume the manga is mostly intended for people who are fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! already, which makes the manga all the more oddly disappointing.
Manga adaptations of the various Yu-Gi-Oh! spinoffs have usually reinterpreted multiple characters and told an entirely original story, and Arc-V is no different. The issue is that while the characters’ general attitudes remain roughly the same, their backgrounds seem considerably less imaginative than their anime counterparts’. The Arc-V anime was often overly complicated due to its plot dealing with interdimensional conflict, but the manga seems to have taken things too far in the opposite direction. Rather than building up to it, Yuya and Yuto work as split personalities from the beginning, which feels too similar to previous Yu-Gi-Oh! series that have done the exact same. It's also an odd choice to make Yuya a secretive masked vigilante character, given that his penchant for putting on a big show remains intact. Shun Kurosaki has been changed from a vengeful former freedom fighter to a considerably more basic pseudo-masochistic thrill-seeker. Most disappointingly, Yuzu, who often served as a secondary protagonist in the anime, is now a completely one-note character. At least the manga does get the look of the series down properly, particularly when it comes to portraying Action Duels. With the element of movement added into the duels, new readers might find it a bit easier to get into the Arc-V manga than other adaptations of the franchise.
It's nice to see the tradition of Yu-Gi-Oh! manga adaptations doing their own thing continue, but Arc-V still feels like a letdown. Even without comparing it to the original anime or other series in the franchise, the plot feels pretty generic. Most Yu-Gi-Oh! series tend to keep a fair few surprises in check early on, so this could very well change, but for the time being, it's just not very interesting.
Despite a few attempts, I've always felt that I missed the boat on the Yu-Gi-Oh craze. That said, it's still fun to read a manga volume every once in a while, because no matter how thin the premise, the books always have an incredible amount of fun with their art and stories. Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V’s first volume is no exception, and it also feels like it's going to be just as invested in the mystery of its main character as in its duels, which feels like a good sign.
I'm actually not entirely sure if there's just one protagonist or two – Yuya and Yuto look completely different and clearly have different duel styles, but they also appear to be able to telepathically communicate and quite possibly to share a single body. This is by far the most intriguing aspect of the volume, introducing an air of sci fi-flavored mystery into the otherwise fairly standard story. And fun as it is, this really does feel like the same Yu-Gi-Oh that we get each time: most of the book is devoted to two (admittedly spectacular) duels utilizing the Solid Vision technology developed by the vaguely nefarious Leo Corporation. Yuya has been hacking into their system to further his career as a “dueltainer” (kind of a clumsy port-manteaux of “duelist” and “entertainer”), but also so that he can search for a legendary card that can change the fate of the world. I definitely appreciate that he's got a cover story for his true purpose, even though he's blurting it out immediately to Yuzu, the money-hungry daughter of a failing duel school. Sure, she's announced that she's going to be his manager, but it still seems awfully precipitous of him.
The duels are also standard fare, with each move loudly announced as it happens, and a basic effort made to entice people to buy the cards to play along with the characters as best they can. It's blatant advertising, but it's also par for the course, and unlikely to bother franchise fans if it hasn't yet. (It is, however a bar to entry for new readers, or at least it always has been for me.) The artwork is very busy, with what feels like a few too many panels crammed on each page, and almost all of them showing action of some kind. The monsters (and hairstyles) are creative, as are the page layouts, but it can be a little overwhelming at times.
Despite the Shonen Jump imprint, this book feels more like it belongs under the Viz Kids label, but I could see that changing as the story goes forward. While I can't say that Arc-V is likely to appeal to non-Yu-Gi-Oh readers, it does feel like it's taking some risks, or at least trying something different, with its approach to the franchise.
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