Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s vol. 2
Author: Masahiro Hikokubo
Artist: Masashi Sato
Distributor: Viz Media
American Release Date: Feb 7 2012
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Card Battles (Not specifically a genre, but it’s what it is)
Publisher Age Rating: T for teen
Overall Personal Rating: C
Set in the same world as previous Yu-Gi-Oh! series, but far in the future where the game of Duel Monsters, a collectible card game using all sorts of monster and magic cards is not only still popular, but different than ever before. For some reason, people decided it needed to be more INTENSE and began making something called Duel Runners, special motorcycles to play the game in “Turbo Duel”, essentially the Duel Masters game…while driving around on motorcycles. These popular duels are so exciting, everyone watches them and people the world over participate in them, even a kid named Yusei Fudo and his friend, Sect, living in the slums of Sattelite, a part of New Domino City. Yusei’s bold determination and courage are the springboard for another series of card battles taken way too seriously, hidden dark evils and people screaming what their cards do; yeah, it’s more Yu-Gi-Oh!!!
Yusei was defeated in a duel by Jack Atlas, a scary looking guy in a awesome longcoat (everyone wants to be Kaiba) who turns out to have been a world famous duelist known far and wide as “The King”. Despite this, Yusei is raring for a rematch, and after some special training with his friends Akiza Izinski (She is known as the “Queen of Queens”, really) and Sect (His kind of dopey little buddy), and getting a weird invitation from a guy who looks like an evil clown to enter a spectacular duel tournament known as the D1 Grand Prix, he’s given the opportunity to win and claim a rematch with Jack Atlas! Wowie kids, it’s exciting stuff!
I just want to go on record as saying the basic premise of this series makes normal Yu-Gi-Oh! look like it makes sense. As usual, as the players play the card game and summon monsters. (A basic concept of the game involves summoning these monsters and making them fight it out)At this point, giant- theoretically holographic versions of the monsters appear and actually battle it out overhead, giving the artist something more interesting to draw than two people playing a card game. However, the “Turbo Duel” concept also allows Sato to draw the riders driving around like lunatics on motorcycles; is it any wonder that nobody says anything during a duel without at least one exclamation point (Often two)? Unlike in regular Duel Monsters, they can also win by getting to the finish line of the race first or quite literally blowing up the other guy’s Duel Runner by using “Sense”. This “Sense” is apparently the concentrated essence of their awesome, or some kind of KI like thing that causes the previously mentioned holographic attacks to actually blow things up. It’s kind of like the Shadow Games from previous Yu-Gi-Oh series, but less explained…and dare I say it, it makes slightly less sense, although does fulfill a secret desire of mine to see the giant monsters actually break stuff.
The art style and characters are cribbed from “How to Draw Yu-Gi-Oh 101″; lots of improbable hair, huge unwieldy jackets, shades on nasty guys, etc. This is both good and bad; On the one hand, both kids and I have short attention spans and this causes all the characters to look quite distinctive, from Yusei’s Yugi-like hair spikes to Sect’s goofy adorable little helmet. However, every Yu-Gi-Oh series the world looks more and more like it’s filled with rejected extras from the Rocky Horror Picture show, and that’s kinda weird. Even the facial features and shading are carefully done to resemble the appearance the series has always had. In a way, it really helps me jump right in because it’s so familiar, but in another way, it would be nice to see some innovation that doesn’t feel like a parody of itself. That innovation is in the cards; the new monsters and card abilities are frequently quite interesting, and now that the game in the book plays like the real game (Heck, they even give you a free promo card with each volume, if you can find one that some jerk didn’t steal it from) I find myself going “Nice, I’d like that card” since I happen to be a player of the game. As a marketing tool, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s and its predecessors are a goldmine the likes of Pokemon, but as a story, it may be wearing a bit thin.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been a fan of the series since before it was about card games, and it won’t let you down that bad on that front. There are around three full games in this volume, including a brief one by a guy named Crow who really wants to duel Yusei and seems kind of like he’s going to be a friendly rival I particularly enjoyed (A few of his cards I really have to try), and I liked the usual duel between Yusei and a cheater, but I feel that the shorter length of the duels didn’t allow for the same level of strategy I’d have liked to see, and I really really think the “They lose if they don’t hit the finish line first” race type stuff is straight up stupid. The motorcycle thing is tacked on and really rather pointless, just adding more flash and no real logic to the series; although I do admit Akiza’s duel utilized the motorcycles in an actually interesting way (Although I seriously think using psychic powers to read your hand is cheating on a Pegasus level, which if I recall, was considered BAD in the first series, not something actually allowed but someone who wasn’t a corrupt villain). The plot, such as it is, in this volume involes the introduction of some wild, cheerful duelists, backstory between Akiza and an old fellow duelist, Yusei boldly declaring his intentions to rematch Jack Atlas, Jack sneering from on high like Kaiba and declaring that perhaps the tournament won’t be ALL boring as his rivals struggle to reach him, a dangeorus mysterious evil card that is being sought out by the clown guy, etc. These all act as a backdrop to the duels, much like any previous volume of all the previous series. It’s all servicable, and although I’m biased, I find it fun because I’m weird like that.
Overall Grade: C
Every new Yu-Gi-Oh anime, the obvious purpose of the series as a marketing tool is closer to the surface, but I feel like Hiokokubo and Sato actually care about the manga, and have introduced some new characters and concepts over the anime to give it their own personal spin. It’s still a paperthin veneer of character over increasingly over the top gaming (I seem to recall the original series had times where Yugi or Joey would calmly select a move, and far more quiet moments as they contemplated strategy, while this is all sound and fury), but for people who really like the game or younger readers, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s has enough energy and wild characters to entertain. Adults need not apply.
You can pick this up at Right Stuf.