Following a week’s hiatus, I return to cover DaCrowz in our weekly Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS review segment. To start things off, we’ll first take a look back at last week’s episode, which was the much built up conclusion to the duel between Yusaku and Revolver. Do we discover any juicy plot details this week? Is this the moment where we delve into Yusaku’s past and discover the true motivations for the Knights of Hanoi’s actions as they battle against SOL technologies? As seems to be the norm with VRAINS, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag.
Dropped off in the middle of the duel from last week, Yusaku starts in quite a bind while Ghost Girl gets her voyeur on from the shadows. He summoned his new signature boss monster and it looks cool enough, but he still has to find a way to use it to defeat Revolver, who has a decidedly stronger field. What follows is a series of shenanigans that would make Yusei Fudo shed a tear of pride, as Yusaku resolves the duel in one more battle phase through the use of incredibly specific trap card effects like a true Yu-Gi-Oh protagonist should.
To its credit, this duel (or rather pair of duels) is probably the strongest in the series so far due to the sheer amount of times momentum has shifted back and forth. There was some legitimate tension, which is surprising given Yusaku’s plot immunity to losing that has been well established by this point. However, I cannot help but wonder if duelists in this world even have the capability to look at their opponent’s cards. After all, isn’t understanding your opponent’s plays an integral part of a trading card game? The result may have been the same, but you still wouldn’t have:
“I activate this effect from my graveyard.”
Nitpicks aside, the duel resolves pretty nicely halfway through, and oddly enough the episode leaves the audience with some solid narrative momentum. The plotline with Aoi being trapped in a coma is resolved through some further unexplained deus ex machina, while the connection from “ten years ago” between Yusaku and the Knights of Hanoi is further teased to hook you into the mystery for further episodes. Unfortunately we are not spared from several contrived coincidences that this show in particular seems to be fond of, but for once the main focus of this week was strong enough to make those instances at least somewhat forgivable.
The presentation of this episode was also better than most in the series up till now, as the animations for the monsters in this duel look pretty damn cool (Firewall Dragon’s attacks in particular). VRAINS certainly isn’t a masterpiece of the anime artform, and there remains an atrocious overuse of stock backgrounds, but none of the characters looked deformed and they have started to understand how dull it is to watch the full Link Summoning animation sequence and have begun to skip over it altogether (although that doesn’t necessarily apply to this episode specifically).
Overall, episode 12 succeeded at least in making me interested in what’s to come. It was by no means perfect, hell this show might as well have the tagline “Just Good Enough To Market Link Monsters”. But in comparison to the start of previous eras of Yu-Gi-Oh, at least this isn’t early ZEXAL.