Love Blue! Angel!
Everyone’s favorite dueling idol returns this week. If you play the card game in real life, you may be aware that Blue Angel’s Trickstar deck can be frustratingly obnoxious to fight against due to its reliance on effect damage. Or, for the more enlightened like myself who actually play Trickstars, you may be aware that stinging your opponent with little bits of damage every other second is incredibly satisfying. I’ll just leave it by saying there are two types of duelists: the average players and the sadistic burn players.
If you’re the former, this episode might be rather grating. But if you’re the latter, you’re in for a treat. Last week we saw the AIs’ Tentacluster decks focus on hand destruction, while this week the AI focuses on effect damage. Both strategies in which Trickstars specialize. So suffice it to say when I realized I was watching an effect damage slugfest, as Blue Angel puts it, I was beyond excited. And while the episode could have done a bit more with atmospheric tension, I was far from disappointed at the exchanges of damage. Effects flew back and forth like ping pong balls, and it was glorious.
So if Blue Angel’s duel was the highlight of the episode for me, what was the downside? Playmaker’s duel. Far and away. I was really interested to know how he was going to get out of his zero-hand pinch the AI left him in. A nagging thought kept saying, “Oh, he’ll probably just spam graveyard effects,” but I didn’t want to listen. So what does he actually do? Spams graveyard effects, of course, in true protagonist fashion. If Blue Angel’s new support cards are gimmicky, Playmaker’s are akin to most specific of specificities cards can specify. I’m honestly tired of him as a Protagonist when we have so many other interesting characters floating about, not to mention more interesting and less situational dueling styles. (Not to mention he again has to rely on his Skill to win. I seem to recall Blue Angel winning without her Skill…) Yusaku is honestly okay as a character, even if he is criminally boring and non-reactive. But the writers seem determined to showcase him as the master of pulling situational effects out of his butt, not to mention he can literally do that as a special ability. He makes Yusei Fudo look like an absolute scrub. I just wish he could actually respond to tough situations with a bit of concern instead of just brushing them off by having the exact answer he needs at that exact moment. It’s no fun when he literally doesn’t care at all.
So what else did this episode have? Some pretty nice animation. Everything was pretty crisp, the Link summoning animation remains much better than in the past, and there are some neat sequences involving the movements of both Blue Angel and Playmaker’s monsters. If only Playmaker didn’t look totally off model in any zoomed out shot. Like the Altergeist monsters, I feel the Tentaclusters could have also have some cooler animations, but whatever. Let’s ignore the fact that doing that for the Trickstars results in them farting out a stream of hearts, shall we? (And I’m still mad that Field Spells don’t actually change the setting like in the older shows.) A final note about the visuals, the fact that the background was almost entirely the Data Storm just seems lazy. And I mean lazier than usual. If it was something unique to the mother computer, it’d be passable. But we literally see this same blur of blue and purple every time a Speed Duel commences. Come on, VRAINS, you’re better than this.
I actually hope Kitamura isn’t finished after this arc. As far as antagonists go in Yu-Gi-Oh!, he’s far from the best but far from the worst. Aside from his fixation on AIs, he’s actually been fairly relatable, as he panics at every little misstep instead of only gloating about his power. (He does that too, but it’s balanced out by more realistic reactions as well.) I like him, and I’d like to see more of him in the future. I might get my wish, since it looks like he’ll have plenty of time to come up with a backup strategy while Akira and Playmaker duke it out inside the data bank next week. (Can the whole computer system not just be restarted?)
Playmaker and his dueling continue to be the most negative aspects of VRAINS in my book, but this was otherwise a solid episode. Even more so if you’re a Blue Angel fan. But come on, who isn’t?