Wow. It’s been almost a year since my last review on Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS. Life got busy, and, well, I just generally didn’t have time to maintain this site. But I’m going to make a dedicated effort again. Whether or not that will pay off remains to be seen. But first order of business? Catch up on VRAINS! This is just going to be a quick summarization. So nothing too in-depth here. No actual rating here. Just talking.
Playmaker, Go, and Blue Angel dive into Link VRAINS to destroy the Tower of Hanoi. Spectre reveals himself as a Lost Child and handily defeats Blue Angel with mad disrespect. Go, like Ghost Girl, gets absolutely decimated by freaking Mirror Force. Playmaker has to swoop in and deliver a sound beating to both to save the day.
When we pick back up, Go, Blood Shepherd, and some nobodies are bounty hunters after Ai and the other Ignis. Not to mention Blue Angel is having an identity crisis and Ghost Girl is still having trouble selling herself as a convincing anti-hero. A new emotionless Playmaker by the name of Soulburner (Takeru) arrives, and he brings with him an Ignis named Flame. He and Playmaker try to track down the villains who stole Kusanagi’s brother’s consciousness. Yeah, it does sound ridiculous.
Basically, everyone jobs to Soulburner, Go gets mad and implants an AI in his brain, Aoi suddenly recalls she wasn’t always a friendless jerk, and Ghost Girl remembers she has a brother.
Like season 1, the show has become a free-for-all. The Knights of Hanoi are back, SOL Technologies is actually doing something, the Ignis are waging war on everyone and their mother, and Konami still refuses to release Sunavalon cards in the real life game. Playmaker and Soulburner have scores to settle with Bohman and Blood Shepherd, respectively, and everyone else is just pretty much on stand-by.
The best thing I can say about the show is that it isn’t awful. Just very uninspired.
Lately, things have been on an upward trajectory, as the various antagonistic forces gain more members (making it less of a 4 vs like a bazillion thing). Go’s character development, while a bit out of character, actually provides some nice direction, making Go relevant again and finally lending some much needed strength to the bounty hunters.
Blue Angel also finally solidifies what in the hell she wants to do, as she has constantly wobbled on whether she and Playmaker are allies or not. I really don’t care which side she chooses (Playmaker or SOL), I just want her to be consistent.
Earth’s death. While this is by no means permanent (It’s Yu-Gi-Oh!), this was one of the saddest scenes I’ve seen in this franchise, made all the more impactful by Spectre’s tears. While the whole plotline of Earth finding Aqua was just a mess of rushed writing, it ended up being worthwhile for this scene alone.
Duels, while still bogged down by uninteresting and drawn-out combos, have at least become more technical. Revolver and Playmaker have both utilized technical rulings that often go unexplored in the anime. And that’s always a nice treat for anyone who plays the game competitively.
Queen, like Go, is a threatening antagonist. While I can’t quite say the same about Lightning, Windy, and Bohman, given their track record, it’s at least nice to see some a fresh face batting for the antagonists.
Revolver’s trap line-up continues to be both terrifying and hilarious.
The show acknowledges that Gouki is a troubling deck.
Brass tacks? This show has been incredibly linear until very recently. Season 1 simply saw a rotation of Playmaker, Go, and Blue Angel (Girl) dealing with various members of Knights of Hanoi during each mini arc. Then, when the three try to stop the Tower of Hanoi, since there were so few important members of Hanoi remaining, Blue Angel and Go simply end up jobbing to Spectre and Revolver to show of the antagonist’s strength. Granted, with Go it worked into his character development later on, and I am glad Spectre was made more threatening by his win over Blue Angel, but honestly it just felt like the show cheapened its supporting cast by writing them off so easily. And don’t even get me started on Akira Zaizen.
Season 2 started off much the same, with the arrival of Soulburner (Playmaker 2.0) heralding yet another round of supporting character defeats. Not only did Blue Girl’s character arc at that time make zero sense (in that she would more likely have actually joined Playmaker and Soulburner to confront Bohman), but that duel was one of the biggest ass-pulls in the franchise’s history. They did Blue Girl wrong there. She and Ghost Girl traveled all that way just to pack up and go home.
With the new cast arrivals, it’s like the show couldn’t figure out what to do with its supporting cast. Which might be part of the reason for the apparent retcons of Go, Blue Angel, and Ghost Girl’s motivations and relationships as of late. They’re still in it, but man it just really feels like the Playmaker and Soulburner show, which isn’t good considering how boring those two are.
Speaking of both, with season 2, VRAINS started a habit of absolutely screwing itself out of good writing opportunities. Soulburner’s trauma was a good character point, but the show sweeps it away by simply saying that he got over it a long time ago. Having Soulburner trudge through that sort of thing would have actually made him a good character. As it stands, Soulburner is a much better character in flashbacks than in the present, which is not a good sign. Playmaker and Bohman’s shared consciousness, while a total sham, could have been played up a lot more than it was. It didn’t help that the show told us outright that the information came from an unreliable source before that bombshell dropped.
The Ignis get way to used to using names for convenience. Kusanagi still has yet to duel. Naoki, while still providing entertaining duels, has yet to be relevant. Also where my boys Pigeon and Frog at?
I’m scared to say I’m excited for the future of this show. Every time I’ve gotten my hopes up before, they’ve been dashed. Really, to stay just above “okay,” all the show needs to do is write more interesting duels, remove Soulburner from the equation for a while, and have the antagonists stop losing their duels before we even near the climax of the season. Oh, and making a female character relevant for once would help. But the way the whole Miyu thing is unfolding, I have my reservations.