-Post contains spoilers-
Enter the magnificent entertainer: Go Onizuka!
There is absolutely nothing entertaining about Go Onizuka’s dueling style. He is hailed as a great entertainer, one who lets his opponents push him to the brink of defeat only so he can stage an amazing comeback. If a person knows that’s what’s happening, then what’s the point? The audience knows the duel is going according to Go’s plan, so there’s no real tension there. No one in this show should still be entertained by his methods. I guess they really are outdated, as some of the characters claim. Anyone who’s watched him duel should instead be groaning about him not using his effects to the fullest. Perhaps kids are his target audience, and if that’s the case, his style makes more sense considering children don’t really notice details or analyze situations fully. It seems, though, that Go is considered a great entertainer far and wide. Really, here we were thinking Arc-V’s entertainers were bad at their roles.
Thanks to Ignis, Go’s entire life story is revealed in the span of about three minutes. He’s a cross between 5D’s’ Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan in a sense, desiring unyielding fame and power while also having a group of orphans as a key driving force. For Jack and Crow, though, those aspects of their characters were built up over time and were integral to their personalities. Ignis slaps this backstory and these characteristics on Go in casual conversation and calls it a day. We’re left with an egotistical jerk who wants kids to look up to him for his own satisfaction, which would be fine if he was not supposed to be a beloved duelist and did not try to show actual care for the kids. None of it really meshes in the amount of time we get to spend with him this episode. This all would be a little more justified if Go had a few episodes to have this frustration regarding Playmaker build up, but he wants to pummel Playmaker after just a couple of appearances and days. (He somehow doesn’t understand why people look up to Playmaker after the guy took out a terrorist. Come on, man.) It could have been a nice character arc with him spiraling as his popularity plummets over the course of a few episodes, but his action to duel Playmaker is rushed just so he can be introduced sooner. Characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! tend to have these sort of negative introductions and flourish later on, so I’ll hope Go will become a better character later on. But his debut is not a strong one.
Anyway, I’ll eat my words from last week again. Go returns to Zaizen after we (somewhat confusingly) rewind the clock a bit. How much do we rewind? A few hours? A day or two? I have no idea how much time has passed since Yusaku’s last duel, but either way Go learns to ride his Speed Duel surfboard fairly quickly. Anyway, he accepts Zaizen’s offer to take down Playmaker. It’s still a bit unclear why Zaizen wants him to do this when he has Ema on the case too, but I’ll assume Ignis would somehow transfer to SOL Technologies should Playmaker lose. But yeah, Go fell into the standard Yu-Gi-Oh! plot device after all. For shame. Anyway, he disguises himself as last episode’s Knight of Hanoi to draw out Yusaku and then forces him into a duel. (By the way, what happened to the Pigeon reporter?)
This is the series’ second major duel, and while neither have been all that memorable, the first at least possessed a sense of danger to keep it interesting. Both Go and Playmaker just seem to be going through the motions in this duel. There’s no real dialogue between them. They could almost be playing against an AI for what it matters (Poor choice of words for this series). To be fair, Yusaku’s not really the type to engage in banter or engage in casual conversation, but to be immersive duels either need to employ emotion and development through dialogue exchanges or just go completely over the top with dramatic flair. This duel does neither, which is sad because it seems to want to do the latter but fails miserably.
Because it’s a Speed Duel, we’re back in Link VRAINS for this duel. And that’s to the episode’s detriment, I might add. I mentioned before how the backgrounds in Link VRAINS’ duels are just the same buildings rushing by, all clad in blue. Not only is it monotonous; it’s purely lazy and full of wasted potential. The characters could at least turn corners or something, but no, they keep traveling in a straight line in a repetitive setting. It’s waste of the series’ gimmick, plain and simple. The episode employs cutaways to a wrestling arena when referring to Go’s wrestling-themed monsters, which is a nice touch that helps break up the monotony. But the series is going to have to get more creative than that to keep Speed Duels from all blending together and becoming unmemorable.
This episode is supposed to be Go’s major debut, but everything about him is glossed over. Instead of any sort of character build up, Ignis simply spouts every detail, leaving nothing to the imagination. Hopefully it won’t do this for every opponent Yusaku faces… Still, Go is possibly one of the most likable characters right now, and that in itself is not setting the bar very high. Yusaku is a refreshing protagonist, but there is zero substance to him so far. VRAINS is full of potential, but it really needs to spend some more time on its character writing to make its players more engaging to watch. Perhaps Go will really pull out all the stops next week and show a truly entertaining duel that will force Yusaku to cope with… happiness. I don’t know. I’ll take anything at this point. Just don’t let Yusaku turn into a completely bland Mary Sue.