Manga-ka: Akira Ito
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2009
Synopsis: “It’s been many duels since Yugi defeated Maxmilion Pegasus, the super-rich designer of the collectible card game “Duel Monsters.” But Yako Tenma, Pegasus’ protégé, has never forgiven Yugi for his master’s horrible fate. To draw Yugi out, Yako kidnaps Anzu Mazaki and takes her to the heart of the Kaibacorp building, guarded by dozens of the world’s most dangerous gamers! But Yako’s true plan for Anzu is much worse than mere revenge…”
There’s a very classic overtone to this entire story, emphasized by the constant character reinforcement. Friendship, loyalty, honesty and hard work are all pushed hard. The repetitive nature leaves the characters feeling a little flat but the innocence of the message and the straightforward nature of its delivery makes it pretty empowering. It’s classic shonen strength at its best – promoting all that good moral stuff as the good guys fight the bad guys in a predominantly black and white structure.
Yu-Gi-Oh R begins as many others have before – a seemingly normal day at school. But things will never be the same for Yugi after having recently defeated one of the strongest card players in the world, Maxmilion Pegasus. Yugi is now known around the world, along with the notoriety that the King of Games spirit who resides within him comes with. He readily accepts a challenge from Yako Tenma, a protégé of sorts to the enterprising Pegasus, Yugi and his friends are blindsided to the true intent of their new adversary. Their friend and sole-female crewmember, Anzu, has been kidnapped and now they’ll need to battle their way to Yaku to get her back.
Breaking some shonen conventions however is the speed in which the characters fly through the fight scenes. If you’ve read your share of Dragonball Z or Naruto, you may come in here expecting each card battle to last a good period of time. Not so. There are almost ten battles in this one volume as Yugi and co. battle their way up a tier-system to get to the head-baddie and rescue their kidnapped friend. Despite the speed of the battles, the art style still ensures there’s plenty worth stopping to stare it – whether it’s the distinct designs of the human characters (including an abundance of short-term toss away villains) to the sharply rendered images of the many different card-creatures.
Those who’ve played the card game could learn some things while reading as well. Seeing the different moves, cards and strategies tossed about is bound to inspire at least a few players out there. Viz Media helps with this by offering a detailed listing of every card used in the book’s extras. Any who haven’t played the game could also be well inclined to start too. It’s evident Viz Media is paying attention to treat the series with care for the card game players. There’s even a special card included with the volume.
While the plot is pretty thin and the pacing a little dizzily quick, there’s still an undeniable charge to the lively characters and the headfirst nature of their mission. With obviously more to learn about Yako’s plans, plus the card battles being simple but thrilling little distractions, there’s enough here to leave anticipation for the final confrontation. The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga still probably won’t do much for the general manga reader who hasn’t enjoyed other incarnations of the series before, be it the games or anime. Those who already feel at least a little at home in the franchise however could find there’re plenty of classic elements to like about this story arc so far.