DVD Review: Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal – Season 1

Do we ‘feel the flow’ with Manga Entertainment’s latest entry into the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise and is it time to ‘get decked’? Well let’s take a look and find out!

Synopsis:

When aspiring duelist Yuma meets Astral, a mysterious visitor from another universe, it seems like destiny. Yuma needs Astral to teach him how to duel, and Astral needs Yuma to help him regain his memories!

They would be dueling’s greatest tag team… except they don’t get along!

Our View:

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal stands apart from the rest of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise by delivering  a story that is both unique and different while remaining true to the origins of the series; a world whereby everything is settled with Duel Monsters. Featuring forty-nine episodes this six disc collection by Manga Entertainment UK, interestingly entitled Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal – Season 1, consists of two story arcs which cover the entire Number Hunter and World Duel Carnival Arcs of the anime series; all of which are presented in ‘edited’ English Dubbed format.

Regardless of how the series is presented Yu-Gi-Oh! fans will be excited to see an extensive amount of episodic content within a single package, much like previous releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX; but what exactly makes Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal stand out from the rest? Well for starters the main character, known as Yuma Tsukumo, is terrible at dueling – which is a stark contrast to previous Yu-Gi-Oh! series that saw the main character being the ‘ace duelist’ – but furthermore it sees an alien thrown into the mix (something which the final seasons of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX started to explore).

In this case an old key that Yuma received from his parents unlocks access to Astral – an alien being with little to no memory – and in order to recover this lost memory Astral needs to absorb the power of the ‘numbers’, or in our case, the Number Cards which have been scattered around the city.

When originally broadcast in Japan the ‘Number’ Cards were a new set of cards with indescribable power; and in this anime series at least these Number Cards provide Astral with his fragments of his memory. And so, for the ‘Number Hunter’ arc at least, Yuma and Astral agree to work with one another in order to locate the numbers and retrieve Astral’s memories; but alas this is going to be harder than it sounds.

As one would expect it’s pretty much one duel after another with each ‘Number Card’ possessing the holder and forcing them to do something evil; a feat which usually ends up with Yuma and Astral dueling the card holder until he/she is defeated.

The interesting aspect about this story arc is that ‘just’ when things start to get repetitive it stirs things up by introducing new characters, new friends and new rivals. For example Yuma’s range of friends, which mostly consist of Tori Meadows and Bronk, soon expand to include new characters such as Shark, Trip and Cat.

Furthermore when this process starts to become repetitive another ‘Number Hunter’ appears on the scene and attempts to retrieve the cards for himself; to which a clash between this ‘potential’ enemy threat and Yuma ensues for an over-going selection of episodes. This Number Hunter may seem evil but he actually has his own pure intentions and as such the real threat against Astral, and in turn Yuma, soon begins to emerge.

As you might imagine this Number Hunter Arc provides a nice progressive chain of events with each episode building up upon another until the final fight towards the end; but alas this is only the first arc in this six disc collection.

The second arc, known as the ‘World Duel Carnival’ expands upon the foundations and rivals created within the ‘Number Hunter’ arc. In this case numerous characters, both friends and enemies, from the series enter the World Dual Carnival which see characters battle it out to be crowned the top duelist of the city. This is achieved by collecting heart pieces and upon collecting all of the required heart pieces the final will commence.

As this is a ‘tournament’ it doesn’t deliver the same impact as the previous arc; but it does provide that ‘sportsmanship’ you’d expect from a trading card game as well as some interesting story twists. As you may imagine it is dueling bonanza from start to finish with each of the main characters getting their share of the spotlight; which is (relatively) unusual considering that previous Yu-Gi-Oh! characters opted to focus on the main character itself.

Extras:

As per usual this DVD release of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal – Season 1 uses the same disc assets as those used in America by Flatrion Film Company and as such not only do we get the NTSC standard but we do not receive any supplementary content – which is to be expected considering it is the 4kids/Gkids English Dubbed variation of the show.

On the ‘flip side’ we do receive a slightly interactive menu with the ‘catchy’ instrumental song in the background… a song which you will most likely be humming for some time after you’ve finished watching the episodes.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 9 x6
Region: 2
Running Time: 3:01:51 (Disc 1), 3:00:29 (Disc 2),2:58:39 (Disc 3), 2:58:03 (Disc 4), 3:14:16 (Disc 5), 2:55:47 (Disc 6)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English)
Subtitles: N/A
Resolution: 720 x 480 (480p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is a series that takes the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime franchise to new territories with its unique story and ever-increasing dilemmas; but for me this is what makes Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal stand out. This Season 1 release for instance delivers the introduction before quickly diving into the story at hand, the number cards and the connection they have with Astral, which soon spirals into a ‘fight-for-your-life’ scenario that we’ve only seen previously in Shadow Game type matches. The second story arc meanwhile offers that ‘simplistic’ tournament feel with a rather sinister motive; and unfortunately it ends on a rather abrupt cliffhanger with the story continuing within the next season collection.

It’s not just the storyline (which is hidden within amass of dueling lingo) that’s different; but the fact that we see Yuma go from a terrible duelist to a mediocre one is also an interesting change of pace and something we’ve rarely seen from the Yu-Gi-Oh! series in general. Although this ‘losing streak’ is momentarily seen on screen it is something that is mentioned throughout the series and it offers that ‘character growth’ we’ve rarely seen from past Yu-Gi-Oh! franchises.

While the series offers its fair share of storyline and comedic value these DVD discs are nothing to shout about and remain consistent with previous releases of the franchise. For starters as the discs are authored by Flatrion Film Company in America which means the discs do not have ‘correct’ chapter markers – so portions of the show can easily be missed if not careful; furthermore this set does not feature ‘any’ type of bonus content and as such it is simply just the episodes on the discs themselves. The positive news however is that the discs are in NTSC format, so we get the correct playback speed and pitch, and that they are presented in widescreen ratio – which is of course the original ratio of the series much like what Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s was.

Overall Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal – Season 1 is pretty much what you would expect it to be, a release containing an extensive selection of episodes which offer a brand new selection of characters, a new storyline to engross yourself within that’s ultimately hidden behind a wave of English Dubbed only lingo that (occasionally) becomes cringe-worthy. It’s all in good fun though and it’s great to see it over here within the UK.

Score: review-stars-4

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal – Season 1 is now available on DVD within the UK.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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