Image source: アニメ「遊☆戯☆王」公式 on Twitter
The fourth and fifth episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Vrains shows how dueling and pro wrestling make a great combination.
Yusaku Fujiki is a high school boy who is secretly the duelist-hacker Playmaker. One day online, he meets a strange AI named Ignis. However, with a hacking group and a major corporation both hunting Ignis, Yusaku is forced protect the AI by defeating the two organizations in a children’s card game.
There’s a lot of flair, twists, and turns in the card duels in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. This keeps them exciting to watch and has us wanting more by the end. But, the duel between Yusaku and the latest person sent to capture Ignis, Go Onizuka, is a beautiful fusion of pro-wrestling and dueling. This is because of the visuals of wrestling, wrestling ephemera, and the flow of the dual.
Flow is important for any anime series and Vrains channeled this when Yusaku and Go are dueling. Like a wrestling match, their duel starts off strong with a few big moves for showboating, then slowly lulls into Yusaku and Go taking potshots at each other. But, by the end of the duel, it crescendos into two “exhausted” characters, with one of them pulling off their finishing move. It’s beautiful in its design, but it’s made even better when taking Go’s personality into consideration. Go is a man who’s a natural showman and champion. He got there by putting on performance duels. And this aspect of his character shows just as the duel between him and Yusaka enters the stage where they take pot-shots at each other.
After taking a big hit in the duel, Go put on an act where he feigns defeat. It’s the moment in a pro-wrestling match when the good guy is down for the count and all hope is lost. This scene gives the duel a sense of drama and it makes us invested in his character. What’s even better is, as the duel progresses, Yusaku slowly starts to join in on the entertainment value of the match by making plays that aren’t ideal but are for entertainment.
Image source: アニメ「遊☆戯☆王」公式 on Twitter
These “misplays” by Yusaku run from poor decisions on when to attack to summoning monsters that aren’t effective in defeating Go. But, it’s in these moments we see how Yusaku’s misplays are calculated not just for his victory, but also provide entertainment for the audience in Vrains as well as us. This gives us a great sense of urgency in the duel because just like in a pro wrestling match, we want to see the hero overcome a losing situation. And the same is true with Yusaku.
The flow of the fourth and fifth episode brings out the entertainment value of the duel, but the visual and naming elements of Go’s deck heightened the fusion of pro-wrestling and dueling. The monster cards in Go’s deck are clearly wrestling inspired: Goki Suplex, Goki Twist Cobra, and Goki Rising Scorpio. These three names of all refer to different pro-wrestling holds and moves.
Similar to the names of the monsters, the visual elements are heavily inspired by pro-wrestling. Like the wrestling ring that appears when the monsters are battling. Even the battles are reminiscent of wrestling because we see the monsters jumping off the top ropes of the ring, slamming into each other, and pinning each other for the three-count. And the final blows between Yusaku’s Decode Talker and Go’s Goki Great Ogre round out the visuals during the climax. With the monsters repeatedly hitting and slamming into each other, it’s a match fit for a pay-per-view wrestling event. Seeing this kind of energy during the duel is fantastically entertaining and really make the two episodes move.
Image source: 【公式】遊戯王OCG on Twitter
Pro wrestling is highly entertaining with its over-the-top characters, high-flying moves, and drama galore. The dueling in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is a highly dramatic game of strategy, luck, and larger-than-life characters. Mix those two together in Vrains and it’s a recipe for success.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Vrains is not currently streaming. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters is streaming on Crunchyroll.