Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Series Review

This manga jets! If you don't know what that means...then read this! 

By Urian Brown November 15, 2016

Yugi dueled with the power of an ancient puzzle. Jaden attended a school for dueling that was more than it seemed. Yusei took dueling to the racetrack. Each of these legendary duelists had a powerful spirit for an ally, an apocalyptic threat only they could prevent and a killer Dueling Deck that carried them to the top. Now a fourth duelist, Yuma, goes on a journey to collect the scattered power of a magical duelist from a higher plane in his quest to save multiple worlds. This is one of the funniest Yu-Gi-Oh! series and has some jaw-dropping art. If you missed it, you missed out on a very energetic and entertaining read.


Your Days Are Numbered! 

Heartland high schooler Yuma Tsukumo's got a passion for dueling and he's gonna jet! He's not actually going to get in a jet and fly somewhere. Or go really fast. Yuma's catchphrase is "jet." And it means he's gonna go for it. Or try hard. And that's exactly what he does, despite not starting out as the best duelist. He does not get discouraged! No matter what his sister says and no matter how many times he loses, he’s gonna take on every last challenge he meets. Maybe his enthusiasm comes from his recurring dreams about a gigantic gate offering him power. Maybe it's the strange key-shaped pendant that his parents left him before they disappeared. Maybe it's the odd way they'd said that it could unlock any possibility... 


The Key's power activates when Yuma finds himself cornered; one moment, he's about to lose to Ryoga, the next, he's standing before the Gate from his dreams. Eager for the power it promises, Yuma opens the gate and beckons a strange new power into the human world. Both he and Ryoga return to the duel possessing monsters they've never seen before, each one called a "Number." But that's not all: Yuma's standing side-by-side with a strange being named Astral. The good news is that Astral’s pretty nice (as far as extra-dimensional nonhuman entities go) and has a lot more dueling moxie than Yuma himself. Unseen by Shark or the rest of the crowd, Astral guides the younger duelist to victory. 


It seems that the Gate was a portal to a higher plane called the Astral World, and that by opening it, Yuma has released one hundred Numbers cards upon the world. Astral seeks the rest of the Numbers because they contain his lost memories (including the reason he came here in the first place). Welp, two down and ninety-eight to go! 

It's not long before less-benevolent beings decide they want a slice: enter mad scientist Dr. Faker and Mr. Heartland (the mayor of Heartland, if you were wondering). These power-hungry villains see the Numbers as a golden opportunity, and they've got their own champion, Kaito Tenjo, firmly as their pawn. The race for the Numbers is on!


Number One Hero

Yuma sets himself apart from the other Yu-Gi-Oh! protagonists. I mean, yeah, he’s got a powerful deck and a hairstyle that defies all reason and sense, but that's where the similarities end. Yugi was never this extroverted, Jaden was never this energetic, Yusei was never this un-serious and all of them were skilled duelists by the time their story starts. That's not a bad thing, though. Yuma's also very relatable for all his faults, and his inability to let anything get him down is endearing. 

Plus there are his hilarious back-and-forths with Astral, who’s as single-minded as Yuma is zany, yet has zero life-skills or understanding of anything that isn’t dueling. They have a cute dynamic, and it's fun to see where each of their respective blind-spots line up and where they don’t. 


On the other side of the fence is Kaito the time-stopping genius duelist who becomes Yusei’s main rival for much of the story. He takes a similar vein to Seto Kaiba: his familiar is the Light-Type Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon, his little brother is center to his motivation and rabid dogs have friendlier attitudes than he does. Unlike Kaiba though, he’s more motivated by love than by elitism–his brother Haruto is deeply ill and Dr. Faker claims that the only hope for a cure comes from the Numbers. He knows that this is probably a load of Kuriboh-droppings but he also doesn’t have much hope otherwise. Dr. Faker is holding Haruto's treatment itself hostage to Kaito's cooperation. 

Ryoga also doesn’t just vanish into the void into which all starter villains disappear—he’s got more going on than just his jerkier tendencies, including his own regrets. A decision he made long ago set several tragedies into motion, leading to his current lone wolf status. Perhaps it’s this that attracts his new ally, a mysterious "messenger from the moon," Luna. (Not to be confused with the green-haired moppet from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's.) Colder and more logical than the fiery Kaito, Shark begins collecting the Numbers to help tie up some loose threads he left behind long ago.


Not Just Painting By Numbers! 

One of the major draws of the manga is its artwork. While it stays in the distinctive Yu-Gi-Oh! style, I’d posit that this manga has finer art than many of its predecessors. There’s a much more pronounced usage of screentones now, along with much cleaner line art. Backgrounds are likewise given a lot more attention, which is really cool since Zexal has quite the unique futuristic setting!

The city Heartland itself feels like its own character: a strange and futuristic city that seems somewhere between the Jetsons and Roger Rabbit’s Toon Town. Yet while it does take a little willing suspension of disbelief to take seriously, a setting this zany would explain everyone’s crazy hair and clothes. Speaking of the Jetsons, I’m picturing there being machines everyone sticks their heads into every morning that 3-D prints their hairstyles every morning. Admit it, that would explain everything!


Also, rather than holograms like in the past three settings, Duels now take place in augmented reality thanks to VR Visors that both duelists and spectators wear at all times. (Guess that Google Glass took off in this universe...) 

Oh, and a little side note to all you lovers of the Zexal anime—just wait until Volume 3. Slight spoilers: a seemingly normal turn into the Heartland Amusement Park breaks the dam on a cascade of plot-twists that brings in never-before-seen Numbers Cards, introduces brand-new characters and, by the end, makes you question everything you thought you knew about any of the characters. Wish I could go into more details here, but if you're worried about whether or not the manga's story is just the anime in print, it isn't. You ain't seen nothing yet!Zexal Last

The Zexal manga isn't long, lasting for nine volumes and telling what story it needs to tell. You can buy 'em all online, but there's plenty of exclusive Numbers cards available in every volume if you buy the print versions. But no matter what, you're in for a fun romp. 

You can find out how much this manga jets by picking it up from viz.com

by Chris Turner