Friday, September 30, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! Volumes 31-38

This is it. The final story arc. The World of Memory, AKA Millennium World. Our journey as readers, as critics, as fans, and for some of us, as duelists ourselves is coming to a close. As the readers journey ends, so does that of the characters. These are the final seven volumes of the manga. Today is the day the Pharaoh regains his memories.
The volume starts off with the story of how Solomon Moto got ahold of The Millennium Puzzle. In three-thousand years, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings have been pillaged for every treasure within. Save for one.  One of a pharaoh whom nobody knows the name of. Solomon's guides rushes in and trips a button which activates the traps in the opening maze. Solomon figures out that the statues don't attack you if you walk with your left foot forward. Despite this advice, one of them gets skewered, and the other one pulls out a gun and shoots Solomon in the shoulder. This causes the second challenge to dump the other guy down into a pit.  The Pharaoh's soul helps Solomon to safety, and he gets the Millennium Puzzle from the tomb.
In the present day, Yugi can't get any sleep after Battle City, and spends some time looking at the God Cards. Solomon notices that he's up, and Yugi lets slip a mention of his other self. Solomon reveals that he basically knew this from the beginning, since he met the Pharaoh once in the tomb. The fate of the one chosen to hold the pharaoh's soul is to be tested endlessly.
Yugi has a conversation with the Pharaoh about the doubts he's got about getting his memories back, but they both come to terms with what might happen. Then a thief breaks into Yugi's room and steals the god-cards. Yugi chases after him, but Yami Bakura stops the bandit in his tracks, and gives them back to Yugi. Yugi is naturally perplexed by this, but he accepts them. Yami Bakura then gives him Pegasus's Millennium Eye as a peace-offering. When it comes down to the very end, Yami Bakura will give Yugi the Millennium Ring, and help him solve the puzzle of memories.
He explains that when all seven items are placed in the Tablet of Memories the door to the afterlife. Yugi knows that he's supposed to escort the Pharaoh's soul to the afterlife, and Yami Bakura offhandedly mentions that if he opens the door he can get rid of Yami Bakura for good. Yugi takes the Eye and the next day meets the gang at school before going to the museum afterwards. There they meet Bobasa, one of the guardians of the Millennium Items. Before the go to the slab to see if it has any reaction to the God Cards, Téa buys a metal cartouche pendant for the Pharaoh, telling him to carve his real name into it once he remembers it.
Yami shows the cards to the slab, and the Millennium Puzzle glows before he disappears, leaving Yugi behind on the floor. Bobasa suspects that the Pharaoh's soul is traveling the maze of his own memories, searching for the truth, attempting to remember his fate.
Yami wakes up within the Pharaoh's palace, alongside many who appear similar to those he knew in his life as Yami Yugi, and some he never met at all. His vizier, Siamun Moran looks like Grandpa Solomon, Shada as Shadi, Seto as Kaiba, Akhenadan as Kaiba's father, Isis as Ishizu with a touch of Téa, Mahado as... Well he basically just looks like The Dark Magician and Bakura, lord of thieves. You can guess who he's similar to.
Back in the museum, Bobasa uses The Millennium key to lead the gang into the room of the Pharaoh's mind, all except for Bakura, whose soul weighs heavy on the Millennium Scales. Yami Bakura goes off to sulk and plan something new while the others go into Yami's mind to figure out where he's at.
Within his memories, Yami finds his court presiding over the trial of a graverobber who tried to steal treasure from the tomb of his father. Shada finds a dark spirit within the mans soul, and Akhenaden uses his eye to look inside to see the true form of the monster. Seto then seals the dark monster into a stone slab to be taken away to the repository with all the other monsters. The man is then sentenced to seven years of hard labor, and Seto asks Mahado why he's not been able to detect all of the evildoers who have been showing up lately. Mahado explains that the Millennium Ring has been screwing him around with its detection powers. There are too many people with monsters, good and evil alike for the ring to keep track of all of them. Even the Millennium Necklace can't keep track of all the possible futures. Speaking of which, Isis picks up a guy with powerful magic approaching the palace on her future-sight and that future comes true when Bakura, king of thieves shows up with the treasures looted from the tomb of Yami's father. Including the mummified pharaoh himself. Bakura demands that the High Priests and the Pharaoh hand over the Millennium Items, but naturally they refuse. Kalim tries to measure the mans evil, but it makes the scales go haywire. Isis sees a dark future ahead, and Akhenam sees nothing but hatred and darkness within Bakura's soul. Shada tries to bring out the spirit attached to the mans soul, but the sealing slab cannot contain it. Seto tries to seal it up anyways, but the monster breaks free. Seto summons a monster to the palace to fend it off, but Diabound phases through the floor and destroys the summoning tablet. While the priests do battle with Bakura, Yami boldly steps out onto the battlefield and shoves the bandit out of his way to reclaim the body of his father.
Seto grapples Diabound with Battle Ox long enough for Mahado's Magus of Illusion to cast Spellbinding Circle and keep the beast from leaving.
Yami hands his fathers body to Siamun and summons Obelisk The Tormentor to tank Diabound's attack and save the priests. He uses Obelisk to blast Diabound, and Bakura barely escapes with his life. Meanwhile, Yugi and the gang look around through Yami's soul-room trying to find the door that leads them to where they need to be. Bobasa tells Yugi that his task is to find the true name of the Pharaoh, which is the key Yami Bakura needs to figure out how to unseal the power of the dark god Zorc Necrophades.
Back inside the World of Memories, Akhenamkhanen is being re-buried, and Seto and Akhenadan discuss strategies to find where Bakura is. If the Pharaoh hadn't intervened, they would all have been killed, so Seto and Akhenadan decide to round up as many criminals as they can and torture them until their hatred matches that of the pure hatred Bakura seems to have. Then again, I doubt that they can match the level of hatred brought on by the murder of all of their friends, family, acquaintances, and just general people in their vicinity. Seto hopes to create a monster to surpass the trio of gods.
After the break-in, Yami stations a load of troops near his fathers tomb to prevent another incursion from Bakura. Yami and his priests begin training to become stronger duelists and better strategists. Seto manages to overwhelm his opponents with a show of strength from sacrificing his team-mates allies. The Pharaoh decides to teach him a lesson about how to win without exposing weaknesses. Seto summons Duos, but Yami pulls out none other than Kuriboh. Seto tries to destroy the slab straight off, but the shattered stones spawn thousands of the little creatures. They surround Duos and detonate, winning Yami the duel.
Siamun and Mahado inform the Pharaoh that there are more traps added to his fathers tomb. Mahado leads a crew hauling a slab to the tomb, but notices his apprentice Mana hiding in a pot near the walkway. He tasks Siamun with watching her while he's guarding the tomb during reconstruction. Bakura takes the bait, and Yami's men seal the tomb behind him so Mahado can take the thief on and try to kill him outright.
Mahado unleashes the full power of his Magus of Illusion against Bakura's evolved Diabound. Diabound almost obliterates him, but he tanks the hit, and casts one last spell, fusing his own spirit with the Magus of Illusion. Creating the one, the only Dark Magician. He almost wipes Bakura and Diabound away with a Black Magic attack, but the evil within the bandit is too strong, and the thief steals the Millennium Ring for himself.
Meanwhile, Yugi and the gang manage to find their way into the memories beyond the doors. They try to make their way to the palace, but are repelled because Yami is very protective of his home and doesn't even know they're there. They then witness Seto and Shada hunting through the city, stationing troops and looking for criminals. They also find a maiden of blue eyes and pale skin being mobbed upon by a gang of ruffians. Seto notices this and steps in to save her. Shada doesn't even attempt to look inside her soul, but the Millennium Key finds a white dragon with power like no other within.
Nefarious ideas cross Seto's mind, but rather than placing the girl in prison he sticks her in the palace where she can rest.
When Seto and Shada get done canvassing the city, the priests reunite at the palace to report their finding. They're unable to confirm if Bakura died, nor can they figure out where the Millennium Ring is.
Bakura slips through the guards and gets to an inn, hands over a gold bracelet and demands to be fed. A group of opportunistic thugs notice the gold ring hanging from Bakura's neck and seek to steal it from him. Naturally he just kills them.
Seto and Akhenadan begin their mad-science experiments on the prisoners, while Bakura sneaks his way back into the Pharaoh's territory. He uses the power of the ring to hide himself in plain sight on his way to the Shrine of Wedju to steal the Millenium Eye from Akhenadan. Bakura summons Diabound (Who looks more like a mutated Obelisk as time goes on), and crucifies Akhenadan on a stone slab. He then infuses a piece of his evil within the Millennium Eye and flees. Bakura steals a horse and blasts his way out of the palace to cover his tracks. The Pharaoh mounts up and rides out himself, summoning up Slifer to back himself up. The gang camped outside the palace sees Yami pursuing Bakura on horseback and follow. Yami tries to blast Diabound away with Slifer's lightening strike, but the unholy fiend phases through the ground and bursts up beside him. Unphased, the Pharaoh directs Slifer to blast it again, the force of the attack coursing through Bakura and his monster alike.
Bakura adopts a new strategy, using Diabound to destroy buildings and kill citizens to distract Slifer from attacking him. The Pharaoh uses Slifer as a shield to keep his subjects safe from the blasts. He takes a chance, and manages to be fast enough to sling Slifer around and blast Diabound before wrappings its tail around the monster and taking the battle further into the air. Diabound manages to slip out of the way of his next attack, and hits Slifer with a devastating blow, leaving the Sky Dragon charred and barely able to fly. The Pharaoh pretends to hand over his Millennium Puzzle so he can distract Bakura long enough for Slifer to attack him, but Diabound phases out from the rock around him and attempts to attack. Fortunately, the priests show up and Seto chops one of Diabound's arms off with Duos. Diabound retreats into the sky, but the Pharaoh uses Slifer as bait to lure its attack out, and Seto attacks the source of the Spiral Wave. Unfortunately, he finds another monster in its place. The Pharaoh doesn't have much power left after tanking that attack, but Yugi and the gang finally catch up to him, and Yugi uses his own power to summon Ra, the Sun Dragon. Light pierces the darkness and Diabound is revealed. Bakura tries to make it attack with its stolen Thunder Force attack, but Seto deflects it with a strike from Duos's sword. Ra blazes in flame, and burns Diabound to ash, killing Bakura. Naturally, this pisses off the Spirit of the Millennium Ring to no end, because this wasn't what was supposed to happen, especially for events to proceed as he intended, so he runs time back to undo the last several minutes of events.
The gang tries to get back to The Pharaoh, but Yami Bakura stands in their way and challenges them to a duel. Joey decides to take the lead, and their duel begins.
Practically dead and on the verge of passing out, The Pharaoh runs down Bakura on his horse in a last-ditch attempt to finish things off, but Bakura smashes the stone bridge upon which he stands, and steals the Millennium Puzzle from his neck, leaving The Pharaoh to fall into a pit.
Flash-back to fifteen years prior to this ordeal. A foreign incursion has beaten the Egyptian army and Pharaoh Akhenamkhanen is informed that they have seven days before the forces reach the palace and take over the country. They know all but for sure that their enemy wishes to take a book of untold power from their hands. The Millennium Tome. The power within can rival that of the gods themselves, and whoever gets their hands on it can basically do what they wish. After one-hundred years, the translation has finally been finished. The shadow alchemy within details the creation of seven treasures to harness mysterious powers. It'll take seven days to complete the construction, so Akhenamkhanen entrusts his brother Akhenaden with the task. Akhenaden leaves his son Seto behind as he and the court magicians set off for the village of Kul Elna, a village made of nothing but criminals. It takes human sacrifices to create the treasures, ninety-nine human lives to create the seven Millennium Items. A little boy named Bakura witnesses the slaughter of all ninety-nine people, and is naturally scared out of his wits and scarred for life by this.
The court magicians forge the items, and Akhenaden makes a wish upon his new Millennium Eye, that his son Seto could become Pharaoh someday.
With the enemy closing in, the court magicians, led by the Pharaoh himself summon seven incredible monsters to fend off the encroaching army. And succeed.
Back in the first flashback, Seto goes to check out his mad-science experiments in the torture-chambers beneath the palace. Within is a battle royale, ten men enter, one man leaves. The will to live fuels the power of the monster attached to their soul, and the two men in the battlefield now have been fighting for thirty-four hours. Akhenaden orders that the girl who possesses the spirit of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon (Whose name is Kisara) be placed in the field against Seto's wishes to test the limits of her power. The two prisoners attack her, but she doesn't summon up her dragon, so Seto intervenes and kills one of them. Unfortunately, his attack cuts the chains on the arena, and he's left at the mercy of the dude who controls a giant spider. The spider tries to eat the two of them, but the White Dragon emerges from the unconscious Kisara, annihilating the monster spider with a single blast, punching through both it and the ceiling above straight into the clouds. Seto hauls himself and the girl back up to the ledge, and his fathers main mad scientist speculates that the dragon inside Kisara's soul actually is her soul. Akhenaden and his minion try to convince Seto to sacrifice the girl so he can wield the power of the dragon against Diabound.
The Pharaoh wakes up inside a cave with a dude in a metal mask looming over him. The mysterious figure tells him that a great battle is approaching before disappearing. Eventually, Isis's spirit monster finds him, and he reunites with his court.
Seto spends some time wondering what the hell is wrong with his father. You see, his father is normally a kind man, showing mercy to even the most ruthless of criminals. Now, he's saying that he should sacrifice an innocent woman to further his own goals. Seto contemplates further, and then decides to have Kisara moved to a different room without telling his father.
Since Bakura kept going on about Kul Elna, about what the Pharaoh did to him and his village (Akhenaden didn't tell his brother what they did to make the Items, and didn't tell his nephew either) The Pharaoh leads the priests to the ruins. The ghosts there and the Millennium Ring tip Bakura off to their arrival, and he begins to prepare.
Cut back to the gang, who's wonder what the hell happened to them, where Yami Bakura went, and why it's now morning. Bobasa figures this means The Pharaoh must have been unconscious for all of this. The ghosts of the village kill and possess soldiers and priests alike. As the spirits attempt to kill The Pharaoh, Mahado's spirit vacates its tablet of its own free will and banishes the ghosts from this plane. Bakura throws still more at him, but each and every one is vanquished. Frustrated, the bandit summons his own spirit, Diabound. The monster fires a bolt of magic at Mahado, but he redirects the blast into a pillar, causing it to fall towards the Tablet of Memories. Diabound catches it with its tail, but that's enough to slow it down. Mahado then blasts the creature in the face with his magic.
Once more, I have to complain about the cover. What the hell is up with The Dark Magician's color-scheme? It looks like the colorist based it more on Arkana's Dark Magician than Yugi's. Then again, he didn't have teal skin so I don't know what's going on here. At this point the Dark Magician's color-scheme was well established within the second animated series, so why wasn't it revised to actually fit the way it's supposed to look? Hell, it doesn't even look like the one color illustration I could find that doesn't use this color-scheme on the covers. The color-scheme of the Dark Magician has changed so much over the years that it's downright strange. The original design was a lighter blue with white highlights, natural skintones and a purple staff. Then there's the well-known version with the purple robes, real skin and green staff. Then there's the version within the book itself, which is black-and-white, certainly, but also has darker tanned skin as opposed to the pale teal of the cover.
Bakura summons another creature and Diabound vanishes into the stone. Shada summons the two-headed Jackal Warrior to find Diabound and succeeds. Mahado attempts to attack, but Diabound is already on the attack. Shada tackles the Pharaoh to the ground, and tanks the attack with his Jackal Warrior.
The Pharaoh orders Mahado the blast holes into the ceiling, allowing sunlight into the room and revealing Diabound's location. Mahado blasts him with a thousand magic hits, almost winning, but Bakura calls on the spirits of the dead and powers up himself and his monster. Diabound flings Mahado across the room into a pillar. Shada tries to summon another monster, but Bakura's skeletal turtle blasts, and knocks him silly. The bandit takes the key from his body and sends a final blast at Mahado, but Mana flies into the fray to rescue her master. The rest of the priests arrive to back up The Pharaoh, and they gank Diabound, to no avail. Kalim uses his Millennium Scales to fuse Seto's Duos and his own Cursed Dragon to form the Drake Knight, and Mana recharges Mahado's magic with her own since she can't fight on her own just yet. Mahado uses this energy to double the power of the Drake Knight, but Diabound fires off two beams to counter the one from the Knight. Seto uses the Drake's sword to block the blast, and Kalim blasts through the ghost shield with another attack. Unfortunately, Bakura hits him with a blast from the turtle and stuns him long enough for the ghosts to bring him the Millennium Scales. Still, Mahado flies through the hole in the shield and hits Diabound with a concentrated burst of Black Magic. Bakura tries to put the Millennium Items he's gathered into the tablet, but he dies before he can do so. Akhenaden, possessed by the piece of Bakura's soul sealed within his Millennium Eye stops time, allowing him to gather the remaining Millennium Items. The only ones who can still move are Akhenaden, Yami Bakura, Joey, Bobasa, Tristan, Téa, and Yugi.
Back in the city, Yugi and the gang notice that time has stopped, about how the people look like... The figurines from Bakura's game back in Volume 7. Yugi looks straight up in the world and sees none other than his own Millennium Puzzle suspended in the sky. This is when the whole thing is revealed as none other than one massive Shadow Game, the ultimate Shadow RPG.
When Yami brandished the three God Cards in front of the slab, he found himself transported to a secret room within the museum. After all, Ryo Bakura's father owns the place, he knows it like the back of his own hand. The diorama the game is played within was made by Bakura himself, originally used as part of an old display, but created in anticipation of this final encounter. Bakura has stuck the unconcious bodies of Yugi, Joey, Téa and Tristan's unconscious bodies into sarcophagus's across the room.
Back within the game, Akhenaden places all seven items within the Tablet of Memories, and opens up the gate to free Zorc Necrophades. Akhenaden makes a deal with Zorc and becomes his high-priest.
Bobasa begins to glow, and transforms into Hasan, the spirit of the Tablet of Memories. Since Zorc has been freed once again, he decides now is definitely the time to lead the gang to the location of The Pharaoh's name. They fly to The Valley of the Kings (Because this is part dream part Shadow Game, there are rules that have to be enforced, but anything that isn't specified goes.) and check out his tomb.
Meanwhile, Bakura tries to use Zorc to blow away The Pharaoh and his priests. Yami tries to counter via roleplaying, but Zorc forces Akhenaden to finish the attack. Hasan intercepts the attack, and runs the clock out on the time-freeze.
Within the tomb, Yugi and the gang find all the traps frozen in time, and a Duel Monsters card from Yami Bakura's deck on the ground.
Zorc tries to kill The Pharaoh and his priests once again, but Mahado redirects the attack since time is flowing properly again.
The gang manage to escape the traps, and encounters Yami Bakura. Yugi duels with him so they can pass. Yugi tries out a new deck he's been working on, and through a combination of misdirection, brute force and perseverance manages to overwhelm the Spirit of the Millennium Ring. Yugi and the gang rush to the end of the tomb and find The Pharaoh's true name written in hieroglyphs. They can't read them, so the memorize them and leave as quickly as they can.
Angered by this, Bakura activates the last of Zorc's special powers, a natural disaster.
The Priests face-off with Zorc. Mahado's attack hits Zorc straight on, but Zorc kills Shada. Akhenaden and Seto square off, but the father bests the son, and Akhenaden summons an army of the dead to protect Zorc. Siamun retrieves the Millennium Key, and summons up Exodia to face off with the dark god.
Meanwhile, Akhenaden transports Seto back to the palace, and Seto rushes in to rescue Kisara. Disappointed in his son, Akhenaden hits Kisara with a bolt of magic.
Siamun uses Exodia to obliterate the entirety of Zorc's undead minions. He then attacks Zorc directly, but the dark god cuts The Forbidden One in half, killing Siamun in the process. Zorc blasts everyone else, almost to the point of death, but Yugi and the gang arrive just in time. Yugi summons his Dark Magician, who takes the form of Mahado and Joey summons his Red-Eyes Black Dragon. They both hit Zorc straight on, but their attacks don't phase him. Zorc fires off a blast that destroys the Red-Eyes and threatens to kill every last one of them, but Hasan tanks the blast himself, and his mask peels away to reveal that he's actually Shadi.
Unable to think of anything else to do, the gang decide to take the memory of The Pharaoh's name and try to burn it onto the cartouche pendent that was brought into this world alongside everything else from the modern world. Seeing the glyphs upon the cartouche, The Pharaoh remembers his true name. Atem.
Atem then summons Ra, Slifer and Obelisk to bear against the brunt of Zorc's attack. He then unites them into the creator god of light, Horakhty.
Horakhty annihilates Zorc with one blow. The gang leave the game, but the memories keep playing out. Despite having rescued Kisara, Seto's father killed her with one shot of evil magic. He places her body in front of a slab so he may preserve her soul. Akhenaden commits suicide, and does something to possess his son to attack Atem as he walks back from the scene of the battle. Possibly Bakura did something to the Millennium Rod with his power, or maybe Zorc sealed a bit of his soul withing the rod himself.
Anyways, the possessed Seto challenges Atem to a duel for the title of Pharaoh. Within Seto's mind, he struggles with the spirit of Zorc for control of his body, and Atem's words manage to keep Seto from attacking. The carving of the dragon vanishes from the slb, and Kisara's spirit appears within Seto's mind to banish the last vestiges of Zorc to the afterlife.
As Atem's memories end here, he asks that Seto take over the mantle of Pharaoh. He hands Seto the Millennium Puzzle as he fades away back to the present-day.
Back in the real-world, Bakura is unconcious, and Joey takes the Millennium Ring from the now-destroyed diorama.
A month later in modern-day Egypt, Yugi and the gang meet up with Marik and his family, who have pulled some strings for them so they can get into Atem's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On the ship to the tomb, Marik informs them of the Rite of the Duel, something mentioned on the wall inside Atem's tomb. In order for Atem to travel to the afterlife, Yugi has to beat him in a duel. So, the two of them build their decks in preparation for their final duel. Nobody really wants to see this happen, but it's Yugi's duty to do so.
It basically goes like this. Yugi and Atem have to square off. Yugi wins, Atem gets to go to the afterlife and Yugi completes the journey he's been on since the beginning of the series. If Atem wins, he stays around.
They place the Millennium Items within the Tablet of Memories, and Yugi's shadow splits into two before Yugi himself splits into two.
Atem puts up a valiant fight, summoning Slifer and Obelisk, but he's unable to counter Yugi's strategy, and Yugi wins the duel. The door opens, and Atem marches to the afterlife. After he crosses the threshold, and the Tablet of Memories shatters, and the Millennium Items fall into the void.
The afterword says how this isn't a story of a great pharaoh, and to some extent I believe it. This has been a story about characters more than anything. The development of the main cast over the course of this series has been incredible. In fact, I'd argue that Yugi's development over the course of the series is one of the greatest character arcs in fiction. It's a long, slow development over the course of almost forty volumes, and it works out to a ridiculous extent in the end. Yugi went from timid, shrinking and shy to a confident duelist. The line between Atem and Yugi, which has been blurry at the best of times over the course of this amazing series becomes almost non-existent by the end. To the extent that I would say that Atem never really left, that there was never really any divide in the first place. The entire ending duel is symbolic of Yugi's coming of age, of him finally crossing the threshold into true self-confidence. I wouldn't go into psychotic break territory, but let's break this down from a character perspective. Seto Kaiba was basically the same as his ancient counterpart even without his Millennium Rod. Ryo Bakura was at-heart a good person with an evil spirit within him, while Atem never did anything that Yugi didn't want to. Atem basically did what Yugi didn't have the courage to do. He punished those who needed it, he took revenge on those who wronged the innocent. He did what a pharaoh does. He took command, he formed his court, and he waged war on his enemies.
Over the course of this series, the flair that defines the blurry line between Atem and Yugi became less and less confined to the Pharaoh. Aside from his hair, Yugi has a rather sedate, relaxed, raggedy appearance at the beginning of the series. At the end, he's got the same slick classy flair to him that Atem did when he took over. His suit is pressed, his hair is straight and jacket has that little cape-like flare-out towards the bottom. All he's missing are the ankhs on the wrists, two of the blonde spikes and the eye of Horus on his forehead. He was a world-class champion gamer before he finished the Millennium Puzzle, and all on his own, all he needed was the courage to use it in the big-leagues. Plus, since Atem and Yugi share a body and memories, Yugi has all of the memories Atem regained when he finished the Shadow RPG. I think I've made it perfectly clear that I don't think Atem ever left, I think he and Yugi became one entity. Not necessarily with the same crazy powers as before, but considering Kaiba was able to create real monsters and drive people insane without once touching a Millennium Item, the ancient powers aren't exactly necessary anymore.
One criticism I have for this arc, or rather the translation of it is the gratuitous use of Egyptian words in place of the English ones that have sufficed so far. It makes the translation seem a bit more roughshod than it should. Speaking of translation, every now and again there's a word missing, or the numerous times Maximilian J. Pegasus is referred to as Pegasus J. Crawford for some reason. How does this work? Why is the localization editor not able to keep this stuff straight? This is the eighth edition reprint for gods sake, they had a good nine+ years and eight+ opportunities to fix this. These should have been fixed at any of those opportunities. I have to say, if they bring the bunkoban edition to the states and they have all the same errors I will be very disappoint.
Then there's the cover. I'm not entirely certain where the art on this cover came from, but it's similar to that of the Tankoban covers from Japan. A painted art-style that clashes entirely with the style of the comic. Not to say that it's entirely bad (God knows I'm no fan of Alex Ross) but it would fit more as a standalone painting than as the cover to this final volume.
All in all, having read through this series for a third time while writing these reviews, it holds up incredibly well. The artwork is perfect from panel to panel. The writing is incredible, and aside from a couple of rough chapters towards the beginning of the series, it flows incredibly well. The placement of mini-arcs within the TPB's can be a bit questionable, especially in the Duelist Kingdom and Battle City arcs, but that's almost entirely rectified come the World of Memory arc. Cliffhangers are placed perfectly, almost ridiculously so.
Overall, all in all, I had so much fun reading this series. It made me laugh, cheer, and cry. Sometimes within the same volume. Sometimes even within the same chapter. I was afraid upon my second and even my third re-readings that I would notice something that would make the whole series fall apart, something that would make me hate it, but I just loved it more. After reading some horrible Marvel and DC comics in the last decade, it's nice to have a comic that not only holds up over time, but could take on anything from either one of them right now (Even DC, and DC has been great lately) and win. Not just win, but dominate. Compare the art in these thirty-eight volumes to anything Marvel has put out lately. They lose hands down. There's more texture, more depth, more personality, more expression, more character and more tone to it than almost every comics I've read from the Big Two (DC mainly in New52 era) in the last ten years. And this series is entirely devoid of color!

In the end, I give Yu-Gi-Oh! 10.1*. Happy birthday to one of my favorite series of all time, and to one of the greatest. This has been a hell of a month for me, both online and off. I know I'm about an hour and a half too late for this to actually be within the month of September, but it's still September 30th in some places in the world and I've never been one to give up in the long-run.
Next year we'll be delving much further into the franchise, and actually looking further into the history of the series. Hopefully I'll have less stuff on my plate next year and will be able to get all of the content for the second History of Yu-Gi-Oh! written and scheduled before September. If you want to try and ensure that will happen that way, please donate to my Patreon. I'd like to make this my full-time job if I can, and it would mean that I could get more work done with less stress.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! Volumes 25-31

Over the course of the duel, Joey figures out that Odion isn't Marik. Because Odion has fought fair, and Marik doesn't. Marik tells Odion to use the counterfeit Ra in his possession to convince him that he is in fact Marik.
Odion summons Ra and tries to make it attack, but the dragon strikes lightening down upon him. One of the bolts hits Joey as well, and both of them fall down. Odion is unable to stand, but Joey gets to his feet.
Yami Marik then proceeds to unveil and reveal himself to be Marik.
Due to unconsciousness, Odion loses his duel, and Joey moves on to the next round.
The next duel is between Marik and Mai. Yami Marik turns it into a Shadow Game, natch. Cords of light lead between the duelists and their monsters. Monster gets damaged, your own body reflects the damage they took.
Marik brings out Vicer Des to torture Mai's monsters. It's invincible for three turns after summoning. Vicer Des attaches itself to one of Mai's Amazons, so Mai sends it to the graveyard so she can use its special ability to steal the real Ra from Marik's deck, and to stop the excruciating pain. However, she can't read the ancient Egyptian on the card. Marik repeatedly attempts to torture Mai into submission, but she keeps getting out of them creatively. Mai then summons up her Harpies and Kaleidoscopes them so she can summon Ra. It then refuses to unfurl as if it's a Bakugan without a metal base to activate on. Mai attempts to set up Mirror Wall to block Marik's offense, but he uses Vicer Shock to send it back to her hand. He then activates both Vicer Shock and Vicer Des to drain Mai's life-points. He then reads the Ancient Egyptian off the card and activates Ra. A single shot from Ra and she's on the verge of actual death. Joey rushes up to the battlefield to try and get Mai out of the torture machine, but Marik fires a beam from Ra. Yami takes the blast on his back, and the volume ends.
Yami Marik is declared the winner. He then traps Mai's mind in an hourglass with mind-eating bugs. Death in twenty-four hours. He delivers an ultimatum to Yugi and the gang, kill him in a day or Mai dies.
The next duel is between Kaiba and Ishizu. The appearance of his older sister begins tearing Marik and Yami Marik apart, but Yami Marik overwhelms him. Ishizu uses her Millennium Necklace to predict what she thinks the outcome of the duel will be. She uses her knowledge of Kaiba's actions to counter his every move. She allows Kaiba to activate his Crush Card Virus, but she activates Exchange of Spirit to reverse the effects of those cards. This places all of Kaiba's deck into his graveyard, and gives Ishizu back most of hers. She keeps tossing his cards into the graveyard with traps. He's left with only one option. Use Soul Exchange to sacrifice some of her monsters to summon a high-level monster of his own. She places Blast Held By Tribute on one of her monsters so she can destroy Obelisk if he attacks with it. She rightfully predicts that he'll summon Obelisk with her monsters on her turn. Kaiba almost attacks with Obelisk, but The Millennium Rod in Marik's hand and the Blue-Eyes White Dragon in his own call out to him. He sees a vision of himself before a stone slab of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. He makes his decision, and uses Silent Doom to sacrifice a monster from his graveyard to summon up his Blue-Eyes, subverting Ishizu's predictions and winning the duel.
Meanwhile back in the command-center, Mokuba Kaiba has been using their computers to try and translate the ancient Egyptian on the card. When Seto comes to check on him, he finds that he can read it like it was his native language.
After the duel, Ishizu explains to the gang what's going on with her brother. They went out of their little cave where they lived to explore the outside world. There they ran into Shadi, who told them about some of the things that would soon happen. They went home, found their father found out they left and tortured Odion in an attempt to kill him and then tried to do that to Marik. Yami Marik then took the blade in the Millennium Rod and flayed the skin from his fathers back.
Ishizu gives Yugi her Millennium Necklace. Get all seven of the items, place them in the tablet and Yami's memories are restored.
Yami Marik roams the hallways and goes to Odion's room to kill him, but Yami Bakura stops him. Actual Marik's spirit accompanies him, and they challenge Yami Marik to a duel.
The Shadow Game that they play is different from that of the one Marik played with Mai. You lose parts of your body when you take damage to your life-points.
Yami Marik doesn't draw Ra, but Yami Bakura plays a spell-card to put it in his hand. He then makes Marik discard his entire hand at the cost of 100 of his own life points per card.
Marik then draws Monster Reborn, and uses it to bring back Ra, and to activate its special power. Give your life-points to Ra to increase its attack points. He does that, giving all but one to it. He uses that one attack to obliterate Yami Bakura, and claim the Millennium Ring for himself.
Marik goes over to Téa and possesses her so he can tell his sister to save Odion. As such, when Yami Marik breaks back into Odion's room to try and kill him, he's not there.
While Yugi is asleep, he senses something wrong inside the room of Yami's soul and goes to check it out. He converses with Yami, and he mentions that he can't find out which of the doors leads where. A wide shot of the room shows Yami Bakura hiding behind the architecture within.
The next day, the blimp lands on Alcatraz Island, the old weapons manufacturing facility from when Gozaburo Kaiba ran the show. In the center of the destroyed factories lies the Duel Tower, the final stage of the Battle City tournament.
The pairings for the finals are determined by a four-way duel. The two who lose first duel each other. The other two duel each other. Everyone has to present a card from their deck, and turns proceed in descending order of attack points. The order goes Kaiba, Yami Marik, Yugi, and then Joey. The duel begins, and despite his best efforts Joey takes quite a bit of damage straight off. Joey is determined to face off with Marik in the end, and Yugi and Kaiba want to take on each other.
Thanks to a combination of his and Kaiba's trap-cards, Joey makes Marik the first one to lose. Kaiba then wipes out Joey's life and the brackets are decided. Joey vs Marik, and Yugi vs Kaiba.
Yami Marik makes their duel into a shadow game, but Joey isn't phased. Marik then attempts to torture Joey using Vicer Des, but he manages to snap out of it enough to function. Unfortunately for him, he kills one of Marik's monsters with a special-ability that forces Joey to discard a random card. Marik then activates Coffin Seller to drain Joey's life-points. He also places Malevolent Catastrophe face-down on his side of the field, to destroy all of Joey's monsters and drain his life-points in one go.
Joey then plays Question. They each have to name the top card in the others graveyard. Joey picks out Marik's but Marik doesn't know what the card Helpomer discarded was, so Joey uses Question to summon Jinzo from the grave. He uses Jinzo's ability to wipe out all of Marik's face-down traps and spells. Joey then wipes out all of Marik's monsters, but Marik uses Dark Wall Of Wind to protect himself. He then plays Lava Golem on Joey's side of the field, sacrificing his Jinzo and Baby Dragon to summon it. If Joey can attack with it, he'll win, but it damages him for seven-hundred points every turn.
Marik then uses Monster Relief to pull Vicer Des off the field and re-summon it so he can use it as a wall against the Lava Golem. He then uses Machine Duplication and attaches all three of his Vicers to all of Joey's monsters.
Joey comes up with a plan to de-activate Monster Relief on the two new Vicers, using Graceful Dice to increase their Attack, causing them to self-destruct. Joey then uses the newly sacrificeable monsters to summon Gilford The Lightening. Gilford destroys the one remaining Vicer with its special ability, and then attacks Marik directly. Marik activates Nightmare Mirror to reflect a thousand of that attack back at Joey and take none of it himself.
Marik then uses Monster Reborn to bring out Ra, and he activates Ra's third special ability. The Flaming Phoenix. It's not enough to wipe out Joey's life-points, but he passes out before he can summon Gearfried and declare an attack. Marik declares that Joey will die if he hasn't already, and Kaiba's medical staff do their best. Yugi is almost entirely disheartened by this, but he touches Ishizu's Millennium Necklace and sees a vision of himself dueling with Joey in Domino City. This bolsters his confidence, and he vows to fight to the end and beat Marik.
The next volume begins with Yugi's fated duel with Kaiba. They exchange some banter before they start.
Joey's EKG (It's spelled ECG but I learned it at EKG) actually starts to move a bit, showing that he's not entirely dead.
Kaiba draws Obelisk on his first turn, but Yugi doesn't get Slifer on the same turn. However, Yugi manages to impale Obelisk with a Lightforce Sword, negating Kaiba's plan to summon it. Yugi comes up with a strategy to win with Slifer, but he doesn't have it in his hand at the moment. Kaiba then uses Voice of the Heavens to pull Slifer from Yugi's deck to his hand, but Yugi plays exchange to get it back, and into his own hand.
Kaiba manages to wait out the Lightforce Sword long enough to summon his XYZ-Dragon Cannon. However, Yugi anticipated his attack on his main defensive monster and activates Soul Rope, and summons Kings Knight, and combined with his previously summoned Queens Knight, special-summons Jack's Knight. This allows Yugi to sacrifice them and summon Slifer immediately. Yugi tries to destroy Kaiba's XYZ-Dragon Cannon, but Kaiba protects them with Interdimensional Matter Transfer. He then sacrifices them on his next turn to summon Obelisk.
Seeing this from the blimp, Tristan drags Joey over to the window in the hopes that he'll wake up because of it.
Yugi uses Slifer's special ability to knock Obelisk's attack down to two-thousand.. He then uses Pot Of Greed to draw two more cards and thus boost Slifer up to five-thousand attack when Kaiba made Obelisk attack it. Kaiba then activates Life Shaver, which makes Yugi discard a card for every turn it's been face-down. It's only been face-down since Kaiba's last turn, so their attacks are equal.
The two gods annihilate each other, and Yugi and Kaiba get a flash from the depths of their ancient memories. With both of their gods destroyed, the two of them get down to fighting for real. Kaiba uses Cost Down to summon his Blue-Eyes with only one monster as a sacrifice. Yugi then uses Monster Reborn to summon his Dark Magician, which was the card he discarded when Kaiba played Life Shaver.
Kaiba figures rightfully that Yugi was planning on activating Spellbinding Circle, so he brings out Lord of D. to protect his Blue-Eyes. Yugi tries to take it out, but Kaiba brings Obelisk back as a shield for one turn, and then uses Flute of Dragon Summoning to bring out his other two Blue-Eyes.
One thing I would like to mention to Kazuki Takahashi if anyone hasn't brought this up already, Joey's upper torso should have been entirely bare. The sensors are supposed to be on the skin, not on the shirt.
Kaiba attacks with his three Blue-Eyes, but Yugi uses the side-effect of the Flute of Dragon Summoning to pull out Joey's Red-Eyes Black Dragon. He also uses Magic Cylinder to destroy the Lord of D., allowing him to use Spellbinding Circle on one of Kaiba's Blue-Eyes, and destroy it with the Red-Eyes. The one remaining Blue-Eyes destroys Yugi's Beta The Magnet Warrior.
Joey weakly opens his eyes and sees Yugi and Kaiba dueling, which boosts the gangs spirits to no-end. Joey then gets up and they run to the tower to let Yugi know.
Kaiba uses Monster Reborn and Polymerization to create his Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. Yugi then uses Double Spell to bring back Buster Blader, and fuse it with his Dark Magician to create The Dark Paladin. Buster Blader has a special ability which boosts its power in the presence of dragons. The Dark Paladin inherits this power, and its 2900 attack is boosted by by a thousand by the presence of the Red-Eyes and the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. Yugi uses Magic Formula to boost Dark Paladin's attack, but Kaiba uses Absorb Spell to counter. Yugi then falls back to De-Fusion to split the Ultimate Dragon into the three component dragons, boosting Dark Paladin's attack to 4900. On his turn, Yugi plays Diffusion Wave-Motion to target all three Blue-Eyes at once and win the duel, and Obelisk The Tormentor.
Joey and the gang meet Yugi at the top of the tower and congratulate him on his victory.
On their way back to the blimp, Mokuba and Seto run into Ishizu. She mentions to them that the inscription on the Pharaoh's tablet was signed by the priest who buried him. The previous owner of The Millennium Rod, none other than the priest Seto. Kaiba almost leaves the tower, but Mokuba convinces him to stick around. He then gives Yugi the one card which can boost his chances of beating Marik, Devil's Sanctuary.
It all comes down to this. Yami Yugi vs Yami Marik. And this time, the other half of their souls are on the line. For Yami Marik and Marik, one can go without the other being consumed, which is how Yami Marik intends to survive. For Yugi and Yami Yugi however, they're so interlinked that if one of them goes they both do.
Yami Marik places Ra in his graveyard so he can put one of his monsters in defense-mode. All he needs then is Monster Reborn and he can attempt his one-turn kill. With the help of Left Arm Offering, he discards his entire hand to pull it from his deck. Fortunately for Yugi, he drew Card Exchange and played it face-down. He takes Monster Reborn from Yami Marik, halting the attempt at summoning Ra in its tracks. Yugi then manages to pull out his Knight trio to both defend himself with and as sacrifices for when he draws Slifer or Obelisk. Thanks to Yami Marik's Card of Sanctity, he does. He summons Slifer with six-thousand attack-points thanks to that same card, but Yami Marik activates Revival of the Dark to bring out Monster Reborn and summon Ra. In its final form, Ra is immune to even Slifer's summoning weakening attack. Ra obliterates Slifer, and Monster Reborn goes back to Yugi's graveyard. That's when Yami Marik activates Zombies Jewel, which lets him do that all over again. The only difference is that Yugi is allowed to draw a card from his deck as compensation.
As Yugi is about to draw his free card, Yami Marik begins taunting him. He points out that Bakura is missing, and then whips out the Millennium Ring and gloats about how he's going to kill Yugi the sake way he killed Bakura. Yugi draws the card and plays it face-down on the field. Then, Marik uses Monster Reborn once again to bring out Ra, and he sacrifices all but one of his life to boost Ra up. He even sacrifices one of his monsters to boost it further. On his attack though, Yugi reveals his face-down card to be none other than Devil's Sanctuary. The card summons a Metal Devil, which has as many attack as the opponent does life. In addition, the damage it takes is inflicted upon the opponent. However, Yami Marik plays De-Fusion to separate himself from Ra.
Yugi then uses Multiply to triplicate Metal Devil and sacrifice the three of them to summon Obelisk The Tormentor. Obelisk's direct attack drops Yami Marik to seven-hundred life. However, Ishizu suspects and Yami Marik later confirms that this was all a ploy so he could activate Metal Reflect Slime. He uses this to create a reflection of Obelisk with 3/4's the originals attack. On his next turn he summons a Revival Jam and plays one card face-down. On Yugi's turn he tries to destroy the reflection of Obelisk, but Yami Marik fuses the Metal Reflect Slime with the Revival Jam, making the Obelisk clone immortal. He then plays Bowganian (One of my favorite cards) which will damage Yugi for 300 points ever single turn it's alive. Yugi tries to wipe it out with his Dark Magician Girl, but Yami Marik activates Jam Defender, which makes the Obelisk copy defend all attacks. Yugi shows some hesitation in his attempts to win the duel because of the other Marik. Marik, who has since made his peace with his family, uses Téa to tell Yugi to not worry about him.
Yami Marik then plays Magical Stone Excavation to bring back Monster Reborn, and with it, Ra. Together, Yugi and Yami Yugi come up with something they think might work to kill Yami Marik and leave regular Marik alive.
Yami Marik attacks with Ra, but Yugi uses Monster Reborn to bring Slifer back to shield Obelisk from the attack. Yami Marik then activates Surprise Attack From The Darkness to bring Ra back again. He fuses with the monster, and sacrifices all of the monsters on his field to raise Ra's attack far, far above that of Obelisk's. Yugi counters with Soul Taker, and sacrifices the God Slime to give Marik a thousand life-points. Yugi uses this to activate Obelisk's Soul Energy Max power. Unfortunately, it doesn't scratch Ra. As Yami Marik is about to attack Obelisk, Yugi activates Dimension Magic to sacrifice Obelisk and the King of Mythical Beasts to summon The Dark Magician and The Dark Magician Girl. He uses their combined abilities to kill the fused Ra. The sudden appearance of Odion allows Marik to regain control of his body, and with all but one of his life-points gone, surrenders the duel to destroy his dark half himself. Marik reunites with his brother and sister, and gives Yugi The Winged Dragon of Ra. He also shows him the carvings on his back, and Ishizu explains what it means. It's a prophecy which tells that the one who holds the soul of the pharaoh will possess the forms of the three gods. He also gives Yugi the Millennium Rod and the Ring.
After that, they all board the blimp and leave. On the airship, they find regular old Bakura right as rain, and Mai Valentine has woken up from the coma Yami Marik put her it. Unfortunately, the Kaiba brothers are nowhere to be found as the island explodes. The blimp takes off, and the Kaiba brothers fly out on a massive jet painted to look like a Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
The arc ends with Yugi and Joey having one last duel between themselves to conclude the saga of the Red-Eyes Black Dragon.

We're in the home-stretch of this series, and we've only got seven volumes left. Tune in on September 30th for the final part of The History of Yu-Gi-Oh! I know there hasn't been much history for the first several parts of this series, but I'll make up for that at the end. Plus this is the series that started the history, so there's not much to cover aside from the plot for the first series.

If you've enjoyed this series, please consider contributing to my Patreon. Any money you could give me helps a lot.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! Volumes 19-24

Yugi accepts Arkana's challenge, but because the shop is so small, they go downstairs to a larger room. A place with shackles and hundred-tooth carbide-tipped saws. Loser of the duel gets their feet chopped off. Thanks to his cheating ways, Arkana gets one of his three Dark Magicians in his hand straight. Yugi anticipated this since Arkana shotgun-shuffles his cards, and plays card-destruction to put the Dark Magician into the graveyard. Yugi then activates Brain Control so he can sacrifice one of Arkana's monsters to summon his own Dark Magician. Yugi then attacks Arkana directly. Yugi summons another monster, which activates Arkana's trap, bringing his own Dark Magician to the field. This leaves them with a stalemate.
Arkana pulls out a guillotine to execute Yugi's Dark Magician, but Yugi plays Magical Hats. To get around this, Arkana activates Thousand Knives, but Yugi counters with De-Spell. Arkana then attacks Yugi's Dark Magician with his own and destroys it. The two of them activate Monster Reborn to bring them back. Arkana pulls out Beckon to the Dark to take out Yugi's Magician, but Yugi switches the effect with Mystical Rift. This was bait so Arkana could activate Nightmare Chains to nullify Yugi's Dark Magician and kill it. Arkana then uses Ectoplasmer to get around the rest of Yugi's defenses, sacrificing his own monsters in the process. Including his very own Dark Magician. However, Yugi's Dark Magician becomes ectoplasm itself to protect Yugi from the second, stronger attack. Arkana then uses Devil's Scales to break down Yugi's defenses and open him up to a forward assault. Arkana then pulls out Dark Magic Curtain to summon up a second Dark Magician.Yugi takes advantage of this to summon his Dark Magician Girl, the Dark Magicians apprentice. She is powered up by the Dark Magicians in both graveyards, allowing Yugi to defeat Arkana and win the duel. Arkana tries to escape from the shackles with a key hidden on his person, but Marik forces him to stop. Yugi uses his own key to get out and unlocks Arkana so he can not get his feet chopped off. Marik then takes control of Arkana to shout at Yugi for a bit about how he blames him for his wasted childhood and wants to gain control of the three Egyptian God Cards and the seven Millennium Items to free his people from their responsibility to guard the items. Marik then baits Yugi into looking for the guy in the city with Slifer, and Yugi accepts the challenge.
Meanwhile Téa and the rest of the gang are searching for Yugi and Joey. They run into a mime before the chapter cuts to Joey eating in a restaurant. He takes his duel-disk off to keep from constantly bumping into people, which leads to a kid taking it. Joey runs him down and gets his Disk back. The kid feeds Joey and the gang a line about his deck and Duel Disk being stolen. This leads to Joey encountering none other than Weevil Underwood. Meanwhile, Tristan and Duke go to bring Serenity from the hospital to Domino City.
Eventually, Joey draws a card that the kid who stole his disk planted in his deck, Parasite Paracide. The parasite infects Joey's monsters, turning them into insects. He also activates one of his own traps as well. This allows Weevil to power up his own monsters and prevents Joey from attacking or summoning any higher-level monsters. Weevil then uses a card to sacrifice his own monster and summon up his Insect Queen, paying off the parasite from earlier. Plus, every time she attacks and destroys a monster, she lays an insect egg which in turn buffs up her attack even further. Fortunately, Joey has a trap of his own up his sleeve, which redirects the Insect Queen's attack against the newly spawned larvae. This reduces Weevil's life-points significantly, and gives Joey a chance to summon Gearfried The Iron Knight. A metal construct immune to infection. Weevil tries to turn the tide, but Joey uses Graverobber to copy his insecticide card from earlier in the duel and wipe out the Insect Queen. Joey then attacks Weevil directly, ending the duel, the chapter, and the volume.
This is the very first time I'm actually going to bring up the cover of the volume. While it's not a bad cover, it kind of gives away certain aspects of the Arkana duel. First off, there's the Dark Magician Girl behind Yugi. Second is the appearance of Arkana's own Dark Magician. Personally speaking, I'd prefer to have Arkana's Dark Magician back-to-back with Yugi's. Put those two behind Yugi with the DMG silhouetted so vaguely behind them that you can only pick it out after knowing what she looks like.
Seto Kaiba has his people scan through the databanks of registered duelists to try and find the other god-cards to no avail.
Meanwhile, Marik Ishtar arrives in Domino City and activates his pawn who carries Slifer. He finds Yugi and challenges him to a duel.
Marik's avatar summons up a couple of monsters and fuses them into one. He then plays a card to make it attack immediately, catching Yugi off-guard. Yugi however pulls out De-Fusion to break the two apart. This was just Marik's way of testing the waters however, and he summons up Revival Jam and activates his Jam Breeding Machine. Yugi pulls out Buster Blader to take out Marik's monsters, but he pulls out Nightmare Steel Cage, which keeps Yugi from attacking for three turns. This gives Marik time to summon up Slifer The Sky Dragon. Since Slifer's attack goes up by a thousand for every card in Marik's hand, he plays Infinite Cards, which allows him to have as many cards as he wishes in hand. On the next turn, Slifer is up to 4000 attack, but Yugi plays Life-Force Sword to knock it down to 3000 just as it attacks Buster Blader. Marik then activates a trap of his own to turn Revival Jam into a permanent shield for Slifer. Then he pulls out Cards Safe Return to add cards to his hand whenever his Jam revives itself. This gives him enough power to kill Buster Blader.
Kaiba's men inform him of the appearance of Slifer, meanwhile Yugi tries to summon his Dark Magician Girl to take out Slifer, but the dragons special ability almost kills her before Yugi pulls out Magical Hats to keep her safe. This barely helps him enough to pull out Spellbinding Circle and Magic Cylinder. Somehow the Revival Jam manages to get in the way and block the reversed attack. Slifer breaks the Spellbinding Circle, and wipes the DMG off the map. Yugi can't figure out a way to get around this until Kaiba shouts at him for a bit. Yugi summons Buster Blader back from the dead and uses it to attack Slifer. Jam Defender intercepts, and Yugi uses Brain Control to take command of the Revival Jam. This puts Marik in an infinite feedback loop until all of the cards are farmed out of his deck and he loses the duel. Marik informs Yugi that he has people watching Joey and the gang, so Yugi rushes off to find him. Yugi runs into a couple of douchebags who may or may not be rare-hunters, but he and Kaiba burn them to the ground with god-cards and run off to check on Joey and the gang.
Meanwhile, Joey is tracking down more duels. Eagerly looking for competition, Joey and the gang don't notice Bakura slipping off to search for Marik with his Millennium Ring. Figuring (Rightly so) that the Millennium Item wielder has something to do with the tournament, Yami Bakura knocks out a duelist in an alleyway and takes his Duel Disc.
Joey runs into Mako Tsunami at the aquarium and challenges him to a duel. It doesn't go all that well to start.
Meanwhile elsewhere, Bakura confronts Marik over his Millennium Rod.
Bakura and Marik come to an agreement and form an alliance. Bakura helps Marik achieve his goals, Marik gives him The Millennium Rod and directions on how to unseal The Door of Darkness once Yugi's been defeated. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.
Meanwhile at the aquarium, Mako tries to overwhelm Joey with his ocean creatures, but Joey manages to survive through brute force. Joey manages to fly his monsters over Mako's ocean and attack him directly. Mako then blocks the next attack with a trap, and begins killing Joey's monsters from the depths. Mako brings Joey down to the wire, but Joey manages to pull out a win from behind with his Magic Arm Shield and Kunai With Chain, managing to strike his opponents Fortress Whale with a bolt of lightening. He then takes out Mako's Legendary Fisherman with his Panther Warrior, ending the duel.
Marik then uses a wounded Bakura to bait Joey and the gang into allowing him to accompany them under the pseudonym of Namu. Marik also activates a pair of rare-hunters, Umbra and Lumis to take the god-cards away from Kaiba and Yugi. Yugi and Kaiba run into those two while on the way to find Joey and the others. Umbra and Lumis force the two of them into dueling under threat of Joey being killed and threat of Kaiba not getting the key to unlock his Duel Disc.
The duel takes place up at the top of a nearby building, on a skylight with explosives planted beneath. Life points hit zero, explosives go off, player falls to a horrible death.
Lumis puts out masks that prevent Yugi and Kaiba from sacrificing any of their monsters, as well as preventing one of Yugi's monsters from attacking. Kaiba tries to bait and trap Umbra, but Lumis transfers the trap onto Kaiba and he takes the damage. Umbra then almost wipes out Kaiba's life-points, but Yugi pulls out a Kuriboh shield with Multiply. Next turn Lumis dispels the Multiply, leaving both of them wide-open to attack. Kaiba then signals Yugi that he should use Card Destruction so they can special-summon higher-level monsters from their graveyards. This also weakens Umbra's Masked Beast so Kaiba's Blue-Eyes can destroy it.
Lumis then activates Mask of Weakness, cutting the Blue-Eyes attack in half, making it weaker than Umbra's monster. Yugi then switches the effect of the mask to Lumis's monster, allowing Kaiba to damage Umbra's life-points.
Lumis and Umbra start bickering over their tactics, letting Kaiba drive the wedge further with an attack for Umbra, and some words for Lumis. Lumis uses Chosen One to summon Masked Beast of Guardius. He wants to use it to take out Yugi, but Kaiba goads him into wiping out his Blue-Eyes instead. This lets Yugi summon up the last of the three Magnet Warriors and fuse them into Valkyrion. This finally gets rid of the cursed mask on Beta, stopping the constant drain of Yugi's life-points. Yugi uses Valkyrion to attack Guardius, but a piece of the creature attaches itself as a Mask of Possession. Yugi uses De-Fusion to split them into component monsters, and Kaiba uses Soul Exchange to sacrifice the three Magnet Warriors to summon Obelisk. Obelisk wipes Umbra's life-points out, and the explosives blast the window to smithereens. Umbra pulls out a parachute to keep him from falling to his death, much to the disgust of Yugi and Kaiba. Lumis can't believe this. He can't figure out how to win the duel, so Marik takes over and taunts them about how he's gotten to Joey and the gang and wants Yugi to face Joey head-on. Mokuba arrive in a helicopter and they fly Yugi to Joey's location for the showdown.
Meanwhile, Duke and Tristan are accompanying Serenity Wheeler back to Domino City when Tristan calls the mind-controlled Téa to try and figure out what's up. They figure out from the background noise that she and most likely the other members of the gang are at the Domino City Pier. Marik forces Yugi and the mind-controlled Joey to handcuff themselves to a six-hundred pound anchor. Fifteen seconds after one of them drops to zero life-points the bomb goes off and the anchor drags the one who doesn't get to the handcuff key in the box at their feet first to a watery grave. Kaiba attempts to intervene, but Marik's men nab Mokuba and stop him.
While Marik forces Yugi to remove Slifer from his deck, he adds the Red-Eyes Black Dragon into it in the hopes it might be able to shake Joey out of Marik's control.
The Marik-controlled Joey pulls out direct damage card after direct damage card, something which Kaiba banned from the tournament. This eventually brings Yugi down below two-thousand life-points.
Yugi decides to take full control of the duel, letting Yami have a break and allowing Yugi to try and get through to Joey. Yugi plays Card Exchange to see what Joey would do. He doesn't take the dragon despite Marik's urging, allowing Yugi to sacrifice two of his monsters to summon the Red-Eyes.
On the way from the train-station, Tristan, Duke and Serenity run into Mai as she's finishing up her last duel to enter the finals. She offers them a lift to the pier in her car and they accept.
Joey pulls out Rocket Warrior and tears one of the wings off his Red-Eyes, but Yugi doesn't pay it any mind. Instead, he hangs his Millennium Puzzle around Joey's neck so Yami won't take over, and in an attempt to jog his memory. Marik tries to make him take the puzzle apart and toss it in the ocean, but his memories of all the things he's been through with Yugi keep that from happening.
Yugi uses Magic Arm Shield to redirect Joey's Rocket Warrior back at his Panther Warrior, and then uses Archfiend of Gilfer to kill the Rocket Warrior.
With only a few minutes left before the bomb goes off and their life-points equal, Yugi hatches a plan to bring their life-points to zero simultaneously. Kaiba decides to take a gamble and save his brother from Marik's man with the knife with a Duel-Monsters card flicked into his hand.
Marik makes Joey play Meteor of Destruction, but Yugi plays Mystical Rift Panel to buy himself some time. This breaks Joey out of Marik's spell, and Yugi takes off his Duel Disc, then directs the fireball towards himself so Joey can live. This opens up the box at Joey's feet with the key in it. Joey's panicked that his best friend is about to die, so he orders his Red-Eyes to reduce his life-points to zero so he can swing over on his chain and unchain Yugi. He takes off the Millennium Puzzle and his Duel Disc beforehand. Unfortunately, the bomb explodes and drags them into the water. Joey manages to unlock Yugi's cuff, but his key was left at the surface in his haste and Yugi's doesn't work for him. However, Kaiba drops they key down to him and Joey manages to get free.
Mai arrives with Duke, Tristan and Serenity. Serenity removes her bandages finally, and reunites with her brother.
With six puzzle-cards apiece for Kaiba, Mai, Yugi and Joey, they head off to the finals. The other finalists are Marik Ishtar (Under the guise of Namu) his stepbrother Odion disguised as Marik, their sister Ishizu, and Bakura. Kaiba's dueling blimp descends from the air and they board. The first duel will be Yugi vs Bakura.
Yami Bakura lets Yugi destroy three of his monsters so he can special-summon Dark Necrofear. He doesn't attack though. This lets Yugi summon his Dark Magician Girl, and he equips her with Magic Formula to boost her attack points. He kills Dark Necrofear, and Yami Bakura reveals that this was his plan all along. Dark Necrofear's death activates its special power and possesses one of Yugi's monsters. When Yugi attacks with a possessed monster, his life-points are reduced by half of that monsters attack, and those points are added to Bakura's. Bakura then pulls out Destiny Board, a permanent trap. And another permanent trap, The Dark Door, which limits Yugi to only one attack per round. Yugi tries to attack with his Dark Magician Girl, but the ghost assaults him. Thus ends the volume.
The first four chapters of this volume are entirely dedicated to wrapping up the Joey vs Yugi duel. Yet again I must take umbrage with the placement of the chapters in each of these volumes. Move the climax of Yugi vs Joey back into the previous volume, then move the climax of Double Duel into the volume before that, and add a few chapters from the next volume into this one and boom, it all flows better. This is why I didn't have a volume breakdown in the last two sixths of the review.
Yugi correctly guesses which of his monsters isn't possessed by the spirit, but Bakura forces him to attack with the Dark Magician Girl through use of another permanent trap, Dark Spirit of the Silent. Yugi manages to figure out how to counter that combo and beat Bakura's Destiny Board. Yugi uses Monster Recovery to clear his field, and shuffles his hand back into his deck. He then summons Kuriboh in attack mode so the spirit would possess it. He then activates Chain Destruction to destroy Kuriboh and the spirit alike. Marik, who remains in contact with Yami Bakura through possession of his host, tells him what Yugi's plan is. To resurrect Dark Necrofear with a face-down Monster Reborn. Bakura tries to get around this to no avail, but his secondary plan works. He uses Deja Vu to reset the monsters positions so Dark Necrofear can keep moving the lens on the Destiny Board.
Yugi uses his three monsters Bakura gave him back to summon up Slifer The Sky Dragon. Bakura believes the spirit of Necrofear would possess Slifer and end the duel for him, but it's too weak to control a god. Marik uses Odion to undo his possession of Bakura in an attempt to make Yugi lose the duel to keep his friend from possibly dying when Slifer attacks, but Yami Bakura takes over and Yugi finishes the duel with a direct attack from Slifer. Bakura is left weakened and in pain from Yami Bakura stabbing himself earlier, but he's alive. Mokuba orders the security team to set up the first-aid station and they haul him off, while a Marik-possessed Téa grabs the Millennium Ring.
The next duel is between Joey and Odion, who everyone still thinks is Marik. Odion puts out a bunch of trap-cards, and Joey sees fit to wipe them out with Giant Trunade. However, Odion anticipated this and pulls out Judgement of Anubis.
Joey then activates one of Odion's traps on purpose so he can run out Odion's deck. However, this was also anticipated by Odion, who activates Embodiment of Apophis. Correction. Three Embodiments of Apophis. Apophis is a trap-monster akin to some of the ones featured earlier in the series. It gets special-summoned to the field when an enemy attacks.
Joey tries to protect his life-points with Scape-Goat, but Odion De-Spells it with... De-Spell. Joey is about to seriously give up, but his sister's voice spurs him on to finish the duel. Joey activates Foolish Burial and Graverobber, to place Jinzo in Odion's graveyard and bring it back to his side of the field. This allows him to destroy all of the Embodiments of Apophis and attack Odion directly. Odion then activates Swords of Revealing Light to protect himself for a while. Joey and Odion use these turns to boost up their defenses. Odion even manages to summon Selket, a devastating scorpion that eats Joey's monsters alive to bolster its own attack points. It is also revealed that Odion has been given a counterfeit copy of The Winged Dragon of Ra.
For the last few pages of this chapter, we get a brief insight into Odion and Marik's origins. It's interesting, but I personally prefer the way the second animated series handled it. We'll get to that in time. It just feels somewhat redundant when we get a far more in-depth look at their origins later on.

So yeah, I haven't forgotten about this series, I was just a bit delayed by time. The series will continue until I've finished reviewing the manga, which will hopefully be before the start of October. I've only got fourteen volumes left, so if I can keep up the pace I was working at in this review, I can easily get that done. Then I've got The 31 Days of Evil 3 after that, so hopefully I can manage to not work myself to death over the next month and a half between school, this and all my side-projects.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death (Nathan Green)

Labyrinth of Lost Potential

Video-games and ideas go hand in hand. Some of the most memorable and treasured video games of all time were the games that pushed the innovative concepts that at the time many people thought were some sort of pipe dream. Chances are if I said the words “3D Platformer” the first game that would come to your mind is Super Mario 64 for how it pioneered the invention of analog control in video games as well as bringing the 3D platformer to the forefront of the gaming industry at the time. Generally its innovative ideas that will separate an average or good game from an excellent one.
With that being said a game can have all the good ideas it wants but if it doesn’t do anything with them then it just amounts to wasted potential. If there is anything No Mans Sky has taught us, it’s that the execution of an idea matters just as much as the idea itself.
So what happens when you take a game that has good ideas and just doesn’t do anything with them? Well you get something like MeiQ Labyrinth of Death.
So MeiQ’s story is… Simple to say the least. You play as Estra, a Machina mage who is called along with 4 other Machina mages to basically restart the very world under your feet by quite literally winding it back up.
Now I already hear you asking “What’s a Machina Mage?”. Well the game never quite explicitly explains what they are but in essence they are Mages who can use a special form of magic called Machina Magic and command giant mechanical looking guardians.
Anyway to restart the planet you are told you have to go through 4 towers in order to get access to a fifth, final area which is where the key to rewind the world is found. It’s a simple concept with simple characters. That is until you read into it a bit.
So throughout the game you find little booklet type things lying around in dungeons which talk a little about the games world. The most interesting of these booklets that you find in the first dungeon actually tells us that Machina magic in fact, isn’t magic in the traditional sense but instead is magic that uses tiny nanomachines. Yes, really. What I found interesting here is upon looking up the word Machina on the internet I found that translated literally Machina means Machine. So Machina magic is technically Machine Magic.
Now that sounds pretty cool. I was interested in what the game had to offer in that department and was looking forward to what the story would have in store for me… The answer as I found out later on, was nothing.
This is a common theme you’ll be seeing in MeiQ. As a game it has a lot of good ideas which it does make known but the game just doesn’t do anything with them. Ideas are all fine and dandy but if a game doesn’t actually do anything with that plot device then it really shouldn’t have been put in there in the first place.
The sad part is that these ideas sound excellent on paper and the revelation of the nanomachine thing caught me completely off guard. It’s a game which knows how to get its players interested in its narrative but it doesn’t know what to do once they are interested and it’s a damn shame. The story in general kicks off interestingly enough but it just grinds to a screeching halt very quickly and decides to go the cliché save the world route instead. It’s like the developers decided in the early stages of development to just go the lazy route and then forgot to remove all the ideas they had originally that were never going to be used and because of this I couldn’t help but think of what MeiQ could have been if they had expanded on those plot devices.

Sadly MeiQ’s list of good ideas with wonky execution don’t end with the story. Gameplay wise MeiQ is a traditional dungeon crawler. You explore a dungeon in first person, fight monsters in random encounters and gain experience points in order to level up.
Now while the overworld exploration is incredibly basic and, dare I say kinda boring the battle system is a little more interesting.
So here’s how battles work. By default you don’t control the Machina Mages themselves but instead you control their guardians which are basically giant robots which are specifically designed to beat things into a pulp. Unlike your average dungeon crawler these guardians have their own set of attacks which change depending on what parts you equip. For example I could equip a sword on one arm and a fist on the other arm and I would get sword specific attacks on the sword arm and punch specific attacks on the fist arm. It’s a simple system which is easy to get to grips with.
You can also control your Machina Mage directly which allows for a more traditional style of fighting that you would see in other dungeon crawlers. One thing of note is that most of the time enemies will attack the guardian first and not your Mage and because the guardian has a separate HP bar to the Mage it means you can usually leave your guardian on the forefront 99% of the time to deal with enemies.
Now here’s where the problems start. Firstly, you are able to get extremely overpowered extremely quickly in MeiQ which negates almost all challenge you may end up running into. What this results in is most battles simply boil down to hitting the enemy once or twice for you to win. As a result of this dungeon exploring in general becomes incredibly tedious with the monsters serving as more of a minor nuisance than an actual threat. This is made even more apparent by the fact that the game actually gives you a button to repeat the same actions that you did previously in battle. Sure it’s convenient but it means that most of the dungeons boil down to trying to find the stairs while pressing R a few dozen times to get rid of whatever small fry enemies there are that you run into.
Thankfully the encounter rate in the game is surprisingly low especially for a dungeon crawler but that still doesn’t rectify the fact that battling is a boring and tedious experience which for an RPG is not ideal in the slightest.
Outside of the main quest there are also side quests you can take which usually involve backtracking to a previous tower to find and kill an enemy that drops a specific item.
These quests SUCK. Oh my goodness do they suck big time. Most of the time you’ll be spending more time trying to get the damn enemy you need to kill to spawn than you will actually fighting said enemy! One of the first quests in the game involves you having to locate an item called the “killer crab scissor”. This mission took me around 2 hours to complete and most of that was spent trying to get a killer crab to spawn in the first place which is made even more of a chore due to the games surprisingly low encounter rate.

Thankfully the quests are optional but if you’re one of those people who likes to complete every side quest in a game then MeiQ will have you tearing your hair out at points, not because of difficulty but because of tedium.
There are a few other gameplay bits and pieces lying about such as a basic pokemon like elemental strength and weakness system along with Machina Mage “forms”. These forms are probably the most poorly implemented part of MeiQ because while these forms do indeed level up the game never actually tells you HOW you level these forms up. This is something I have discussed with other people who have been reviewing the game and none of us can figure out how exactly these forms are supposed to level up. It’s like the developers left it in the game and then completely forgot about it until the last minute.
In general, MeiQ suffers from honestly very bland gameplay. It’s the bare bones basics of dungeon crawler gameplay and the few ideas it does try are sadly poorly executed despite being clever ideas on paper.

Graphics and Sound:
On the flipside the game does at least have one thing going for it and that is the presentation. MeiQ’s visuals are bright and vibrant especially if you’re playing it on an OLED edition Vita. The character art is very well done and is even lip synced to both the Japanese and English audio tracks depending on which one you select.
Really my only complaint about the graphics is that sometimes they’re a little “too” pretty which is something that became a major problem once I entered the second dungeon. Compared to the first dungeon the second dungeon is very large with lots more open space which is made quite a bit harder to navigate by the fact that it’s hard to see where you’re actually going due to the high amounts of fire and smoke effects. Sure they look pretty but in practice they simply end up getting in the way which makes me resort to having to navigate almost exclusively using the Map which is a bit irritating.
Sound wise MeiQ has a surprisingly good OST attached to it. It offers a very interesting mix between ambient, rock and electronic genres which surprisingly works pretty well for the most part. The one gripe I have however is some music tracks feel more out of place than others and the battle theme itself is rather forgettable and can get kind of irritating after a while (the boss battle theme on the other hand is excellent and one of my favorite tracks in the whole game).
MeiQ does include both an English dub and the original Japanese dub and if I were to recommend one I would have to pick the Japanese Dub by an absolute landslide. The English dub is okish but some characters in the English dub have voices akin to nails down a chalkboard (looking at you Connie). From a company like idea factory who are usually pretty good with English Dubs I really expected a bit better than what we actually got.

MeiQ is a classic story of great ideas being ruined by poor execution. It’s a damn shame, because the potential for MeiQ to be a great and memorable experience was certainly there. If MeiQ had maybe had a little more time in development, I could see myself saying very different things. Unfortunately as of right now, MeiQ is a very difficult game for me to recommend.
If you like dungeon crawlers then you’ll probably still like MeiQ despite the flaws it has but if you aren’t a gigantic dungeon crawling fan then I’d steer well clear of MeiQ. There are far better Dungeon-Crawlers out there for your money which makes MeiQ a hard sell to anyone but the most dedicated Dungeon-Crawler lover.

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death Gets a Not Recommended.

This has been an exciting year for the Vita with a gigantic swarm of games rolling out for the little handheld and there is still more to come. I don’t quite know when my next review will be but I can assure you that you’ll be seeing a few more reviews from me before the new year rolls around. For now though this is BDVR Author Nathan Green signing off.

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death will be releasing on September 13th in North America and September 16th in Europe (excluding Oceania)

PEGI: 12
OFLC: Well let’s just get onto that quickly.
A quick note about the OFLC rating for MeiQ. Technically the game has been Refused Classification in Australia and is therefore banned in the country. Don’t ask me why (I’d chalk it up to the Australian Rating board being overly sensitive) but if you live in Oceania then you’ll have to either import the game or buy it off the US PlayStation Network. As for New Zealand the game wasn’t actually submit for rating here after that refusal of classification (for unknown reasons) so the game is not available to buy here either off PSN. However, websites such as MightyApe are listing it for sale online in physical form so you should have overall an easier time getting ahold of a copy if you really want to. 

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Game provided for review by Idea Factory. Cover image provided by Idea Factory.