From Viz’s Shonen Jump line comes the latest volume of the long lasting Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, with volume 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal.
Volume 3 is a manga quick read, as the pages are mostly made up of just card battles, which fly pretty fast and heavy. Yuma, Astral, and the gang are making their way through Heartland theme park, after defeating Captain Corn. Mr.Heartland appears, revealing he is also after the Numbers cards so he can destroy Astral’s world with them. He first sends Thunder Spark to do battle with them, the card game being played out as they race on high speed jet-bikes. After that battle, they right away next face the living doll Princess Cologne, going against her very odd cards in a toy-like world.
The battles are long, but both are contained to this volume only, giving us a sense of satisfaction that we see them completed and not stretched out over multiple volumes, which is one of the few strengths Zexal has when compared to other series. The battle against Thunder Spark will remind franchise-fans of 5D’s with its high speed racing twist as they duel, as well as remind folks of the Endor sequence towards the end Return of the Jedi at the same time, given the scenery and jet-bike look. The second battle against Princess Cologne as well will remind fans of such other manga as Zatch Bell and Hyde & Closer, with the character designs and themes of the bad guys. Still, for the lack of originality in this seen-it-all-before fashion, artist Miyoshi certainly draws excellent looking characters and page layouts. These things may have been beaten into the ground in so many other manga/anime before it, but he’ll still try to entertain you by making a ploy to dazzle your eyes. Now while those may not make up for the story, it certainly can’t go un-noted how nice it looks.
For folks reading it in the U.S. version of Weekly Shonen Jump (where it’s actually published one week out of four a month, due to it being published in a monthly Shonen Jump spin-off in Japan, and not actually in the weekly) it holds up a lot better in the collected format here than it does there. Perhaps it is because we see the whole battle through and get the feeling of the characters’ ride, versus the one chapter a month jerk back and forth that can make it tough to get into when it pops up once a month.
Zexal seems to have a love-hate relationship with U.S. fans. Although it uses the same base of card battles for part of its plot, it’s unclear if anime fans have decided to hate on it because it’s simply in style to hate on it (as well as it’s in style to hate the Flowers of Evil anime), or because it’s truly not a great series. The answer may be found in the fact that Zexal feels like the weakest of all the Yu-Gi-Oh! series because it doesn’t present anything new to fans in either the manga or anime incarnation. Sure, the plot has been changed a little bit, but after all these years there is nothing to keep their interest. It would be interesting to see Yu-Gi-Oh! do something like what Duel Masters is doing in Japan, and release a spin-off manga aimed at young adults who use to play the card game, filled with more seinen-style art and serious tones, and see how that would play out, but considering it’s Shonen Jump and their main target is Japanese fans before U.S. fans, I doubt they’d take that gamble any time soon.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Vol.3 is available in both print and digital from Viz.