Hello, Gaspar over here again.
As I mentioned in my previous article, I’m doing a few articles about Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal. Last time, the article was about the Numbers. This time, the article is about the main recurring ZeXal cast. Because writing about all the main parties in the ZeXal series in a single article would get tiring for me to write and for you to read.
So, let’s get onto it.
As before, beware spoilers.
Yuma Tsukumo is our main character. He is the archetypical idiot hero: a nice person, headstrong, persistent, never gives up… who is also pretty inept when it comes to anything he does and cannot notice what clothes he is wearing.
Yuma’s story begins during an otherwise-normal day at school.
One of his friends has been beaten in a duel by the local bully, Ryouga “Shark” Kamishiro, who has taken his Deck away. Being the only other duelist in his 3-person group, Yuma decides to duel Shark and get it back.
In the middle of the duel, a mysterious being which calls himself Astral emerges from Yuma’s treasured pendant – the Emperor’s Key – but he can only be seen and heard by Yuma. Astral’s memories, the 100 Numbers, scatter all over the world, with only 1 of them remaining with him.
As Astral cannot get the Numbers back by himself nor leave Yuma’s side due to being bound to the Emperor’s Key, they are forced to cooperate in the long task that is finding the Numbers to recover Astral’s memories and eventually face people who want to use the Numbers’ mysterious abilities for their own purposes.
That is pretty much all you need to know about Yuma to get started. He is a good person, but also incredibly hot-headed. He is very bad at dueling at first, but slowly gets better with some experience and Astral’s guidance.
Too bad the development on his dueling fluctuates horribly, because it also makes his performances irregular. Sometimes he can come up with a combo not even Astral thought of (Double or Nothing! + Number 39) and next episode he passes up on an obvious chance to Xyz Summon.
Yuma’s most notable trait at the beginning is outright refusing to listen to Astral’s advice. While it makes sense for him to be annoyed by some of the alien’s remarks of him, Yuma is awful at the game at first. Not an amateur. Awful. He barely knows what he is doing and constantly makes bad moves despite not being a new player.
Was that some sort of joke? Because it was not funny. It makes the watchers not have any faith in him from the get-go, which is very bad for anyone who watched the previous series as you now have two barriers to get through: nostalgia, and lack of care towards Yuma.
I appreciate them changing the formula a bit and not making Yuma a “dueling genius” character, but making him this bad was not the way to go.
What become the most notable traits about Yuma later on are his lack of ill will towards those who wronged him in the past, and his tendency towards forgiveness. He is willing to forgive actions from almost anyone and let them make amends on any way they can, even if he said he would never forgive them an episode ago, or that person spent an entire series trying to kill him or steal his soul. Generally a good thing, but cases in which it is just absurd are not uncommon.
To put it short: Yuma is easily unlikable at first, but has a chance to become bearable to watchers before too long. His eventually frequent depression bouts can easily make one annoyed with him again though.
He does become better as a duelist over time. Not quite “The Best!”, but decent enough.
The “Yuma misplaced his [something]! Again!” gag is the worst thing about him, to be completely honest.
As I mentioned in my previous article, Astral is the series’ deuteragonist, accidentally summoned by Yuma through the Emperor’s Key during the boy’s first duel against Shark.
In contrast to Yuma, Astral is rational, level-headed, and a purported dueling genius.
And that is it.
Astral does not change or develop much over the course of the series at all, and most of this development comes from the earlier episodes of ZeXal: learning to tolerate Yuma’s antics and understanding him, and making observations about the human world. You would think ZeXal II, what with directly facing against the Barians and putting the Astral World at stake, would test Astral’s resolve about having to destroy an entire world that could very well be full of innocents with just a couple of rotten apples, but nothing ever comes out of that. In fact, Astral spends a good chunk of ZeXal II as a damsel in distress of sorts while not actually doing anything: Yuma no longer needs his dueling advice, yet they collected no further Numbers between the WDC and the beginning of the Barian invasion, and Yuma and Shark are under attack by brainwashed minions only because of Astral and the Numbers.
Overall, the way Astral was handled is disappointing because, even before the middle-point of the series, his already-not-really-high importance takes a backseat to… filler episodes and two-parters against one-shots.
“She is Yuma’s close friend and is always by his side” is a very good way to describe Kotori, because there is basically no other thing that could be said about her.
I cannot say Kotori is a bad character when she most likely does not even qualify as a character in the first place. She has no desires or particular traits beyond being nice to Yuma even in an illusion, while even the character she is clearly based on actually has those. The closest Kotori comes to being a character is during the episodes involving Number 25: Force Focus, due to not following her usual patterns of being next to Yuma all the time.
So how comes she shows up in almost every single episode if she may as well be a prop to move around?
Simple: the animation staff liked her.
Shark, also known as Ryouga Kamishiro or Reginald Kastle or SHAAKUU, is the obligatory rival character. As mentioned before, at the beginning of the series he is the local bully, but interacting with Yuma slowly shows a softer side and the reasons for his current demeanor.
And then space magic messes with his head and eventually destroys his mind.
The first half of ZeXal makes Shark one of the more likable characters in the cast. Even after he switches between being a good guy and a bad guy at least 4 times.
The second half bends him and his earlier development over. Several times. By the end of it, he becomes villainous for the sake of having a new villain while Yuma and Astral are trying to deal with another villain at the time.
Kaito/Kite Tenjo debuts early in the series as a Number Hunter – a duelist besides Astral who collects the Number cards for some purpose. Unfortunately, his method of Number Hunting also rips the soul of whoever the defeated Number Holder was.
Thankfully for him and his hatred of stealing other people’s souls, he no longer hunts Numbers during the second half of the show, and is instead the object of attention of Misael, one of the Barian Emperors and holder of a Galaxy-Eyes dragon.
Kaito, as a character, has two traits: being fiercely protective of his younger brother Haruto/Hart, and being proud of his Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon. And this second trait did not exist until ZeXal II, when the writers noticed the first one could no longer be used to let him get away with absolutely everything.
Let’s close this up…
The main recurring cast of ZeXal is overall disappointing.
Yuma’s lack of dueling prowess was exaggerated at the beginning, which single-handedly alienated a very big chunk of the audience. First impressions are very important, and Yuma did not make a good one. He does not get any worse than he was at the beginning, but it takes too long for him to be likable and his abilities are not consistent. It is not hard to understand why many cannot like him.
Astral is not a character as much as he is a plot device, and not even one that was handled properly.
Kotori is pointless.
Shark was better off at the beginning of the anime than at the end of it.
Kaito is a writing disaster, and I shall expand on it later on.