Hello, Gaspar here again.
This is the second part about my quick reviews of the ZeXal anime’s characters. Last time, it was about the main recurring cast. This time, I talk about the main villains in ZeXal I.
Spoilers are a given.
Tron, III, IV and V
Tron/Vetrix and his minions III, IV and V, form one of the two main villainous forces introduced in ZeXal. They are not the first ones to be introduced, but they are the first ones to be dealt with for good. And the article flows much better if we do not start with Dr. Faker.
Tron’s actual name is Byron Arclight, and he is the father of III (Michael), IV (Thomas) and V (Christopher, or Chris for short), who assist him in his plans of revenge against Dr. Faker for dumping him into a different dimension and indirectly turning him into his current form – a child.
Or rather, Tron alone is after revenge while his children assist him only so that they can have their father “return from behind Tron’s mask”.
Fittingly enough, Tron has a rather childish disposition towards many things. At first it undermines the threat he represents, and later on it makes his plans ever-so-slightly more unsettling because he does have mysterious powers and he is going to carry on with his plans while inflicting as much pain as he can on anyone who gets in his way with no mercy. Tron is single-mindedly going after revenge and discarding everything else.
III is the youngest of the three brothers, and is basically a nice enough guy interested in ancient artifacts who simply wants his family to go back to normal – as much as possible, anyway – but has to deal with pain and see how others deal with theirs. III is the only one of his family who has no past and bears no ill will towards his eventual opponent from the main cast, and actually begins bonding with him even before their one-on-one duel. In fact, III is among the most “normal” characters in ZeXal. Most of the time.
IV is the middle child, and is probably the most well-liked member of his family by the fandom for his theatrics, unusually creepy monsters, quick temper, involvement with his opponent, constant crazed faces, and his FANSERVICE (for non-watchers, this actually means “dishing out pain”); funnily enough, in-universe, he is the one Tron likes the least due to the aforementioned temper and his lack of self-control and subtlety. IV is boastful and, at first, almost cartoonishly evil.
V might be the eldest of the three and a bishonen, but he is rather unremarkable beyond being stoic. He is tied to Kaito, whose thing against him is… Kaito has nothing against him, actually. V is the one who taught Kaito how to duel as a way to protect Haruto from harm, and he is now angry with Kaito for being Dr. Faker’s son, and, well, we know why he is angry with Faker.
Dr. Faker is the first main villain introduced in ZeXal, alongside Kaito and Mr. Heartland.
Dr. Faker is initially touted to be what they call a well-intentioned extremist, planning to destroy the Astral World because leaving it around would cause the human world to be destroyed.
No, wait, he is bluffing and is actually a mustache-twirling saturday morning villain.
No, wait, he bluffed there too. He is well-intentioned, trying to save his youngest son from whatever sickness he has… so he made a deal with a mysterious being several years ago: keep Haruto alive and heal his illness, and Faker would destroy the Astral World and obtain as many Numbers possible as paymen- hold on for a second, how would Faker collect the Numbers “many years ago” if Yuma only released Astral a few weeks ago in-series?
Where I am going is that Dr. Faker, as a whole, is disappointing. As an antagonist, as a character, and even as a mess.
Dr. Faker does not do anything during ZeXal I, either directly or indirectly, beyond causing the event that lead to Byron Arclight’s and Kazuma Tsukumo’s disappearances. Waiting in his laboratory until the World Duel Carnival ends is the only other thing we get to see him doing.
Compare that to his second-in-command Mr. Heartland, who does most of the plotting and performs many dubious actions. Or Kaito and Droite and Gauche, the ones who hunt for stray Number Holders, with the latter two also doubling as officers during the tournament.
Faker was not a villain who could be met face-to-face, either. Yuma did not know Dr. Faker even existed until very late in ZeXal I, meeting him in a filler episode in which he misplaced his Deck again, and he would have no reason to face Faker if he did not know about him through V and Kaito or if Faker hadn’t name-dropped the Numbers in front of him. We can easily assume Shark does not know much about Faker either beyond whatever Tron might have inserted in his mind via brainwashing. The only one who does have contact with Dr. Faker and a reason to fight against him is Kaito, who should have been the only one confronting him.
And then Faker is completely innocent and the mysterious being is forced to reveal itself and possess him in order to continue with the plan.
Why is Dr. Faker, well, Faker instead of Dr. Tenjo anyway?
Mr. Heartland is Dr. Faker’s right-hand man, and honestly, he is more interesting as a villain than his boss is.
Heartland is basically a two-faced sleazy politician who does plenty of shady stuff behind the scenes, and is responsible for the backgrounds of Droite, Gauche, Kaito and Haruto. And that is only among the named cast – we do see his training robots attacking other people, and being involved with criminals in his younger years.
While the Numbers in general are an antagonistic force due to possessing people and making them cause trouble, Number 96 is the only one among them that could be considered a character in his own right.
Number 96 craves for destruction, and repeatedly tries to convince Astral they share the same goal through either words or outright possession. Mostly remembered for the latter.
He debuts relatively early, but has scarce appearances throughout the series.
Let’s sum it up…
I appreciate ZeXal I’s villains for not trying to be overly complex, but they do have their share of flaws.
Faker is terrible. No main character beyond Kaito has any reason to face him, nor any way to face him, until the very end, and it comes out of nowhere. Heartland is much better as a villain, and Heartland is just a minion who suddenly started acting more evil in the later episodes as if to whitewash the good doctor.
The Arclights are the better antagonistic force in ZeXal I. Faker being as bad as he is undermines the statement – they are actually pretty enjoyable on their own right even if they are all rather generic characters: nice guy in evil group, half-insane hammy jerk, stoic bishonen as long as he does not take 400 damage, REVENGE!
The main strike against the Arclights is that we know they have special powers but we never learn the extent of those powers; brainwashing and unrestrained portal-based transport are incredibly convenient, and we also see Tron’s powers affecting the Virtual Reality system. For all we know, Tron could have simply stolen Kaito’s Numbers and then nuked Heartland Tower, or just teleport inside Faker’s chamber, but refused to do so out of sadism and see Dr. Faker’s reaction to his sons being hurt. This would fit Tron… but neither Kaito nor the watchers have any reason to believe Faker does care about Haruto and Kaito, and Tron has no way to know, either.
Number 96 was somewhat underused at first, but he does fit better in ZeXal II’s plot and setting. His simple personality works in his favour – he is basically Astral’s evil self and is not meant to be reasoned with.