Gaspar here again.
This is the third – and last for the time being, at least – of my little articles tackling the ZeXal cast. Namely, this one deals with ZeXal II’s antagonists, while the previous ones were about the main cast and the ZeXal I villains.
Given that this article is about characters from a series’ second half, expect spoilers and more.
The Barian Emperors
The Barian Emperors are the main antagonistic force in ZeXal II. As the name says, they are the rulers of the Barian World – a parallel to the Astral World that was name-dropped by our dear friend Kaito surprisingly early and then ignored forever – and they want to gather the Numbers so that they can protect their world from the Astral World’s attempts to destroy it.
They are the ones behind Tron’s schemes in ZeXal I, due to being the ones who rescued Byron Arclight after Faker dropped him and Kazuma Tsukumo into the different dimension portal and sent him back to the human world with the mission of gathering as many Numbers as possible for them as a way of payment.
This is going to be disappointingly quick until we get to the meat of the article and I gnaw at it, I am afraid.
The first Barian to arrive on the human world in ZeXal II, Gilag gains points for being the only Barian I cannot simply describe with “add/remove X from Y and you get Z”. He is rather… goofy and hot-headed in a way that seems unintentional, which ultimately bogs him down.
A hot-blooded Barian Emperor with an affinity for boxing. A duelist first and an Emperor second, he is very passionate in everything he does.
Alit feels a lot like a fusion of Yuma and Gauche. Like, a lot. It does make him enjoyable in a way, but… it also makes him kind of trite, because too many characters in this series are like this.
The Barian who leads the group in the absence of Nasch and Merag. Level-headed, calm and reasonable, Durbe tries to find the missing Emperors while also coordinating the group to gather the Numbers. So you could say he is pretty much a Barian version of Astral.
Vector is the mysterious being who made a deal with Faker many years ago and revealed himself at the very end of ZeXal I. He is basically IV if you made him legitimately evil, ramped up the ham, and, on top of that, made him an ocassional schemer.
Take Kaito, add Barian, substract Haruto. You get Misael.
Misael is more bearable than Kaito if only because the entire world does not gush about him all the time and he does not bend everything to his whims.
Nasch and Merag
The 2 missing Barian Emperors that have not been seen for a long time. Durbe suspects they might be on the human world.
And they are eventually revealed to be Shark and Rio after some very heavily handed foreshadowing of sorts.
Upon being shown that their past lives were Nasch and Merag, Shark and Rio assume their positions as Barian Emperors and lead an invasion on the human world and WAIT WHAT?!
Let me try to explain.
The reason they are Nasch and Merag is because Ryouga and Rio are actually dead. They died several years ago, with their parents, in a car accident.
How are they alive nowadays? Exactly at the same time Ryouga and Rio passed away, Nasch and Merag (who looked incredibly similar to the siblings to begin with) had been attacked by a spiteful Vector and thrown into a dimensional abyss / bottomless pit / Bottomless Trap Hole / something that pretty much kills them.
Nasch’s past life’s servant, the spirit of Number 73, managed to save their souls and have them roam the world in search of new bodies in which they would live on – but their memories would be replaced by those of the bodies’ owners until they met the spirit again.
No one has ever explained how souls, memories or anything like that works in the series so it works out perfect.
Dammit, Shin Yoshida.
Now, that alone is not too bad… Well, the whole “they have been orphans since childhood and no one ever said a word about it” thing is pretty bad, because it is one of those things you cannot thrust onto the audience just like that. It feels… rather abusive towards the watchers’ feelings, and keeping a cool head about it makes you seem insensitive to their plight.
What is bad is that, immediately after being shown what happened, Shark and Rio join the Barians and lead them to invade the human world, with the clear intent of fighting against Yuma. And I do mean immediately. Even though Vector has been acting even more suspiciously than usual – as in noticeably suspicious to Durbe at least, who questions him about the possibility of Don Thousand being unsealed due to strange phenomena going on.
And speak of the devil…
You know what, let’s speak about him now.
Don Thousand, Donny from now on, is the god of the Barian World – he who reportedly created it and rules over all that is Chaos.
Sealed in The Barian Sea or The Sea of Ill Intent by Astral’s powers eons ago, he is released by Vector as part of his next attempt at revenge against Yuma and Astral.
And now some plot dumps.
Donny did not exist at first. He was spontaneously created when the Astral World’s residents expelled any and all Chaos power they had in themselves during their attempts of what they called Rank-Up – basically an attempt at reaching a higher state of existence. Donny is pretty much an embodiment of Chaos, which the Astral World did not want around them anymore, so they have Astral battle him.
After Donny was defeated, he was sealed away by Astral’s powers. 7 of Astral’s 50 power-related Numbers sealed Donny’s powers and attached themselves to seven particular figures in humanity’s history throughout time, and are placed in ruins all over the world now. 4 of these 50 Numbers also fall on the human world, and instead become The Guardians of the Planet™
Donny is eventually revealed to be the one who created the Barian Emperors.
Donny travelled all around the human world (yes, while sealed), found these particular figures, and engineered their deaths using his powers (yes, the ones that are also sealed, just like he is) to brainwash those around them to kill them and then brainwash the figures themselves in their very last moments to generate a massive amount of hatred in their souls. Souls that do not rest in peace do not reach the Astral World, but the Barian World – a world created by the Chaos that left the Astral World. As well as generating hatred, he latched 1 of his personally-crafted Over-Hundred Numbers to each of their souls, placing a curse on their memories so that they match their past life’s state when brainwashed: for example, Alit remembers a crowd heckling and booing him before being executed in front of a cruel prince instead of the crowd pleading to save his life while the executioner and the entire court were brainwashed.
There were two special cases:
One of the figures above was Vector’s past life, who instead was brainwashed by Donny during his young adulthood when his parents died in front of him and was in grief – Vector’s past life became a bloodthirsty tyrant whose army invaded, pillaged and slaughtered almost any population it came across, while this grief made him a powerful Barian after his death.
Nasch claims to be a Barian out of his own will. That might work for being a Barian, but not for being a Barian Emperor. Or having, you know, an Over-Hundred Number.
Back to Don Thousand.
Ultimately Donny is guilty of absolutely everything and transforms into a pretty boy which is his true form (Japan I swear to God…) after absorbing the souls of most of the Barian Emperors.
And then he dies.
Donny is thoroughly disappointing for a final villain. Not only because his backstory has some pretty ugly holes, but also because he is a card-carrying villain who happens to be the embodiment of Chaos.
The one and only thing he wants to do upon being unsealed is to destroy the human world and the Astral World, and he states Chaos power will always revive him, one way or other.
And guess what.
The last episode of ZeXal proves he is right.
Why is this disappointing? Because Chaos power is not necessarily evil, as seen by Yuma being able to use it and by most of the Barian Emperors being relatively decent guys who simply want to keep their world safe from the Astral World. Don Thousand denies so and scoffs at them for that. Chaos power is basically the will of the living to, well, live, as a power they can use to survive, but the very being made out of the will of the living to survive wants to destroy everything? It is not even for the sake of REVENGE. Donny does not care about that. He simply wants to do it. Because.
The one thing Don Thousand manages to accomplish in the end is make watchers feel bad for liking Vector and Shark. And more or less destroy the Number plot.
Let’s close this up…
One key issue I have with the Barians as a whole is that 4 of them are little more than rehashes of a previous character, 2 of them are the exact same as before but turned against Yuma and Astral, and the remaining 1 is used for comedic relief for way too long. These are all characters we have already dealt with, and the “but now they’re evil/er” thing does not change them in the slightest nor make them any more interesting.
Nasch and Merag are not good. At all. And I have a few more things to say about them.
Merag gets vague indifference from every end – Rio turning against Yuma and his friends just because she is a Barian is doubly awful (she is doing exactly what her brother is doing AND she knows it is wrong but does it anyway) but aside from being the victim of whatever is threatening Shark this week, becoming an enemy we cannot care about is pretty much the only thing she does in the entire series.
Nasch is particularly terrible because not only Shark turns evil for what is at least the fourth time and one more time after that – you read that right – but it also destroys the point of those “you don’t have to follow no thing such as destiny” and “no one controls you other than yourself” lessons Yuma drove into Shark’s head during the first season. Turns out he is going to do it anyway, ha ha. He could control Shark Drake, a Number. Maybe it’s because he has a lot of willpower like Yuma does. NO, IT’S BECAUSE HE’S A BARIAN, HA HA. NOW HE’S YOUR ENEMY AGAIN, HA HA.
I have a few more words about Vector, too.
Exactly 3 of his antics (the Sargasso plot, the duel in Number 65’s ruins and the Don Thousand Throne duel) are actually pretty cool, but people exaggerate how good he is. He is just a very, very shallow cackling nutcase who is around to be an evil Barian and eventually unseal Don Thousand. The only reason someone can come up with to not simply dispose of him is Durbe not noticing his evil nature… even after Nasch and Merag, sworn enemies of Vector, mysteriously disappear without a trace…
Don Thousand is… well, a disaster.