Spar-Spangled Banter: Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal – Plot Writing

Hello, Gaspar here again.

This is the last of my articles about the Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal anime. And with the character writing and duel writing having been dealt with, there is only one more thing left to tackle.

So, here we go.

Plot writing

ZeXal’s plot is overall pretty simple.

ZeXal I deals with introducing a variety of characters and the Numbers. After 26 episodes, we have the World Duel Carnival until the last 5 episodes.
ZeXal II introduces the Barian Emperors while still using the Number plot and many of the characters from the previous season.

However, the plot being simple does not mean it does not have issues. Namely, its pacing is pretty bad for a series that is basically just a big fetch quest, and we owe it to two of our dearest friends.

There is way too much filler. Almost every single duel against a Number Holder is a two-parter even if no Numbers are actually obtained, there are a bunch of episodes that are just glorified recaps, there are at least 2 episodes devoted to “YUMA LOST HIS [something]! AGAIN!”, there are too many duels against randoms that seriously do not matter instead of simply showing the last few turns (which they do only when it comes to Yuma’s lolsowacky losses or to hype someone else), and there are simply too many two-parters in general.

There is also a lot of padding. Reusing the entire DUEL DISK, SET! DUEL GAZER, SET! routine every single time, AR VISION – LINK ENTABLISHED everywhere, and most of the fake drama going on during duels eats up a shocking amount of time.

Enough complaining about that. I did so in the duel writing article.
I’ll get to my last point.

ZeXal has a simple plot, but even the simplest plots bring up questions which eventually need answers. But ZeXal leaves too many things unanswered, or gives them incoherent or outright contradicting answers, and there are a few loose ends here and there too. And the conspicuous excess of meme material is not a good substitute for them.

The following are either plot holes or plot questions. Or both. Or just questions.

World Duel Carnival

  1. How does the Duel Coaster work? They shoved it upon us with no warning, we immediately notice it has a bunch of new rules but there is no word about any of them, and we are apparently meant to see it as Yuma’s fault… but he does know some of the rules, so what gives?
  2. Did Yuma and Kotori (Kotori did have to be there, Japan loves its lolicon fanservice) have to watch every single duel in the specialized Fields? Should not they be simultaneous or something? It would have more of an impact to not let him know about the duels’ results until he is done with his duel with Gauche.

Astral

  1. How do Astral’s “deaths” work, exactly? Being from the Astral World means he is technically already dead, but the first time he disintegrated and was later reformed with no side-effects, while he was basically dragged into the Astral World the second time.
  2. Why does the tiniest smidge of Chaos power that gets into Astral by non-ZeXal methods drive him insane but heal other Astral World residents? Or is Yuma the one constant that makes it safe for Astral beings to interact with Chaos power? If yes, why? Yuma is not the only character who can use Chaos power without being a mustache-twirling villain.
  3. What is the deal with “programming” Astral, as Eliphas calls it? Is it literal? Does it mean Astral is some sort of robot ghost, or construct, instead of someone who passed away and is now in the Astral World?
  4. Does every single Chaos Number or Shining Number happen to be made-up on the spot? Or are they something else?

Don Thousand

  1. How did Don Thousand travel all around the human world if he was sealed and use his sealed powers if they were sealed, like he was?
  2. Why is Don Thousand’s true form a bishonen? He was not a bishonen during his ancient battle with Astral. And as much as he looks like an Astral World inhabitant and was technically born in it, he is just an embodiment of Chaos power.

Not making this up.

Numbers

  1. Why do they possess people?
  2. Why do they intensify a person’s desire if they are the memories of someone from the Astral World? The Astral World is not a world of desires. Or emotions in general.
  3. Are there 99 or 100 of them? If it is the former, how is Number 100 a thing? If it is the latter, why did Astral say they were 99 and we had to wait until Dr. Faker’s faction showed up to be corrected? How do they know they are 100? Is this information from the Barians that Vector passed to Faker when they made their deal? How would the Barians know?
  4. How can Number 100: Numeron Dragon be a thing? It’s the creator of the universe. Is it a memory of Astral? If it is not, why is it a Number?
  5. Why do Numbers like 93 and 99 exist separated from Number 39 if they are related to it and its alternate non-Chaos forms Utopia Roots and Utopia Beyond are still Number 39? Numbers 53 and 92 are the only case of different Numbers being tied to each other in the anime, and they were seen together. 13 and 31 are another pair of Numbers and they are also seen together in the manga, although they are a couple instead of a base form and an evolved one.
  6. Why do some archetypes have several Numbers? I am looking at you, III and IV.
  7. Don Thousand said half of Astral’s Numbers are tied to his memories and half are tied to his powers. Which ones are which?
  8. What is the deal with the images shown to Astral when he absorbs Numbers? Why did they stop showing up at all later on? Same goes to his observations.
  9. Who molded Number 32: Shark Drake? It is almost definitely made for Shark, but Tron got his hands onto it before the WDC and handed it to III so that Shark could get it…
  10. What is the deal with some of the Numbers? Acid Golem, Embodiment of Crime and Embodiment of Punishment (Cain’s Devil and Abel’s Devil in japanese, respectively), Big Eye, Giant Grinder, Shadow Lich… Who could have molded these?
  11. Who could mold The Guardians of the Planet™?
  12. How do the Numbers of the Ruins work, exactly? We see Alit’s past life actually having the Lion Heart card in his possession and considering it a charm of sorts, but Nasch has to release Abyss Splash (who is an actual being instead of just a card) from Vector’s control, and Merag sacrificed herself to bring out Crystalzero and purify Abyss Splash. And Vector’s Djinn [Judge] Buster fell from the sky… into his cradle, when he was a baby.
  13. How do things like Number 62 (Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon’s eventual Number evolution) work in the manga, or things like Numbers 37 and 38 (these overwrote two completely different Numbers) in the anime?

ZeXal

  1. What is this?
  2. How does it happen?
  3. Why does it happen? They got Chaos Number 39: Utopia Ray less than 8 episodes before this. It is too soon for another upgrade.
  4. Why did they let Kaito not lose against ZeXal mode the first time? All that managed to do was undersell ZeXal mode horribly.
  5. Why are Yuma and Astral the only ones who can perform it?
  6. Is the combination that Vector performed with Faker at one point some kind of ZeXal?
  7. Why is DARK ZEXAL a thing?

Astral and Barian Worlds

  1. Thanks to certain someone’s obsession with throwing symbolism around, the Astral and Barian Worlds are rather reminiscent of Heaven and Hell. But are not both worlds a bit… devoid of inhabitants?
  2. We get no information from anyone hailing from the Astral World, and only three groups of individuals are met in the Barian World: the Emperors, Nasch’s army in his past life, and Mr. Heartland’s pals. The last two parties keep their past memories, presumably due to not having cursed cards inserted into them by Don Thousand. But what about the Astral World’s inhabitants?
  3. Is it common to all the Astral World’s inhabitants to have their lives in danger against Numbers, or is it exclusive to Astral?
  4. Do those who live in the Astral and Barian Worlds “die” naturally? It would explain why the worlds are not filled with an infinite amount of people.

Yuma’s parents

  1. Did Kazuma die after Faker flung him into another dimension? If he didn’t die, why do we only find him in the Emperor’s Key and the Astral World until the very end? Is he merely on a journey?
  2. How did Yuma’s mother meet up with him in the Astral World, and when?

Haruto

  1. What is his mysterious sickness? He did not have his creepy ZeXal I eyes while younger. Did Vector entrance/hypnotize/brainwash him?
  2. What is the deal with Haruto’s powers, exactly? It does not seem he had his powers while younger, either. Did Vector give him his powers when he did… whatever he did to him?
  3. What exactly cured him at the end of ZeXal I?

Jin

Remember Jin? He was the guy who had Number 11: Big Eye, obtained Number 16: Shock Master at the beginning of an episode, and served a Kaito who seated on a throne in his hideout.
Later on we learn that the Kaito in Jin’s hideout is not the real Kaito. It’s a statue that looks like Kaito.
Jin does not work together with Kaito. Yet he can also use the Photon Hand for Number extraction and soul-stealing (which Kaito hates doing) and to prevent the Numbers he uses from controlling him.

  1. How does he know about Kaito, if Kaito uses Orbital 7’s time-freezing function to hunt Numbers while being undetected by other people?
  2. Are his illusory and brainwashing powers his own powers, or do they come from his Numbers?
  3. Where did he get Photon Hand from?

That face is not too far away from the one I make when I think about you, Jin.

Shark

  1. Did Shark and Rio really go through their younger years without having parents and with no one noticing anything?
  2. Were the writers planning to go somewhere with the Armored Xyz card Shark gave to Yuma before they did… well, what they did? Handing over a card in a situation like that usually leads to using it later against that person when they inevitably go evil, and there were plenty of chances for that.

Nasch

  1. He claims he became a Barian out of his own will. But the Over-Hundred were Numbers inserted into the Barian Emperors by Don Thousand. How did he get his?
  2. This is not exactly tied to Nasch very much, but… how did Nasch and Vector have a Game of Darkness or Shadow Duel in their past lives?

Side-note: We do not see Number 44 clashing with Number 102 (Durbe’s past life’s Number and his Barian one) or Number 94 clashing with Number 103 (Merag’s Numbers). We have to take the stories about them for granted… which means Merag is angry with the world because she helped protect the lands she ruled alongside her brother. Ummmmm…

Closing note

That’s pretty much it, to be honest.

Putting everything I said together, I might have sounded like the average hater. But believe me, that was not my intention.

ZeXal does have serious problems in its writing, its duels, its characters, its consistency and its execution… but I do not hate it.

It has a lot of flaws, but here and there I can feel someone really gave it a good shot and made enjoyable episodes and, occasionally, enjoyable characters.
I can also feel a certain someone tried too hard to turn it into New Neo DOMA for ZeXal II, and wrecked everything because of it.

I like ZeXal I more than ZeXal II (and the end of the ZeXal manga) simply due to not having a certain someone’s constants of SUPER-SECRET ANCIENT EVIL THAT JUSTIFIES EVERYTHING and SUCH IS FATE. They had not worked before, and they did not work here either. They are lazy cop-outs, and coming from out of nowhere makes them even worse. The Barian Emperors being rehashes of previously entablished characters does not help its case. Neither does Don Thousand being generic evil.

I have been pretty fair to ZeXal II despite considering it a bad sequel to ZeXal I… and ZeXal I was not amazing at all to begin with.

Here, have a parting gift. Someone else made it. Credit to him/her/it.

Yeah I have no idea either. But I like it.

Bye-bye. See you next time.

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