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They tried many times after the original Yugioh. Yugioh R was like a bad fanfiction filled with jaw droppingly asinine duels, flat villains and a plot more shallow then a kiddie pool. Yugioh GX had an interesting premise with the Duel Academy but became an absurd exercise in tedium, introducing somewhat interesting characters that are fed to it's main character and eventually either pushed into the background or disappearing entirely. So I approached 5D with some skepticism and....
The story starts in a place called Satellite, a run down area for the impoverished, runaways, etc. Among them is Yusei Fudo, who's D-Wheel(a motorbike used for Speed Duels) and Star Dust Dragon card have been stolen by former friend Jack Atlus, who is now in Neo Domino as the "king" of duelists. Yusei plans to escape Satellite to confront Jack for his Dragon back. Yusei confronts Jack for a duel. It's a strong back and forth encounter, that ends when special dragon birthmarks on their body activates. Yusei and Jack are what are known as "Signers", signified by those birthmarks. What makes things more complicated is Rex Godwin, head of Security Maintenence Bureau in Domminno and the man who supports Jack, is the one after the Signers and the five dragon cards they posses.
What separates this from GX from the get go is the fact that 5D is not one hundred percent reliant on the cards. Sure, the card duels are as pivotal as ever, however unlike GX, the plot of 5D could easily be done with the cards removed and not have too many significance changes. It's clear a lot more thought went into the plot as not only does it begin from the get go, but there has yet to be a single filler episode.
The animation is what you would expect of a Yugioh series, perhaps a little smoother even. The voice acting is good, with some voices like Aki's being downright chilling at times. The soundtrack isn't outstanding, not even a touch on the soundtrack of the original Yugioh series(Japanese version) which is among the best anime soundtracks I've heard(and I don't even consider the original yugioh a top ten anime by any stretch) Now let's get to the characters. Drifting away from the hyper and at times clueless Judai, they've gone back to a more serious protagonist in Yusei.Almost always solemn(even more so then Yami) Yusei continues the Yugioh tradition of the main character being less interesting then the supporting cast. While he's easy to get behind, there's not a whole lot to him. The supporting cast is strong with characters that stand out. The characters have their own, distinct personalities and except for the old man, I find none of them annoying. There's also been a lot more thought put into the backstories of some of these characters i.e they have one(yep, another shot at GX-I can't help it, it's too easy) Pot shots aside, I actually enjoyed the backstories of some of these characters, as they were pretty poignant for a Yugioh series(especially Aki) Now duel wise, the system's been tweaked. There are two types of duels, the regular duels we're used to, and Riding Duels, the duels on motorbikes. The difference is, besides that they're riding on speed bikes, is that there are a new set of rules. The field spell Speed World is activated automaticaly at the beginning of each duel. This makes it so only cards with SP in front of them can be used. There are also speed counters, which each player get's an extra of every turn. For every 1000 lifepoints a player loses(remainders are not counted) a speed counter is lost. Spell cards require a certain number of speed counters, and the speed counters also detirmine the speed of the bike. It's actually pretty interesting. A new feature that's been added to both duels is synchro summon. Basically, if you get what's called a tuner monster out with another monster and their combined levels equal that of the monster you want to synchro summon, you can sacrifice them to summon the monster. Since synchro summon is a special summon, that means you can summon the required sacrifice and the syncro summon in one turn.
At merely twenty two episodes currently, things could go bad but I'm optimistic right now. I can't wait to see more as the plot is intriguing and not so easy to predict. I will even go as far to say this is the best of the Yugioh series, even more then the original.
I would also like to note, avoid the dub like the plague. 4kids has not learned their lesson, stick with the subs.
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