Genre: Kids' Animation
TV Rating: TV-Y7-FV
Other Choices: Slugterra, The Tick, Robot and Monster
Available On: Online
Common Sense Says: Game-driven manga show is more confusing than entertaining.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal centers on duels among an array of monsters summoned from mystical cards whose replicas are sold in a game marketed toward kids. Violence usually is limited to the monsters themselves (though visible injuries are rare even on them), whereas the humans mostly dictate their avatars' moves through the playing of cards and the accumulation and loss of "life points." Kids will see two distinctive sets of characters with rival motivations, and the good guys don't always come out on top. Expect some threatening language directed from one person to another and some sinister players with worrisome intentions.
- Families can talk about the players' strategies. What reason exists behind each player's order of attack? Is any one player consistently successful because of a particular plan? How do the players adapt to match their opponents' strengths or exploit their weaknesses?
- Were you familiar with the Yu-Gi-Oh! games before watching this show? If so, did that encourage you to watch? Did you glean anything from the characters' actions that can transfer to your own play? How do series like this one influence our buying habits at the store?
- This series is set in a futuristic land. How does it compare with your imaginings of what future civilizations will look like? How might the quality of life be better in future times? What problems might exist for future generations if we don't change our habits now?
What's the story?
YU-GI-OH! ZEXAL is a futuristic anime series based on a Japanese comic book story about characters who duel with monsters summoned from a collection of cards. During one of his matches, a talented dueler named Yuma encounters a spirit named Astral, who asks for his help in locating a series of Numbers cards that contain Astral's memories and are able to possess the people who hold them. Now Yuma and Astral are on a mission to recover the Numbers cards, but to do so, they'll have to win them from other duelers who want to use them for their own gain.
Is it any good?
This seemingly straightforward plot is complicated by an influx of rotating characters, many of whom have uncertain motives that put their loyalties in question. Not only that, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is excessively flashy and loud, and the dialogue often sounds like an instruction manual for viewers who go on to play the card game at home. Characters often explain their moves as they make them (playing one card before the other to maximize attack points, or overlaying cards to combine monsters' powers) in an unnatural manner that actually detracts from the overall enjoyment of the show.Kids who come to the plot partway through the story may struggle to keep up with characters and their place in the overall picture. Add to that the fact that it incorporates some of the players' memories in flashback scenes that aren't easily distinguished from the present-day happenings, and it's clear this isn't a great choice for drop-in viewing. The bottom line? There's no shortage of TV options for grade-schoolers, and among them are plenty more that exceed this one's standard for quality content.
The Good Stuff
Messages: The story centers on an ongoing battle over a set of cards with mystical powers, and many of the combatants seek them out of greed and a thirst for power. One story line follows two brothers' efforts to stay together through trials that threaten to separate them.
Educational Value: This series intends to entertain rather than to educate.
Role Models: Some of the characters demonstrate positive qualities like loyalty and perseverance, while others use manipulation and stealth to reach their goals. In some cases it's difficult to know what a person's motivations are.
What to watch out for
Violence & scariness: Confrontations center on draining an opponent's "life points," which results in the player looking and acting lethargic and exhausted, but the duels themselves are carried out by monsters summoned by the players from the cards they carry. There's some hitting and shoving on the humans' part, but the heavy stuff is left to the duel monsters. Pain is illustrated by exclamation points radiating from the point of impact.
Sexy stuff: Not an issue
Language: Verbal threats and name-calling ("pathetic," "lazy," and "hunks of junk," for instance).
Consumerism: The show relates to a game of the same name featuring cards like the ones the characters use in battle. Many scenes resemble a video game, with a running tally of points gained and lost by each player as the duels play out, and the players often explain their duel strategy, presumably for the benefit of players at home.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Not an issue