Monday, January 30, 2023

Orichalcos: The Underrated Yu-Gi-Oh Arc

After I wrote my complaints about Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V, I decided it was time to go back to the start and see if the original series held up, or if it was just nostalgia. The jury is still out on that one, but I have some other thoughts as I enter the final season.

“Waking the Dragons” was one of my favorite story arcs in the original series. Better known at times as the Orichalcos arc, I feel like it’s vastly underrated by Yu-Gi-Oh fans, as it deviates from the plotline of the Pharaoh’s memory. But as you can guess I’m going to tell you why I loved it anyway.

The Problem with Filler Stories

It has no basis in the Yu-Gi-Oh manga and is 100% unique to the anime. For some, this is off-putting, just like with Noah’s virtual world. Maybe it’s because the arc deviates from the Pharaoh’s overall arc, like I mentioned before. A perspective like that can make this whole story arc seem a bit like filler. However, instead of filler, adding another story arc into the mix of what the manga shows actually avoids fillers. Plenty of anime are known for drawing out their seasons (almost every season of Digimon and Sailor Moon had at least 50 episodes). Instead of throwing in random episodes about random kids at Yugi’s school, we get a concise story with minimal filler.

Unlike storylines like GX’s graduation duels, 5D’s CrashTown arc, or ZEXAL’s Duel Carnival, we have a clear start and finish. From the first three episodes of the Orichalcos arc, we know what the bad guy’s end game is and nothing in the story deviates from that mystery, even with flying halfway across the world. And finally, by the end of the season, the Orichalcos mystery and plot have been resolved (except for flying home… but the following story arc takes care of that small detail). 

Dark Yami Yugi

Another gem from this story arc is Yami Yugi’s corruption by the Orichalcos. Other than the undubbed Toei series, which isn’t in the same canon as the first dubbed series, we don’t get to see Yami being “Dark Yugi”. It adds more complexity to his character. Like his counterpart Yugi, he has a noble streak that keeps him the hero of the story. Even in his darker moments, like ordering Celtic Guardian to knock Kaiba off Pegasus’s castle, he was acting out of desperation and misunderstanding, not darkness. On the flip side, we often see the anti-hero side to Kaiba, Chazz (GX), and even Yusei (5D’s). It makes him less three-dimensional and more relatable. 

The Legendary Dragons

I’m also a big fan of the Legendary Dragons themselves. Unlike the Egyptian God Cards that were immediate heavy hitters, the Dragons took some strategy and they were more versatile. I mean just think about when Joey first used Hermos to create the Time Wizard Mallet and his jaw dropped in disbelief. Of the three, Hermos has been my favorite for years, but I love the versatility of Critias, fusing with spell and trap cards, and I would have loved to see more Timaeus fusions (but Yami defaulted to Dark Magician Girl multiple times and he was unable to use Timaeus for a time… so there’s that).

Dominion of the Beasts

The Orichalcos arc also delved into the mythology of the monsters themselves. Like the "Dawn of the Duel" arc that followed shortly after, we see more than just holograms and Shadow Games in this story; we get living, breathing creatures that appear in “real life”. We also get an explanation of their origin, possibly related to how they ended up in Ancient Egypt too. Their realm, the Dominion of the Beasts, is another part of the Yu-Gi-Oh multiverse I suppose and it got even more exposure (or at least I assume it’s part of the same world) in the later seasons of Yu-Gi-Oh GX. But perhaps we’ll address that more if/when I rewatch GX

So while others may scoff at this story arc (or maybe not as much as I suspect), it’s still one of my favorites. Be it the Dragons or the monster mythology, I can’t recommend this arc enough. If you’re rewatching Yu-Gi-Oh, please don’t skip over this arc. It’s well worth the watch. 

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