Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Volume One is a manga written by Shin Yoshida and illustrated by Naohito Miyoshi. This volume was released in North America by Viz Media’s Shonen Jump imprint in 2012. The series has been rated “T” for teens; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.
The main character of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is a kid named Yuma Tsukumo. He’s a Duelist and loves playing the game, but he’s not particularly good at it. He has a pendant that was given to him by his adventurer parents before they left and didn’t come back; he regards this pendant highly, and it’s his most treasured item. At the beginning of the volume, he’s also having a strange dream telling him that he will have to give up what he holds as most important.
One day, Yuma challenges another Duelist who took his classmate Tetsuo’s deck. During the battle, the scene he has seen in his dream appears before him. By using his pendant, he unlocks a door. When Yuma returns to the duel, an apparition named Astral appears before him; it turns out that only Yuma can see him. Astral introduces Yuma to the idea of the “Numbers” and also helps Yuma to win the duel.
As the volume progresses, woes of Yuma’s victory spreads, and he’s challenged by a Duelist named Tokunosuke. Astral accompanies Yuma wherever he goes, and tries to give Yuma advice during the duel. This duel actually ends in this volume, but I’m not going to reveal the winner in order to avoid providing “spoilers.”
My main exposure to the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has been through the anime, especially seeing Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX back in the early-to-mid 2000s. While I’ve always through this franchise was a little on the strange side, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is probably the strangest series to come out of this franchise yet.
My perception of this manga isn’t helped by the fact that I was ultimately bored with the story as I read the volume. I didn’t find Yuma to be a protagonist that I felt like rooting for, and there were times when I found Astral to be a little on the annoying side. After reading the first volume of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal manga, I really don’t feel compelled to continue following this manga series; I also don’t feel a need to try to watch the anime version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal.
I think this manga series will hold the most appeal for die-hard fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise and fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal anime series. Readers who don’t fall into either one of those categories may not appreciate it very much if they try to read the series.