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Seize the wind, Playmaker!

"Seize the wind - Into the VRAINS"

Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS is the sixth series in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. It began airing in May 10, 2017 as part of the Spring 2017 Anime lineup and concluded in September 25, 2019, spanning a total of 120 episodes. A TV special, Yu-Gi-Oh! LABO, was aired between April 5, 2017 and May 3, 2017 to introduce its characters and setting. It can be legally watched on Crunchyroll with subtitles here. This would be the last Yu-Gi-Oh! series to be adapted by Gallop, with Studio Bridge taking over for the next series.

In Den City, the advanced networking technologies created by the "SOL Technologies" corporation has produced an amazing virtual world known as "LINK VRAINS" (Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence Network System). Within the cyberspace of LINK VRAINS, duelists transform into colourful alter-ego avatars and compete against each other, with the most popular competitors making a living as online celebrities called "Charisma Duelists".


However, a mysterious group called the Knights of Hanoi are illegally hacking into the virtual world and wreaking havoc. Their goal is to find and destroy Cyberse, a sanctuary network for Artificial Intelligences hidden somewhere within LINK VRAINS.

Yet one duelist has become famous for leading the fight against Hanoi: the enigmatic "Playmaker". In the real world, Playmaker is an unassuming Ordinary High-School Student and computer hacker named Yusaku Fujiki, who is exploring LINK VRAINS for answers to a certain incident in his past. One day he captures a mysterious A.I. program being pursued by both SOL and Hanoi, one that holds the secret to Cyberse. With this, the winds of the "Data Storm" begin to blow through LINK VRAINS once again.

Has a recap page that Needs Wiki Magic Love.


Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS provides examples of the following:

  • Aborted Arc: Blood Shepherd's investigation on Sol Technology creating their own high performance Ignis was quietly forgotten after Ai became a traitor.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zigzagged. Kusanagi helps Yusaku hack but doesn't really duel, the Knights of Hanoi are largely run by adults but their leader is of indeterminate age, and Akira Zaizen runs most of the plot-relevant activity on SOL's end but mostly hires other people (though he later proves capable in a Duel against Playmaker). In short, adults help with everything except dueling.
  • Arc Number: Three.
    • When questioned why he does things, Yusaku gives three reasons for his decisions, which also doubles as a Survival Mantra for him. Revolver does the same.
    • By the rules of Speed Duels, only three monsters can be in play at a time, save for Extra Deck monsters. Additionally, Yusaku's "Code Talker" monsters are a Link-3 monster.
    • SOL Technologies has three main leaders that Akira speaks to.
    • Counting Yusaku himself, there are three groups competing for control of Ai; Yusaku, SOL, and the Knights of Hanoi.
    • Go Onizuka, playing on wrestling tropes, counts 1-2-3 in his duels.
    • Blue Angel's Skill, Trickstar Fraud, makes the opponent draw until they have three cards in their hand, which also complements her Death of a Thousand Cuts play style.
    • Playmaker is equipped with three Sphere Kuribohs when infiltrating SOL Technologies' data bank, which he uses to neutralise purple security traps.
    • Akira Zaizen's Tindangle deck is based on creatures with a triangle theme, and his Ace monster is Tindangle Cerberus (a monster with 3 heads). Taken further during his deck's debut duel - the duel takes 3 episodes to finish, and during the duel his opponent Link Summons 3 times in a row within a single turn.
    • Hanoi has three lieutenants: Dr. Genome, Faust, and Baira.
    • Playmaker, Go Onizuka and Blue Angel make up what's known as the Three Heroes of VRAINS.
    • Spectre's deck revolves around a Link-1 ace monster that can upgrade itself to Link-2 and finally Link-3. Spectre is also the third Lost Incident victim revealed in an episode that starts with a '3'. He is also the only one (excluding Jin and Miyu who have yet to duel) who lost a duel.
    • OP2, "go forward", has the 1-2-3 count in its lyrics.
    • Blood Shepherd has the following:
      • He uses a three count when doing actions. However, he also subverts it the first time by firing on two.
      • With Blood Shepherd revealed to be Ghost Girl's older half-brother, there are now three sibling pairs in the show, all of different dynamics: blood siblings (Kusanagi brothers), step-siblings (Zaizens) and half-siblings (Kengo/Ema).
      • Speaking of Blood Shepherd being third, he had three back-to-back duels from episode 77-80 and lost his life in the third one.
    • Windy is the third Ignis introduced to the series which kickstarts the Ignis vs Humans war once Lightning is formally introduced in episode 68
    • Aoi has three avatars: Blue Angel, Blue Girl and Blue Maiden.
    • Playmaker, Soulburner and Blue Maiden are foreshadowed to be the heroes of Link VRAINS for Season 2.
    • Three Ignises are for coexistence: Ai, Flame, and Aqua.
    • Synchro Summoning is the third older summoning method brought back in Season 2 and the one commonly used.
  • Arc Words: "Time stopped moving" is a recurring theme for the characters, mainly the victims of the Hanoi Project. For them, time stopped moving in that they couldn't move on, often left stuck wallowing in despair or anger. The sole exception being Spectre, as for him, time started moving when the Project happened. For the other victims, time only started moving again once they were completely freed from the Project and all that came of it, including the Ignis. Ai himself however feels time stopped for him when he failed to save his fellow Ignis, and will only start for him again once he defeats Akira and takes control of SOL Tech.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Justified, since all duelists with outright unusual names (Playmaker, Blue Angel, etc.) use those names for their avatars in LINK VRAINS. Outside of LINK VRAINS, everyone seen has fairly standard-sounding Japanese names.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ai is defeated which frees all the consciousness data of the people he defeated. But with his death all the Ignis are dead. Three months later everyone returns to their normal lives. Playmaker has disappeared, having left on a journey though everyone believes he will return one day.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • Duelists' AI assistants have a habit of making blatantly obvious statements during a Duel. Justified, as they aren't programmed to do anything more than deliver Dueling-related exposition.
    • Like in ARC-V, Duelists often point out that their opponent still takes damage even though their Monster isn't destroyed by battle due to some card Effect.
      "But you still take the damage!"
  • Casting Gag: This isn't the the first or the second time Takahiro Sakurai played a being in a digital world.
  • Central Theme: As the Tagline says: never surrender and keep trying.
  • Civil War: After Ai sealed the Cyberse away, the remaining Ignis began debating whether or not to trust humanity. After the Cyberse World was destroyed however, the Ignis split apart and began following their own agenda, escalating the dispute into a civil war.
    • Ai and Flame are pro-humanity, having developed bonds with the humans they were based on.
    • Earth is neutral, still trying to gather info on humans before he makes a decision.
    • Windy and Lightning are anti-humanity. While initially claiming to simply not trust humans, they actually see themselves as superior to humans and desire the enslavement, and later extermination, of humanity. They are even willing to kidnap and reprogram their fellow Ignis just to make certain they join their cause.
    • Aqua's stance is unknown, though she made a point of not informing Earth solely so he would come to his own decision rather than just follow her. She is for coexistence
  • Cool Board: All the duelists ride floating hoverboards named D-Boards during Speed Duels.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ghost Girl's duel with Brave Max in episode 60 ends with Brave Max getting utterly annihilated, to the surprise of exactly nobody. Also, Unknown's duel with a Knight of Hanoi, which he finishes by dealing exactly 4000 damage in 1 attack.
  • Cyber Punk: VRAINS appears to be this thanks to its futuristic themes.
  • Cyberspace: VR Duels are set in a cyberspace constructed with the latest technology.
  • Darker and Edgier: Yusaku is the first main character in the franchise who started out as a Jerkass Anti-Hero instead of a Hot-Blooded Idiot Hero or an All-Loving Hero, using Duel Monsters as weapons for his quest of Revenge. The same applies to the series itself too, as the entire premise explores Escapism, Ambiguous Disorders, cyber crime, and the dark side of online gaming.
  • Decomposite Character: Yusaku, Aoi, Go, and Revolver represent a part of Seto Kaiba: Yusaku has his Jerkass attitude, Aoi has his wealthy background and position as an adopted family member, Go has his orphaned upbringing, and Revolver has the rest of him (rivalry with the main character, opposite color scheme, dragon-like 3000 ATK ace monsters, and introduced as a villain).
  • Deconstruction: Similar to how ARC-V deconstructed many tropes found in the first four entries, VRAINS might be considered as this to the ENTIRE franchise, given the Cyber Punk and cynical themes of the said series:
    • If Yuya is a deconstruction of Yugi and the gaming anime heroes, then Yusaku is a deconstruction of the likes of Dark Yugi, Kaiba, and Yusei: First, Yusaku is a skilled Duelist similar to Dark Yugi but doesn't share the latter's ideals of Dueling and instead sees it as a grim reminder of his Dark and Troubled Past. Second, Yusaku is a Jerkass Anti-Hero like Kaiba but most of his bitterness and lack of social skills comes from the Knights of Hanoi ruining his childhood (resulting with him suffering with ASD, PTSD, and PTED) while Kaiba Took a Level in Jerkass due to attempting to get rid of his personal issues over Gozaburo's ideals. And third, Yusaku is mostly The Stoic but what makes him different from Yusei is he's standoffish, cold-hearted, and somewhat unpleasant due to being consumed with rage and hatred towards the Knights of Hanoi.
    • Kusanagi himself is a deconstruction of Kurosaki right down to having the same backstory. However, unlike Kurosaki, who became an easily irritable Jerkass after losing Ruri and wants to get Revenge on Academia for it, Kusanagi is good at hiding it.
    • Akira deconstructs big brother Duelists like Fubuki, Shark, and Reiji, as these three are supportive towards their respective younger siblings. In Akira's case, he's too protective of Aoi to the point of going against her interest in Charaisma and Speed Dueling. He's also Innocently Insensitive, as shown when he unintentionally pisses off Playmaker by telling him to reconsider his Revenge Before Reason during their Duel.
    • Little sister Duelists such as Asuka and Rio are deconstructed by Aoi, who goes into Dueling due to her "Well Done, Son!" Guy mentality over her brother, unlike the former two wanting to prove themselves independent and worthy Action Girls. This serves as a major Fatal Flaw for Aoi, as the conscequences are very severe in the form of being humiliated in front of the crowd after losing to Playmaker. And she's a net idol, no less!
    • Go is a deconstruction of Attention Whore characters like Manjoume, Jack, and Sawatari: all three of them are like this either due to their fame, ego, or both. On the other hand, Go's attitude and reputation as a Charisma Duelist stems from his desire to repay his debt to the orphanage who took care of him as a kid. Their characterizations are also opposites to each other: Manjoume, Jack, and Sawatari Took a Level in Kindness after being defeated by their respective main characters, while Go Took a Level in Jerkass out of his Pride and jealousy towards Playmaker.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • The following lyrics for the first ED (Believe In Magic) has "Akiramenai sa (I won't give up), Never Give Up Never!".
    • The summon chant for Link monsters, which involves saying Link two to three times (Link Summon, Link [number], followed by the monster's name, which may also include the word Link).
  • Despair Event Horizon: During Playmaker and Revolver's second Master Duel. Playmaker is overwhelmed by the might of Revolver's Extra Linked Monsters, to the point that it physically wears him out so badly, he's almost unable to get up and continue resisting Revolver's ruthless assault. Lampshaded by Revolver, who points out for the second time that neither of them have a new path to walk towards.
  • Determinator: Enforced as with ARC-V; the show's main theme is "Take a step forward and try!", the premise being that kids should try things out instead of giving up at the first try due to being overwhelmed by information.
  • Deus ex Machina: Inverted. Revolver's Topologic Gumblar Dragon literally has this trope as its Extra Linked Effect name, but its Effect is the opposite of the trope's definition in that, Topologic Gumblar's Extra Linked Effect destroys all cards its controller's hand and inflicts 3000 damage to them, can't be negated, and thus Playmaker can do nothing to survive said Effect... except by using Drop Frame Wedge to halve damage for every card he sends to the Graveyard.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Along with Spear Counterpart. Aoi and Go use decks with heavy feminine and masculine overtones, respectively. Aoi has Magic Idol Singers and Go has Wrestlers with animal themes. Finally, they have the two major factions setting them up to duel against Playmaker for Ignis, with SOL Technologies recruiting GO while the Knights of Hanoi manipulate Blue Angel.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Season 2 reveals that during Hanoi's last ditch effort to destroy the Cyberse, another unknown faction secretely lead by one of the Ignis themselves managed to destroy the world and almost seized the remaining Ignis.
    • Akira, Emma (Ghost Girl) and Aoi (Blue Girl) try to figure out Playmaker's identity in order to talk with him, but can't figure out who he is. Akira also states Playmaker's personality and speech in real life may be different than in LINK VRAINS, but Yusaku doesn't really hide his personality and speech that much at allnote . Aoi than states that his true nature doesn't change and that they should know if he's nearby because of that, but Akira and Aoi already met him in real life and he is even Aoi's schoolmate.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: During Blue Angel's duel with Spectre she uses a monster effect to retrieve her three copies of "Trickstar Reincarnation". In the original Japanese it's explained that she can't set the traps on the same turn, so she uses "Trickstar Treat" to set and activate them during Spectre's turn. In the English dub this explanation is cut out for no reason, with the space filled with Spectre doing more Evil Gloating, making it seem like Blue Angel made a misplay by not just setting the cards and risking the use of another trap with a huge backlash for no reason.
  • Dull Surprise: Neither Yusaku or Kusanagi bat an eye when AI regains and reveals his true form, and continue analyzing him to see if they overlooked anything. Ai doesn't appreciate not having his attention reciprocated.
  • Dwindling Party:
    • The final arc of the first season becomes this as all who can fight Hanoi go down one by one. First, Ghost Girl is defeated by Revolver and sent to the tower of Hanoi, next Kitamura is defeated by Spectere and sent to the tower as well, its not long before Blue Angel is beaten by Spectere, followed by Akira's sacrifice to ensure Playmaker won the duel. It gets worse as Yusaku regroups with Go while he is dueling and Go is defeated by Revolver, leaving only Yusaku to be the one to save Link Vrains.
    • Lightning's machinations in the Ignis Warfare arc involve deliberately splitting Playmaker's party in order to pick them off one-by-one due to their advantage in numbers, starting off with their weakest members.
  • Foreshadowing: The scene where Ai says he's starting to hate humans after learning Earth's death become more important after he turncoats and wishes to continue Lightning's plans. Although this is just an excuse for him to Suicide by Cop.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The Eye of Wdjat appears in the first OP, "With the Wind", for the first time in the franchise since GX.
    • The "source code" Ghost Girl makes a program with in episode 14 consists of text from both cards and the game's rules. This is only shown when she's actually making it, not when Yusaku and Shoichi get her message.
    • In ED2:
      • "VENGEANCE" is graffitied in red on a wall in a tunnel Yusaku is in. Fitting as Yusaku is a character motivated by revenge against those responsible for his Dark and Troubled Past.
      • "Synchro" can also be seen written in blue on the opposite wall of the same tunnel; helped that Katsumi Ono, director of 5D's, did the storyboarding for the ED.
      • "Shining Draw" can be seen on the top left hand side, written in purple.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Akira tells Go several basic facts at least some of which are known to be completely true (and some of unknown validity), but phrases what he says in a way that makes it sound like Playmaker stole something valuable from SOL Technologies.
  • Fugitive Arc: The second season kicks off with Playmaker being a wanted man since the opening of NEW LINK VRAINS, with a bounty on his head worth ₽500,000, and thus is targeted by numerous Bounty Hunters under the orders of SOL Technologies.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Network System.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • In #4, Ai recruits Roboppy and convinces them to do... it's never actually said what they were trying to do, but from the noises and their behavior it's pretty clearly meant to be sex. They do it again in episode 14, and reference it in episode 12.
    • In #6, Shoichi and AI convince Yusaku to try to get to know Aoi in order to get information from her brother. They then spend the rest of the episode teasing him about his skills with women and how attractive Aoi is.
    • At one point, Ai actually suggests that "he (Yusaku) is probably making out with the hot-dog guy." Um...
  • Gratuitous English: "Into the VRAINS!"
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Where as most Yu-Gi-Oh! series would debate the overall morality, this level of morality seems to be constant from the beginning. Yusaku, while ultimately a good person, is definitely more of an Anti-Hero and a jerk than Yugi and his successors are, and fighting for personal reasons. The characters in this series are more complex, making them look more believable and humane.
  • Hollywood Hacking:
    • Credit for showing the viewers that the camera is skipping the long, boring hours spent staring at pages of programming language, and enough appropriately placed Techno Babble to show that the writers have probably skimmed a programming book. The trope still counts due to Shoichi and Yusaku using Extreme Graphical Representation, seemingly for no reason other than to give the kids in the audience a basic understanding of what they're doing.
    • There's no way Shoichi could've broken the block featured in #4 unless he'd done it before against the exact same block and just re-ran the code he created last time.
  • Hostage Situation:
    • Faust abducts Naoki and drags him into LINK VRAINS, so he can lure Playmaker and capture his Ignis.
    • Spectre, disadvantaged thanks to Playmaker's Excode Talker sealing the Main Monster Zones pointed to by Sunavalon Daphne, reveals an imprisoned Akira in front of Playmaker, and gloats that he increasingly risks being infected by the thorny prison's virus as Spectre takes damage.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Windy initially appears to simply distrust humans and intends to create a new world for only the Ignis to reside in, but it's later revealed that he, along with the Light Ignis (Lightning), plans to create a new Cyberse World that is not only beyond human reach, but also rule over humanity from within, on the grounds that they view humanity as inferiors compared to the Ignis.
  • Interspecies Romance: Ai turns out to be in love with Yusaku, who clearly cares for him very deeply although his own feelings are never explicitly confirmed.
  • Invisible Parents: Everyone's parents are either offscreen or dead. Conveniently, all housekeeping is handled by Robot Maids.
  • Japanese School Club: Den City has a club called the Duel Club, dedicated to enthusiasts of Duel Monsters, which Yusaku joins against his will thanks to Ai.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Much like ARC-V, right off the bat the audience starts getting clues about major mysteries and dangling plot threads.
  • Love Chart: Non-romantic variant; the official website has relationship charts in the characters page, separate ones for both Den City and LINK VRAINS.
  • Magical Incantation: Unique summoning chants aside, when performing a Link Summon, the Duelist says some variation of:
    "Arrowheads confirmed! The Summoning condition(s) is/are [Link Materials]! I set [Monsters] into the Link Marker(s)! Circuit Combine! Link Summon! Come forth, Link [Number]! [Link Monster's Name]!"
  • Magic Poker Equation: The Storm Access, used by Playmaker, Revolver, Bohman and Windy, allows the user to randomly add a card found in a Data Storm to their deck. Almost inevitably, whatever they draw will usually be perfectly suited to winning the duel in a curbstomp.
  • Magic Versus Science: VRAINS has heavier focus on science than the previous entries, even more so than ARC-V.
  • Mêlée à Trois:
    • In the first season, Yusaku, SOL Technologies Inc., and the Knights of Hanoi are competing for control over Ai.
    • Exaggerated and zigzagged in the second season, as initially there were a total of 6 factions.
      • Yusaku, Ai, and Kusanagi are joined by Takeru and Flame, the two having sought out Playmaker after Flame fled the attack on Cyberse World seeking to find out the attackers' identities, Yusaku believing them to be the same group that stole Jin's conscious data.
      • SOL Tech is now led by Queen, and has hired Bounty Hunters (Go Onizuka, Blood Shepherd, Kenmochi, and Yoroizaka) to hunt down the Ignis. Blood Shepherd largely works on his own though and won't hesitate to eliminate anyone in his way.
      • An unknown faction, including Bohman and Haru, lays waste on the Cyberse World and steals Jin's conscious data. They're led by Lightning, the Light Ignis, and stole Jin's consciousness as he's Lightning's origin, now an obedient servant. Joining Lightning is Windy, the Wind Ignis, both seeing themselves above humanity and desiring to control them.
      • Akira secretely leads a splinter group with Emma and Aoi, intending on finding the missing Ignis and determining if they are a threat.
      • The Knights of Hanoi return as Revolver promised, though smaller in number and starting by breaking Baira out of prison, remaining dedicated to their mission of terminating the Ignis.
      • The remaining Ignis are attacked by Lightning's group after destroying the Cyberse world, then hunted by both the Knights of Hanoi and SOL Tech, forcing them on the run.
      • Earth remained indecisive until learning what Lightning did to Aqua, in which he decided to oppose Lightning and humanity to protect Aqua.
      • Aqua wanted to side with humanity, but after discovering Lightning's plans, was imprisoned by him until Earth freed her.
    • Later, a series of Enemy Mine narrows it down back to 3.
      • Cafe Nagi, Hanoi, Akira's group, and Aqua are forced together to oppose both Lightning and SOL Tech.
      • SOL Tech successfully captures and terminates Earth after turning Go into a Half-Human Hybrid with an AI.
      • Lightning's group officially declare war on humanity, intent on capturing the remaining Ignis and taking over. Windy is crippled after losing to Revolver, though Lightning manages to fix him.
      • For a time, Blood Shepherd served as a Wild Card, quitting SOL Tech after learning their plans for the Ignis, and refusing Revolver's invitation to join the Knights of Hanoi. He confronts Lightning himself and is defeated, with Lightning taking his conscious data upon victory, effectively removing him from the conflict.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Den City has a location named Stardust Road, Stardust being the name of an archetype utilised by Yusei Fudo.
    • In ED2:
      • One of the graffitied walls has "Synchro" written in blue. Additionally, Katsumi Ono, director of 5D's (which focused on Synchro Summoning), did the storyboarding for the ED.
      • The top left corner also has "Shining Draw" written in purple, Shining Draw being Yuma Tsukumo's ability to draw whatever card he wants while in ZEXAL form.
    • "Cyberse Magician" is an Expy to "Dark Magician". They are both magicians with 2500 ATK points and their attack names are the first part of their name + "Magic"note . Plus, they are both linked to a female version,Cyberse Magician has Cyberse Witch while Dark Magician has Dark Magician Girl.
    • Decode Talker bears more than a little resemblance to Buster Blader, down to the general armor design, color scheme and the fact that both monsters wield a two-handed greatsword and they both only have one effect, which increases their ATK by 500 (for each monster Decode points to or for each Dragon-type the opponent controls).
    • While wearing a wizard's hat and stirring a pot prior to Playmaker's first Ritual Summoning, Ai chants "Du-Du-Duel!", which sounds very similar to that of the original series' English OP.
    • When Unknown (Yusaku's old Online Alias) summons "Photon Thrasher", a monster used by Kaito Tenjo from Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, it uses a similar summoning animation just like how it was summoned in ZEXAL.
    • Unknown also used a Link Counterpart to Yugi's "Gaia, The Fierce Knight" called "Gaia Saber, The Lightning Shadow". This is the first time a "Gaia" monster has been summoned since Yugi himself.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The first season wraps up with Revolver sailing off to an unspecified location in the direction of Stardust Road after he loses to Playmaker in their second Master Duel.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Track 14 of SOUND DUEL 2, "Punishment", is filled with Latin vocals.
  • Online Alias: Most Charisma Duelists have one, but there are exceptions. Go for example.
  • Orphanage of Love: Go comes from one, and he continues to be a patron of it.
  • Outside-Context Problem: A certain unnamed faction has located the Cyberse world (something that the Knights of Hanoi - which have about a thousand hackers as members - failed to do), uses the Cyberse-Type with ease, possesses the troublesome Link Spell Card "Judgment Arrows" (a never-before-seen type of Spell Card), and can seemingly wantonly steal people's souls. Sorting Algorithm of Evil, indeed. Subverted later on as it turns out, the enemy that destroyed the Cyberse World was Lightning, one of the six Ignis and the one whom they considered their leader.
  • Portmanteau: The title is actually a combination of 3 Acronyms of "VR"note , "AI"note , and "NS"note .
  • The Power of Friendship: In this case, VRAINS deals with how friendship can make a person stand out and try new things.
  • Race Against the Clock: Playmaker, GO, and Blue Angel have six hours to stop the Tower of Hanoi from activating and destroying the entirety of the network world.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Yusaku's past shows that when he decided to fight back to reclaim his past, he grabbed his deck he hadn't touched since he was little... but as other flashbacks show, before he got the Cyberse Deck, he began his fight against Hanoi by using a starter deck like one you would buy in real life.
    • For all the Training from Hell GO underwent (part of which involved integrating an AI chip into his brain) just so he can stand a chance at beating Playmaker, GO ultimately loses to him a second time, which goes to show that Hard Work Hardly Works. In other words, grinding for days (or even weeks) on end will get you nowhere in a situation where your success is just as much a matter of chance as it is skill.
    • Even after Lightning exposes the shocking truth about Kogami's comatose state and the true responsible party, it doesn't excuse the fact that the Knights of Hanoi committed many wrongdoings against SOL Technologies and to humanity as a whole, all in the name of terminating the Ignis and avenging Kogami. Revolver states that he intends to openly confess his organisation's crimes after fulfilling their mission of terminating the Ignis, even if it leads to their arrest.
  • Real-Place Background:
    • Part of Den City, the setting of VRAINS, resembles the 109 building in Shibuya.
    • LINK VRAINS contains locations based on real life landmarks such as Rome's Colosseum, Canada's Niagara Falls, Croatia's Mali Bok beach, America's Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, and Italy's Florence.
    • In ED2:
      • The graffiti tunnel appears to be based on London's Leake Street Tunnel.
      • The statue positioned to the left of a pondering Yusaku resembles the Atlas statue in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.
  • Reconstruction: Go's duel with Dr. Genome reconstructed a lot of the arguments made by ARC-V. During it his normal entertainment style was temporarily discarded due to the seriousness of the duel, signified by him using a lot rougher tactics and brutality. In Arc-V, this never was a good thing, and any time it was not reigned the duelist in question was shown as heavily damaged or in the process of deciding to destroy everything. In Go's case however, the seriousness of his duel still played into his general disposition (as a wrestler, a Heel is still a type of wrestler), and when the method wasn't shown to be working he simply face-turned from the role and dueled his usual way again without requiring a cool down hug or a friendship speech or a 'remember who you' shout. While it was his regular entertainment style that won in the end, using the rougher style was still shown as a valid tactic, just one he doesn't use normally, but still remains in his entertainment field.
  • Red Herring: For a long time, it is believed that Aoi and Go are the origins for the WATER and EARTH Ignis' due to Aoi's Color Motif and Go's Heroic Build respectively. Season 2 shows they are not; Aqua's origin is Aoi's childhood friend Miyu, while Earth's origin is Specter. In a twist of fate, Aoi and Go end up paired up with Aqua and Earth anyway, with Aoi befriending Aqua, while Earth is integrated into Go's A.I. Chip.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Ai's suspicious motives early in the series become clearer after the reveal he was silently goading Yusaku and Kusanagi in a path of revenge against the Knights Of Hanoi five years before.
    • If one looks closely, the monster that ate the Hanoi Knight in Episode 64 resembles Ai's form when he's eating up data.
    • The Cyberse Deck that Yusaku gets in the flashback? Its created by Ai himself for him, which explains why all the cards Yusaku's Storm Access skill createsnote  are compatible with his deck.
  • Rousseau Was Right: While VRAINS might be bleaker and more cynical than the previous five installments, the villains have some redeeming qualities, The Rivals are not out-and-out bastards, and Yusaku has a legitimately good reason for his cold-hearted Jerkass attitude.
  • Rude Hero, Nice Sidekick: Yusaku and Kusanagi. While Yusaku starts out as a Jerkass Anti-Hero who has no problem speaking his mind and giving unsolicited criticism, and avoids practically all human interaction besides Kusanagi. In contrast, Kusanagi is his genuinely friendly support hacker as well as older brother figure, though Yusaku does become somewhat nicer and more willing to build bridges as the series progresses.
  • Rule of Three: Which also doubles as the series' Arc Number, with counts of three being pretty common.
  • Running Gag: In the dub, a running joke is whether or not hot dogs are sandwiches, with Kusanagi insisting that hot dogs aren't sandwiches, despite what other people say. Meanwhile, other characters say that hot dogs are sandwiches.
  • Sadistic Choice: Played for drama. Lightning invokes one on Kusanagi (despite the latter knowing beforehand that the former would attempt to invoke a Hostage Situation involving his little brother's consciousness) to trick him and Playmaker into fighting each other. While Playmaker does fulfill the promise he kept with Kusanagi about going all-out during their Duel, it doesn't end well at all; Kusanagi is terminated and Playmaker breaks down into a teary mess. Soulburner himself also cries and expresses his outrage over Lightning's underhandedness.
  • Shades of Conflict: Once again, there are multiple factions with different motivations and resources involved in the central conflict of the story:
  • Shadow Archetype: The Ignis A.I.s seem to be a shadow archetype towards their human partners:
    • Yusaku has a calm, collected, and intelligent yet aloof, cold and cynical. Ai is social, cocky, and energetic while also prone to panic in a dangerous situation like when Yusaku about to lose.
    • Takeru has a brave, passionate, and fierce personality yet has an intelligent, timid, and polite side. Flame is level-headed and straightforward yet can be overconfident, literal-minded, prideful, and blunt towards mistakes.
    • Spectre has an extremely manipulative, deceptive, cold-hearted, sadistic, and antisocial personality. Earth is very serious and honest yet socially awkward with a crush on the water Ignis, Aqua.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Code Talker Monsters:
      • Excode Talker may be a reference to Xcode, a software application developed and designed by Apple to be used in macOS.
      • Powercode Talker references Microsoft PowerPoint, vaguely supported by the positioning of its Link Arrows in that slides in a PowerPoint presentation can be switched to the left and right, and the options menu is located on the bottom left.
    • Go Onizuka is one giant homage to Professional Wrestling. His Gouki monsters are wrestling-themed anthropomorphic animals, Go himself looks like a wrestler, his debut episodes include a lot of references to wrestling, and his story (an orphan who got into Dueling to support himself, donates his winnings to the same orphanage and is a hero to the kids there) is straight from a wrestler's Kayfabe backstory while also echoing the real life charity work they do. In the second season, Go's Face–Heel Turn mirrors that of CM Punk, since both of them wanted to be respected by many, are willing to do whatever it takes to become the "Best in the World", and Took a Level in Jerkass over their jealousy towards someone else.
    • Topologic Gumblar Dragon alludes to the malicious JavaScript trojan horse file Gumblar (aka Troj/JSRedir-R) from 2009, which redirects a user's Google searches before installing rogue security software.
    • Powercode Talker's attack animation, as well as its finishing pose, resembles the Giga Drill Break attack from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
    • In Episode 30, while drawing a card from Ghost Girl's deck, Ai gives a speech referencing Domon's Shining Finger speech from Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
    • Decode Talker's final attack in Episode 46 is a dead ringer for Saber's signature attack.
    • Jin Kusanagi getting his soul sucked away by an unknown figure in yellow is reminiscent to that of a Dementor sucking the life out of its victims.
    • Lightning quotes The Divine Comedy when inviting Blood Shepherd to his palace.
    • During Lighting and Revolver's duel, Ai does Joseph Joestar's signature "OH MY GOD!"
  • Signature Move: Duelists in Speed Duels gain access to Skills, once-per-game abilities that can grant them a boon to maintain dominance or stage a comeback. It is not known how the Skill is determined, but it is apparently tailored to the duelist's playstyle.
  • Simple Score of Sadness: "Thankful Moment" (track #26 in SOUND DUEL 4) is composed of a gentle, yet sad melody, reserved for tearjerking and heartwarming moments such as Yusaku and Aoi talking in person about Ai following his start of rebellion against humanity.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While the first four entries are mostly idealistic and ARC-V zig-zags it, VRAINS is the most cynical series in the franchise thus far. However, as the series progresses, it seem to become more towards the middle.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • The series runs on pure science, has a main character who is a Jerkass, and has two new Dueling rules.
    • There are two Duel types now: Master Duels, which operate by the normal Duel rules, and Speed Duels, which are a modified version of the Speed Duel rules from Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links, except deck sizes stay the same. They also retain the Skill system from that game. Speed Duels are done on D-Boards similar to Riding Duels on D-Wheels.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • "Cyberse" has also been transliterated as "Cyverse".
    • 4K Media has "vullet" transliterated as "varrett". While 4K Media usually use names that will be used in the TCG version of the card game, "varrett" here is an exception - the TCG name for the archetype is "rokkett", meaning this one time, 4K Media translated the name on their own.
    • Prior to its TCG release, 4K Media transliterated Bitrooper as "Bitlooper".
  • Spinoff: The fifth one in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.
  • Stealth Pun: Originally it was announced that the new Speed Duel format would be replacing the previous standard format for the series; however, it was later revealed that standard dueling rules would still apply to ground-based duels. The new rules only apply to the duels taking place on hoverboards; they really are Speed Duels!
  • The Stinger: The series concludes with Ai seemingly resurfacing in LINK VRAINS once again in his eye form, three months after Playmaker defeats him. How Ai returns to life is never explained.
  • Tagline: "Take a step forward and try!"
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted for once; flashbacks show that Yusaku had therapy as a child.
  • Title Drop: "Into the VRAINS!"
  • Transformation Sequence: Some characters undergo a change in appearance in this manner when logging into LINK VRAINS. Only Yusaku's/Playmaker's has been shown. When Blue Girl teams up with Aqua, she undergoes her own transformation on-screen, into a new avatar called Blue Maiden, which looks marginally more mature than Blue Girl.
  • Unexpected Character: In-Universe; Firewall Dragon completely takes Dr. Kogami by surprise when Playmaker summons it for the very first time during his duel versus Revolver. Dr. Kogami's reaction however, borders on a Dull Surprise. Strangely enough, he doesn't seem very upset with seeing Firewall Dragon, despite working to destroy the Cyberse.
  • Unique Protagonist Asset: Yusaku's Skill is unique in that it also allows him to gain physical copies of cards for future use. This makes the revelation that Revolver has the same Skill even more impactful.
  • Uniqueness Decay: Playmaker was initially the only character in LINK VRAINS to have the Skill "Storm Access", since Ai was the one who gave Playmaker the Skill. Revolver somehow reverse-engineered the Skill and used it against Playmaker, which came as a surprise to most. Then, in Season 2, Storm Access becomes so prevalent, that one starts to expect everyone to just use it.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Revolver's first two instances of successfully using Mirror Force are because nobody, not even the audience, saw it coming. The third time he uses it, he is shown drawing and setting the card on top of deliberately baiting Playmaker into attacking, and Playmaker carefully arranges his monsters to minimize his losses. This ultimately gets subverted when Revolver uses an unmentioned effect of his own to render Playmaker's efforts moot, resulting in the trap resolving properly and blowing him out.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Yusaku, Jin, Spectre and Kengo used to be this before their Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Before the attack on Cyberse World, Aqua told Earth to think carefully on where he stands about humans, and that the Cyberse World would break apart soon. Since the attack on Cyberse World destroyed it rather than broke it apart, Ai and Earth are unsure what her warning meant.
  • We Are "Team Cannon Fodder": The cast does very little to affect the plot in any meaningful way.
    • The first arc has Aoi and Go both lose to Spectre and Revolver thus leaving Yusaku to beat both of them to save the day.
    • The second arc has Soulburner and Blue Maiden win against Windy and Haru, those victories were ultimately pointless. Haru was a sacrifice piece from the start and Bowman was still able to absorb Windy's data. Revolver lost to Lightning due to Lightning's cheating thus once again forcing Yusaku to save the day by himself. Made egregious when Akira, Emma and the remain Knight of Hanoi work to stop Bowman's cheating and all their efforts ultimately didn't hurt Bowman at all.
    • The final arc has everything work to Ai's plan. Ai is able to get control of SOL despite the cast's efforts and even Soulburner getting Ai's location from Roboppi was moot since Ai wanted Yusaku to find him and Roboppi was doomed to break down eventually.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of certain characters both major and minor are not revealed:
    • Queen is never seen again after Ai's attack on her which is especially jarring as Akira becomes the head of SOL Tech.
    • Miyu is never shown being discharged from the hospital even though Jin has made a full recovery, although Aoi does mention that Miyu is recovering.
    • Windy's partner which the show never made clear on, is either heavily injured or dead.
    • Kengo/Blood Shepard's mother isn't seen waking up from her coma despite the 5th ending showing that happening.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Playmaker and Akira's Duel in a nutshell. Akira stands in Playmaker's way, promising to bring a closure to the Lost Incident/Hanoi Project and attempts to convince him to give up on the idea of revenge, let go of his past hurts and enjoy his present, normal life in happiness. Playmaker, on the other hand, bears no mal intent towards Akira and doesn't hold it against him for being dismissive of the idea of revenge, but refuses to relent regardless and will do anything to get back at those responsible for said ten-year old incident.
  • Whole Plot Reference: A blue-and-pink haired duelist and his ghostly ally duel to thwart the destruction of an alternate dimension in a very colourful dystopia that possesses augmented reality tech. However, the temperaments of the protagonist and the supernatural entity in question have been swapped.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real:
    • Taking too much damage in LINK VRAINS will have adverse effect on a Duelist's physical brain that could potentially make them a brain-dead vegetable. An average duel might not cause that much damage, but falling off a D-Board in a Speed Duel could prove to be fatal. That is only until the Tower Of Hanoi is activated. After this, losing a Duel means getting your personality data absorbed and integrated into the Tower's program.
    • In Season 2, countless characters are killed off, to the point where Playmaker and Bohman are the only intelligent beings left in LINK VRAINS. Those who are defeated during the Ignis Warfare Arc remain comatose until the end of the season. The same thing happens during the Ai's Rebellion Arc.

Into the VRAINS!

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