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Seize the wind, Playmaker!

"Seize the wind - Into the VRAINS"
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Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS is the sixth series in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. It began airing on May 10, 2017 as part of the Spring 2017 Anime lineup and concluded on 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 "Celebrity Duelists".

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However, a mysterious group called the Knights of Hanoi is 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.


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

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    #–D 

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The ace monsters summons and attacks are animated this way, though off-model episodes have them animated normally. The clash between Decode Talker and Gouki the Great Ogre in episode 5 is rendered in full CGI. For non-ace monsters, Dotscaper is always animated in 3D in summoning sequences.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series is based in a world roughly 10 years from "now", most likely 2027 (the series premiered in 2017).
  • Aborted Arc: Thanks to the series ending, some plot threads are left dangling:
    • Blood Shepherd's investigation on SOL Tech creating their own high-performance Ignis was quietly forgotten after Ai became the Final Boss.
    • Windy's origin's fate after the car accident is currently unknown, though the characters operate on the belief he's dead.
    • Revolver's hinting after Earth's death that there is a spy working for him in SOL Technologies is never brought up again.
    • Pretty much everything about SOL Tech like Queen's current state after being defeated by Ai. There’s also unknown information about SOL Tech's other higher-up staff members after hyping them up as an Evil Corporation.
    • Yusaku's Link Sense is not given an explanation as to how he got it.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: There exists one under LINK VRAINS where unnecessary data flows. This is where the Tower of Hanoi is planted by Dr. Kogami.
  • Acoustic License: Characters always fight during a data storm while speeding at high speeds or at the center of a data storm. In real life, it should be impossible to hear anything since the high winds drown out their voices. It can be excused since everything is virtual and they do have chat settings shown early in the show.
  • Action Prologue: The series starts with the Hanoi's raid in the Cyberse World, before cutting to Playmaker's battle with a Knight of Hanoi.
  • Adult Fear: Children getting kidnapped and forced to duel in order to get food will strike fear in every parent's heart. One child lost his parents trying to look for him after many months and another became an Empty Shell from the trauma and had to be put in a psychiatric ward for many years.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Lightning and Windy gave Ai a chance to willfully join their side in enslaving humanity then attempts to capture him anyway for reprogramming after he refused. Negotiations broke down further after Revolver crashes the party and the Knights of Hanoi literally wrecking the whole place. It ends with Windy nearly terminated by a virus and Lightning uses this to reveal his motivations and declare war against humanity.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Ignis are believed to have a chance to turn against humanity by the Knights of Hanoi so they sought to get them terminated before it happens. It's shown only Lightning has this problem and the rest would have a beneficial relationship with humanity. Later, Windy was reprogrammed to hate humanity by Lightning.
  • Alien Sky: LINK VRAINS has a faint background of a circuit board serving as the sky. It's more pronounced in dark areas or at night.
  • All Your Powers Combined:
    • Bohman was able to absorb and integrate the Ignises attributes in his deck, creating the Chimera Hydradrive and Perfectron Hydradrive cards in the process.
    • Firewall Dragon Darkfluid is the combination of the five Ignises remaining powers after being absorbed by Bohman.
    • The Arrival @Ignister is intended to be this by Ai, as he uses all the @Ignister representing the Ignis to summon it.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: LINK VRAINS, depending on the location, either looks like the real world or a large city with a sky in shades of different colors. The rebuilt LINK VRAINS has landscapes of pastels of green, purple, and blue. Mirror LINK VRAINS has a red/purple sky and background motif in order to differentiate it from the real one.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The series concludes with little more than a Stinger showing Ai's supposed revival in his eye form, unaware of what's going on in his surroundings.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Revolver gets his right arm bitten off by Ai, but it regenerates shortly after he logs out of Link VRAINS.
    • In the final duel between Revolver and Playmaker, both risk their life by activating Storm Access, sustaining injuries, and a severed hand in the process. Both recover in just a short time, with Ai using part of his data to repair Yusaku's and Dr. Kogami sacrificing himself to fix Revolver's
  • Animation Bump: Episodes animated by Noh Gil-Bo are beautifully done, but expect either a recap episode or a drop in animation quality before or after that episode.
  • Anti-Magic:
    • Fire prison completely negates all activated Cyberse type monsters from the hand, field, or graveyard. Affected monsters on the field cannot attack, cannot be targeted for attacks, and cannot be targeted by card effects, but if the monsters leave the field, the card is destroyed. As Revolver puts it:
      Revolver: "It's as if Cyberse doesn't exist!"
    • Go's second skill, aptly called Anti-Skill, completely negates the opponent's skill and lets him draw two cards in exchange.
    • Autorokket's effect once targeted by a link monster is to send one spell or trap card to the graveyard.
  • Anyone Can Die: VRAINS has a logout system that will force a player to log out if they take too much damage as a safety precaution. That doesn't stop people from getting turned to datanote  and put in a coma if they lose a high stakes duel. Played straight with the Ignis and the Cyberse inhabitants.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • It's still a virtual world, but Link VRAINS became a Class 0 after the Knights of Hanoi activated the Tower of Hanoi and turning duelists trapped inside the system to Data in order to destroy the network. Then it happened again after Mirror Link VRAINS was discovered and thousands of duelists logged in and got trapped inside again to see what happened.
    • Ai's existence will lead to a Class 3a no matter what he does to prevent it as shown in Lightning's simulations.
  • 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. Varis 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.
    • The Gore, playing on wrestling tropes, counts 1-2-3 in his duels.
    • Blue Angel's Skill, Trickstar Trick, 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 neutralize 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, The Gore 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'.
    • OP2, "go forward", has the 1-2-3 count in its lyrics.
    • The 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 The Shepherd revealed to be Ghost Gal's older half-brother, there are now three sibling pairs in the show, all of different dynamics: blood siblings (Kolter brothers), step-siblings (Zaizens) and half-siblings (Kenneth/Ema).
      • Speaking of The 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
    • Skye has three avatars: Blue Angel, Blue Gal 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.
    • Nearly every relevant characters are wiped out and turned to data in LINK VRAINS three times in the show.
  • Arc Villain:
    • Hanoi Arc: The Knights of Hanoi led by Varis.
    • Ignis Warfare: Lightning, Windy, and Bohman.
    • Ai's Rebellion: Ai and Roboppi.
  • 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.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: All avatars are this and it makes sense since players are allowed to customize it. For instance, Blue Angel sports a blue motif, uses an idol themed deck to signify her status as an idol, and her Blue Maiden avatar change this to a water-themed deck to symbolize her friendship with Aqua. Soulburner's hairstyle, scarf, and color scheme represent fire which is appropriate as he uses a fire-themed deck. Playmaker wears a dark latex suit with Tron lines, and his deck is filled with dark Cyberse-type monsters.
  • 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 names.
  • Back to Base Form: In his last duel against Ai, Yusaku uses Firewall Dragon Darkfluid, the monster that defeated Bohman, and Accesscode Talker and while the latter was able to tie against Ai's The Arrival Cyberse @Ignister. Yusaku defeats him with Decode Talker the first Link Monster he used in the series, while Ai tries to defeat him with its Evil Counterpart, Dark Templar @Ignister.
  • Bad Future: Ai being the only Ignis left guarantees this no matter what he does to prevent it.
  • Big Fancy House: Revolver is shown to be living in one spacious house in the vicinity of Stardust Road, in contrast to Yusaku's Horrible Housing.
  • 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 but everyone believes he will return one day.
  • Book-Ends: The first monster that Ai and Yusaku obtain in the data storm is Decode Talker. It's also the last Extra Deck monster Yusaku summons to defeat Ai.
  • Breaking Old Trends: This series tries to subvert as many Yu-Gi-Oh! trends as it can:
    • The series runs on pure science and doesn't have any mysticism the series is known for as it focuses on realism. In the previous series, it's shown the monsters have souls in some way but all monsters in VRAINS are pure holograms, barring Cyberse Monsters which are AI with free will.
    • 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.
    • Unlike the previous series where the protagonist has a circle of friends and friendship is the main theme, Yusaku started as a revenge-driven loner who is fit to be a Kaiba-expy than a Yugi-expy.
    • Varis meanwhile has the Knights of Hanoi who he is close with, unlike the previous rival-positioned characters who are loners or aloof at the start.
    • Soulburner breaks the trend of Joey-expies as he didn't viciously betray or brainwashed to fight the protagonist. He's also the first one to win against a Kaiba-expy.
    • Firewall Dragon and Decode Talker are the first ace monsters of a spin-off protagonist whose neither Dragon nor Warrior type, thus breaking the pattern of the spin-off protagonists' ace monsters. Visually though "Firewall Dragon" does resemble a Dragon, and "Decode Talker" does resemble a Warrior so they only break the pattern semantically.
    • The English dub doesn't censor death and death threats as much, Monster Attributes and Spell & Trap icons are translated and is the first spinoff to have an opening instrumental theme since the original series.
    • This is the first series where the female lead barely shows interest in the main protagonist nor there any romantic moments in the show, barring Ai's canonical confession
    • Linkkuriboh is the first in the Kuriboh line to be an Extra Deck Monster.
    • Lastly there are no Tournament Arc, a manga adaptation, a protagonist/rival team up, or any Battle Royals/Tag Teamsnote .
  • Breather Episode: Episode 60, where Plucky Comic Relief Naoki duels against Emma in a hilarious battle.
  • Broken Ace: Yusaku is a really strong duelist, but his ordeal left him psychologically scarred and finds no joy in dueling. He only duels to take revenge against his captors, and he continued to suffer nightmares from the torture he went through even after receiving years of therapy.
  • Call-Back:
    • In Playmaker's first fight with the Knight of Hanoi, Ai remarks that AI's don't pray they calculate their success. The final fight against Revolver in season one has Ai praying they get good cards.
    • Yusaku says that Revolver will be back after their last brutal fight in season one. The final episode has Revolver saying Playmaker will be back.
  • Camera Abuse: Varis punches the camera to interrupt Windy's ranting while summoning Borreload Savage Dragon.
  • 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!"
  • Cast from Hit Points: Another tactic used by those who use the "Storm Access" skill, they can activate card effects that halve their life points to lower their life points below one thousand. This is helpful since their opponents are wary of the skill's activation requirement and avoid it hitting the threshold.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Even more so than your usual Yu-Gi-OH! standards thanks to its older cast and nearly every male character is a Bishounen
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Tower of Hanoi, which was deactivated since Revolver's second loss to Playmaker, turns up again though Revolver only intends to use it to locate the rogue Ignis.
  • Chess Motif: SOL Technologies has this theme going on with their stockholders, with Queen being the boss of SOL Tech, and Knight, Bishop, Rook as the higher-ups, and Akira is considered as the Pawn by them.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: In season 1, the main characters are represented by the avatar colors. Blue Maiden is blue, Playmaker is green while Go is yellow. In season 2, Go's yellow is replaced by Soulburner's red.
  • 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
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What happened to the kids in the Lost Incident. All of them are forced to duel, and if they lost they'll be shocked and won't be given any food. Jin has the worst of it as Lightning subjected him to additional torture till he broke.
  • Color Coded Timestop: The timestop is shown in a bluish-purple tint when Dr. Kogami stopped the destructive data storm in order to give Varis a chance to use his Storm Access Skill.
  • Condescending Compassion: Both Zaizen siblings are guilty of this:
    • To prevent Playmaker from stealing data from their database, Akira tries to relate to his Dark and Troubled Past by telling his own dark past to dissuade him from pursuing revenge and leave everything to him instead. This only enrages Playmaker and Kusanagi, as he doesn't really know how the pain of the Lost Incident really messed up their lives.
    • In episode 110, Aoi sympathizes with Ai on losing all his Ignis friends and shares how she's saddened she can't protect Aqua. Ai gets angry and accuses her of replacing Aqua with Pandor before saying he doesn't hold it against her.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu:
    • Varis's three lieutenants effortlessly defeat thousands of AI duelists within seconds but were defeated by Gore, Blue Angel, and Playmaker in a one-on-one duel. They did the same with the Echoes standing guard in the fake Cyberse world.
    • Soulburner had trouble fighting a pair of Bit and Boot when they first encountered them. Later, he and the other heroes never have a problem fighting the hordes of Bit and Boot whenever they appear, but most of them are defeated by Bohman and Lightning.
  • Continuity Nod: When Unknown Link Summons "Gaia Saber, the Lightning Shadow". The old Link Summoning animation is used, but without the jump to another world part, highlighting that this came from before the animation change.
  • Cool Board: All the duelists ride floating hoverboards named D-Boards during Speed Duels.
  • The Cracker: Nearly half of the cast are hackers. Yusaku is one himself, as he is shown to easily crack databases and erase videos of himself over the internet.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Ghost Gal's duel with the Brave Battler in episode 60 ends with the Brave Battler getting utterly annihilated, to the surprise of exactly nobody.
    • Playmaker's battle with Kenmochi and Yoroizaka has him one-shotting the two easily. Also, Unknown's duel with a Knight of Hanoi, which he finishes by dealing with exactly 4000 damage in 1 attack.
  • Cyberpunk: VRAINS appears to be this thanks to its futuristic themes.
  • Cyberspace: VR Duels are set in 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, cybercrime, and the dark side of online gaming. Unusually enough the dub actually embraces this - the openings which are standard for a Shonen anime (i.e. optimistic and upbeat) are replaced with a cinematic, dissonant opening meant to invoke tension and the humor isn't dialled up as much as was the standard for previous dubs.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • Playmaker and Varis's second Master Duel has the Tower of Hanoi only have less than an hour before completion, Playmaker overwhelmed by the might of Varis'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 Varis's ruthless assault. Lampshaded by Varis, who points out for the second time that neither of them has a new path to walk towards.
    • The fight in Mirror LINK VRAINS has nearly the entire party turned to data, all the Ignis except Ai absorbed inside Bohman, a lot of people stuck and used as fodder to power up Bohman's Neuron Link with more curious people coming in, while all attempts to stop it failed. And Yusaku had to contend with Ai's sacrifice while trying to defend himself as Bohman spams his Storm Access skill to keep him in defense. It's only thanks to all the Ignis giving up their power to aid Playmaker that Bohman was defeated.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Nearly every major character (and Naoki) had their day in the limelight. For some of them, it's also A Death in the Limelight.
  • Decomposite Character: Yusaku, Skye, Gore, and Varis represent a part of Seto Kaiba: Yusaku has his Jerkass attitude, Skye has his wealthy background and position as an adopted family member, Gore has his orphaned upbringing, and Varis has the rest of him (opposition to 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 Cyberpunk 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 come from the Knights of Hanoi ruining his childhood (resulting in 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.
    • Kolter himself is a deconstruction of Shay right down to having the same backstory. However, unlike Shay, who became an easily irritable Jerkass after losing Lulu and wants to get Revenge on Academia for it, Kolter is good at hiding it.
    • Akira deconstructs big brother Duelists like Atticus, Shark, and Declan, as these three are supportive towards their respective younger siblings. In Akira's case, he's too protective of Skye to the point of going against her interest in Charisma 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 Alexis and Rio are deconstructed by Skye, 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 Skye, as the consequences 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!
    • Gore is a deconstruction of Attention Whore characters like Chazz, Jack, and Sylvio: all three of them are like this either due to their fame, ego, or both. On the other hand, Gore's attitude and reputation as a Charisma Duelist stem 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: Chazz, Jack, and Sylvio Took a Level in Kindness after being defeated by their respective main characters, while Gore Took a Level in Jerkass out of his Pride and jealousy towards Playmaker.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: The requirements for activating Storm Access is having less than a thousand life points, so those who use this skill let their life points fall to the threshold or use effects to lower their own life points.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • In a rare case happening to a protagonist's ace monster, Firewall Dragon's barely appears in season 2 and 3 as Yusaku added more Extra Deck monsters to his deck, to the point that Konami even markets Decode Talker as Yusaku's new ace monster. See Real Life Writes the Plot.
    • Spectre went from being Varis's right-hand man following him everywhere and having a scene in almost every episode to mostly being a background presence who got defeated offscreen and a single line in the epilogue.
  • 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: Spectre made Aoi believe that she has a chance to save him. However, it was only a façade as Spectre's Sunbloom Doom made him nowhere near losing. He even mocked her, calling her a pathetic girl who couldn't become a Blue Angel who defeated the villain. He then tore up the copy of the ''Blue Angel'' book and burned the shreds. The story meant the world to Aoi and gave her comfort after her parents died and to see it be so carelessly destroyed, in addition to her being so cruelly manipulated and mocked just moments ago, destroyed her before being absorbed in the tower.
  • 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. Varis'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 in 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.
  • Digital Avatar: While in LINK VRAINS, duelists can create a customized avatar form and can even duplicate avatars, as seen when multiple individuals copied "Playmaker's" appearance to impersonate him, and when Emma Bessho assumed "Blue Angel's" appearance to lure "Playmaker" into LINK VRAINS. Some take on non-human forms with the case of Frog, Pigeon, Eagle, the unnamed Penguins, and others used monster card avatars.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Along with Spear Counterpart. Skye and Gore use decks with heavy feminine and masculine overtones, respectively. Skye has Magic Idol Singers and Gore 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 Gore while the Knights of Hanoi manipulate Blue Angel.
  • Doomed Hometown: Cyberse World, Ai's homeland, is razed by the Knights of Hanoi. While he was able to lock it away in the nick of time, another party was able to destroy it while he was gone, and all the Ignis scattered in different directions.
  • Double Knockout: Playmaker and Varis tied twice in their duels. Then Bohman and Playmaker tied in their second duel. Then Varis and Lightning tied in their duel but Lightning cheated by turning Jin's consciousness to 1 life point. But technically it still counts as a loss.
  • Dramatic Irony: Akira, Emma, (Ghost Gal) and Skye 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 . Skye then states that his true nature doesn't change and that they should know if he's nearby because of that, but Akira and Skye already met him in real life and he is even Skye'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.
  • Dub Name Change: While most characters have their name intact in the dub, there are some who got their name changed:
    • Aoi Zaizen - Skye Zaizen. Her Blue Girl avatar is called Blue Gal
    • Shoichi Kusanagi - Cal Kolter
    • Jin Kusanagi - Jin Kolter
    • Takeru Homura - Theodore Hamilton
    • Emma's Online Alias went from Ghost Girl to Ghost Gal
    • Go Onizuka - George Gore/The Gore
    • Kenjo Dojun - Kenneth Drayden. His alias went from Blood Shepherd to The Shepard
    • Revolver - Varis
    • Kyouko Taki - Clarissa Turner.
    • Haru - Harlin
    • Charisma Duelists - Celebrity Duelists
  • Duels Decide Everything: The rules of the VRAINS system mean that anyone that wants to capture an Ignis has to duel the Ignis or the person who has it. This forces the villains to challenge Playmaker instead of stealing Ai through other means, even if Playmaker is captured and can't do anything to defend himself.
  • Duel to the Death: After the Tower of Hanoi was activated, anyone who lost a duel against the Knights of Hanoi gets turned to data. But Death Is Cheap and all villains released them after they're defeated. The same thing happens against the fights with Bohman's faction in Mirror Link Vrains and Ai.
  • Dull Surprise: Neither Yusaku nor Kolter 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.
  • Dummied Out: In-Universe. There is a section of the rebuilt LINK VRAINS that is still unfinished and not accessible to normal players. This is where Bohman runs off to prevent Playmaker from pursuing him as the security blocks him from entering. After getting the layout from Ghost Girl, Playmaker and Soulburner have to shake off the bounty hunters stationed in here before discovering Windy's domain at the end of the dummied out corridors.
  • Dwindling Party:
    • The final arc of the first season becomes this as all who can fight Hanoi go down one by one. First, Ghost Gal is defeated by Varis and sent to the Tower of Hanoi, next Kitamura is defeated by Spectre and sent to the tower as well, it's not long before Blue Angel is beaten by Spectre, followed by Akira's sacrifice to ensure Playmaker won the duel. It gets worse as Yusaku regroups with Gore while he is dueling and Gore 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.
    • Ai's betrayal arc has him picking off nearly all secondary characters who fought, leaving Playmaker, Soulburner, Varis, Blue Maiden, and Kolter as survivors.

    E–M 

  • Early-Bird Cameo: Baira is seen next to a doctor talking to Akira while he is watching Aoi in the examination room.
  • Empathic Environment:
    • In Yusaku's second fight against Bohman, the skies turn darker and darker as the fight turns brutal. A storm brews once Bohman unleashes his rage after revealing he's the real Yusaku left behind in the VR world.
    • In Soulburner's fight against Revolver, it's raining to showcase his and the other's stagnation with the Lost Incident. But after a heartfelt talk with him with the latter and a little pep talk from Flame in his mind, he finds a reason to move on, then the rain finally stops and the sun shines after.
  • Enhance Button: Yusaku discovers a video of a man being dragged into his duel disk and a woman hiding behind a pillar while it's happening. By enhancing a grainy screenshot of her, they were able to discover that Baira is one of the Knights of Hanoi.
  • Enemy Mine: Varis teaming up with Yusaku, Soulburner and Blue Maiden is this. While he still wants to kill their Ignis, he knows that Lightning and Bohman are the more serious threats at the moment.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Discussed by various characters and is one of the main driving forces of the show.
    • Varis and Dr. Kogami believe that by giving the Ignis free will, they will turn against the human race and start supervising and controlling all humans. They set out to kill them for this reason.
    • Lightning thinks of this as a mutation and can't comprehend why the other Ignis chose to side with humans, so he hatches a plan to unify all Ignis to prevent this and plans to kill everyone else that doesn't share his beliefs.
    • Ai once again confirms this as one reason for his Self-Sacrifice Scheme since he started to question why he should adapt to humans and he's afraid of turning into another Lightning or Bohman once Yusaku dies. He points out that Roboppi, who gained free will thanks to his backup, immediately started to look down on humans.
  • Everything Is Online: Nearly everything is connected to the network, and to a lesser extent, to LINK VRAINS. For example, it's shown early on that the latest models of duel disks store cards digitally and blackboards are able to connect then show real-time feed in LINK VRAINS. This is weaponized by the Knights of Hanoi; the Tower Of Hanoi would act as an EMP bomb that will wipe everything once it's completed, even technology not connected to the network.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: In the first season, Ryoken's voice goes even deeper whenever he's in his Avatar.
  • Evolving Credits: The dub intro always retains the part of the first Japanese intro that focuses on Yusaku - the Eye of Wdjat fading into Playmaker, the six Ignis forming the logo, Yusaku walking down the streets of Den City (which is, starting with the first season 2 intro interspersed with background patterns), Ai coming into view in his Ignis form (except in the Season 3 intro), Yusaku transforming into Playmaker and Playmaker drawing a pattern with his fingers about to draw a card. The rest changes according to the current Arc Villain:
    • Season 1 features the Knights of Hanoi and Yusaku fighting against them with Decode Talker and Firewall Dragon.
    • The first Season 2 intro uses footage from the second Japanese intro, specifically Yusaku facing off against The Sheppard, the introduction of Soulburner, the showing off of the six Code Talkers (unlike the Japanese intro, Cyberse Clock Dragon sadly stays shaded in the background) and a quick appearance from Bohman. From this intro onward the ending portion with the logo is changed to a distant view of the Tower of Hanoi (also sourced from the Japanese intro).
    • The second Season 2 intro uses footage from the anime itself showing off the protagonists fighting the Ignis, while also being a Spoiler Opening because it shows off Firewall Dragon Darkfluid at the end.
    • The Season 3 intro (besides the removal of Ai from the starting portion) uses footage from the third Japanese intro.
  • Exact Words:
    • Exploited by Blood Shepherd, who has his AI tell only some of the effects of his cards in order to take advantage of his opponents never checking for themselves.
    • Earth agrees to tell what he knows about Bohman if he's defeated by Playmaker. He bluntly reveals he doesn't know anything about him and is the first time he's ever heard of Bohman.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Invoked with Go Onizuka's heel turn as Dark Onizuka, complete with a dark mask and rougher play style as part of his new gimmick. This turns into a real heel turn against Playmaker in season 2, complete with ditching his wrestling attire for a bounty hunter attire.
    • Ai does this in Season 3, stating his wish to follow Lightning's footsteps against humanity.
  • Fighting Your Friend:
    • Lightning sets up Playmaker and Kusanagi to fight each other to weaken their spirit and create a rift between the two. Although Kusanagi expects this and secretly requests Yusaku to defeat him, and Playmaker passes out from the stress soon after.
    • Yusaku ends up fighting Ai still trying to convince him to stop his plan and instead hide away even after Ai's increasing crimes. But Ai is that dedicated to terminate himself so Yusaku reluctantly defeats him.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Yusaku started off treating Ai as a hostage and casually threatens to delete him if Ai ticks him off, which is often. Then it's revealed that Ai was the AI-based on him and actually has free will. The two slowly became friendlier after Ai saved Yusaku as penance, which earns Yusaku's trust that he sets him free after the battle is over. Once Ai comes back the two seamlessly work together well even if Yusaku still keeps blowing off Ai in their friendship moments. By the end of the series, Yusaku admits that Ai is the best partner he ever had that Ai's Face–Heel Turn and death emotionally devastates him.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Playmaker ponders why Revolver is feeling confident despite having no Monsters while GO's Field is swarmed with Gouki Link Monsters, and later concludes that Revolver has a Set card which will break GO's resolve. Turns out the card is Mirror Force.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The scene where Ai says he's starting to hate humans after learning Earth's death becomes more important after he turncoats and wishes to continue Lightning's plans. Although this is just an excuse for him to Suicide by Cop.
    • All those times that Yusaku was getting observed in Episode 1? While it's obvious that it was Ai watching him it's revealed he was silently goading him to become stronger and become his sword and shield to fight the Knights of Hanoi.
    • Faust warns Playmaker in their fight that Ai shouldn't be trusted before he's turned to data. Come season 3 Ai does a Face–Heel Turn and proceeds to wipe nearly every secondary characters, including Faust.
    • Windy's prank has Echo transform into a giant monster who attacked the Cyberse World to scare Playmaker's group. Turns out Windy is part of Bohman's faction and it's the same monster Bohman used to destroyed the Cyberse World as revealed in his fight with Soulburner.
    • In episode 3, Yusaku's class professor is teaching about computers and talks about the binary game Tower of Hanoi before we hear Yusaku's thoughts. 30 episodes later, Dr. Kogami and Revolver launches the Tower of Hanoi program.
    • Ai's existence always leading to a Bad Future is hinted twice:
      • First when Bohman, after being defeated, says he closed the Ignis' future when he sided with humans and hopes they won't regret their decision.
      • The second is during Pandor's battle, she asks if they think it's impossible for AI and humans to coexist, he admits he doesn't know the answer to that, but hints it's impossible for him.
  • Floating Continent: The rebuilt LINK VRAINS is composed of diamond-shaped floating planes of land and buildings arranged like floating microchips to fit the cyberpunk theme.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The main plotline focuses on Yusaku's fight against the Knights of Hanoi, the second focusing on the mystery of the Ignis and Sol Technologies' involvement with it. The third line focuses on Aoi's struggles with herself and growth. The fourth line gives focus on the rotating major characters and their motivations. All of this converges and gets tied up at the end of season 2 with season 3 the fall out of everything.
  • 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 Gal makes a program within 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 Kolter 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.
    • Earth's forum message to Ai in episode 66 has the flavor text of Evilswarm Heliotrope written backward in the message body.
    • In episode 68, the address flame gives to Kusanagi is an anagram of "Into the VRAINS" and "68".
  • From a Certain Point of View: Akira tells Gore 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: VRAINS is an abbreviation for Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Network System.
  • Future Spandex: Playmaker's bodysuit, and most outfits in LINK VRAINS, are pretty much based on TRON: Legacy outfits.
  • Gambit Roulette: Lightning is adept in adjusting his strategies to make everything work out to his advantage. One, saving Playmaker to distract Revolver from finding out the Cyberse World's destruction happening at the same time. He reprogrammed Windy, turning him against humanity and Windy losing is a factor for Soulburner's defeat and Flame's absorption at Bohman's hands. He even anticipated Bohman's defeat and left a message to Ai to show that AI and humanity will never coexist, driving Ai to his Despair Event Horizon.
  • Giant Flyer: Cracking Dragon, which the Knights of Hanoi uses to fly around LINK VRAINS.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Villanous version. Unsuccessful in capturing Ai from Playmaker, the Knights of Hanoi was forced to use the Tower Of Hanoi plan to try to take him out one last time, knowing that this will release a surge that will annihilate the entire Internet and everything and anyone connected to it.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Ryoken visits Café Nagi a few times to update Yusaku and Kolter on the situation with the Ignis and even gives Yusaku a program to defend himself. It's also a way for them to interact without being detected by Lightning. Emma/Ghost Girl also visits once but didn't know that it was Playmaker's base of operations and that he was sitting beside her.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: The factions are separated into three:
    • Playmaker's faction as the good. while Playmaker and Kusanagi started out wanting revenge against the Knights of Hanoi, circumstances made them the heroes of LINK VRAINS, and people who want the coexistence of humanity and AI to happen joined them later.
    • The Knights of Hanoi and SOL Technologies as the bad. The former is a Well-Intentioned Extremist willing to harm people for the greater good and the other is a Mega-Corp who wants the Ignis for money and their own ends.
    • Lightning, Bohman, and Windy are the evil, wanting nothing more than to subjugate humanity under their thumb.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The audience can see Yusaku getting shot by a tank, albeit silhouetted, and it cuts to Ai's reaction before we see his body on the ground.
  • Grand Theft Me: Bohman accuses Playmaker of accidentally doing this, claiming to be the real Yusaku Fujiki who was left behind. It's only Fake Memories given to him by Lightning.
  • Gratuitous English: "Into the VRAINS!"
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Whereas 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.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The Ignis were programmed with Artificial Intelligence capable of learning, but by the time of the series have developed their own personalities and free will that Dr. Kogami wants to kill them before they turn against humanity. Roboppi is a straighter example, it went from a simple cleaning robot to obtaining a personality and free will the more Ai tinkered with its programming.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The Knights of Hanoi has no reservations when it comes to destroying all the Ignis, willing to get their hands dirty to make sure of it. The only guilt they felt was for creating them in the first place and that the Tower of Hanoi will affect millions of innocent people. Likewise, Lightning and Windy share the same sentiment. They use the Hanoi's attacks as a threat to wage a war against humanity and take over the remaining ones under their control.
  • Hacker Cave: Café Nagi, which serves as Kusanagi's base of operations. Yusaku has a hidden one in his room.
  • Healing Factor: As the duels usually happen in LINK VRAINS, any damage or wounds that would be severe in the real world will easily heal in seconds.
  • Heel–Face Turn: A literal example, invoked towards the end of GO and Genome's Duel. Described as evolving into a new GO Onizuka, Dark Onizuka discards his mask, then follows up by activating Gouki Face Turn to destroy Gouki Dark Mask and turn Dark Thunder Ogre back into Thunder Ogre.
  • Hero, Rival, Baddie Team-Up: Playmaker's team, The Knights of Hanoi, and Akira, Go and Blood Shepherd representing Sol Technologies team up in order to take down Ai after his defection.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Ai really loves to do this as he saved Yusaku from trouble no less than three times.
    • To help Playmaker win, Akira sacrifices himself by touching the vines and infecting himself with the virus (and presumably gets absorbed into the Tower of Hanoi like Blue Angel did) to Spectre's surprise.
    • In episode 60, Soulburner takes the bait instead and bumps Playmaker out of the way from Blood Shepherd's trap.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Lightning's base is actually a mirror copy of Vrains so carefully coded it takes reactivating the Tower of Hanoi and turning it to a powerful scanner in order to find it.
  • History Repeats: Soulburner and Revolver open their turn the same exact way back in their unfinished duel back in episode 83, only this time Revolver plays his hand.
  • Hive Mind:
    • Bohman's Neuron Network makes him hear all the consciousness he absorbed inside him and foresee all the possible outcomes in a duel.
    • Pandor is connected with four copies, allowing her to share information to her other copies.
  • 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.
    • For some actual hacking, Emma's attempt to use a backdoor to access SOL Technologies' data banks features a lot of Rapid-Fire Typing and Viewer-Friendly Interface to illustrate her hacking, then encounters a data storm that forcefully made her abort it.
    • The most egregious example is in episode 16 where Yusaku hacks SOL Technologies' database by navigating an underwater-like maze while connected to a line-shaped program keeping him undetected, then battles an AI duelist once he's discovered.
    • In a flashback, Emma, Akira, and Blood Shepherd chase an evil hacker then confront him in a gunfight inside the network different from LINK VRAINS, with the hacker somehow turning a hacking program into a bomb.
    • The rebuilt Tower of Hanoi's method of network scanning to find the enemy base is depicted as a powerful explosion before the outline of Mirror LINK VRAINS slowly separates from LINK VRAINS.
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • Ai often behaves flirtatiously and demonstrates overblown, clingy affection for Yusaku such as blowing him kisses and demanding praise, although this is often Played for Laughs and ignored/rejected due to Yusaku's cold nature.
    • Much of Ai and Roboppi’s early interactions in season 1 count as this, with them often being seen doing something rather... suggestive sounding under Yusaku's bed. Roboppi also gets jealous of Linkuriboh for being “lovey-dovey” with Ai, and declares the Duel Monster their rival.
    • Once, in episode 21, when Ai is left alone at home, he jokes that Yusaku, who is hanging out with Kusanagi at the time, is away because he’s off being lovey-dovey with “the hotdog guy”.
    • In episode 27, Naoki, after being given Playmaker's Cyberse Wizard, has some very interesting fantasies of Playmaker, whilst looking like a character right out of a Shoujo anime, complete with long lashes, sparkles, and Love Bubbles, encouraging him. In episode 60, Naoki states that he considers Playmaker his soulmate.
    • During the final episode, Ai reacts to Yusaku rejecting his fusion proposal from the end of the previous episode with a comment about being dumped.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Revolver reveals he was the one who corrupted Blue Angel, not Playmaker as Akira believed. In exchange for the cure, he offered to duel Playmaker with Ai as the ante. He says he doesn't care who the hostage is as long as it lures out Playmaker.
  • 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.
    • The Mizunumas and their gang hold Kiku and her phone hostage so they can coax Takeru into coming out and confronting Ryujiro in a Duel.
    • Lightning holds onto Jin and Spectre's data to force Revolver to stop attacking him and winning.
  • Hostile Weather: Data storms are this. They're data materials transmitted from the Cyberse world which usually takes the form of tornadoes, with stronger variants like tsunamis and cyclones. It's noted to be really dangerous as there is a chance of it becoming unstable which swallows up all things in its path and only those with "Storm Access" skills can safely ride and escape them.
  • Hourglass Plot:
    • The series starts with Ai hunted down by the Knights of Hanoi and SOL Technologies before captured/saved by Yusaku before teaming up to fight the two groups. The final season has Ai turncoat and become the final villain while Café Nagi, the Knights of Hanoi and SOL Technologies team up to stop him and Yusaku was the one to end his life.
    • Early Yusaku was a Jerkass loner obsessed with revenge while pushing away potential allies as Ai, while untrustworthy at the start, is friendlier, goofy, and not taken seriously by everyone. Come season 3, the dynamic is reversed: Ai acts similar to early Yusaku as he wants revenge for his friend's deaths and shuts down everyone's attempts to make him stop. Yusaku became friendlier, has opened up with his allies and realized that revenge is not the best way to go. It helps that Ai tells Roboppi to shut up a couple times during this time, in a Call-Back to what Yusaku would often say to Ai earlier in the series.
  • 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.
  • I Know You Know I Know:
    • Played for Laughs in Lonely Brave's first duel with the Knight of Hanoi. Both tried bluffing they know what the other is planning to do to hide their mediocre cards.
    • Revolver's schtick. He's always able to predict all his opponent's moves and play them right to his hand. Best shown in his final fight against Playmaker, where he anticipated Playmaker countering his mirror force card and sealing his Topologic Bomber Dragon and countered both attempts.
    • Since he knows that everyone will try to take out Judgement Arrows, Lightning prepares counters whenever someone attempts to steal, destroy, or negate the card.
      Ai: "He has a counter to a counter to a counter!"
    • Ai knows every strategy that Playmaker used all over the series so he was able to easily counter Playmaker's moves. The only reason he lost is that Playmaker used a few cards unknown to him and he refused to simulate the duel out of honor.
  • Info Dump: Episode 43 fills the audience in on exactly what the deal is with the Lost Incident and the reveal of Revolver's true identity. Episode 71 deals with the tension between the Ignis and humanity and is the start of the Ignis warfare.
  • Inside a Computer System: The premise of VRAINS, people can live and duel inside a Virtual Reality setting.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Any Ignis and human relationship is this. Averted at the start when Yusaku only considers Ai a useful hostage, then they turn into Fire-Forged Friends later on.
  • Invincible Hero: Yusaku never loses a Duel even once, with the exception of flashbacks. The only times he "lost" are against Ryoken/Revolver and Bohman, who forced their respective Duels to end in a Double Knock Out. Justified too, because Yusaku was literally tortured into being stronger.
  • Invisible Parents: Everyone's parents are either offscreen or dead. Conveniently, all housekeeping is handled by Robot Maids.
  • Irony:
    • The Knights of Hanoi did eventually reach all their goals, but all but one of their goals were indirectly accomplished by their enemies save for Varis tying with Lightning to avenge his father.
    • Playmaker had been searching for the Knights of Hanoi for years with no clue of who they are. Turns out they are near the enemy's base all along and Revolver is even a customer in Café Nagi.
    • Ryoken/Revolver, who would come to be Yusaku's enemy ten years after the Lost Incident, was the one who motivated Yusaku with the "three reasons" mantra, and gave him the strength to move forward to a new path. Ryoken himself lampshades this trope.
      Revolver: "How ironic. I'm your enemy, but I gave you strength."
    • Season 2 reveals that during Hanoi's last-ditch effort to destroy the Cyberse, another unknown faction secretly lead by one of the Ignis themselves managed to destroy the world and almost seized the remaining Ignis.
  • 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.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: SOLtis, an android that helps with everyday life is accused of this by several workers who lost their jobs.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • After Lightning and Windy] trap Playmaker and Ai, the former says he can't let them go since they heard their discussion, and the latter comments that it sounds like a villain's dialogue.
      Windy: Hey, that's a villain's dialogue.
      Lightning:I thought it was logical dialogue.
    • Ai lampshades his ability to turn duels around after being on the edge of losing in his fight with Pandor, even asking himself if he's actually weak in dueling.
  • Last of His Kind: Ai became the only living Ignis left after the fight with Bohman.
  • Light Is Not Good: Lightning is the mastermind of all the bad things happening, and his creation follows a light theme.
  • Love Chart: Non-romantic variant; the official website has relationship charts on the characters page, separate ones for both Den City and LINK VRAINS.
  • Kick the Dog: Ai defeating Blue Maiden and Akira then erasing the latter in front of Blue Maiden to let her feel the agony of being alone cements his position as an enemy to his former allies.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Every single Ignis except Ai is killed after the final battle against Bohman.
    • Roboppi is given a Mercy Kill after malfunctioning during his duel with Soulburner.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Windy disposed of his own origin by setting him up in a reckless car accident caused by a malfunctioning AI.
  • 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.
    • Soulburner has his own skill that acts like this: Burning Draw. While it has the caveat of lowering his life points to 100 and it doesn't give him new cards, he always draws the cards he needs to win. Lampshaded in his final fight with Revolver, the card he drew is also called Burning Draw which gave him enough cards to win the duel.
  • Magic Skirt: Blue Angel's skirt never flips or show anything even after her dress is torn and she lands upside down on the pavement.
  • Magic Versus Science: VRAINS has a heavier focus on science than the previous entries, even more so than ARC-V.
  • Male Gaze: Episode 13 and 14 has some provocative shots of Emma whenever the camera pans over her body. Naturally, the dub cuts out most of the shots.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Nearly everyone's reactions when Ai reveals himself to be the one who put Queen in a coma and declaring his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Matrix Raining Code: The dub uses this to censor any violence within LINK VRAINS.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Several of them.
    • The "Tentacluster" prototypes are this for SOL Technologies during Kitamura's stint as Chief of Security in Season 1.
    • The BitBoot army who serve under the Lightning/Bohman faction in Season 2.
    • The Echoes who serve Windy, also in Season 2.
  • 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 secretly 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 declares 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.
  • Merchandise-Driven:
    • You'll know which character will win if they reveal Link, Ritual, Fusion, XYZ, and Synchro monsters that are booster packs covers to be released in the future while the show is airing.
    • Revolver and Soulburner's second duel is the most blatant use of this trope, a two-parter commercial showing off the cards and combos of their structure decks.note 
  • Mercy Kill: Soulburner finishes off a malfunctioning Roboppi as it's program is breaking down at Playmaker's request
  • Me's a Crowd:
    • Playmaker has several impersonators who have the same avatar as him but none of the impostors do a good job impersonating him.
    • Ai's endgame is to create Ai-clones and divide his free will to everyone before spreading them everywhere. Even Ai doesn't know what will happen after activation, only that all of them will experience different experiences to flesh out their personalities.
  • Microtransactions: Apparently exists as seen with the card shops all over VRAINS. Hilariously, Ai made VRAINS free for all people to us after his takeover in Sol Technologies.
  • Mission Control: Kusanagi and Akira to Playmaker and Sol Technologies respectively.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Once again, there are multiple factions with different motivations and resources involved in the central conflict of the story:
  • Morton's Fork:
    • Bohman's fight with Soulburner has two:
      • Bohman chaining the trap card "Card of Pandora" to Heatleo's bounce ability so it always targets the card and draws two cards.
      • The final turn, he activates Judgement Dice which will drop Pyro Phoenix's attack to 0 if it rolls any other element but fire. And if he did, "Hydradrive Gravity" moves Pyro Phoenix to Paradox Hydradrive Atlas's Link arrows, changing it to water and drop its attack to 0.
    • Ai set up his duel in such a way that if Ai wins, Yusaku will disappear and Ai's consciousness will be divided into his clones; If Yusaku wins, he will return all the consciousness he stole before disappearing. Either way, Ai will disappear and there's no way of stopping this.
  • Multicolored Hair: Taken Up to Eleven as every avatar has two or three different hair colors.
  • Mundane Solution: Just like in the real life, Yusaku stops Revolver from hacking into their computers by shutting off the power.
  • Mundane Utility: Kusanagi made Ai wear a flyer and fly around Den City in Yusaku's altered duel disk to advertise Cafe Nagi.
  • Musical Spoiler: You don't hear the "Life Points hitting 0" sound effect when Lightning tied with Revolver after activating Eques Flamma's effect. Also counts as Five-Second Foreshadowing
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Den City has a location named Stardust Road, Stardust being the name of an archetype utilized 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.
    • Eagle wears an eyepiece with a yellow lens and red frame that resembles a D-Gazer on his left eye.

    N–S 
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: In Playmaker and Bohman's final battle, the Knights of Hanoi finished a program that will destroy the Neuron Link, Ghost Girl and Akira sacrificed themselves to activate the shutdown inside and get everyone out, and everything looks good as the Link was shut down. Bohman restored the Neuron Link quickly through sheer will forcing Ai to sacrifice himself to stop it one more time. Then Bohman restored it again shortly after and almost defeats Playmaker with 100 lifepoints to spare.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted in the English dub, where death is usually heavily censored by 4Kids. Here it's still heavily toned down, though both occasions where Kiyoshi Kogami is said to have died retain heavily implication that he has perished. However, the death of Windy's partner is confirmed in the dub, while his survival was left ambiguous in the Japanese version.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: A part of Jin's consciousness Lightning turned into extra life is Jin's memories from the Lost Incident. So Jin forgot his trauma and was able to recover after regaining consciousness.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: In the first season, Kusanagi is the nice big brother figure, Ai is the In-Between attention-loving Butt-Monkey, and Yusaku is the Jerkass Anti-Hero who's a jerk most of the time to Ai.
  • Non-Action Guy: Kusanagi acts as a Voice with an Internet Connection as a backup for Playmaker, and is helpful in hacking and getting him out of sticky situations. Akira is also this, as he's usually the one leading the hunters sent to capture Playmaker. Although flashbacks shows him working with Ghost Girl and Blood Shepherd as a bounty hunter.
  • Noodle Incident: In the dub, Ai mentions he got lost in a straight corridor once.
  • 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.
  • Off-Model: All over the place thanks to its production troubles, even more so if there is an Animation Bump before it. Examples are Bohman's really wide shoulders in one frame in episode 94 and the entirety of Blue Girl vs Soulburner.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Playmaker, Soulburner, and Revolver fights against Ai's clones with a lockdown strategy, but it cuts to Robbopi's battle against Blood Shepherd and Ghost Girl and Ai vs Go Onizuka. It's implied they were able to beat the lock within a few turns but only the final attack is shown.
    • At the same time, it's not shown how the real Ai was able to beat Spectre and the three lieutenants in just a short time.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Track 14 of SOUND DUEL 2, "Punishment", is filled with Latin vocals.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: Bohman can make everyone and everything glitch, showing off his newfound power and control over LINK VRAINS after his assimilation to the network.
  • Online Alias: Almost everyone has one, but there are exceptions. Go, Akira, and Spectre 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.
  • Parental Abandonment: Yusaku and the Kusanagi sibling's parents are not shown anywhere. Revolver's father was put in a coma for years. Akira and Aoi lost their parents in a car crash. Takeru lost his parents in a car accident while looking for him. Blood Shepherd and his mother got caught in a car accident that caused his mother in a coma and his father abandoned them thanks to work and had a new family before dying. Seems like the series likes to kill parents with car crashes.
  • Party Scattering: Lightning scattered everyone in Mirror LINK VRAINS since he is aware of the power of bonds, so he uses a Divide and Conquer strategy to pick them off. It works.
  • Player Killing:
    • The Knights of Hanoi can delete accounts of the losers and prevent the deleted players from logging in again.
    • There are bounty hunters who are able to conduct "PK" duels, and if the one challenged loses, they will lose their accounts. Blood Shepherd is one such PK Player.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Playmaker tries to tell Akira that he's innocent by telling him "that card (with Hanoi's program) was already in Blue Angel's deck before we dueled," meaning a third party slipped it in before the duel. Because Playmaker doesn't specify Aoi's innocence, Akira thinks Playmaker is claiming that Aoi put the card in the deck herself (and thus is working with Hanoi).
  • Portmanteau: The title is actually a combination of 3 Acronyms of "VR"note , "AI"note , and "NS"note .
  • Power Level: Parodied with Ai's power ranking on the cast. While the ranking is mostly accurate, Ai put himself on top of them all and placed Playmaker way below everyone else while bragging the latter only looks strong thanks to him. He also placed Roboppi even lower than Playmaker.
  • The Power of Friendship: Averted at the start, but slowly comes follows this but still downplayed compared to the previous spinoffs.
  • Public Secret Message: Earth posts as "Mr. Earth Ignis" in an anonymous forum that he wants to meet Playmaker. Sol Technology and Kusanagi initially dismiss it as a hoax but Ai confirms that it's something the real Earth would do.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Bohman is finally defeated after a grueling duel and all the people absorbed into the Neuron Network revive, but Ai was unable to save his fellow Ignis from being absorbed into Bohman, leaving him the last Ignis alive. To rub salt in the wound, Lightning reveals in a message that he will be unable to coexist with humans.
  • Race Against the Clock: Playmaker, GO, and Blue Angel had six hours to stop the Tower of Hanoi from activating and destroying the entirety of the network world.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Nearly all the main characters are hackers adept at typing out code really fast to type out an escape program whenever it's needed.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Firewall Dragon was Yusaku's ace card in season one then it got banned in 2018. Before that, its game-breaker status in the TCG and OCG had fans guessing it would be banned even before the anime will end. Its Demoted to Extra status in the anime supports this as Yusaku relied on other summoning methods and amassed more ace cards than any other protagonists. Then again, Yusaku not having an ace monster is still within his character.
    • Spectre Demoted to Extra is because his voice actor is unable to record his lines in season 3.
  • 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.
    • Revolver is shown dueling in a place resembling Shikisai Hill, a famous flower field in Hokkaido.
    • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spectre is a master of this as he gives scathing speeches to Blue Angel, Playmaker and Lightning after correctly suspecting what he thinks are their motivations.
  • Recap Episode: The show has seven recap episodes, and even has three recaps in its first 30 episodes alone.
  • Reconstruction: Go's duel with Dr. Genome reconstructed a lot of the arguments made by ARC-V. 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, 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 Spectre. 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.
  • Revenge: Yusaku's motivation why he fights the Knights of Hanoi.
  • 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.
    • In the first episode, a camera is watching Yusaku fight against a Knight of Hanoi five years prior, this turns out to be Ai's first actual meeting with him.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Linkkuriboh, keeping in the tradition of Kuriboh-expies.
  • Robo Speak: Earth and Roboppi speak in this manner in the dub, in contrast to their normal sounding voice in the original version.
  • 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.
    • Ai being told to shut up by Yusaku, sometimes even other characters get in the act.
  • Sadistic Choice: 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.
  • "Save the World" Climax: The story starts with Yusaku wanting revenge for his past and the first season ends with the almost destruction of the VRAINS World. The second season heightens the threat as it turns into a Human vs. AI war and saving humanity from an Assimilation Plot.
  • Scenery Gorn:
    • When the Tower of Hanoi is activated, shots of LINK VRAINS turning to rubble and data before forming a huge tower and a gigantic data storm are depicted in detail. The ruins are later shown once the main characters travel back to the old LINK VRAINS a season later.
    • The ruined Cyberse World is revealed once Ai returns after five years of running, shown again after Ai creates graves for his fellow Ignis and the last battle takes place inside a data storm on the ruins. The fake Cyberse World meets the same fate thanks to the Knights of Hanoi wrecking everything.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • Invoked by Earth. After he Link Summons "G Golem Crystal Heart", the Field transforms into a lush landscape full of green, accompanied by a waterfall.
    • The lush flower field Revolver and Lightning fights on is easy on the eyes. Once the latter activates his field spell Armatos Colosseum, petals begin falling around them as it substitutes the Colosseum walls.
  • Secret Level: Unknown and Unnamed explore a hidden dungeon said in an urban legend to contain a Cyberse deck. It didn't actually hold the deck, but the Link Summoning sequences are the clue to where the deck is hidden in the real world.
  • Secret Identity: Nobody know's who Playmaker really is since Yusaku erases all his login information and he rarely interacts with anyone outside of Kusanagi, Revolver, and Takeru. Akira and Aoi only learn his identity after a hundred episodes later.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Lightning predicting he won't have a beneficial relationship with humans in his simulations is the reason why he'll never get along with humans.
  • 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.
  • Ship Tease:
    • It's subtler compared to the other series, but Aoi and Yusaku have some moments:
      • In episode 47, Aoi approaches Yusaku while he's in charge of Café Nagi and sincerely thanks him for finding her and sending her to the hospital. Yusaku brushes it off so Aoi awkwardly orders food instead.
      • Just before entering mirror LINK VRAINS, Blue Maiden slips out of her duel board. Then Yusaku reaches out to her and grabs her hand, pulls her up, and tells her to be careful.
      • At the start of season 3, Aoi is more cheerful talking to Yusaku, even admitting she's visiting him.
        Aoi: I came here because you're nearby.
      • Later, Aoi finally finds out about Playmaker's true identity. She says he should leave the fighting to them as she knows he must be torn about Ai's defection. and shyly asks him for a handshake after.
      • The English dub injects a lot of ship tease for Yusaku and Aoi, with Yusaku saving her, then stammering that she's not that special. Ghost Gal is even a Shipper on Deck for the two, teasing Aoi that she's eager to see Playmaker again on their mission to find the Ignis.
    • Episode 15: Yusaku saves Emma after she fell from her board, which certainly surprised her. After the duel, she's shown gazing at the moon beside him, saying "The moon is beautiful tonight" which is also a poetic way to say "I love you" in Japanese. She later deletes the recordings Frog and Pigeon captured, saying it's a private moment between them.
    • In official art to celebrate Valentine's Day, Playmaker is depicted as receiving a lot of chocolates, and one box, in particular, is heavily hinted to be from Ryoken/Revolver, as the wrapping bears the same design as his earrings.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Season 3 removes all the Plucky Comic Relief in the narrative:
    • After being in the final battles for the first two arcs, Frog and Pigeon get reprimanded by their boss and never show up again until the epilogue.
    • Naoki only has a few appearances in the final arc, unlike the first two where he is always a spectator in the final battle.
    • Ai and Roboppi, the show's comic reliefs, undergo a Face–Heel Turn as the antagonists of Season 3. They still have some comedic moments here and there, but it's clear they are willing to hurt their former allies for their agenda.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Excode Talker's name is a Shout-Out to "Xcode", a software application used by Apple Inc.
    • Powercode Talker's attack animation, as well as its finishing pose, resembles the Giga Drill Break attack from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
    • 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.
    • 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 of 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!"
    • Ai is shown dancing the Caramelldansen in episode 15.
  • Shown Their Work: While the series relies on Hollywood Hacking and Viewer-Friendly Interface to make it easier for the general audiences to understand, it does a good job to sprinkle actual computer terms and processes that anyone with a moderate understanding of programming can figure out.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Playmaker brutally shuts up Spectre after Akira sacrificed himself to avoid dragging down the former, and says his dueling always wins before proceeding to do that.
  • 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, mostly involving Aoi.
  • Skyward Scream: Yusaku does this after Ai's sacrifice to stop the Neuron Link. And again in the finale after Ai dies in his arms.
  • 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 seems to become more towards the middle.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Covers the entire scale, starting with all household AI on the Brick or Robo-Monkey level. The Ignis are somewhere between god-like levels (Lightning) and ridiculously human ones (Ai), capable of complex thought and showing emotions. Roboppi starts off at the Robo-Monkey level and slowly goes higher the more Ai tinkered with its programming. Unfortunately, it can't keep up with it's growing intelligence and broke down soon after.
  • Spaghetti Western: Revolver and Blood Shepherd's encounter is styled this way, two gun-themed avatars dueling in a desert. It has the old western standoff between the two with Blood Shepherd attempting to shoot Revolver with his arm cannon.
  • 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.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Soulburner follows Crow's footsteps as he quickly became the deuteragonist, overshadowing older characters like Go Onizuka and Blue Angel, even replacing Go as part of the Power Trio. He gets two battles in season 3 whereas Playmaker and Revolver only got one each.
  • Status Buff: Judgement Arrows, the card used by the villains to double the attack of the linked monster on the battle phase.
  • Standard Evil Organization Squad: The Knights of Hanoi before their reformation in season 2.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Faust suggests that they confront Playmaker and Soulburner and steal their Ignis in the real world as they know their real identities and the rules of LINK VRAINS won't apply there. Revolver shoots this down and says that matters in LINK VRAINS should be settled in the virtual world.
  • 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.
  • Stock Footage: Playmaker's transformation sequence is reused in different episodes to save costs. Some summoning animations are reused, e.g. Revolver, Soulburner, and Ai's similar XYZ summon animations and Revolver's synchro summon. Soulburner's transformation sequence is a copy and paste of Playmaker's, right down to the poses and lighting effects.
  • Story-Breaker Power:
    • For skills, Bohman's Master Storm Access is an overpowered skill. It's used in a master duel, which is not part of the rules and can be used once per turn, even on the opponent's turn. Adding the first Link-5 monster that Bohman created, Playmaker winds up needing outside interference to shut this Skill down a few times just to survive.
    • Ai's boss monster The Arrival Cyberse @Ignister is the only known Link-6 monster in the card game. It's a nigh-invulnerable monster that gains 1000 ATK from the number of monsters used to Summon it, and a further 1000 for every card on the field, reaching 7000 ATK minimum and is regularly above 10000 ATK, even reaching 20000 ATK once Judgement Arrows activates. It can also selectively become immune to all card effects or just the opponent's for greater versatility and destroy a monster once per turn, then Summon a non-targetable Token to further power up The Arrival.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Go Onizuka in Season 2 who became jealous of Playmaker's success and joined SOL Technologies as a bounty hunter to get back at him. He reverts back in Season 3.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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 the one you would buy in real life.
    • SOL Technologies gets flack from the media and public since it's obvious that they are involved in the battle with Go and Playmaker.
    • Baira makes a note to Blue Angel that due to her popularity she knows her Trickstar deck inside and out and can immediately counter it.
    • I Just Want to Be Badass is deconstructed when Naoki and a random watcher wants to fight the Knights of Hanoi while watching Playmaker, only to get cold feet when an actual Knight challenged them the moment they jumped in LINK VRAINS. Both only survive thanks to Playmaker saving them.
    • 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 a 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 organization's crimes after fulfilling their mission of terminating the Ignis, even if it leads to their arrest.
    • After LINK VRAINS has been the site of two fights that ended in people sent to comas, the company has to shut it down in order to prevent more PR disasters.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The Knights of Hanoi can see everything happening within LINK VRAINS, which is how they are able to keep up to date with the current events in episode 59. But it seems they can't access forbidden zones or any place created by the Ignis as they can only speculate if Playmaker created a secret party in Windy's realm.
  • Super Window Jump: It's virtual reality, but Blue Angel does this in her duel against Baira after getting thrown into at least four layers of walls. Playmaker does the same thing in his fight with Faust.
  • Tagline: "Take a step forward and try!"

    T–Z 
  • Taking the Fight Outside: Ai challenges Pandor this way and both fight on top of a moving airplane as he’s always wanted to say this line:
    Ai: "Let's take this outside punk!"
  • Taking You with Me: This is used to deny Playmaker wins.
    • In the first duel with Revolver, Revolver Summons Capacitor Stalker to the Main Monster Zone pointed to by Topologic Bomber Dragon's upper Link Arrow so the latter can destroy all cards in both players' Main Monster Zones, and take advantage of the former's effect to force a tie between him and Playmaker.
    • In the second (which also doubles as a justified case), after Revolver notices that Kogami's heart has stopped beating due to his sacrifice, he quickly finishes off the Duel between him and Playmaker by using the Effect of Drop Draco, in combination with his newly acquired Topologic Gumblar Dragon's Effect, to deplete his own and Playmaker's LP to 0.
    • Bohman invokes this in his third Duel against Playmaker. He forces a DRAW between him and Playmaker by banishing "Hydradrive Scabbard", halving the damage he takes from "Quantum Dragon's" attack, and inflicting the same amount of damage to his opponent.
    • Implied during the final duel. If Ai wins, Playmaker will be erased and Ai's free will be still be divided into his clones, ensuring both of them will die.
    • How Lightning defeats Revolver. He activated a monster effect that hit both of them with enough damage to end in a draw.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted for once; flashbacks show that Yusaku had therapy as a child and Jin is in a psychiatric ward for many years. Although Takeru is implied not to had any therapy and became a Hikikomori, and later a thug in order to cope with the trauma.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Revolver extra linking five Link-4 monsters with 3000 attack points, can't be targeted with effects, and if a card is in the hand at the end of the turn, will send 3000 damage is this. It took Playmaker at least three asspulls in order to win this one.
    • The Tower of Hanoi's activation will act as a giant EMP that will destroy every network and device whether its connected or not, bringing the whole world back to a time without computers and possibly killing millions. Yusaku and Kusanagi comment that this is too excessive just to terminate Ai.
    • Lightning tries extra linking in order to lock Spectre out of his Link Summons. Spectre reverses this and creates an "Extra Link- Full Mode", filling his field while powering up his monsters at the same time. Too bad Spectre lost this one.
  • Time Skip: There are three time skips after every arc, each one skipping three months.
  • Title Drop: "Into the VRAINS!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: There is a news report about people who cannot log out in LINK VRAINS and falling into comas, the last thing one should do is to log in and see what's happening, right? That's exactly what thousands of players did, and discovered too late that they can't log out themselves along and sucked into the Neuron Link with the ones trapped inside. Bohman and the remaining Knights of Hanoi even lampshade how Bohman used human foolishness to his advantage.
  • Totally Radical: The English Dub uses a lot of modern slang and fandom terms like dabbing and shipping all over their dialog, to the point it almost sounds like an abridged series. For example:
    Blue Angel: "I could so swipe left on you right now."
    Knight Of Hanoi: "The only brave thing about you is that you are willing to dab in public"
  • Transformation Sequence: Some characters undergo a change in appearance in this manner when logging into LINK VRAINS. Only Yusaku/Playmaker and Takeru's/Soulburner'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.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Many times Playmaker realizes that he's about to walk into an Obvious Trap, but usually chooses to walk into it for a chance to further his agenda, or to save someone.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Playmaker's theme receives two remixes, "Playmaker (Re-arranged)" and "The Last Duel".
  • 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.
  • The Unfettered: Revolver. He won't stop trying to kill off all the Ignis even if it's shown that some of them did nothing wrong and even want to cooperate with humans.
  • UltimateGamer386: Playmaker became famous after saving LINK VRAINS from the Knights of Hanoi and is quickly considered to be the best duelist by everyone, even his enemies. Unlike other examples, Yusaku doesn't care about this since his main focus is Revenge and learning about the Lost Incident than popularity. His status is used against him in his final duel with Bohman, where he uses everyone's knowledge of his dueling skills to dominate most of the duel.
  • 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.
    • Yusaku is the only duelist who wields Cyberse-type cards at the start of the series, as others who wielded it are stated to be wiped out by the Knights of Hanoi before. Then Revolver uses his skill to gain the Topologic cards, the only Cyberse cards not created by an Ignis.
  • 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.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Bohmans's raison d'etre is to combine his and all of humanity's consciousness in order to make a better world.
  • 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.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The series begins with The Knights of Hanoi and Revolver attacking the Cyberse World.
  • Villain Takes an Interest: In his own words, Revolver admits he became obsessed with finding Playmaker's identity after he realizes that it's the same kid he saved ten years ago.
  • Villainous Rescue:
    • Revolver saves Playmaker from Akira's trap in episode 8, but only to fight him in order to capture Ai.
    • He saves Playmaker again after he and Ai walked into Lightning and Windy's trap. But he didn't free him until Soulburner came in with the protection program.
    • Lightning was the one who saved Playmaker after he fell off the bridge on the way to the Tower of Hanoi.
  • Villain Respect:
    • Revolver develops this with Playmaker, initially dismissing him as one of the Knight of Hanoi's many enemies to becoming more interested once he learned his connection with the Lost Incident project. Playmaker is the only duelist around who could conceivably match him in a fair duel and sees him as a necessary ally against Lightning and Bohman. He forbade Faust from touching him and Soulburner in the real world to keep things fair and even gave his Borreload Furious Dragon as a farewell gesture.
    • Bohman too treats Playmaker with respect as his origin after their second fight. Once Yusaku defeats Bohman for good, he declares that Playmaker is his ultimate rival and congratulates him for winning before bidding him farewell.
    • Bohman also respects Blue Maiden, calling her fighting style beautiful and that she did her best even after knowing she will lose the fight no matter what she does.
    • Soulburner impresses Bohman that he's willing to remember him after their duel, and is disgusted with how Windy, and to a certain extent, Lightning sullied their duel.
  • Virtual Reality Warper:
    • Revolver has been shown to effortlessly control Data storms, alter Vrains to look like Hell for a duel, and once claimed to be able to single-handedly destroy Vrains all by himself.
    • Once he connects into LINK VRAINS, Bohman gains the ability to control the whole LINK VRAINS and use Skills (something that is only supposed to happen in Speed Duels) in Master duels.
  • Virtual Sidekick: The striking majority of duelists have AIs installed in their duel disks, whose job is to act as a Combat Commentator. Among them there are a few cases that stand out.
    • Ai and Flame, both of them being Ignis AIs, have the ability to emote and aren't restricted by their programming. As a result, they can do anything from getting in the way during dueling to aiding their companions (Yusaku and Takeru) unprompted. Their relationship develops from mutually beneficial partnership to friendship. Later Aqua starts acting as a companion to Aoi. Yusaku and Ai in particular stand out because rather than Ai being the emotionless robot, it's Yusaku who's stone cold and analytical with Ai being the one who freaks out.
    • Blood Shepard has specifically programmed his AI to lie as part of his strategy, because he knows that everyone takes AIs at their word. Ironically, Revolver doesn't have an AI because he doesn't trust them.
    • Go Onizuka gives this trope a particularly sinister twist. He downloads the Ignis AI Earth in his brains, and essentially cannibalizes it to enhance his dueling.
  • Visual Pun: In one scene, Ai turns blue while Specter is talking about Blue Angel's blue love gimmick (Aoi no Ai). The Japanese word for blue is Aoi and love is Ai, making it Blue Love.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ai and Flame. Both bicker a lot but will worry about each other if they're in trouble.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's hard to talk about Lightning and Windy without spoiling anything. Same goes for Ai and Roboppi's Face–Heel Turn during the final season.
  • 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 remaining 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 gets control of SOL Technologies 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.
  • Wham Line:
    • Episode 11: Revolver reveals the Ignis are AI with free will.
    • Episode 71: Lightning reveals he is the one who destroyed the Cyberse world through Bohman.
    • Episode 98: Lightning reveals that he was the one to put the virus on Dr. Kogami, not SOL Technologies as everyone believed.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Episode 47: The unknown Duelist activating a Link Spell Card, an unheard-of Spell Card variant which, like Link Monsters, has its own Link Arrows to allow for the Summoning of Monsters from the Extra Deck to Main Monster Zones the Link Spell points to.
    • Episode 70: After 2 episodes of being in the shadows, Lightning's partner is revealed to be Jin Kusanagi.
    • The end of episode 103 shows a pan shot of Ai's human form and a quick shot of Roboppi. in the ruins of the Cyberse World.
    • Episode 110: Ai activates "Judgment Arrows", the very same Link Spell initially curated by Lightning himself as part of his plans to conquer and control humanity.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of certain characters both major and minor are not revealed:
    • Kitamura's fate is unknown after he was turned to data by Spectre and absorbed in the Tower of Hanoi.
    • 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.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The conflict between Revolver, Playmaker, and the Ignis.
    • Revolver refuses to register all the Ignis are alive, planning to terminate them before they start turning against humans. Many times he tries to show Playmaker that Ai and the other Ignis can't be trusted to convince him to abandon Ai. He somewhat grows out of this line of thinking, as he created his own AI with free will albeit with restraints placed on Pandor.
    • Yusaku disregards Ai at first, thinking it was an AI carefully coded to mimic human expressions but slowly changed his mind after discovering Ai has free will. He learns more about Ai and the Cyberse world and desires humanity to co-exist with the Ignis, even after realizing it's nearly impossible for humans and AI to co-exist.
  • Where It All Began:
    • The first scene has the Cyberse world being razed by the Knights of Hanoi. The last fight of the series happens in the ruins of the Cyberse world.
    • Revolver invokes this trope by setting his battle against Soulburner in a virtual simulation of the Lost Incident facility. It's even the episode title.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Playmaker and Akira's Duel in a nutshell. Akira stands in Playmaker's way, promising to bring 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 Episode Flashback: Recaps aside:
    • Episode 60 deals with Takeru's past and his personal circumstances prior to departing for Den City to join Yusaku.
    • Episode 64 and 65 is all about Playmaker and Kusanagi's first meeting as Unknown and Unnamed and how the latter acquired his Cyberse deck.
  • Whole Plot Reference:
  • Win to Exit: When Mirror LINK VRAINS was found and activated, players can't log out and get trapped inside LINK VRAINS, becoming fodder for the neuron link. Once Bohman was defeated by Playmaker was the rest freed and able to log out.
  • The Worf Effect:
    • Blue Angel and Go Onizuka is said to be the best duelists in LINK VRAINS and establish their credentials by defeating the Lieutenants of Hanoi, who defeated a thousand AI duelist by themselves. Later, Blue Angel was completely trounced and humiliated by Spectre, and Go Onizuka was crushed by Revolver in order to show their prowess before fighting Playmaker.
    • Once Bohman was linked into LINK VRAINS, he put Blue Maiden and Soulburner in situations where they will lose no matter what to show how much he powered up.
    • Ai does this in the final arc, effortlessly defeating Queen, Go Onizuka, The Lieutenants of Hanoi, Spectre, Pandor, Akira, and Blue Maiden in order to establish that he's a Not-So-Harmless Villain who joins Lightning's side. Roboppi crushes Blood Shepherd and Ghost Girl to show off his evolving skill.
  • Worthy Opponent: Playmaker is considered one by all the Arc Villains, wanting to defeat him for personal reasons.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Ghost Girl reveals that set one up when she dueled Playmaker. If she won, she would take Ai from him to sell to SOL Technologies for a large sum of money. If he won (which he did), she'd give him a backdoor entry into SOL's mother computer she created by hacking, which Playmaker will use to access SOL's data bank to search for information on the Lost Incident 10 years ago. Playmaker would have to defeat/disable all of SOL's security measures inside its mother computer, allowing Ghost Girl to easily follow him to the data bank and also get her hands on the information.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Lightning planned to destroy the Cyberse World but didn't expect the Tower of Hanoi activating at the same time, so he saved Playmaker in order to distract Revolver from finding out until it's too late.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • Just when you thought things were getting much better for Jin after he is informed that the Lost Incident/Hanoi Project has been brought to a closure, an unknown yellow figure sucks his soul away and escapes into LINK VRAINS.
    • Then there's Ai, who finally gets to return home after five years of living on the run... only to find the Cyberse World destroyed and everyone dead except for Linkuriboh.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Anytime the big bad enacts his plan, expect nearly everyone to be turned into data, forcing Playmaker to save the day all by himself:
    • The first arc, the Tower of Hanoi was activated, Blue Angel and Go were defeated and Playmaker only an hour left to defeat Revolver before it's fully activated.
    • The second arc has Bohman absorbing 5 of the 6 Ignis, nearly everyone inside was absorbed into the Neuron Link and Bohman in his strongest form. It takes combining all the Ignises powers for Playmaker to win.
    • The third arc, Ai was able to get the keys to Sol Technologies while wiping out nearly every secondary character again. He created clones of himself and can only be stopped if he's defeated by Playmaker.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Thanks to it a virtual world, hair color is completely customizable and every avatar in LINK VRAINS has multicolored hair.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Lightning doesn't save Windy after his loss from Soulburner. He actually expected him to use and implanted a virus in him, which caused Flame's death.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real:
    • Taking too much damage in LINK VRAINS will have an 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 Ai's Rebellion Arc.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Season 3 is all about Ai setting up situations that increasingly paint himself as an enemy like putting Queen in a coma, turning almost everyone to data as hostages, and taking over SOL Technologies to create clones of himself. This is all to avert a Bad Future Lightning showed in his simulations as the only choices left to stop him is Playmaker killing him or disappear when his free will is divided into the clones.


Into the VRAINS!
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