The most underrated anime in Yu-Gi-Oh The franchise actually has a main character opposite to Yugi. This anime is Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, the fourth series in the franchise, focusing on aspiring young fighter Yuma Tsukumo and his soulful alien companion Astral. Although it follows many of the same plot rhythms as the previous series in the franchise, Yuma is completely different from the main characters that came before him.
In all the previous Yu-Gi-Oh series, the main characters were all good fighters. Of course, while Jaden from GX and Yusei from 5D’s are naturally gifted players, with Yugi it’s a bit different. Although he appears to be a great fighter in his own right, in all of his most important duels, Yugi has let the soul of an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh take over. In many ways, Pharaoh is the real protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh, even if the series’ final battle is a great display of Yugi’s maturity as a gladiator. Yuma, although seemingly similar to Yugi, is in many ways the opposite of him.
Yuma is Yugi’s rival that makes Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal great
While Yuma and Astral have a similar relationship as Yugi and Pharaoh, Yuma is a much worse fighter than Yugi. Unlike Pharaoh, Astral cannot possess his young friend despite being a better duelist, which makes Yuma’s early duels difficult to watch. This is not helped by how goofy and childish Yuma is, a huge contrast to Yugi’s much quieter and more mature nature. However, while these personality traits make Yuma hard to like at first, they serve as a great base for his building and growth as a gladiator and his character. It’s one of the best parts of the series. This makes Yuma’s final fight with Astral even more satisfying on a character level than the original series’ final match.
Unfortunately, Yuma’s original character, while necessary to make the series as good as it was in later installments, caused many to drop the series in the first place. This is a real shame because while its early installments may have been a bit goofy like Yuma himself, the later installments ended up being some of the darkest and most enjoyable in the series. These arcs have Yuma grappling with moral questions that Yugi has never encountered in his series, which is part of what makes him arguably an even better protagonist.
While that can easily turn negative, being opposite to Yugi is actually Yuma’s biggest trait. The Yu-Gi-Oh franchise never really showcases a bad gaming gladiator again, which is a real shame given how compelling Yuma is. Yu-Gi-Oh Fans who want a series with a really unique main character should give it a go Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal a chance because its difference from the original series really makes it one of the best anime of the franchise.