Yu-Gi-Oh's Best and Worst Role Models for Girls
If you're a big Yu-Gi-Oh nerd like I am, you've probably already delved into the card game and the animated shows. The card game is fun, but the programs range from good to, well, not so good.
But we're not here today to review the actual shows; rather, we want to examine the female role models from each season. Believe it or not, a large percentage of Yu-Gi-Oh fans are girls. That's great, but, unfortunately, the shows are normally marketed towards guys, and often feature bland and stereotypical girls.
Don't believe me? Let's review the female duelists from each season of Yu-Gi-Oh, decide how each impacts the show, and determine whether they serve as strong characters or not!
Minor spoilers ahead.
Original Series: Téa Gardner
Japanese name: Anzu Mazak
Does she suck as a duelist?: Mostly. See below.
First, we have the original Yu-Gi-Oh girl, Téa Gardner. Unfortunately, Téa proves to be a bland supporting character throughout the series. She's kind and loyal, which are awesome qualities, but she almost always takes a backseat and relies on the dudes in the show to handle problems.
Additionally, she's notorious for her cliche "friendship speeches" where she'll rant about the divine and almighty power of camraderie. To be fair, she duels a few times (three, in a show lasting hundreds of episodes), and actually wins all of her matches. But don't be fooled into thinking she's a strong duelist. One of her opponents didn't know how to play, another has never won a match, and the third surrendered despite having the advantage.
Saying Téa's a good duelist is like taking candy from three babies and calling yourself formidable. Téa's a nice friend, but a bland protagonist who offers little in the way of character development.
The original Yu-Gi-Oh program also featured Mai Valentine (real subtle pun, I know), a supposedly professional duelist who lost almost all of her matches. Well, let's hope the next show, Yu-Gi-Oh GX, fares a bit better!
Yu-Gi-Oh GX: Alexis Rhodes
Japanese name: Asuka Tenjoin
Does she suck as a duelist?: Yes, as long as she's fighting main characters.
The next generation of Yu-Gi-Oh introduced a school called "Duel Academy"; Alexis Rhodes is supposedly one of the top students in the facility. I'll grant that she's a step up from Téa. She duels much more frequently (over ten times), and wins about half of her matches. She's also slightly more reserved and level-headed then her predecessor.
However, she's far from stellar. Alexis never really wins any important matches; we only see her defeat minor characters. Many of her monsters revolve around a generic "girly" theme of dancing, and in most episodes, she serves as a backseat character who simply frets about the main protagonist, Jaden. There's nothing wrong with expressing femininity, but Alexis gives into too many stereotypes to advance the show forward.
GX features few other notable females. There's Blair Flannigan, a spunky girl who barely receives any screen time. And that's about it. I swear, Duel Academy is 95% male. By the way, for a fun drinking game, turn on GX and chug each time the animators forget to draw Alexis's gloves.
5D's: Akiza Izinski
Japanese name: Aki Izayoi
Does she suck as a duelist?: Actually, no.
Wave goodbye to the ladies with normal hair colors. Akiza Izinski serves as the main female lead in Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, a darker show that bizarrely blends card games with motorcycle racing.
Akiza was born with supernatural psychic powers, causing many people to fear and hate her, earning her the title of the "Black Rose Witch". Thus, when the show begins, she's reserved, cynical, and depressed. However, as the story progresses, Akiza learns compassion from the main characters, and develops into a caring person who uses her abilities for justice.
And she's a surprisingly competent duelist, too. She lost to the main character, Yusei, twice (girls always lose to the protagonist in the anime), but besides that, she wins most matches. Akiza does possess a few stereotypical features (crush on the main hero, deck full of flower-related cards), but she offered a much better character than past female leads.
5D's also features Carly Carmine, an unlucky reporter, and Luna, a young girl. Both are decent characters; 5D's definitely took some steps forward in terms of portraying women. Just don't actually try to play a card game while riding a motorcycle.
ZEXAL: Tori Meadows
Japanese name: Kotori Mizuki
Does she suck as a duelist?: Yes. Badly.
Meet Téa Gardner Version 2, Tori Meadows. She comes from likely the most-disliked Yu-Gi-Oh series, ZEXAL. Tori serves a similar role to Téa throughout the series: she barely ever duels, supports the main character, and allows others to handle her problems. And when she does duel, she stinks. She never won a single match, and (of course) lost to the main protagonist, Yuma.
Admittedly, she's skilled with computers, and is a supportive friend, but just didn't offer much to the show, or to younger audiences. Girls needs to know that they can do much more than just sit back and watch.
ZEXAL also features Cathy, a girl who competes with Tori over Yuma's affection. Cathy never won a duel, either. Thankfully, another young lady named Rio redeemed the show a bit, managing to at least win half her matches. Hopefully, the most recent Yu-Gi-Oh show, Arc-V, can redeem the series!
Arc-V: Zuzu Boyle
Japanese name: Yuzu Hiragi
Does she suck as a duelist: Nope!
Last up comes female protagonist Zuzu Boyle, who proves to be a surprisingly competent character and duelist. She actually defeats the main protagonist, Yuya, in one of the early episodes, and plays a big role in the tournaments in the show. She even gets a "training arc" where she masters Fusion Summons, and always wins at least a few rounds of each tournament
Plus, she's crucial to the story, and her bracelet holds a mysterious secret; some fans fondly joke that Yuzu is actually the main character of Arc-V. She's generally kind and confident, but we also see her fall into despair and overcome it.
For her impressive dueling and fascinating character, Arc-V's pink-haired protagonist demonstrates the best role model for girls, even if she does eventually fall into a more "damsel in distress" trope.
The Yu-Gi-Oh anime basically began as a boys-only club, but gradually got better and provided more fleshed-out female leads. Give the various seasons a try and see what you think of each girl.
By the way, the show is available in both English dubbed and English subbed versions. Some anime offer awesome dubs that are as good as the original Japanese. Yu-Gi-Oh is not one of those programs; I highly recommend viewing a subbed version.
Regardless, let me know which of today's characters you prefer, and feel free to read the some entertaining quotes from them below!
Which character do you prefer?
Amusing Quotes From Each Female Lead
No matter how dark things may get, the special bond I share with my friends will always find a way to shine through!
It's time like this I wish you were back in a coma.
I'm gonna cobble you when I see you!
Take that back, you freaky cat!
I'm going to beat the crap out of you!
Questions & Answers
Who is the strongest girl duelist in Yu-Gi-Oh?
Spoiler alert for Arc-V.
I'm tempted to say Reira Akaba, who turns out to be female, especially considering her young age. However, 5D's Akiza Izinski only ever lost to one person who wasn't Yusei (who has protagonist armor), so she probably deserves the title.