Requiem for the Seekers of Paradise
The DOMA Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!
When an anime series catches up to the manga it is based off, the writers in charge of the adaption generally create filler material for the fans. They make up a story line that can work with the source material but also doesn’t deviate too much from what is to come. The team in charge Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters had to go through this twice; the beginning half of season three turned into the virtual world mid-Battle City Tournament. Season four was entirely filler. The manga creator found himself struggling to wrap up the manga with as much depth as he wanted; to this day, it is a mystery where some of the earlier foreshadowing was headed as ideas had to be scraped for the end. This is relevant, as season four introduced new villains, new magic, and a story that seemed unconnected with the ancient Egypt of Yu-Gi-Oh! Because of this, season four, referred to as the DOMA arc, is regarded as the season fans generally loathe. It was an important season though, for a multitude of reasons. In fact, season four is the season I consider as one of the best and I strongly believe it absolutely belonged in the show.
Truly, You Should Be Sold on the Villian Gallery Alone
Yu-Gi-Oh!’s season four had an soul stealing biker gang run by ten-thousand-year-old CEO of Paradius and last king of the sunken city of Atlantis, Dartz, for its villains. The main three henchmen, known as DOMA’s Three Swordsmen, had backstories that had references to things such as the victims of war, corrupt court systems, and survivor’s guilt in natural disasters. They worked for Dartz, who was poisoned by a magic that lead him to destroy Atlantis and try to resurrect a dragon known as the Great Levitation with a sacrifice of stolen souls. Most of them believed people were evil and that they needed to rise the Levitation to find Paradise. DOMA’s Three Swordsmen; Raphael, Amelda, and Varon all had different backgrounds before joining Dartz, who influenced the events that lead them to join him. Though there were parts that absolutely could have been tackled better, the stories touched upon in season four were the ones with some of the greatest potential. very-merry-sioux of tumblr said, “Anyways, in terms of characters, pretty interesting. Dartz is manipulative and creepy in a level that none of the villains in the series had. His followers also had interesting backstories. Pretty good for a filler.” (very-merry-sioux, tumblr) Monandobo on reddit shared this sentiment, talking about their love for the art and the villains, expressing regret that we rarely see some of the cooler cards they showcased in circulation.
FIGHT ME, This Season Was Sprinkles on the Sundae That is Yu-Gi-Oh!
Reddit user soskyon felt differently about season four, commenting on a thread where someone was asking why some fans hate the DOMA arc. They hated that it seemed to contradict the established Egyptian lore, as well as Dartz as a character. They felt Mai and Atem were regressed and that some of the extra characters like Otogi were unnecessary. These claims have some basis as the established lore was very shaky at this point due to the writer having to change his original plans a bit. A lot of the contradiction is based on the origin of duel monsters which we didn’t have a lot of information on anyway since we only have the memories of the Pharaoh played out in a RPG where it is speculated that everything was greatly condensed. Dartz being called a sue is not that unbelievable; he is older than the spirits, has a stronger magic, and is a bigger threat than anything prior. Mai and Atem both act differently in season four and frequently get listed as out of character since after Battle City we never saw Mai again in the manga and Atem goes straight to playing out his memories. Mai suffering extreme PTSD and sought solace in power, which Dartz offers her. Her diagnosis is even statistically understandable; according to Statista, from 2008 to 2016, mental illness in woman has never dropped below 21% in the U.S. (Statista, 2017). A lot of fans felt Atem’s issues were already addressed when he almost killed Seto Kaiba rather than lose and in a duel with Raphael he ends up paying dire consequences for his refusal to accept a loss. This is mentioned in detail in an answer to a follower about Atem’s obsession with winning by jailan, who said after mentioning they felt all of season four was weird that “tl;dr: Atem’s obsession with winning comes from a great fear of losing and he acknowledges this near the end of Duelist Kingdom. It comes back again in the DOMA arc and for some reason this fear is taken up to eleven. It’s strangely done but not technically out of nowhere.” (jailan, tumblr, 2017) If anything, it emphasizes he still has growing to do and it is not just Yugi who is not ready to end their partnership, as is frequently argued since a lot of the last season focuses on their parallel journey to put to practice the things they learned from the other. Otogi and Rebecca were added in to season four despite neither being considered more than secondary and tertiary characters. They made for a good explanation of how these Japanese kids were getting around the American west coast though, as one was in America promoting his game and the other is American with a scholar grandfather established as studying whatever happens to be plot convenient and duel monsters related.
THERE WERE DRAGONS, EXPLOSIONS, AND DUELS FOR YOUR VERY SOUL, WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!
The DOMA arc was exceptionally important in Atem’s story of learning to accept loss and kindness. It also showed that not every journey is easy and the path to recovery is not one traversed without slipping sometimes through Mai’s character arc. The writers also took the opportunity to delve deeper into the consequences Seto and Mokuba Kaiba would face because of their adopted father’s military empire that Seto turned into a gaming company. When confronted by a victim of a war made possible by his adopted father, it is hard for Seto to keep with his motto of the past mattering little in the face of the undefined future. So much is touched upon in season four of Yu-Gi-Oh! that to say it does not belong in the show and that it is not a good season is to be very unwilling to see past its status as a filler arc. Fans should be willing to give it a better chance as it gives them a chance to see things in a different light, such as Atem’s story or the Kaiba brothers struggle against a legacy of death and destruction.