If you don’t know what Yu-Gi-Oh! is, it’s time to get out from under your rock. The latest kids phenomenon from 4Kids Entertainment, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been huge, so it’s only natural that a movie would follow. Hoping for a similar kind of success the first Pokémon movie did, the first dubbed Yu-Gi-Oh! movie has arrived, but will this allow 4Kids to make up with the die-hard fans who hate them already, or will it cause even more bad blood to be spilled?
Yugi Moto, after solving the mysterious Millenium Puzzle and gaining the power of both the ancient Pharoah and the Shadow Realm, is on top of the world. After winning the Duelist Kingdom and Battle City Duel Monsters Tournaments, everyone around is ready and willing to Duel young Yugi for the power of his three Egyptian God Cards: Obelisk the Tormentor, Slyfer the Sky Dragon, and The Winged Dragon of Ra. The biggest of these challengers is none other than Seto Kaiba, who may have finally found the cards he needs to defeat Yugi, thanks to Maximillion Pegasus.
What Kaiba doesn’t know is that one of those cards isn’t Pegasus’, but belongs to an ancient evil known as Anubis. With power comparable to the ancient Pharaoh in his grasp, Anubis only needs to be reawakened to start his terrible reign upon the Earth, destroying everything in the process. Now, Yami, the Pharoah, must save the souls of Little Yugi, Joey, Tristan, Tea, and Kaiba if he is to defeat Anubis’ awesome power.
Anybody who’s seen the TV show knows that the dub has made the cartoon a lot cheesier than it already was (and the original was damn cheesy as it was). Well, for the movie, 4Kids decided to bring back all the cheesiest elements of the first three sagas (Duelist Kingdom, Battle City, Noah), including the “happy face” from Episode 1, and tie them all together in a nice little bow. The end of the movie, especially, stuffs the whole “Heart of the Cards” and “Friendship rules all” morals stuffed down our throats. Seriously, not even Sesame Street is this blatant, which detracts greatly from the ending.
While it’s true that the movie does offer some spoilers—the end of Battle City has not yet aired on Kids WB—it’s nothing to worry about. If you actually thought that Yami wouldn’t defeat Marik and gain The Winged Dragon of Ra, you’re fooling yourself. Luckily, the movie doesn’t show how Yugi won, just that he did. The dub’s tradition of inserting jokes where the facial expressions don’t match continues, though, even though the movie was made for American audiences.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its merits. Because of the feature format, several things which were cut out of the TV show are shown in glorious fashion on the big screen. The biggest—and it’s something that will shok most parents—is the graphic violence that is usually edited out of the show. In the movie, when Yugi is stabbed by one of the monsters’ knives, we get to see the knife go through Yugi, complete with blood (though it’s in silhouette form and the blood doesn’t last since it’s a hologram in the show). Joey and Tristan, as former bullies, finally get the chance to actually fight, albeit against undead zombies instead of live humans. Still, it’s a joy to actually see them punch something instead of shoving them. Oh, and the movie uses the original Japanese Life Point gauges (silver background with thin gold text) instead of the American version (blue swirl background with large gold text), so that’s a plus. No guns appear in the movie, so we can’t see if 4Kids would paint them out or not.
By far the best thing about the movie is the character that’s not even supposed to exist anymore. Pegasus has the best lines and is the star of every scene he’s in. From talking about how he shouldn’t drink wine before going to bed (yes, you read right: wine, not fruit juice.) to his quips about the stadium crumbling and the monsters coming alive, he is by far the best character in the movie. Pretty good considering he’s supposed to be dead (in the Japanese version anyway). Joey’s Godfather references are pretty funny as well and give parents something to laugh at as they sit there wondering what the hell is going on. The new monsters are really cool, though, especially the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon, which has become the mascot for the movie.
But that’s about it for the good stuff. The last twenty minutes or so fall apart, with the heroes chanting “Friendship rules all!” every 30 seconds and Anubis being defeated extremely easily (though, like any good major bad guy, he comes back time and time again). Not only that, but the movie, despite its breakneck pace, seems to drag on forever and ever, especially once Kaiba and Yugi finally Duel. Speaking of which, just how much money does Kaiba have anyway? Not only does he build yet another battle dome just for Dueling Yugi, he makes a jet that’s shaped like a Blue-Eyes White Dragon and constantly runs simulators to figure out how to beat Yugi. It’s just amazing how much dough Kaiba blows, especially since he’s the head of a huge company. Then again, this is Kaiba we’re talking about here.
Animation-wise, the movie is pretty good, though there are some obvious cheats. The movie looks almost exactly like the TV series except with slightly better animation. Certainly the new flashy effects are put to good use, but it seems like too much is spent on flashy effects and not enough on backgrounds and the actual animation. Maybe I’ve just been watching too many Pokémon movies. The music is pretty much remixed from the TV series, with a few new, rather standard, tunes thrown into the mix. There are also a few insert songs that find their way into the movie, but they’re of the same quality as previous songs from the show.
Overall, Yu-Gi-Oh! the Movie is exactly what I thought it was going to be: a 90-minute cheese-fest like the series is. And if you thought Yugi and Kaiba’s Battle City Duel was annoying, just wait. But if you like the TV series, especially the dub, you should find some enjoyment in the movie. Those who don’t like either the dub or the series should stay far away.