First, here’s what they gave out:
After many delays and the pack promoting this film being released twice before the actual movie, it’s finally in theaters. Though I suppose it’s a change from seeing the cards on TV and them not existing for 10+ years.
I had a pretty good time. Low bar but it’s easily the best Yu-Gi-Oh! film. The duels are mostly good which if you play the card game is very important. However, unlike the anime and more like the manga, not all card effects are explained. If I didn’t already own/see the Movie Pack cards and know what they did, I think it kind of hurt the duels. Even if card explanations pad out the anime, it helps to know exactly what the characters are up against and to see how they get out of it.
Kaiba easily steals the show. If he’s on screen, expect him to either say or do something that tells you he’s Seto Kaiba. He has the best lines. He has the money. He got the superhero landing. Regardless of the original or dub, they wanted to make sure you knew Seto Kaiba is awesome be it visually or through his dub dialogue. If Chuck Norris was an anime character…
As for the bad, it’s a little over two hours long and the exposition/flashback parts feel REALLY long. It doesn’t help that the villain’s so boring. Incredibly well-acted, but so boring. I wouldn’t complain if the movie was 90 minutes and focused on Kaiba’s obsession with Atem. If you asked me to explain the villain’s motivations and his “powers”, I couldn’t tell you after one viewing. There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense here and in some of the duels. When the villain takes his turns during duels, his turns take a year to finish and his cards are so broken for reasons I and the real life cards can’t explain. The ending is also very miss for me in a lot of ways. It beats out Pyramid of Light’s ending but not by much.
I’m half and half on the art and animation. There are a lot of really well-drawn faces and expressions, but on the big screen there are parts that you can tell the animators just didn’t care. They’re the less important moments, but still noticeable. It’s clear they didn’t have the greatest budget. Unfortunately, like modern Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, almost all the monsters are CG. This isn’t a legitimate criticism against the film, but I do wish they weren’t so obviously CG or were drawn the same way as Yugi’s magicians. I just prefer that.
As you may know, this English dub was done by the 4kids! people. So if you’re a Japanese version purist, this isn’t for you. Not only is a lot of the dialogue clearly not the same as the Japanese version, lines are added during silent moments and the music was replaced. I don’t doubt that some of my comments, concerns, and complaints may be addressed in the Japanese version. Keep that in mind if you read the spoiler section. On the bright side, they claim that the movie itself is unedited which gives me hope for a dual-audio physical release. To support that claim, there is a visible gun and no talk of the Shadow Realm. People are either sent to other dimensions (which works in the context of the movie) or are “gone”. Given the chance I will absolutely watch this in Japanese, but would see it again in English as well. It was really nice that they got every voice actor back for this.
It was fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Kaiba and most of the dueling. It’s everything else with the villain and his flashbacks/exposition along with the “climax” that’s so-so or bad. If you’re a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan especially if you like the dub, go see it. I think you’ll have a good time. I can’t quite recommend it to the general person. Some of the jokes will hit, but unlike a Dragon Ball movie where the fighting might get you through it, the card game aspect and boring exposition may turn you off.
I give this movie 7.5 Star Chips out of 10.
REVIEW WITH FREE SPOILERS
Does Kaiba not go to school anymore? Everyone else is graduating and he’s in the same year as Yugi. Granted, he’s set for life but I can’t remember the last time he went to school. And if this is canon to the manga, where’s Miho and Ushio? Yugi and friends talking about their futures seems like a throwaway unless there’s a sequel. Yugi wants to be a game designer? Sounds perfect. Fans would want to know about that.
There’s a flashback to the final duel of the series where Silent Magician is colored like her card art and Slifer justifies his new card despite not being summoned in any duels.
I really wish Joey dueled. Instead of losing a duel to Aigami, he just gets thrown into another dimension. And instead of willing himself out of it which he somewhat demonstrated when he faced Ra, of course he sees a blurry Atem and only then does he escape… It’s sad to see Joey fall into Tristan’s tier of uselessness.
Like Pyramid of Light, Kaiba duels a virtual Atem. Only this time he’s allowed to beat the fake whereas in PoL, he still loses…
As I alluded to in the last section, the way Aigami’s turns pan out during his duels, it really looks like he’s cheating. He takes summoning a bunch of monsters in one turn to a whole new level. On the flip side, Yugi and Kaiba’s turns against him are quick and simple. This disparity really made these duels irritating because I had no idea what was going on with Aigami’s cards. Doesn’t help that we get the out of nowhere Dimension rules where there are no tribute summons, but the duelists have to power up like Dragon Ball characters to give their monsters the attack power they should already have… I guess it’s similar to Ka and Ba from the Memory Arc, but it still feels wildly unnecessary and complicates the game.
Through making a mockery of the “rules”, Obelisk is in the movie via Kaiba using Summoning Jutsu, pose and all. They made sure Obelisk’s appearance was grand and worthwhile. In some ways that makes up for the fact that it makes no sense. Looking forward to the Japanese version with the far more appropriate song.
It’s sad that Kaiba doesn’t recognize Yugi’s skill. This is canon to the manga so Kaiba wasn’t there for Yugi vs Atem, but he’s obviously aware it happened and by default should know that Yugi won. Yugi defeated the person Kaiba couldn’t. I don’t like how Yugi did/didn’t/maybe? beat Kaiba. Kaiba still had one set card and his life went to 100. I don’t know if it’s because of the next paragraph, but I need some closure on that. It looked like Kaiba accepted the defeat, but don’t write in a set card for him then. At least reveal what it is if it’s a bluff or didn’t matter.
Like Pyramid of Light (uh-oh), we get an “Anubis” moment which I hated for the execution and the lack of explanations. So, is that supposed to be Thief King Bakura? I don’t know who else it was supposed to be. I was so disappointed. When I saw the Millenium Ring I thought that Bakura was coming back. Why not? I don’t like the Ring being involved if he isn’t because nobody came to see mutant Aigami or left talking about him positively. Perhaps the Japanese version will explain away my complaints but as it is, I feel robbed.
Atem appears at the end of the duel as a deus ex machina to win the duel. His appearance isn’t voiced so anyone who doesn’t own the card he summoned will be lost because he basically summons it, has it attack. and wins. I understand not having him voiced for dramatic effect, symbolism, or whatever but I don’t care for this execution because it’s still a duel.