Yugi, Téa, Joey, Tristan and Bakura are all about to graduate from high school. As they move towards their futures and their chosen careers, a mysterious and dangerous new villain appears in the form of transfer student Aigami. People are disappearing without a trace, and Yugi’s friends eventually become the next targets while attempting to befriend Aigami. Meanwhile, Seto Kaiba and his company have developed a new, more powerful duel disk as his mission to recover the Millennium Puzzle and bring back the Pharaoh nears completion.
Kazuki Takahashi wrote a fairly solid story for this movie, providing a decent conclusion to the high school lives of Yugi and his friends. If there is just one major weak point in the plot, it is Aigami’s presence. It takes a little while for everyone to remember Aigami’s name when they spot him in the corner of their classroom, even though he has apparently been in their class for a whole year. All of the “oh, I remember his name! … Wait, no I don’t. Huh, that’s weird” statements from almost everyone in the core group serve no purpose. This foreshadows nothing whatsoever, and this is not the only time where an explanation is missing for something that seems like it might be important. Nevertheless, a scene somewhat reminiscent of Death Note soon follows, in which it is revealed that Aigami has the power to send people he deems evil to another dimension. However, he has no death note, just an almighty power. In video game terms, Aigami and a group of other children basically had ‘god mode’ activated after the Pharaoh left the world. As it happens, Aigami also has a deck of cards that he uses to duel with Kaiba and then Yugi, but he has his own set of rules. Said rules are introduced in a “this is what’s going to happen, so deal with it” kind of way, and while the duel scenes are very well-written, his ‘dimension duels’ serve little purpose where regular duels would have been just as exciting. This is quite the silly movie, yet that silliness is somehow endearing at times; it is probably not meant to be taken entirely seriously in the first place. Aigami does serve a purpose to the story, but where this movie succeeds is in its focus on the established characters that long-time fans are already familiar with.
Character development occurs throughout, and it is effective. Yugi and his friends are depicted as ‘real’ high school students with real goals, and we see them beginning to pursue their dreams before the credits roll at the end. We see them preparing for and participating in their graduation ceremony, and with it comes a genuine sense of closure. This is the send-off that they deserve, and even Kaiba grows as a character. He is determined to have his revenge against the Pharaoh by defeating him in one last duel, and he dedicates himself completely to achieving this goal. Revenge is not a positive thing, but he becomes a more dynamic character as he engages in one last duel with Yugi before turning his attention to the real villain, Aigami. The duels are idealistic, yet they and the character development drive this movie and make it a memorable experience in spite of the generic villain.
The quality of the animation is mostly consistent, with only a few noticeable exceptions. There is a heavy reliance on 3D CG animation for the monsters, and said monsters are visually impressive. Unfortunately, the problems with Japanese 3D CG animation start to become obvious when the monsters move in certain shots; their animation sequences are either intentionally rendered at a low frame-rate or have had several frames removed from each second of animation afterwards. This is a known problem to western anime fans, but is something that repeatedly appears in sci-fi anime to its detriment regardless. If you can overlook this, you can both consider yourself lucky and enjoy the otherwise impressive and engaging duels. The duels otherwise look great for the most part. The characters all look great, although there are a few shots in which the quality of the artwork and animation seems to drop to a level more consistent with an average TV episode. None of these problems are present throughout every shot, so while the decreases in animation quality do stand out, they do not ruin the movie or prevent the duels from being entertaining.
For many Yu-Gi-Oh! fans in the west, the audio may be the most important element of this movie. Everything about it sounds completely familiar. The voice acting and the dub script not only seem reminiscent of the 4Kids era, they make it sound as if 4Kids never went away. In some ways, this is objectively a negative strike against the movie. However, without the Japanese audio track or even English subtitles to compare it to, listening to the lame ’90s-style dialogue is surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining, just like it was a decade ago. There are numerous jokes and quips that are absolutely stupid and probably not present in the original Japanese script, yet most of them are hilarious anyway. A small portion of the random quips do come across in much the same way as the completely-unfunny and irrelevant banter present in various iterations of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, such as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, but that such terrible jokes are in the dub script is no surprise. If you go into this movie expecting a 4Kids dub, you will not be disappointed.
What ultimately enables the majority of the lame humour to be surprisingly hilarious is the voice acting. This movie features some of the biggest names in anime voice acting from the 1990s and 2000s, all returning to their original roles from the TV series. Without them, it would be no stretch to say that this English dub would not work at all, especially because of the generic American soundtrack used in place of the original. Eric Stuart in particular makes Seto Kaiba the engaging villain he is, and he portrays Kaiba’s egotistical nature perfectly. All of the voice actors help make this movie consistently fun, even as the events in it become more and more ridiculous.
Two English theatrical trailers are included as on-disc extras. Artwork featuring Yugi and Kaiba can be found on the reverse side of the cover sheet.
If a lack of Japanese audio on a home video release of an anime movie is something you cannot reconcile with after years of the likes of Sentai Filmworks and FUNimation dubbing anime uncut and releasing it on home video with dual audio options and English subtitles, this release is not for you. Madman’s release is best suited to the nostalgic fans in Australia wanting one more 4Kids-style Yu-Gi-Oh! viewing experience, complete with a replaced soundtrack, an occasionally lame script and great voice acting from some of the most recognizable talents in the anime industry. The practices of 4Kids never truly went away, so when watching this film, taking the bad with the good is necessary in order to be able to enjoy it to the fullest. The antagonist Aigami is poorly developed, but does contribute a little to the story. The main characters, on the other hand, are further developed throughout and receive the conclusion they deserve.
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