Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the most anticipated movie of the year, Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions, was finally released yesterday. (A bit of bad timing in terms of getting Oscar nominations, but next year they’ll clean up.) Ever since I got a random promotional lanyard at last year’s Comic Con saying the movie was coming in 2017, I’ve been hyped up.
I was so ready for this movie. I’m like the Lance Stephenson of Yu-Gi-Oh, Born Ready. As an avid fan of all things Yu-Gi-Oh, and likely the most talented duelist of all time, I knew I had to be at the first showing possible. So, I grabbed my Kaiba Corp. shirt and camping supplies and slept under the stars outside the theater waiting for my life to be changed forever.
Even before the movie, there was a buzz in the theater. Electricity was in the air. We were all there to see a heavy weight fight between two titans of Duel Monsters. I lost track of how many trench coats and guys with pony tails I saw. I wasn’t even in the top ten of most overweight people there. It was an eclectic group, but we were all in the same community, the same brotherhood. All part of that most exclusive of societies: those passionate about Yu-Gi-Oh. And I am proud to be their leader. During the movie, the crowd was jumping. There were big laughs, big cheers, and, when a certain someone appears at the end of the movie, a girl sitting in front of me could no longer contain her emotions and broke down in tears. We’re talking uncontrollably sobbing. It was beautiful, in a way. It was one of the strangest, most memorable, and most enjoyable times I’ve ever had in a movie theater. I don’t know if it can ever be replicated.
The movie itself was awesome. It was perfect Yu-Gi-Oh!. A mix of light comedy and melodrama, nonsense and fake science, and a complete disregard for the actual rules of the game. Luckily for me, the movie was centered around my favorite character, the legend himself Seto Kaiba. It was probably the most character development he’s ever gotten. Sure, he still had his usual extreme arrogance and narcissism, but the movie actually explored his relationship with Yugi and the Pharaoh. With a very Batman-Joker vibe, Seto realizes he needs the Pharaoh to validate his own sense of self-worth. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to summon the Pharaoh and fight him, defeat him, and exorcise the demons that haunt his memory. Or does he actually deeply care about the Pharaoh and want to see him one last time as a friend? That’s for you to decide. There’s another plot about someone trying to take over the world and sending everyone to
the Shadow Realm a different dimension, but the only one I really cared about was Kaiba. Maybe I’m biased. Either way, this movie was awesome.
Now that Yu-Gi-Oh is fresh in my mind, I’ve got to do a bit of a Yu-Gi-Oh brain dump. I concede that this may get a little deeper into Yu-Gi-Oh than most people may care to tread, so I will only slightly begrudge you for bailing now. For the diehards, let’s get into it.
Burning Question: Why didn’t the villains just do whatever they wanted regardless of the outcome of duels?
I realize this kind of flies right in the face of the entire concept of the show, but why did anyone let a card game stop them from doing whatever they wanted to do? Take Marik, for instance. He wanted the Egyptian God Cards and all the Millennium Items. Why did he risk all of that on some games of Duel Monsters, especially when he knew he was going against the best in the world? He had the Millennium Rod, which has a knife inside it. Why didn’t he just kill Yugi and Kaiba and take what he wanted? Or use the Millennium Rod’s power of mind control. Instead of control, say, Kaiba and taking Obelisk without any real hassle, he controlled Joey so he could duel against Yugi, hoping that Yugi would lose against someone he literally taught the game of Duel Monsters to and that Yugi would drop the Millennium Puzzle before he was dragged underwater. Huh? He also showed the ability to send people to the Shadow Realm at will, based on what he did to all his henchmen who lost to Yugi. If the banishment wasn’t predicated on the result of the previous duels, why would Marik ever risk going into a shadow game in the first place? Why risk losing? Just send them to the Shadow Realm without dueling them. Or just kill them. And Pegasus had an entire island’s worth of dark corners and hiding places at his disposal, as well as an army of evil cronies who already dabbled in assault and kidnapping. Just have them kill Yugi and take his puzzle. You don’t even need to kill him, just steal it. The only people who were really thinking the right way were Lumis and Umbra, but they were too stupid and reckless to succeed. What Yu-Gi-Oh villains lack in practicality they more than make up for in overly complicated plans and a penchant for tight clothing (wait, that’s everyone in the show).
Top Five Characters
1. Seto Kaiba- I hinted at this in the actual review, but Seto is easily my favorite character, and is definitely in my top five favorite TV characters ever. Think about everything he’s done for the game. He created the hologram system and every iteration of the duel disk. He set up every major tournament after season one. He’s the most important character in the Yu-Gi-Oh universe. He’s also the most talented duelist and was robbed at every turn. Yugi cheats. How can he always get the exact card he needs at the exact time he needs? When half the cards he uses are never seen again? And some of the cards are only useful in very specific scenarios that would be impossible to prepare for and are useless in 99% of duels. All because he believes in the Heart of the Cards? Joey believed and he never got that kind of luck. Yugi cheats constantly, and his cowardly decision to face little Yugi instead of his true rival Seto in his final duel puts a serious damper on his “King of Games” title. Meanwhile Seto uses pure skill, power, and a dragon fetish to overwhelm his opposition. In a just world, he would have beaten Yugi ten times over.
2. Maximillion Pegasus- The wonderfully camp creator of Duel Monsters deserved more than being the end boss of Duelist Kingdom, an admittedly entertaining tournament where there were literally no rules and every duel ended on some stupid technicality or weird field effect. Pegasus was a genius. A true artist with playing cards, he has not one, but two iconic strategies (Toon World and Relinquished). He befuddled both Yugi and Kaiba, and would have beaten Yugi (by cheating) if it weren’t for a well timed friendship speech. No one played better mind games or was quite as well dressed. Pegasus is the G.O.A.T. villain.
3. Mako Tsunami- I think this will probably be the most controversial entry, but Mako is the most underrated character in Yu-Gi-Oh!. He has all the makings of a perfect bit character: hilariously over-the-top, just good enough to make duels interesting, and, most importantly, a defined schtick. And unlike recurring guests Weevil Underwood and Rex Raptor, Mako actually has a backstory, contrived as it may have been. And yet he only had two appearances. What makes Rex better than him? A dinosaur deck is just as one-note as an aquatic deck. More so, probably. And Mako was clearly the superior duelist. He should have been a comic-relief staple. He should have annoyed Yugi and the gang every season, not just the first two. Perhaps he was too good. His passion and perfectly defined character quirks were just too pure for this world. Maybe we’re the ones that failed him by not appreciating him more while he was here. I’m sorry, Mako. May you find peace at sea.
4. Joey Wheeler- Joey really was better than he had any business being. His random Brooklyn accent, idiocy, and luck-based dueling strategy should have flamed out early, but it all wound up being quite charming. There’s no doubt the show would have been much worse without his presence, as often times he and Tristan were the only ones combatting the deathly serious tone with their physical brand of comic relief. On top of that, he was a fine duelist. Besides his duels against Kaiba, his duels against every other main character go extremely well, and he only loses because of things like “friendship” or plain misfortune. He would have beaten Marik cleanly if he was able to call an attack! Funny that for someone who relies so heavily on luck, he never gets lucky when it counts, as opposed to Yugi, who is supposedly all about skill, but gets every “lucky” break ever. It’s a shame. Now, if only they had never given him a sister.
5. Bakura- The only bad guy who was really playing for keeps. No one was darker, more depraved, or more willing to get his hands dirty. Pretty sure he actually killed like five people in a show where death was outlawed, and would have murdered Yugi’s grandpa if left unattended. His duels were always must-watch, if only because of the threat of violence and dismemberment. He should have had his moment in the spotlight long before the penultimate story arc, and probably should have killed Marik instead of entering into an alliance with him. He was clearly the most powerful evil spirit on the block.
Honorable Mention: Tristan (if you don’t like Tristan you have a huge dump in your pants), Weevil Underwood, Marik (evil version)
Best Yu-Gi-Oh Video Games
- Duelists of the Roses- I may be prone to exaggeration but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve played this game more than any other video game I’ve ever had. It’s the reason I still have my PS2 and the reason I’ll never get rid of it. It’s a spectacularly goofy game, treating history like season one treats the rules of Duel Monsters. But I love it so much. The checkers-style dueling combined with the awesome field and monster animations combine to make the most unique take on Yu-Gi-Oh ever.
- The Sacred Cards- An RPG take on the Battle City arc. Luckily for me, that’s my favorite part of the show.
- Stairway to the Destined Duel- It’s pretty much just the real-life card game on Game Boy. With the actual rules. That’s all you need to make a great game.
- Receive of Destruction- This game was so rigged and so frustrating that it took me about a year to finally beat it. It was impossible. But nothing beat the high of finally beating the part I was stuck on. Only to immediately get stuck again.
- Duel Links- Might be some recency bias, but I can’t believe they didn’t have a game like this before. Now that I have a way to impose my will against people all around the world, nothing will stop my rise to the top. Unless I get sent to the Shadow Realm.
Best Cards in my deck- A few years ago, I had to go through one of the greatest hardships of my entire life: I lost my deck. Every time I go home, I spend hours searching for it, but to no avail. The greatest collection of 3.5″x2.5″ pieces of paper ever assembled lost for all eternity. Truly one of the biggest tragedies of the last century. Now, only memories remain. Fortunately, I can still recall the heavy hitters of that legendary deck.
5. Kaiser Sea Horse- A fine card on it’s own, it’s strength really came early in duels. In a perfect draw, you could summon a super powerful monster like Blue Eyes White Dragon in your second turn. Putting pressure on the opponent early was a staple in my glory days.
4. Harpy’s Feather Duster- Getting rid of your opponent’s Spell and Trap cards is a huge mental blow. It ruins strategies. If they have some kind of spell-counter trap, they almost have to use it on this, freeing me up to play something more powerful. It’s a perfect spell.
3. Valkyrion the Magna Warrior- My enforcer. When he came out, you knew the duel was almost over. Even if you destroy him, he can just break down into his three component parts.
2. Judgment of Anubis- Such an overpowered trap card. My deck was heavy with spells and traps almost entirely to set up this card. Once I got one, I bought two more just to add to the frustration I could dish out. This card came closer to ending friendships than any other card I owned.
1. Jowls of Dark Demise- It’s this simple: if you saw this card you lost. You’re all excited that you were finally able to summon your best monster. Victory is within your grasp. Well, now what’s yours is mine. And I win.
I think I’ll salvage whatever street cred I have left and finish here. But make no mistake, I can go on about Yu-Gi-Oh until my dying breath. And maybe someday I will.
And for anyone wondering, I’m taking AFC +4 in tonight’s Pro Bowl. Sorry I couldn’t give a full breakdown of this seminal game.