While I am not a Yu-Gi-Oh! connoisseur, I am more educated in it than most film journalists. I have a younger brother who has succumbed to the Yu-Gi-Oh! craze (just as he succumbed to the Pokemon craze a few years ago), therefore, I am familiar with both the anime cartoon and trading card game. I am not sure which came first, the TV show or the cards, but both are quite complicated for their preteen target audience. Parents should delight in how the game familiarizes kids with elements of ancient history, religious philosophy, and basic mathematics. Kids who understand the game in its philosophical entirety should have no problem understanding similar subjects in school.
Indeed, it does take practice to master the rules of the card game (I know from experience as my younger brother has persuaded me to duel him from time to time). Once you get the hang of it, however, it does become an enjoyable endeavor, and it is a hell of a lot more engaging than euchre. Thanks to Yu-Gi-Oh! themed videogames, action figures, board games, clubs, and organizations, the craze has gone above and beyond the card table and has become more of a lifestyle than a hobby for many duelists, both young and old (not excluding my younger brother). It is safe to say the employees at Yu-Gi-Oh! marketing companies have earned their bonuses this year.
As in the anime television show, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie follows the adventures of a champion card-player named Yugi, a teenager who has the ability to summon the power of an ancient pharaoh to assist him in defeating all card players who challenge him. How can a school boy access the powers of an ancient pharaoh? Apparently his Egyptologist grandfather gave him a magical pyramid necklace that allows him to communicate with the pharaoh, who also happens to look like an older version of Yugi himself. (Just go with it, okay?).
Yugi's arch enemy is his classmate Kaiba, a wealthy video game entrepreneur who, despite his persistent efforts, can't overthrow Yugi's impenetrable Egyptian God cards, the most powerful cards in the game. Bent on revenge, Kaiba becomes obsessed with finding cards strong enough to defeat his arch rival's. After fighting a master duelist named Pegasus, one of Yugi's former enemies, however, Kaiba finally gets his hands on a few cards that might just do the trick.
What Kaiba doesn't know is that he has been tricked by another ancient evil. Yugi's pharaoh has a nemesis of his own: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. Five thousand years ago, the pharaoh battled Anubis and seemingly destroyed him. Unfortunately, somewhere in another dimension, somehow, something has unleashed Anubis. Now, Anubis wants revenge on the pharaoh, and he's going to use Kaiba as his tool to destroy the pharaoh, and then conquer the world.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie isn't half as memorable as most Disney films. Granted, the two animation styles share few similarities. Disney images are vibrant, colorful, and reminiscent of real life, whereas anime is jagged, dull, and far from real life. Anime works best when imaginative and innovative (e.g. Spirited Away), but Yu-Gi-Oh! doesn't quite fit that description. The story is more confusing than compelling, more implausible than inventive. Also, Yu-Gi-Oh! doesn't contain the fundamental ingredients that comprise most memorable animated films. The soundtrack is unremarkable; the dialogue is forgettable; the characters are thinly sketched; and the sense of adventure is mediocre at best. Frankly, the film feels like a 90-minute episode of the television show.
Though, make no mistake about it, Yu-Gi-Oh! will please its loyal fans. The film introduces several new monster cards (which you can purchase in packs or boxes and add to your own deck), including Blue Eyes Shining Dragon, Andro Sphinx, and Peten the Dark Clown, but doesn't neglect the classic favorites, like Dark Magician, Blue Eyes Toon Dragon, and Dark Magician Girl. The card characters themselves are proof that the writers and animators have a sense of humor and originality; in their whimsical, entertaining ways, the monsters are the real stars of Yu-Gi-Oh!... but they still don't poke a stick at unforgettable Disney characters like Aladdin's Genie, 101 Dalmatians' Cruella DeVil, or even the chickens in Home of the Range for that matter.
Aka Yûgiô: Gekijô-ban.
He has the power!
In Theaters: Saturday 6th March 1999
Production compaines: Little Kuriboh Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Hatsuki Tsuji
Producer: Norman J. Grossfeld
Starring: Martin Billany as Yugi / Yami / Grandpa / Kaiba / Mai / Pegasus / Mokuba / Joey / Tristan / Téa / Anubis / Florence / Zorc - Destroyer of Worlds