August 13, 2004

Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie

Directed by Hatsuki Tsuji

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

If watching something as devoid of action as World Championship Poker is your idea of a good time, you may find Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie tolerable provided that you fully comprehend the rules. Yu-Gi-Oh! - literally meaning king of games - is a popular Japanese franchise that has spawned an animated series, video games, comic books and a trading-card game which plays like Magic: The Gathering.

Yu-Gi-Oh! has clearly capitalized on the fact that many kids have outgrown the Pokemon craze that stormed North America four years ago. The two franchises share a similar premise that allows players to duel using their arsenal of monsters. With more grotesque monsters and more graphic battles, Yu-Gi-Oh! naturally appeals to former Pokemon fans who now find the cutesy pocket monsters embarrassing and unacceptable amongst peers.

While the Pokemon animation always makes an attempt at a coherent plotline, the Yu-Gi-Oh! animation comes off solely as a commercial for the merchandising. Poorly disguised behind the veneer of some bogus 5,000-year-old Egyptian myth, the series often devotes several episodes to a single duel just to showcase the various monsters and their special powers.

Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie is very much like an extended episode of the TV series. There isn't much of a storyline, as it takes only 45 minutes before the hour-long climactic card game begins. The film sporadically interrupts its pageantry of monsters to deliver its awkward, ham-handed message. For example, the characters pause to reflect on the value of their friendship while the scary mummies chasing them have already caught up. Fearing that viewers may somehow miss that important message, the film continues to bludgeon with dialogue like "Victory means nothing unless you share it with people you love!"

You may seriously consider submitting to your children's constant begging and taking them to see Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie against your better judgment. But why take them to see something they already watch on television everyday? Is it because all of their friends are seeing it? Could it be the can't-live-without collector's trading cards the theatres are handing out with each ticket purchase? Do you really see yourself struggling to make sense of a silly card game while kids all around you yap away about the monsters in their decks? Let's face it, you've probably just read this review because you want to be talked out of it.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.