Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime Review
Yuugiou Dyueru Monsutaazu
King of Games - Duel Monsters
US Release By
Kids' Monster-Battling Action
224 25-minute episodes
2000-04-18 - 2004-09-29
What's In It
- Violence: 0 (none)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 0 (none)
- Language: 0 (none)
Yugi Motou is a fourteen year old boy who loves to play a card game called Duel Monsters, along with his friends Joey, Tea, and Tristan. He also owns a mysterious item called the Millennium Puzzle that allows him to turn into a powerful alter ego. One day, a newcomer called Seto Kaiba (who's the world dueling champion) shows up and challenges Yugi's grandpa (who happens to own a game shop) to a duel. Upon winning, Kaiba tears up Grandpa's rare Blue Eyes White Dragon, of which there are only four in the world (and he's got the other three). Yugi challenges him to a duel and wins by drawing the one monster that cannot be defeated. Yugi is then invited to a duelist competition to save his grandpa's soul from the sinister Maximillian Pegasus, who stole it by use of his Millennium Eye.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, Yu-gi-oh is yet another Pokemon emulation. It's broadcast on US TV (my only exposure to it) has a little history behind it. In Japan, there was a previous Yu-Gi-Oh series that was apparently created on a much lower budget (hence worse animation) and had almost nothing to do with the card games. It was, seemingly, about Yugi cruising around the streets as his alter ego (whom the show labels "Yami" but I prefer to call "Yugioh" with emphasis on the "oh") and blasting criminals and thugs into pieces with his mysterious shadow magic. This series takes up where that one left off, almost directly. One thing that both share is a tendency towards absurd events, such as Yugi's grandpa being hospitalized from losing his duel against Kaiba). There was also a manga, which I'm led to believe was essentially the same stock. As usual, the show is mangled and mutilated; guns were painted over, blood was edited, but one of the most annoying changes is when the characters are going on a ranting delusion of grandeur with the classic anime scenery in the background and the BGM and voice acting are making out the scene to be serious and deep. Some of the episodes were actually two parts long, but bits and pieces were snipped out and put into a montage with an unbelievably stupid keyboard song, after which they pasted on the end of the duel from the next episode.
The story arcs are quite a bit more creative than an average "I'm gonna go to a tournament and become the master of monsters!" The first US broadcast story arc was extremely similar to this, but the next ones (particularly Battle City) manage to rise above this. Unfortunately, while they are imaginative, they're still absurd, and taken seriously to make it worse. A good parody anime like Excel Saga could have a field day with this show. To someone like me, who finds some pretty odd things (intended to be serious) incredibly funny, this only endears the show more, but I realize I'm in the minority and it's a definite minus to most people. Characterization is pretty thin; as a matter of fact, you get more characterization from watching what cards the characters employ in their battles than from listening to the dialogue. Actually, this is the better of the two ways to find out about them because the other way entails listening to long-winded orations about the power of friendship and love. Usually I have nerves of steel compared to most people, (Excel's Japanese voice didn't even faze me) but this seriously annoyed me.
The dub is a pretty run-of-the-mill Pokemon clone dub; good, but not great, and probably more full of deliberate mistranslations than every other anime dub combined. Most of the dub actors are recycled from Pokemon. The BGMs fit the show, although they may have been altered. The US opening is extremely idiotic, although I'm sure no one was expecting any better. Having seen downloaded video and audio of the original Japanese openings and endings, I can say that they are much better, (I'm a sucker for J-Pop) with catchy alternative rock tunes for openings and slower pop-style endings. Much of the US opening's animation is actually from the original Japanese opening (I know that's not saying much, but work with me).
The animation is pretty average. The most noticeable thing about it is the demented character designs. Some characters, such as Mai and Kaiba, manage to almost look normal, but Yugi has purple-and-blond Dragonball-like hair, and Tristan has a large spike of hair sticking at a 45 degree angle off the top of his head. (I'm angry that they gave my name to such a stupid-looking character.) A lot of petty thugs in the series also have hair like this. Of course, in a monster show, the monster designs are as much so or more important than the character designs, and a mostly mediocre show shines in this area. While Pokemon employed cute, furry little hugemsqueezems, (see if you can figure that one out!) Yu-gi-oh uses monsters more comparable to an RPG game like Final Fantasy. Many resemble humans, decked out in swords and armor, some are scary monsters normally found in horror movies, and some, like the Blue Eyes White Dragon, are just plain cool. I frequently found myself wishing they were more than just stupid cards. Not only that, but the actual card game (yes, of course there's a real life card game) is really fun to play. If I say any more, I'll sound like I'm advertising it, but it is bursting with strategy and the well-designed monsters are good subjects for a fan artist like myself.
In summation, Yu-gi-oh is actually an okay show. I like it better than Beyblade and Medabots. If you've got a little tolerance, you might want to try it out.
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Notes and Trivia
Based on a lengthy manga series by Kazuki Takahashi, available in English from VIZ.
As mentioned in the review, the show is a sequel to a short earlier series (titled simply "Yuu-Gi-Oh," without the "Duel Monsters") that, as of this writing, has not been released in the US.
The title literally translates as "King of Games"; "Yuugi" (遊戯), in addition to being the main character's name, means "game" or "play" (as in Fushigi Yuugi), and Oh (王) means "king."
US DVD Review
4Kids and FUNimation have released most of the series on edited, dub-only DVDs with three episodes each; they're up to about volume 34 as of this writing. FUNimation also released a handful of discs of uncut episodes that also include Japanese audio and subtitles.
The edited US version is more or less appropriate for all ages.
Violence: 0 - Humans were hurt in the original, but now only holograms die.
Nudity: 1 - Some monsters resembling humans wear bikinis and cleavage revealing robes. Tea wears a tube top.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - A date. Once.
Language: 0 - May have been edited.
Available in North America from 4Kids (on TV) and as a joint production with FUNimation on DVD; the DVDs are dub-only, and of the edited version, three episodes per disc. FUNimation also released a handful of unedited, bilingual DVDs.