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Card Game Releases + Spoilers Video Games Other
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Releases + Spoilers
The Dark Side of Dimensions
(This review is spoiler free.)
I came in with low expectations. The first Yugioh movie in 2005 (Pyramid of Light) was just a promo to sell cards. Bonds Beyond Time in 2010 was a fun nostalgia trip, but that’s really it. Both prior movies were fan service, but they never really said anything: they didn’t add anything new aside from another duel. I had no reason to watch them again. But Dark Side of Dimensions is much different. It’s actually real full-fledged sci-fi film, with a coherent story, actual palpable non-hologram action and grandiose visuals.
In the absence of Atem, Yugi steps up the mantle and it’s enjoyable to see him overcoming his trials with his own wits rather than the pharaoh’s help. The villain gets the most character development and backstory of all the characters. This works because the viewer can understand why the events of the movie happened and their significance. Shadi returns and has a sizable role.
Tristan, Tea and Mokuba return in their normal roles. Joey doesn’t have a large role in the movie, apart from one standout scene. Bakura gets a bit of backstory. There’s no Rex, Weevil, Mai or Pegasus, but that’s a good thing. Rather than trying to spread itself thin by checking every single box, DSoD focused on everything it needed.
Kaiba’s character, arguably, undergoes the most changes throughout this movie. In some moments, he’s ruder than usual and more lighthearted than usual in others. While being more dedicated than ever to be a dominant corporate leader in a futuristic technocratic society, he is also a little bit more embracing of faith and ancient magic this time around. Yet, all of these changes feel organic and within his character.
I won’t spoil beyond the first 1/3, but a mysterious force is attempting to control the world with interdimensional magic in the absence of the pharaoh. Both Yugi and Kaiba Against the wishes of Yugi for Atem to rest, Kaiba insists on finding the Millennial Puzzle (with a corporate empire of machines and scientists) and reviving the pharaoh to duel him once again. And the three paths cross. This sci-fi movie has elements of dystopia: Kaiba Corp cameras are everywhere and nothing is private.
Structurally, the plot is not exceptional or original. It was not difficult to predict the villain (some of the cues were really obvious, designed saliently for children viewers). The themes of friendship and corruption (not unlike those in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings) have been done a million times before. The friendship speeches are sometimes a bit much, but this movie is designed for kids (and sending a positive message matters in that department). I see some references to Plato’s Republic and Brave New World, with respectively, both magic and technology being used as a way to create a perfect society. Well, I’m sure you can guess how giving anyone absolute power works out…
Almost all the voices were from the original voice actors, and it sounds just like the original anime. Aside from Yugi’s grandfather, if there were any replacements from the original cast, then I did not notice at all. The improved sound quality since 2002 is well noted too. I didn’t notice the soundtrack much; it was transparent and did its job. Some classic tunes were remixed in improved sound quality. In other action segments, the sound feels like that of a regular action movie and sometimes lacked the colorful sounds and melody of the original anime.
This is a significant upgrade visually over the original anime, but it looks like a natural followup to the 2002-2005 anime. The visuals received many upgrades and stylizations but the overall look appears to be from the same universe. It’s impressive how many of the classic locales were created to such accuracy within a high-def resolution. Excellent animations and special effects give the duels a unique look to them (especially the dimension monsters). Yugi and Kaiba’s classic monsters are given redesigns to make them look cooler and more futuristic by 2017 standards. It’s very abstract and stylized. Words to describe the added art styles: colorful, technological, cosmological, psychedelic, geometric, and occasionally bleak..
The first 15 minutes re-introduce the setting and characters with quickness, but in an appropriate way. Duels pace much more quickly. There’s no scenes of the characters ruminating for an entire minute before drawing their cards, nor drawn out explanations of card effects. Sometimes it’s dizzying to see what is going on in the duel, between all of the abilities of the new dimension monsters, but I’d rather have lightning-fast duels than drawn out ones. The duels are not true-to-life in all of the rules. But on the plus side, there’s finally 8000 life points. To compensate for that, there is dimension summoning, where players play strong monsters at the risk of their own life points (to speed up the duel).
There are several duels in this movie, and it doesn’t just focus on one duel. I like the idea of shorter duels because it also gives more room for action, character development and other scenes. It’s a perfect balance of dueling and movie plot, compared to the more formulaic formula of the older anime which often based the entire episode around a duel with flashback in between. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long. It feels like a full length film, but not bloated.
With the characters and universe established in the original Yugioh anime requiring years of patient viewing from fans, a continuation needed to be done with a sense of respect. Followups should stay true to the core of the franchise while meaningfully adding on to it. Dark Side of Dimensions doesn’t cash in on nostalgia – it creates new great memories to add onto the Yugioh lore. If you are a fan of Yugioh, watch this movie for certain. Those who don’t play Yugioh may view the plot a bit more objectively since they’re not familiar with the characters, but due to the production values, aesthetic, voice acting, action and elements of fantasy, it’s still a solid recommendation for anyone who is a fan of sci-fi anime in general.
Rating: 8.5/10 (for fans), 7.5/10 (in general).
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