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Torkuitsu's In Depth Reviews: Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters is an anime that's hopelessly bad but for some reason, it manages to suck you right into it.
Take the story. It's not good. Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters follows a young boy named Yuugi who is a whiz at playing a card game called Duel Monsters. However, the game (which involves cardboard cards and computerised image projectors) has a dark history that goes as far back to the ancient Egyptians. Right... Anyway, Yuugi gets a mysterious puzzle in the form of a pyramid-shaped pendant and after piecing it together, the spirit of an Egyptian Pharaoh starts co-inhabiting his body, occasionally taking over his mind. So they can play Duel Monsters.
There are numerous story arcs in Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters, but they all pretty much sum up to 'evil person attempts to use a card game to take over the world, Yuugi and his friends step in, beat them, and restore order to the universe'. The repetitive nature of the anime makes it rather predictable.
Yuugi battles, Yuugi wins. The end.
There's a lot of moral themes for teaching kids to do the right thing, trust in your friends, try your hardest, always look for another way out of a sticky situation, but can you expect someone to rationally sit down and believe that grown men would accost a group of adolescent kids and try to beat them by playing cards? Not to forget, the later episodes create a story that becomes so ridiculously epic that the storyline implodes on itself. I suppose there had to be a way to end it, and it seemed they looked for the most over-the-top way to do so. Go out with a bang! as they say.
A lot of Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters also centres around the puzzle Yuugi has--it possesses great and mysterious power. Numerous battles Yuugi gets into deals with him trying to protect the puzzle from evil bad guys. You tell me that it never occurred to one of them to just grab Yuugi's collar, punch him, and take his deck of cards and puzzle?? It'd be a lot simpler and would save them all from humiliating defeat at a card game. Honestly, Yuugi's deck and puzzle holds untold amounts of supernatural powers, yet you'll peacefully engage him in a menacing game of Duel Monsters? I suppose the next time I have a conflict to be resolved, I'll just pull out Uno and settle the issue that way.
The art isn't very good. The character design has to be some of the worst, most over-the-top I've ever seen, ranging from the characters' unbelievably huge eyes to their frightening hairdos. The animation is rather poor in places as well. The only time the art really shines is when the cards 'come to life' on the field and we get to see them in action.
As for the sound, well I can only tell you that the English dub severely brutalised the Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters soundtrack. Giving Jounouchi a Brooklyn accent? Laughably excellent move, 4Kids. The voice-acting isn't the best in the world, and the theme songs were replaced by one theme where the Pharaoh shouts 'It's time to du-du-du-du-du-du-du-du-duel!' over a recomposed theme.
The characters were pretty much bland and unchanged throughout the course of the anime. Yes, they all are hard-working, honest, brave and do the right thing all the time, but they don't have a drop of complexity in them. Yuugi is just a little boy who happens to be knowledgeable about Duel Monsters. That's it. He lacks a personality so badly that his hair says more about him than he does. The supporting characters, his friends, are all stereotypes. Jounouichi is just a hot-head. He never learns how to calm down, although his duelling does become a little less reckless, but that's as far his his characterisation goes in terms of developing. He just duels smarter, that's all. Anzu and Hiroto are nothing more than the cheerleaders of Yu-Gi-Oh!. They have no purpose. They try to give them purpose, but alas, it doesn't work. The only character worth mentioning is Kaiba. He's actually quite a decent character who is sadly stuck in this anime. He is an orphaned rich boy who takes out all his inner angst on people by putting them through many ordeals. He is calculating and troubled, and he's also a borderline 'evil but good' character, so it adds a little more to his personality. The bad guys are ridiculous. They might have all just worn headbands saying 'I'm evil!!' on them. Absolutely no depth to their motives or to their personalities.
So, then why did I enjoy this despite all it's problems, both story-wise, character related and in technical aspects? Because Yu-Gi-Oh! is fun. I would say, it is rather interesting to see all the battle plans and situations in terms of the Duel Monsters system. The cards are all very interesting and the whole aspect of the gameplay is rather good. It's just, as an anime, this mostly fails. I've played the video games and the real-life card game, and I also know that the anime doesn't follow the rules half the time in terms of the game, so this isn't exactly something to watch if you want to learn how to make a great deck of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. But I won't deny--this anime is severely entertaining, especially if you get into it.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters isn't high art. Hell, it isn't any kind of art. But it is an anime that certainly knows how to capture its viewers. Who knows how many Saturday mornings were spent watching this series
I didn't bother putting the disclaimer up because mostly everyone has seen Yu-Gi-Oh
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