Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS Blu-ray Review

Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS
遊☆戯☆王 THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS

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***SPOILERS***

Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONSEvery now and then (not as often as I might wish, especially on “cool” titles), a video or book publisher will reach out to send me an advanced copy of some anime, manga, or Japanese related video or book. So when Lionsgate’s marketing folks reached out to me to see if I’d watch and review the Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS Blu-ray, I told them to send me a copy. Granted, I’ve never watched Yu-Gi-Oh!, but all of my nieces and nephews love the anime series and the card game. So it can’t be that bad, right? 😉

The Story, Part 1

At high school, Yugi and his friends discuss their plans for the future after they graduate. In class, they all see their classmate Aigami, but initially can’t remember his name. After school, Yugi, Katsuya (Joey), and Anzu (Tea) discover Aigami being bullied. The bullies leave, telling Aigami to meet them that night at an abandoned building. He shows up, but after causing numerous other students to appear, he makes the bullies disappear, after which his summoned students vanish and he stops to look into only of the bully’s video camera.

Meanwhile KAIBA Seto tests a new card device that allows him to make his cards “come to life.” He’s able to mentally create clones of real people, including rival Dark Yugi, whom he tests the new equipment against in a battle. However, Kaiba is angry because he was not able to face the real Dark Yugi. Kaiba’s little brother contacts him from an archeological excavation site with a huge discovery. Elsewhere, Yugi and friends are having lunch at an outdoor place, discussing the disappearance of the bullies and other students. Kaiba makes his announcement about his company’s new Duel Disk equipment, causing Yugi’s friends to change topics.

Yugi and his friends are observed by Aigami, who thinks about his real purpose. His real name is Diva and he’s warned about forgetting the teachings of his master in attempting to use evil for good, both in the past and present. His comrade Manny (Mani) informs him that “it” has been found, so the two vanish. Meanwhile, Kaiba arrives at the excavation site to find the pieces of the Millennium Puzzle secured. Before he can get it away, Diva arrives with his companions, using magic to teleport there. Diva dispatches one of Kaiba’s security to another dimension. Kaiba’s tech keeps him from being dispatched, so they have a card battle based on Diva’s rules. While they battle, Kaiba’s little brother escapes with the puzzle, followed close behind by Kaiba. However, Diva has two pieces of the puzzle.

The Story, Part 2

Yugi’s class goes through graduation rehearsal in which Yugi gives his speech. Diva observes this and is again warned by Sera, a girl who addresses him as “Nii-san.” Diva invites Yugi and friends to a burger joint. They talk about dueling, but since Aigami claims to be bad, the group decides a training tournament is in order. Elsewhere, Kaiba takes a space elevator to his space station, where his AI unit attempts to reconstruct the puzzle, but fails due to the missing pieces. At the same time, Sera pays a visit to Yugi and delivers a puzzle piece to him.

Diva confronts Bakura and Katsuya (Joey), sending Katsuya to a dimension made of his memories. Bakura is forced to remember a horrible memory from his childhood, when his father came to where Diva and fellow children were. Bakura’s father had been looking for the Millennium Ring, but it rejected and killed him. It took possession of Bakura for a time. Diva doesn’t want to believe the truth, but doesn’t kill Bakura. Manny shows up with the ring, revealing its evil and sacrificing himself to save Diva. Diva hears Yugi and company, so he goes to confront them. As he does, Katsuya’s world dissolves until he sees Yugi and is returned to the real world.

Diva flees to ponder this unexpected event, but is captured by Kaiba. Kaiba then confronts Yugi, informing him he knows Yugi has one of the missing pieces. Yugi is to come to a tournament Kaiba is having so Kaiba can win the pieces from Yugi and Diva. Sera saves Yugi from getting run over and has words with him. Meanwhile, Diva is shown that Kaiba knows about Sera, forcing him to participate in the tournament.

At the tournament, Kaiba allows Yugi to duel Diva first. Diva uses his dimension element to trump Kaiba’s ring rules. Diva gives Yugi a beating, but Yugi defeats Diva in the end. Bakura is returned to reality as a result. Since Yugi won’t complete the puzzle, Kaiba starts another card battle with Yugi. After taking a beating, Yugi finishes the puzzle, showing that Atem’s spirit is no longer there, meaning no Dark Yugi. Kaiba refuses to believe, but before they can finish things, Diva returns, possessed by the Millennium Ring, and looking like a monster. They get Diva to battle, where Kaiba is defeated. Kaiba manages to convince Yugi to summon Atem, who defeats Diva, then departs with the Millennium Puzzle after acknowledging Yugi.

Reality returns and Diva is sent to be with Sera and his other friends. They lose their powers because Pharaoh returned. Kaiba says his goodbyes to Yugi and leaves. Yugi and company graduate from high school and move on with their lives. Meanwhile, Kaiba finds a way to dimension travel where he can confront Pharaoh Atem for real.

Card Battles are Serious Businiess!

As I said earlier, I have no previous experience with the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. I knew it was something about card game battles, but that was about it. I seem to recall seeing imagery or the like showing card battles where if the card was a character, the character appeared on a board. However, I could be misremembering things since I had no interest in the Yu-Gi-Oh! series and thus wouldn’t have paid close attention to the details.

When Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS started, there were no card battles or anything, so other than the dubtitles (more on that later), the story seemed pretty straight forward shounen material set in a high school.  However, when we see the card battle between Dark Yugi and Kaiba, I was laughing out loud at the utter silliness of things. Part of it may have been the idiotic dubtitles, but that said, this overdramatic seriousness with which the characters draw their cards, summon their “whatevers,” and battle is hilarious.

I gather these fights are supposed to follow the rules of the actual card game, but that’s a laugh as these battles seem fairly chaotic, not to mention so over the top. Indeed, I often was reminded of the imaginary battles we had as kids, where we made things up as we went. That’s pretty much how all of these card battles went.

What made this even more hilarious to me is the fact that at one point, Kaiba was battling a digital clone/hologram he’d created with his mind. So while he’s being ever so serious in his verbosity while battling this Dark Yugi copy, in the end, he’s ever so angry ’cause it wasn’t the real McCoy. 😆

The Plot

Clearly, Yu-Gi-Oh! is not targeted for me. I found the plot to be a bit silly, which was not helped by the laughable card battles. The writers attempt to inject some melodrama into the plot by making Diva, Sera, Manny, and the other children abused slaves. These flashbacks are injected at random during the progression of the movie. At what point in time a flashback will be set at depends on what the writer/director thinks the audience needs to know at a given point in the movie. As such, this makes for some non-fluid backstory telling.

During the final battle with Diva, I had to laugh because the monster Diva had become could easily use its own powers to mop the floor with everyone and achieve its objective. Instead, it opts for a card game ’cause Yu-Gi-Oh! is all about the card games, yo!

Even though I had no clue about who Yugi and company were, it really wasn’t needed. They are pretty much along for the ride. The only real difficulties came from the subtitles using names that weren’t being spoken in the Japanese. More on that in a bit. I wasn’t totally clear about the whole two-Yugi thing. I had to look that up and learned about “Dark Yugi” as well as Pharaoh Atem.

I’m not sure if Diva and Sera were actually related, as the adaptation pushed, of if Sera simply addressed “Diva” as “Nii-san” because they’d been close for years and she was like a brother to him. Because she does call “Nii-san” instead of “Oniichan” (which she did when they were younger), I’d almost think that they were not related. I’m told this movie is adapted from a manga story, so maybe more clues are given there.

Otherwise, the plot was more or less just an excuse to get us to card battles.

There Are no Subtitles Here, Only Dubtitles

The Blu-ray release (and I’m informed the DVD release as well) contains both the English dub, with optional English SDH Closed-Caption subtitles, and the Japanese audio, with non-optional English SDH Closed-Caption subtitles. In other words, the Japanese audio version has dubtitles. Initially, I was unaware of this. I was just annoyed when certain Japanese names were replaced with awesome American names. Since the Blu-ray (and DVD) void the audio and subtitle buttons on your remote, the only way I could verify this was to go back to the menu and check.

One thing watching the movie in Japanese with dubtitles makes clear is how much rewriting the dub has over the original Japanese script. Sometimes the rewrites were so massive, it was hilarious, even to my low-level understanding of Japanese. For example, there’s a moment when the bully addresses Diva as “temee.” Temee is one of the ways to say “you” in Japanese, and it is mainly used as a literary device to imply an insult. The dubtitles revealed that they had the bully asking if Diva was angry about being called an onion. 😆 There were lots of moments like that, including a “that’s scary” moment changed to “thank you.” 😆

The dubtitles also filled a moment of non-chatter by inserting dialog into the scene. I also laughed when the dubtitles changed “Mister” to “Master.” Kaiba is often addressed as “Kaiba-sama” or “Seto-sama” (his given name) by his lackeys. On the space station, the AI unit addressed him as “Mister Kaiba,” not “Master Kaiba” as the dubtitles indicated. I listened a few times and it was “Mister” every time, not “Master.” It is one of those rare times where an English honorific used in the Japanese has to be changed to something else ’cause “reasons.”

English vs. Japanese

I don’t write this as a means of starting a flame war. However, I did want to note something I noticed in the English dub version, which I think really changes things. For example, the leader of the bullies has a deep, commanding voice in the Japanese audio. So even though he looks like a loser, one is left with the impression that he’s not someone to be messed with.

In the English dub, the bully sounds like a nasally, wimpish kind of character. In English, I wondered why in the world anyone would happily follow a leader that sounded like a beta male. To be honest, I think the English dub casting was based on the looks of the bully character. I say this ’cause American studios have been guilty of this before. Most notorious for me is Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki OVA 2, where the character Seiryo had pink hair, but his voice was commanding, if pompous. The English dub decided the guy should speak as if he’s gay ’cause pink hair. So Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS has the bully sound like he looks rather than as portrayed in the original Japanese.

Disc Extras

There’s not a lot in terms of extras on the DVD or BD. There’s are four featurettes, including “Show Us Your Cards,” which has fans showing off their cards.  Two of these featurettes are interviews, one with Dan Green (Yugi’s English voice actor) and one with Eric Stuart, who voices Kaiba in the English dub. Finally, the last featurette show favorite moments of the English dub cast.

The disc also comes with what is described as an exclusive trading card. I didn’t open mine as I’m giving my copy away, but I presume it was for the card game.

Some Final Thoughts

I had thought that the anime was merely an advertisement for the trading card game. However, it seems that this series was originally a manga, and from that sprang the anime part of the franchise as well as the card game.

While I may not have been as impressed with Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS, in the eyes of my various nieces and nephews, they would see this wiz-bang stuff as ultra cool, or at least I think they would. It might be interesting to get some of them to actually write a review and get the target demographic perspective.

Finally, when Diva summons other kids to dispatch someone, I couldn’t help but think of Children of the Corn thanks to the glowing eyes they had. 😆

In the end, Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS is not my cup of tea. However, for those into the series, there are plenty of card battles, resumed rivalries, and a continuation of characters ending their high school life. I’m guessing fans will enjoy the movie, even if some aren’t happy with the lack of proper subtitles.

 


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