Reviewby Gabriella Ekens,
Six months after the end of the original series, Yugi Muto and his friends are preparing to graduate from high school. While Yugi still feels like he's lost a part of himself, he's come to terms with the Pharaoh's passing, now looking forward to a future alongside his classmates. However, other people may not be so willing to let the past alone. Seto Kaiba still yearns to assert his dueling dominance over the ancient King, desperately searching for a way to revive him. On the cusp of accomplishing this, his plans are foiled by mysterious stranger, Aigami, who holds power over dimensions. Is the Pharaoh's saga really over? And with Aigami around, do our characters have a future after all?
After more than 10 years of increasingly ridiculous sequels, the original Yu-Gi-Oh! – the one where Yugi Muto, the Pharaoh Atem, and their cadre of pals unearth 5000-year old secrets about the origins of a popular card game, Duel Monsters – is back with a sequel film: Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions. Set six months after the end of the show (in which Yugi laid the Millennium Items to rest and bid a tearful farewell to his longtime companion, the Pharaoh) this film introduces a new conflict in the form of Aigami, a mysterious transfer student who has a strange beef with our heroes. While this whole thing could've easily been a lazy and unsatisfying reheating of nostalgic material, I'm happy to report that this movie uses Aigami's threat to resolve several loose ends, such as Seto Kaiba and Bakura's roles in the finale, alongside giving Yugi's own story yet another final climactic showdown.
Impressively for a 130-minute film, The Dark Side of Dimensions is rarely boring and contains enough story to make its runtime move at a rapid clip. It does drag a bit during the concluding duel – which lasts a whole 45-minutes - but all in all, it's nowhere near as baggy as it could have been. While the narrative has its rough points, it succeeds at the most important thing – feeling like an epic conclusion to this beloved, long-running anime. It knows what fans liked so much about the show and provides more of that in distilled, exaggerated bites. Yugi and Seto roast each other with so-bad-it's-good one-liners. Duels flaunt all the rules of the actual card game to become contests of who can yell out the biggest monster name. I won't spoil the ending, but Seto Kaiba will only continue to top himself in terms of world-changing technological innovations that he solely applies to card games. A big part of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s appeal is how over-the-top it makes its life-or-death struggles over a children's card game, and this movie seems to have actively embraced that without going too far and making the whole thing a complete farce.
At the same time, there are also moments of genuinely effective storytelling. While the villain's backstory doesn't make a ton of sense, I found him more likable and effective than your run-of-the-mill movie-original anime baddie. As a conflicted foil for Yugi, the film manages to make us care about Aigami, even though he's basically an interloper in this reunion between Kaiba and Yugi. Meanwhile, the recurring characters all receive satisfying epilogues to their experiences throughout the series. Bakura confronts his past as the host of the Millennium Ring without just succumbing to its influence yet again. Yugi has dealt with Atem's passing to become his friend's pillar of humility and strength. Kaiba is still everyone's favorite egoistic lunatic. Most importantly, the movie doesn't go back on the finality of the Pharaoh's passing – the emotional capstone to the 200+ episode anime series largely built around his friendship with Yugi, which is retained. That's not to say that Pharaoh's influence is totally absent from this film – it's just smart enough not to cheapen the show's best moment.
As a childhood fan of the original series, one of my favorite things about watching this film was getting to listen to the English dub cast again. While I can't call the old Yu-Gi-Oh! dub good by most objective standards, it's certainly one of the most wacky and memorable of those old 4kids affairs. (This has been memorialized in plenty of internet spoofs and memes.) As someone who used to wake up on Saturday mornings specifically to watch the next installment of Yugi's adventures in the Duelist Kingdom, these voices are burned into my memory, and it makes my lizard brain happy to hear them all yelling over card games again. The adaptive writing also sticks to the tongue-in-cheek style of that old dub, full of cheesy one-liners that probably weren't in the original Japanese. If you're one of those fans who harps on that dub's infidelities, you might not be happy with this. But as someone who enjoys hearing these voice actors have fun, I had a good time. There is one possible issue, however, in that chunks of the plot, mostly concerning the exact nature of Aigami's powers, didn't make much sense. It seems like his powers have something to do with dimensions and maybe also ghosts? I don't know if this was any clearer in the Japanese version, but it seems like it might have been. While I can't be sure, mucking up important plots points is also a proud Yu-Gi-Oh! dub tradition, and I wouldn't be surprised if they kept that up.
Overall, Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions is pretty much everything that I could have wanted from an epilogue to the original series. It understands that people love Yu-Gi-Oh! for being silly and dumb and loud, even providing adequate emotional continuations for the series' best character beats. While Aigami's story is clearly tacked-on – and more than a little nonsensical – they do a decent job at making his material compelling, considering the circumstances. The dub is just icing on the cake, a 10-ton nostalgia bomb that dragged me right back to elementary school. The animation can get a bit clunky, but in terms of fluidity, it's far beyond what we're used to from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Even the CG (mostly used for card game monsters) looks pretty decent. All-in-all, I'm happy that Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions does justice to the original material and unearths old affection for the franchise that I'd forgotten I possessed. It was nice to reunite these guys after all those years. I'm glad to see that – even as they finish high school, reside in the afterlife, and build giant holographic card game stadiums with their names on them in two million point font – their adventures will continue.
Overall (dub) : B+
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Satisfying emotional continuation of the series, over-the-top in a fun way, dub is a nostalgic reunion of the original cast
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