Everything has to be settled with a duel, and that’s the way I like it.
The end of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series brought me closure. Yugi fought and won what seemed like an impossible battle against the Pharaoh Atem. With Atem’s job complete in the world of the living complete he passed on to the spirit world. I cried. They cried. Seto Kaiba did not. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions’ strength lies in focusing on Kaiba’s unresolved obsession with the Pharaoh and awesome duels, but falters in trying to establish a new threat from a dull villain.
If you haven’t watched more than the first Yu-Gi-Oh! series — or even the first two seasons — you’ll understand what’s going on in the movie just fine. The Dark Side of the Dimensions picks up with Yugi, Joey, Téa, Tristan, and Bakura preparing for their high school graduation. Meanwhile, Kaiba is looking for Yugi’s Millennium Puzzle in hopes of bringing the Pharaoh back for one last duel.
This is where the antagonist comes in, and weakly so. After Atem left a boy, Aigami, gained the power to banish people to another dimension. He was intended to use this power to cleanse the world of evil and lead his other gifted friends. Instead Aigami moves to get revenge for an event happened long ago and decides to take out Yugi along the way (Aigami’s power is revoked if the Pharaoh returns). His motives are weak next to Kaiba’s passion, which make him feel like little more than a roadblock. Aigami is a flat villain, and if it weren’t for his dimensional powers, he’d be a boring one too.
Thankfully the scenes without Aigami and his friends were a wonderful reunion with main cast. It was hard not to get emotional seeing Yugi’s group plan what’s in store for their future, and how those plans might split them up. It was especially difficult since the original voice actors were brought back and made reconnecting with the characters easy. The star, though, is definitely Kaiba. His icy glares and dramatic quips are taken to the next level, and these moments hilarious as much as they are powerful. This is the guy that flies around in a Blue-Eyes White Dragon jet, and now he’s got a fancy space elevator to go with it. Silliness aside, seeing Kaiba still trying to grapple with Atem’s departure while struggling with his pride is great. Yugi may be the biggest one on the poster, but this is definitely Kaiba’s movie.
The Dark Side of Dimensions introduces a new kind of dueling, and while it’s a lot of fun to watch, it’s sometimes hard to follow. Dimension duels move fast and don’t allow for much time between moves (unlike some of duels in the original series) to process what’s going on strategically. Still, the lack of monologues slowing down duels is a good thing and results in more action. Duels are well paced throughout the movie too. Just when I started noticing that it’d been some time between duels, one would start up.
There were some weird things that technically threw off the movie, though. It had a few sudden transitions that cut scenes too quickly, and irregular audio details. A stadium filled with people watching an intense duel shouldn’t be silent. The first few scenes also had some rather unsightly character faces, though animation issues weren’t much of a problem for the rest of the movie. Even still, the finale had a good payoff that, while not unpredictable, is a fitting end. Couple that with the surprising emotional impact from Kaiba and it’s easier to forgive the smaller issues.