Unlike other prevailing crazes of the day, like crazy bones, tazos, or going outside, the Japanese can make frenzied past-times that actually stick, and none have as much staying power as the Yu-gi-oh! franchise. The original manga series spawned a barrage of media, including the world’s most popular trading card game. A new movie based on the franchise ‘Yu-gi-oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time’, has been made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the original anime series. Being exactly ten years older than that series, I went to the UK premiere for the film both under the guise of understated nostalgia and to bear witness to the spectacle of card games played on motorcycles…in 3D.
Manga Entertainment put on an event that, whilst low-key in comparison to the fangirl swarmed New York premiere, was abuzz with hyped up children, confused adults and one or two hardcore devotees. “What we found with Yu-gi-oh! is it’s got quite a broad fan base” Jerome Mazandarani, the company’s Acquisition and Marketing Manager said. “I think it’s got two audiences: when it’s on Saturday morning telly it brings much younger boys, 9-11 year olds, but the core audience are late teens, college age males who grew up with it and still play it.” Undeniably this was an event for the kids, with a raffle and goodie bag giveaway before and after the show. Representatives from Konami had a small booth, offering games for raring players or those who’d never summoned a monster. A hand from my past itched to hold a deck once again, but alas the line to play was just too long. Maybe in another ten years…
The film is a 60 minute excursion into absurdity with a semblance of fan appreciation. The original series revolved around a boy, Yugi, who unlocks the spirit of a 1000 year old pharaoh to play card games. Think the second coming if Jesus was a Pokémon master. The sequel series, GX and 5D, featured a children’s card game academy and card games played on motorcycles, respectively. This film ups the implausibility by having our villain’s future world destroyed by card games, thus he travels back in time and kill its creator, Maximillion Pegasus. It’s up to the three protagonists of the series to team up and decide the fate of the world once again over a game.
A collectible card game-induced apocalypse is naturally insane, and of course left ambiguous. The time travel is riddled with plot holes and disregard to established fictional theory, but furthermore how it’s achieved is not explained. One laughable line from the villain: “where there’s a will there’s a way…and I had a will” serves as a great non-explanation. I hate to invoke a cliché but it’s bad…even for Yu-gi-oh!. There’s really just not much of a story here, and whilst 4kids offer a short pre-video to explain the canon… good luck understanding the battle. I know the rules and was still lost, and whilst one older fan religiously schooled me when asked if he was just as confused, I can’t wrap my head around a child following it for a single second. The real breaker though is 4kids atrocious script: cheesy, head-grating and an abuse of the good voice talent on board.
To its credit the 3D is actually worthwhile. Perhaps because it was conceived as a 3D project or traditional animation with CG effects just works better, who knows, but it’s certainly raised faith in the gimmick. It’s on the whole well animated and the sound effects and mix of orchestral and rock score will keep you entertained on a subconscious level.
The film will be released on DVD and 3D Blu-ray July 25th, and will have a limited cinema run from the 14th of May. “I was very happy to get 20+ screens to show the film in the UK, so we gave the film to Picturehouse for kids club, before we realised unaccompanied teenagers over 16 couldn’t see it themselves.” Said Mr. Mazandarani in regards to older, and bitter fans. “So far we have at least 6 or 7 screens which will run all age screenings, so what we’re doing is putting more information every day on Twitter. We will lose money doing it, but it’s important cause we’ve promised to do it contractually and it promotes the home video release effectively”. The DVD/Blu-rays will have dual language audio tracks too. “I think that’s one mistake 4kids has made with its properties is they’ve gone purely for a ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ audience and always discounted the value of the otaku audience.”
Words > Graham Ashton