Saturday, January 28, 2017

Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time

For those who are unaware, Yu-Gi-Oh! is a popular anime and manga series created by Kazuki Takahashi in 1996 which follows a boy named Yugi Muto on his journey to uncover the mysterious past of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who resides within the Millenium Puzzle, an artifact which hangs around his neck. Throughout the course of the series, Yugi fights a number of villains through the Duel Monsters card game, with each duel bringing new challenges to overcome. Since the conclusion of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series, a number of spin-off series were produced in an effort to continue promoting the official Trading Card Game: Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal and, currently, Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V.

Yu-Gi-Oh! is also no stranger to film. The first film, known as Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie, was exclusively released in Japan in 1999 and based on a Japanese-only Yu-Gi-Oh! series animated by Toei Animation, a series nicknamed “Season 0” by fans. The second film, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light, released in 2004 and marketed in the US as Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie, was based on the more well-known Yu-Gi-Oh! anime produced by Studio Gallop and Nihon Ad Systems and remains ambiguously canon. In 2010, a third movie subtitled Bonds Beyond Time was released in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime adaptation and serves as a crossover between the first three Yu-Gi-Oh! series. In the US, the film received a limited theatrical release in 2011 with 10 minutes of additional footage to give some backstory on the three main characters and an exclusive Malefic Red-Eyes Black Dragon card distributed to theatergoers. We had first seen Bonds Beyond Time in 3D during this run and, in anticipation of a screening of a fourth Yu-Gi-Oh! movie, The Dark Side of Dimensions, decided to view it again, this time at home on a Blu-ray.

As Yusei Fudo (Greg Abbey) contemplates the state of New Domino City, two of his friends, Jack Atlas (Ted Lewis) and Crow Hogan (Tom Wayland), challenge him to a duel to cheer him up. While the three of the them ride on a bridge, a mysterious man named Paradox (Sean Schemmel) shows up and steals Yusei’s ace card, Stardust Dragon, before disappearing into the past. Using the power of the Crimson Dragon, Yusei travels back into the past and rescues Jaden Yuki (Matthew Charles) from Paradox before the two of them travel back further to rescue Yugi Muto (Dan Green) from a dark fate. The three duelists then face off against Paradox in a duel to determine the fate of both the Duel Monsters card game and the world.

L-R: Yami Yugi (Dan Green), Yusei Fudo (Greg Abbey) and
Jaden Yuki (Matthew Charles) about to face off against Paradox.

Since the movie is short, clocking in at about 50 minutes, the story is pretty simple and the plot is fairly easy to follow. However, it does rely heavily on viewers already having familiarity with the three main duelists and their adventures, though mainly Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, to make the most sense. As such, viewers who are not familiar with the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise may get easily lost in trying to understand the character relationships and the unnecessarily complicated card game, the latter of which a seasoned fan will more easily be able to follow. An additional ten minutes of footage explaining Yugi, Jaden and Yusei’s backstories can be viewed as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray, but it still may not help the uninitiated that much.

Fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise may also want to know that this movie is actually canon, specifically to Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, as Paradox and his exploits are relevant to a future arc of the series. For those who are wondering, the movie takes place between episodes 80 and 86 of 5D’s.

As for the actual duel, it’s a rare opportunity to see characters from across multiple series duel with each other, much less with the fate of the world at stake at the same time. However, the main heroes seem to fairly easily retain control over the duel despite the best efforts of Paradox. Despite this, it’s entertaining and a good chance to see fan-favorite cards interacting with each other. In addition, the interactions between the heroes occasionally produces some good humor.

Due to the increased budget of this movie, it has higher quality animation compared to the anime series it’s based on. Character and card animations and movements are much smoother and the quality is more consistent. While most of the movie uses traditional animation, there are some moments when CG animation is used, though it is pretty obvious when placed against the traditional elements, particularly when applied to the monsters. This creates a temporary visual contrast that can take one out of the moment, but fortunately these moments are infrequent enough they don’t detract from the overall experience.

As for the voice acting, the dub uses the 4Kids voice actors that viewers have come to associate with their respective characters. Whatever one’s opinion of 4Kids may be, the four most prominent voices, Greg Abbey as Yusei Fudo, Sean Schemmel as Paradox, Matthew Charles as Jaden Yuki and Dan Green as both Yugi Muto and Yami Yugi, do a pretty good job with their respective characters and display their chemistry with each other well. At the same time, since I personally had watched each season of Yu-Gi-Oh! for several years, I can’t imagine the idea of anyone else doing these voices.

Sean Schemmel voices the villainous Paradox.

The music choice is also pretty interesting. While there does appear to be an original score in places, the dub makes a pretty neat choice with incorporating music from the Duel Monsters, GX and 5D’s seasons of the show whenever the character from that series is most prominent in a given scene. For instance, when Jaden attacks with a monster during his turn, music from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX plays in the background. The music during the credits even consists of the dub themes from each of the three versions of the series, which can double as a nostalgia bomb for anyone who grew up watching these characters in action.

On a final note, I remember the 3D version during the limited theatrical run having a pretty effective use of the technology. Unfortunately, a 3D copy on home video is hard to come by, so we had to view it through a 2D Blu-ray. On the upside, it also includes the original Japanese version with subtitles, which some people may find attractive.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time is an enjoyable movie for fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. Its straightforward plot and dramatic duel make for a decent addition to the canon of the spin-off material and is excellent fanservice for fans who have wanted to see their favorite characters and cards interact with each other against an original, though not very fleshed out, villain. While it is easy to recommend to fans, it would be very difficult for the uninitiated to follow along with the central duel, let alone care about the story or characters. In that case, it may be worth trying to view the bonus feature on the Blu-ray for some semblance of an explanation as to who Yugi, Jaden and Yusei are, but its effectiveness is not guaranteed.

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