YU-GI-OH! SEASON 1: THE OFFICIAL FIRST SEASON

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DVD REVIEW: YU-GI-OH! SEASON 1: THE OFFICIAL FIRST SEASON / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: HIROYUKI KAKUDOU / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: DAN GREEN, AMY BIRNBAUM, WAYNE GRAYSON, ERIC STUART / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 17TH

Back in the early 2000s, 4Kids Entertainment was riding a wave of success by taking Japanese anime properties and producing and distributing them in the United States and worldwide. The most successful of these was the global phenomenon known as Pokémon. Arguably the second most popular of these was Yu-Gi-Oh!, a show in which characters played a fictional card game called Duel Monsters. Yu-Gi-Oh! had emerged in Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump years earlier to major success and was quickly serialised, and much like any popular manga, an anime version was quick to follow.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 1: The Official First Season compiles 49 episodes of the anime first shown in the UK in 2001. The title is somewhat misleading as there was a previous anime of Yu-Gi-Oh! which has never seen a release outside of Japan, but this is Season 1 of the second anime adaptation and it's the series that most people will be familiar with thanks to its prominence on UK television back in the early 2000s. The 49 episodes come split across 7 discs and tells the story of a young boy, Yugi Mutou, who is given his grandfather's deck of Duel Monsters cards and suddenly thrust into a mysterious world of duelling, magic, and adventure.

Yu-Gi-Oh! features a beautiful style of animation with each episode (mostly) revolving around one game of Duel Monsters. Of course, like in Pokémon where any altercation or problem resulted in a Pokémon battle, you'll find the same in the world of Yu-Gi-Oh! Most things are settled with a game of Duel Monsters. It certainly is something spectacular watching each monster come to life, especially if you are familiar with them from the trading card game (TCG). The quirky look of the characters of Yugi and friends blends really well with the fantastical style of the Duel Monsters. Speaking of the TCG, throughout the series Yugi and friends also keep explaining the game, which might make you think cynically that it's just an anime made to sell trading cards, but it actually just happened rather organically. Yu-Gi-Oh! wasn't conceived as a TCG and that was only a small part of the original manga series, which was written as a story of friendship and co-operation. Both themes are visible in the show and it feels very wholesome.

Yu-Gi-Oh!'s themes of friendship, honesty, and courage are very prevalent in the series, and over time the series delves deeper into themes of good and evil, also going deeper into Yugi's Millennium Puzzle. As a result, a grander story emerges which surprisingly grabs your attention with Egyptian imagery, legends and Gods, and much stronger Duel Monsters battles to come. Yu-Gi-Oh! certainly had a similar appeal as Pokémon, with secret worlds full of knowledge and wonder and, well, cool looking monsters that kids could obsess over.

Anyone expecting to find English subtitles with the original Japanese voice cast will be sorely disappointed as it is only the English dub done by 4Kids; this is most certainly a compilation of the Western version complete with Joey's New York accent. It might be what many people are familiar with but it would be nice to have the option of both the English dub and original version. Another disappointment is the lack of special features on the set, but we can always hope the next few sets will feature some bonus material.

While some things are a little dated, this release encapsulates the era of dubbed early 2000s anime in the West perfectly with some corny voice acting, great storytelling, and interesting characters. If Yu-Gi-Oh! was an important part of your childhood, this will be a nostalgia trip worth taking, especially as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon were arguably the starting point for a lot of people to delve deeper into Japanese culture, anime, and manga. If you are an anime fan and have never seen Yu-Gi-Oh!, it’s certainly worth watching. And with 49 episodes in one set, it certainly provides value for money. For anyone else, it might make you want to buy some of the trading cards to find that elusive Blue Eyes White Dragon.

Special Features: None
 

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