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[Anime Review] Yu-Gi-Oh!

Well, there’s nothing that screams ‘shounen’ quite like this ancient, classic anime. I don’t use classic positively, though. Yu-Gi-Oh!, the anime that inspired a million memes and just as many poor voice acting decisions: but how many people can claim to have actually watched it? Well, not me – I only watched up to episode 6. There are many reasons why, but it basically boils down to Yu-Gi-Oh! being as predictable and boring as the weather in the middle of an arid desert. And being shit.

So, for the four people who have never heard of the card game/anime, Yu-Gi-Oh! is about summoning monsters, hitting the enemy’s monsters, and taking your opponents life points to attain victory. The anime specifically features Yugi with his friends, Joey, Tristan and the token girl, on a quest to solve the riddles of the mysterious Millennium items (of which Yugi owns one) and to rescue Yugi’s granddad from the clutches of the creator of the card game: Maximillion Phoenix. Essentially, it’s a story of adventure set in a world where the Duel Monsters card game is ridiculously popular to a point where anyone who is anyone is good at the game.

However, this isn’t as fun as it sounds. The card duels in each episode can be exciting, but only for about three of them; after that, you realise how formulaic they get. Here it is, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Formula for Episodic Tension in Duels.

1: Yugi shows off

2: Yugi’s opponent shows off

3: Yugi believes he’s going to win

4: Yugi’s opponent traps him with an unwinnable situation

5: Yugi pulls some bullshit with the power of friendship, and wins

Now you know the formula, congratulations! You don’t need to watch Yu-Gi-Oh! anymore. Literally every fight in the show is like this, with absolutely no derailment whatsoever. The only exception is the duel with Phoenix, which Phoenix wins; however, that’s for plot reasons, since Phoenix steals Yugi’s granddad’s soul; don’t ask how that works. That’s one of the most irritating parts of Yu-Gi-Oh!, honestly: the worldbuilding. There’s an interesting world here, themed around ancient Egyptian monster-summoning games and mysterious puzzles, but absolutely none of it ever defined or explained to any significant degree.

It’s not just the story and worldbuilding that’s shit, though. Oh no, Yu-Gi-Oh! takes being shit as seriously as most people take a YouTuber’s Top 10 lists. The voice acting is atrocious, like most early 90s anime was; Seto Kaiba is the only one who’s hilariously bad, though. When he talks, the world laughs, and not with him. The duel animations are suitably impressive, but generally the animation is limited and boring, with no interesting visuals between duels. The characterisation can be decent, but again, the voice acting makes it hilarious instead of emotional, and I can’t bring myself to get that invested in the characters because they’re largely generic and forgettable. The more interesting characters by far are the villains and foes Yugi faces, who are still generic, but have hilarious personalities, which shine during their duels with Yugi.

Another thing that I feel I really need to remark on is the strange habit of the Millennium Puzzle turning Yugi from a teenager of a vague age to an older teenager of a vague age, with a manly voice to go with it. He does this before every single duel he partakes in, and I just do not understand the point of it. Why not just make him a man all the time? There doesn’t seem to be any plot-related reason for it, as no other character ever comments on it. Like, at all.

OK, that’s all the basic stuff on Yu-Gi-Oh!. The most egregious thing, though, is yet to come, but it’s vaguely related to the Formula for Episode Tension in Duels; every single episode of this fucking show plays out in the same way. It’s as shounen as shounen anime gets – main characters encounter trouble, deal with their rivals, have a duel… Yugi eventually wins because of some friendship-is-magic bollocks, and the world continues inexorably to orbit around him and his stupid Millennium Puzzle. I’m not even kidding when I say the first scene of episode 2 is virtually identical to episode 1. If you played them both to me now, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

There’s a strange lack of comedy, too. I didn’t find myself engaged by the combat, interested in the characters, saddened by the backstories and motivations, excited by the plot or laughing at the supposedly comic moments. Watching this is about as emotionally engaging as the average burp. Honestly, that’s what Yu-Gi-Oh! is most like – a pointless breath of air which might provide a momentary speck of interest on the black canvas of your life, but will immediately be forgotten. We already know Yugi will rescue his granddad, win every goddamn duel that comes his way, and have a deeper understanding of the power of friendship than Kaiba ever will.

It’s boring and predictable, and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s worth watching past episode 6. Even that was a tough watch for me, I wanted to drop it sooner than that. And so, since it’s shit, I’m not going to put any effort into mocking it. Exodia? More like Ex-yawn-dia. Yeah. Suck it, Yu-Gi-Oh!.

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