Monday, May 16, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #52: Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

I played trading card games in the younger days. Kid Boivin can confess to an out-and-out mastery of Magic: The Gathering, the Star Wars CCG, and Pokémon. Going along with these three games was what I suppose separated them from the standard card games of Poker, Blackjack, and the like: a story. Magic had it's players play the role of dueling wizards ("planeswalkers") and had it's post-Tolkien fantasy story played out through the art and "flavor text" of the cards; each expansion set was an advancement of the story with an accompanying novel, many of which I read. Star Wars and Pokémon of course were both based on pre-existing properties, allowing players to re-enact the events of their favorite stories how they saw fit ("I'm going to train Lando as a Jedi...a dark Jedi!").

I, of course, loved Star Wars to death and watched a whole lot of the Pokémon cartoon as well. So basically, I'm well versed in the sometimes goofy realm of the kids' card game cash-in. I was, however, not prepared for Yu-Gi-Oh!.

My brothers watched Yu-Gi-Oh! after I had outgrown the card game fad and when I was probably older than the anime's target audience so my memories of it consist of the weekly bellows of "BLUE EYES WHITE DRAGON!" emanating from my living room on Saturday mornings. I was expecting a simple tween-centered movie for the show's cinematic debut; I have nostalgia for Pokémon after all, maybe this would register with me in a way it didn't connect with the critics.

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

There's really no point in explaining Yu-Gi-Oh! ("The Movie", always a damning sign) to you because after ninety minutes, not even I understand it. But I'll try. Basically, some kid named Yugi get's possessed by the soul of a five thousand year old pharaoh and becomes a master of playing Duel Monsters, the game-within-the-show which is actually the real-life Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, the cards look exactly the same! The entire movie is basically a succession of games of Yu-Gi-Oh! played out with the opponents shouting their moves at each other.

"I play "King's Knight" in Defense Mode and restore three thousand of my Life Points!"

"Ha HA! You forget that my Magic Card "Resistant Fortune Blast" allows me to steal any Life Points you gain!"

"He's right, Yugi! Because he played "Resistant Fortune Blast" face down, it's effects are reversed and now you must surrender your life points to him and discard your hand!"

An hour and a half, folks.

The rules of the game are never explained, it's just assumed that anyone watching this movie has sunk all of their allowance money into this franchise and is already intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of Yu-Gi-Oh! (or Duel Monsters or Fuck Yourself or whatever it's called). The parameters of the Yugiverse are never explained either. Apparently they wear these things that make their cards' monsters and spells into giant holograms or something, or is it magic? If they die in the card game do they die for real? What are the stakes? Egyptian magic?

Nothing made sense. There was no real story other than that Yugi (or the Pharaoh, I'm never sure which is which, he transforms between the two and I'm not sure who is in control) has to duel Anubis to save the world, which just means he plays a card game for all to see. Great. More card games.

There's also a weird amount of localization going on. Two of Yugi's friends who as far as I could tell were not meant as comic relief in the Japanese original based on their facial expressions, do nothing but spout American pop culture references with a straight face. And because of the reliance on card faces and text, there's a lot of Japanese writing replaced with English that's glaringly obvious to anyone who knows what they're looking for.

The most egregious offense though? Yugi is a shitty card player and a jerk. His entire strategy revolves around getting his three "Egyptian God Cards" out and using them to crush his opponents. These cards are unique to him and no one else. He's only the best Duel Monsters player in the world because he has cards that are thousands of years old and invincible. I'm really surprised that the Duel Monsters League governing body doesn't investigate him for, you know, blatantly cheating. Maybe you wouldn't be so talented if you didn't have some made-up card with a billion Attack Points. I tried that in my Magic days, it's bullshit.

Looking back on my TCG and anime days now almost fills me with shame. Was it all this bad? I remember even Pokémon telling some sort of story about a boy wanting to be the very best, like no one ever was. It was possible to enjoy that show without having to spend money on the cards or the video game (though the latter didn't hurt). Yu-Gi-Oh! seems to be a sham, a scheme to get kids to play what looks to be a stupid card game and make their parents pay for it. The least the little brats could do was not force them to see this movie with them.

Also, the Black Eyed Peas are on the soundtrack.

Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie is ranked #68 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.