In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Yugioh franchise saw the release of Yugioh: The Dark Side of Dimensions. Dark Side of Dimensions takes place sometime after the ending of the original Yugioh series, but it’s worth noting that it is a sequel to the manga storyline as opposed to the anime, meaning that there are a few key differences.
The original Yugioh ended with the Ceremonial Duel between Yugi and Atem, the spirit of the pharaoh that was sealed inside the Millenium Puzzle. Yugi emerged victorious in the duel, and Atem was able to finally transcend to the afterlife. Fast forward to the present day, and Yugi and his friends are living relatively normal lives.
The gang is in the last stages of their senior year of high school, and an early scene in the film features each character talking about their plans post-graduation. I really enjoyed this moment because it is one of the rare instances of the series not being entirely revolved around duel monsters. While Joey’s dream is to actually become a professional duelist, Yugi wants to create games of his own, which is really cool when you remember that the manga initially featured games outside of duel monsters.
Duel Monsters isn’t my favorite Yugioh series (that honor goes to Yugioh GX), but I’d be lying if it wasn’t really nostalgic seeing the whole cast back together. After all, Duel Monsters is what sparked my interest and love for Yugioh, and every character looks, sounds and behaves exactly as I remember them.
Speaking of looks, Dark Side of Dimensions is a really gorgeous film. Yugioh has such a sharp, striking art style, and Dark Side of Dimensions does a great job of bringing it to life. One interesting thing that I noticed is that I was more impressed by the animation on the human characters, than the ones on the actual monsters. The monsters genuinely do look great, but I really liked the shading and expressiveness of Yugi and his friends.
Dark Side of Dimensions may be pretty and nostalgic, but it obviously needs a story to truly shine. I wouldn’t say that the film’s plot is outright bad, but the execution leaves plenty to be desired. At its core, Dark Side of Dimensions is all about Kaiba’s desire to settle his score with Atem, someone who has handed him many defeats over the years.
Ever since Atem left the world of the living, Kaiba has invested millions and millions of dollars in finding ways to bring him back for one last duel. One of his greatest inventions is a machine that can tap into his memories, producing a near perfect replica of the pharaoh, crazy hair, mannerisms and all.
But this hologram proves to be unsatisfactory for Kaiba, as he knows that it won’t ever truly be the real deal. So he sends his brother Mokuba to Egypt, along with a number of Kaiba Corp. employees, in order to recover the pieces of the Millennium Puzzle.
On the other side of the plot is a group of Egyptians that wield a power known as the Prana (Plana in the English dub). This group was initially shepherded by Shadi, and he told the children that they would be blessed with the Prana the moment the pharaoh leaves the realm of the living. But should he ever return, they will lose this power. Naturally, this puts the group at odds with Kaiba.
The group is currently led by a young man named Diva. Diva has decided that one method of insuring the pharaoh does not return is by eliminating Yugi, his vessel. To do so, Diva used the Prana to place himself as a student in Yugi’s class named Aigami, in order to monitor him.
The Prana can, apparently, can be used for all sorts of situations, but the film, or at least the English dub, never really was clear on the power’s limits. For example, we see Diva use it to teleport halfway across the globe in an instant, summon dark creatures, and banish people to alternate dimensions. I’m also not entirely sure what the Prana has to do with Atem, as none of the wielders of the Prana are given much background.
Prana powers aside, the story as a whole is not very strong. It introduces a number of characters and bits of lore, but never really fleshes them out. Also, I don’t like the fact that the entire plot’s foundation is built on Kaiba’s one-sided rivalry with Atem. It makes Kaiba look like an obsessive psychopath, as he has done nothing but think about dueling Atem since he left.
Earlier I mentioned that Kaiba has spent the time since the Ceremonial Duel developing all manner of different technology, and one of his more impressive inventions is his new Duel Disk. It is powered by the user’s mind, and allows them to duel using a virtual deck of cards. As someone who is a huge fan of the different types of Duel Disks that have been used throughout the series, I really liked the latest model. It seems to be a hybrid between the Solid Vision ones used in Yugioh Arc-V, and the new virtual ones in Yugioh VRAINS.
In a series all about the card game, you would expect the handful of duels in Dark Side of Dimensions to be the highlight of the film. For me, this was actually the complete opposite, and I found myself to be the most bored when a duel was happening onscreen. On top of the actual duel scripting being bad, the characters never really announced the effects of their cards (again, at least in the English dub).
Making things worse are the new Dimension Duels that the film introduces. Dimension Duels allow players to summon high level monsters without tributes, instead requiring the duelist to channel their spirit into them (basically meaning that they summon a monster, and proceed to scream like a Dragon Ball Z character).
These duels only added to the film’s overall confusion and ambiguity. For all of its high and lows, Arc-V always had really entertaining duels, so it was extra disappointing seeing duels so poorly put together.
But the most disappointing aspect of Dark Side of Dimensions for me was Yugi Muto himself. I’ve always dreamed of a post-Ceremonial Duel story where we really get to see Yugi come into his own as a character. For pretty much the entirety of the original manga and anime, Yugi is in the shadow of the pharaoh, and I was really hoping that this film would do capitalize on really fleshing him out. But no, the final boss of the film still ends up being defeated by Atem, negating anything cool that they could’ve done with Yugi.
I really wanted to love Dark Side of Dimensions, but by the end of the film I knew that I was just finishing it out of some self-imposed obligation. In introduces a bunch of genuinely cool ideas and concepts, but never goes anywhere with them. In fact, I almost feel like this story would’ve been better suited for a short manga series, as opposed to a feature length film. If you’re a huge fan of Yugioh, you’ll find some enjoyment in seeing all of the original cast again, but otherwise, I’d stay away from this one.