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Yu Gi Oh 5ds: Season 1 UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

yugioh-5ds-season-1-coverCARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES!

Now I’ve said that, let’s groan through the rest of the show…

What They Say:
Welcome to New Domino City! Once the playground to legendary duelist Yugi Muto, this sprawling metropolis has since been transformed into a futuristic society where dueling has kicked into overdrive. With recent technological advancements made by KaibaCorp, dueling has undergone a metamorphosis that has revolutionized the makeup and pace of the game! It’s now a heart-pounding, adrenaline-filled, and fuel-injected competition where duelists ride supercharged hyper cycles called Duel Runners and battle it out in hi-octane contests called “Turbo Duels.” The winners and losers aren’t just separated by skill and strength… but by SPEED!

The Review:
Audio:
Set in 2.0 in English only, in terms of sound quality on the whole there is nothing majorly wrong with it – with no subtitle option (other than manually if you are doing it on a PC you can have captions in CAPS LOCK which are the subtitles), the audio is more than acceptable on the majority, however there is one major issue I noticed. If you pause it, during a part when there is a fade to black, sometimes when you unpause it, the sound actually vanishes – you have to go back a scene without pausing it for it to return. This is very noticeable and happened on almost every disc so this is a very annoying issue and also holds to another issue with the video quality as well…

Video:
Video wise, colours were fine and flashy, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problem on the whole with the animation which is a step up from the original YGO with CGI and computerized animation and graphics, with the colour of New Domino city vs. the slums but it is very colourful – unfortunately, what does carry forward from the original YGO releases is that when you pause, the animation kind of fades and scratches out, making it look blurry. Also again, there is a significant delay when the show fades to black which always happens once an episode – almost like it is loading the screen. With the audio issue mentioned above, this is a significant and eye-catching thing which can cause minor annoyances with the viewing.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu is very basic – there are no selections for audio or extras (as there isn’t any) and it is actually hard to see the Play All selection at the bottom of the menu with a weak blue –the images focus on various characters throughout the saga (Yusei, Jack, Carly, etc) held above the menu in a sci-fi style background – easy to return to the main menu via the show as well. Very basic but does its job.

Extras:
There were no extras for this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Yu-Gi-Oh series – being one of the first anime to be a big thing in the UK airing on Sky One at the time (behind Pokemon, Digimon, DBZ and Sailor Moon in various degrees of success and timeslots) – despite quite clearly being more of a cash in for the trading card game, it had the cheese factor, combined with some favourite actors in English like Dan Green and Eric Stuart, it wasn’t a great series but the narm of card games saving the world is always one to smile about.

5Ds is, in fact, the third generation of YGO series (with the second one, GX actually getting a UK release after 5Ds for some reason) and it is…different. This is where the English version of the series suffers a lot more – whilst the initial changes made in the first season are quite legendary in avoiding death and such, 5Ds really makes it hard considering it is in fact, a much darker series on the whole. Sure, there are still a lot of cheesy things and the dueling concept to solve pretty much everything borders on ridiculous, but there are actually some decent things that occurred in this series and could have easily been a much better series than it is. Sadly, it became much more of a drag even during the better arc nearer the end of this collection.

It starts off as a classic rich vs. poor ideology. The main character, Yusei, is a different type of hero from Yugi and Jaden- he is much tougher, and whilst kind, has a darker edge to him being part of the Satellite, the slum style area he and his friends live. It is established however that Yusei probably could have got to Neo Domino City using his White Runner he made, a glorified duel motorcycle – however, his best friend Jack Atlas, challenged him to a duel and won – stealing his best card and his Runner and ran off to make a new life. He is currently the Neo Domino City champion living a life of luxury, yet conflict. With a new duel runner, Yusei is seeking him out, but as his friend stole a piece to help make it, the authorities are also onto him…

…but instead of arresting him there, they challenge to a duel on motorcycles.

Expect this a lot – breaking and entering? No arrest or beat down or running away…have to duel. Escape from jail? Have to duel…it gets a tad laughable throughout, to say the least…

One thing it does better though is the actual card game. It is played more realistically (as in the card used) and also explains the card effects and uses properly. Not to mention it explains synchro summoning – a new thing I only learned about recently whilst picking up the game again as a new way to get powerful monsters onto the field. So in that sense, it is more true to fans of the YGO card game.

It is clear though the dub has made some typical changes – not just the names of course – considering there are clearly some instances of characters who have died or are about to die and they change it A LOT where it gets blatantly obvious so don’t expect an honest translation…

Anyway, the first arc is pretty much establishing Yusei as the protagonist, and Jack the antagonist. Yusei having to deal with the law, finding new friends when he gets caught (and yes, he has to duel to escape) and meeting Jack initially in a rematch where it appears if the security hadn’t got there, Yusei would have won. This drives Jack ready for the major tournament where his title is on the line…

However, the key thing that comes from this arc is the mention of people called Signers. During their duel, both Jack and Yusei had flashes on their arms signifying they could be signers where the power behind Jack, Goodwin, wants to gather them for some reason but the fate of the world could be in their hands…via dueling of course but this has happened in every season and shows so…

The tournament comes together with Yusei’s new friends (the most important ones being the two twins Leo and Luna once Signers become more focused on) as it reminds you that people from the Satellite are considered trash – unaware Jack was originally from it – we see others fighting in the duel seem to be able to use their deck and actually physically hurt people. The most prominent is a young woman named Akiza, whose rose/garden themed deck seems to delight in hurting people, with others calling her a witch, whilst Yusei wonders if she is a signer as his arm reacts to her winning play…

The duels continue, other players and signers are established, with Goodwin keeping an eye out for 5 – 4 seem to be present with other duellists you need to remember as they become prevalent in the later arc – but it does lead to Yusei winning the tournament (though manages to calm down Akiza in their final) and facing off against Jack one more time. The Signers all see visions during the duel which Yusei does win, and Jack seems disgraced.

So whilst the initial arc does have a lot of introducing the two main characters, giving you some memorable side characters for future reference (Akiza, Luna) for the most part it is pure dueling, and it gets rather predictable and almost dull at times. Because Yusei is duelling the most, all his cards are pretty repeatable and the dreaded invincible protagonist syndrome crops up as he always draws the right card in the impossible situation – it is what YGO is known for, but this is where the darker character of Yusei actually falls in comparison to Yugi – whilst Yugi relied a lot on Yami of course, the fact they were two distinct characters made a lot of their later duels quite engaging – here, it is very intense and treated as a blood sport at times – whilst not without its benefits, it starts to pretty much get way too obvious before it ends.

Fortunately, the second half of the show does take things up a notch with the Dark Signer arc – here, similar to the Ghouls of season 2 in YGO; we have mysterious people challenging Yusei into Shadow Duels. This arc also introduces easily my favorite character of the series Carly, a reporter who is very nerdy, cute, but has a much bigger impact in the series than you’d expect as initial ideas scream comic relief, but she does that part of the job well…

On the flip side though we get the character Crow, an old friend of Yusei who is like the Robin Hood of the show, except he is stealing cards for kids instead of cash…yeah, priorities in this world. Crow feels like a tag along which, whilst none of the side characters really have been that important (bar maybe Luna but even she isn’t in it that much, whilst Akiza doesn’t return for quite a while) and he doesn’t have the same story or entertainment value as a character like Joey or even Mai did in the original series to the point he feels forgettable for a lot of it.

The most interesting initial part is Jack feeling disgraced and hiding his face, where Carly finds him and looks after him leading in a weird sort of friendship that goes through the series. Meanwhile, Goodwin does reveal to Yusei about the Signers and the Dark signers who are challenging people to shadow duels, as well as history of Yusei’s origins. With the Dark Signers and opponents trying to find the Signers, all of Yusei’s friends become involved to various degrees of success.

This is where the story both gets good but also feels it drags – Carly tries to look on info from Goodwin via an apparent psychic named Misty – and gets caught into a trap by one of the anti-Signers named Sayer. Sayer defeats her in a duel (instead of arresting her) and sends her to the shadow realm (obviously she would have died but 4Kids…) – but the big thing is Carly actually does become a Dark Signer, and Misty who is also one goes to find and duel Akiza, getting revenge on her ‘missing’ brother (it is clear that he is dead despite what the dub tries to tell you). That said, seeing Akiza back in action, Jack coming to try and help and Carly feeling utter despair over what she has done (again, clearly has killed Sayer but instead it is the ‘shadow realm’) is quite heartbreaking for one of the few truly likable characters in the show…

There is history being told with Akiza’s past with Yusei, more on Yusei’s back-story, how certain duellists got their powers, and even a potential romance between Jack and Carly, all between plenty of duels (though Luna becomes much more important after her initial one duel where she can communicate with the spirit world becomes a plot point here) and with former duellists, cards being absorbed as real monsters, old friends becoming enemies, the Satellite in danger, and the truth behind Goodwin, there is a TON to get through in this arc. This is where I meant it kind of drags – not because of the story; it is in fact because the story is focused on the duels more than the actual plot. This is a weakness in pretty much each YGO series, but it really hits here because aside from Jack, Yusei, Carly and Akiza, the rest of the cast (including the villains) aren’t interesting enough – you remember Akiza in her smaller role here than Crow who has a much bigger role overall, yet isn’t as interesting as Jack or Yusei.

The obvious butchering of the show does harm it with a lot of changes and adaptations but it doesn’t solve the core problem which is that the arcs are quite long winded, which would have been the case anyway. Granted this is 64 episodes (hence why it took a while to review this) and quite good value but you can only handle so much at a time. If the focus had been a lot on the Signers, Goodwin’s role, and changing Jack into one of the good guys (even at the start he wasn’t really a villain and I actually like him more than Kaiba, needless to say, the relationship between Carly my other fave character was easily my favourite part of the series and what happened at the end of the arc between them was just groan inducing) then this would have been less of a chore.

I was surprised how un-bothered I was with the whole card games on motorcycles joke was too – there are normal duels a lot and seems just a way to reinforce the way dueling is a way of life and the advancement in technology in this setting. The battle between Neo Domino citizens and the poorer Satellite (which is, in fact, a derelict original Domino City) is constant, with Yusei getting booed out of the building during the big tournament but it is just a minor thing in comparison with the signers arc – Yusei meeting new people as well but as mentioned, none of them turn out to be hugely relevant compared to Jack – even Crow who is at least important in the final few episodes isn’t majorly a factor until then.

The only true real loop which was a surprise was Carly becoming a Dark Signer. There were hints when she met Misty that there was something more than being a ditzy reporter, and the transformation (literally) between her regular self and dark self-made her the most interesting character bar Jack in the show – she changed from her wanting to get a scoop but also having a kind heart, to skilful and calculating duellist, and then to sorry and upset for what she has done. She has a good heart, is the only person who actually Jack may care about and their duel is actually quite heartbreaking. It is the one big major enjoyment of this series I got and I wished there was more.

I am not sure where the series goes from here – there is a second set coming out soon (though may take a while to get to it due to how long it is and the backlog that this set caused me to have) and not sure what to make of it. There is something that can be taken from the defeat of Goodwin but it isn’t obvious, neither is what is going to happen between Yusei and Jack and the twists behind them and the whole Neo Domino/Satellite front. This is one of the few series I’ve actually been looking at the clock to see how much time is left because it did drag on a lot. In terms of the card game, it is actually the most accurate I’ve seen but the usual invincible hero rule is still in effect as Yusei does most of the work, and whilst not totally dull and a much more heroic type of hero, you tend to find his opponents more interesting (especially Jack) and unsure whether to always root for him. Conflicted emotions about the series, and not in a good way.

In Summary:
Yu-Gi-Oh GX is a mix of potentially good and just dragging on without enough interest. Yusei is a typical hero who always wins, whilst Jack is the more interesting antagonist – the first 26 episodes establish the rivalry, some interesting background story, and that story continues to get interesting that the duels and many characters actually distract and drag the story along too long so it doesn’t become interesting. With the exception of a few characters, none are able to give the interest to the viewer to really care too much which in turn makes the series a bit of a slugfest. YGO fans will enjoy the battles as it is far more accurate in terms of rules (motorcycles aside), but watch it in small batches otherwise, you will be waiting for the episodes to finish slower than expected…

Features:
Clean Opening/Ending, Trailers

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: C+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 12th, 2009
MSRP: £27.99
Running Time: 1536 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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