Movie Preview: Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie

For the uninitiated, Yu-Gi-Oh! follows the adventures of mild-mannered high school student Yugi Muto, who becomes a nearly invincible hero when he plays his favorite card game. (The translation of Yu-Gi-Oh means “King of Games.”) Armed with special energies he absorbs from the Millennium Puzzle, a powerful ancient artifact he wears around his neck, Yugi and the Pharaoh (Yugi’s alter ego), whose spirit inhabits the Puzzle, join forces to battle foes in their quest to save mankind and become the best duelist in the world.

Yu-Gi-Oh! began as a Japanese comic book in 1996 created by Kazuki Takahashi and has since mushroomed into a huge international brand spawning an animated TV series, a video game franchise and a trading card game. The movie was developed specifically for Western audiences based on the overwhelming success of the franchise in the United States.

“The battle in this movie is between light and dark, but the theme of the film also revolves around the light and darkness of the soul, and how those two powers relate,” says Hidetaka Ikuta, the film’s director and producer of the TV series.

“The message of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie is that power isn’t everything,” adds Takahashi. “Working with others is the way to live.”

Yugi’s nemesis in this film is Anubis, named after the Egyptian God of the Underworld, who Yugi’s alter ego the Pharaoh vanquished centuries ago but has now been unearthed by archeologists. Commanding a brigade of resurrected mummies and two fearsome Sphinx monsters, Anubis grows stronger and stronger as the film progresses, seemingly feeding off of Yugi’s lost life points.

“Despite all the magic and supernatural forces involved in the movie, the power of friendship proves to be stronger than anything else and, in the end, that bond prevails,” notes Mike Pecoriello, the writer/producer of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series. “Yugi is not perfect; he’s your average high school student who has the same fears and self-doubts that all kids have. But he has this other side to him, his alter ego, he can call upon when he needs a confidence boost,” Pecoriello explains. “I think kids are empowered by the idea that behind this timid underdog is a strong, assertive hero.”

Four new Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards have been created for the movie and will be given away with the purchase of a ticket. The film opened on Aug. 13. It’s rated PG for “scary combat and monster images.”

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Philip Murphy