YuGiOh is a difficult show to review. It’s almost as if you have to put yourself in the mind of a twelve year-old child and go in to it as if it were a Saturday morning cartoon. I don’t mean that in a negative sense, as the show is absolutely aimed at kids, but outside of nostalgia, this series of YuGiOh drifts a little too far from the lore that I found interesting. With that said, it leans well enough on its decent cast of characters to trigger a tinge of excitement in those of you that may remember the original series. Unfortunately, it’s hampered by how far we’ve come since. In a nutshell, if you’re a huge YuGiOh fan (so much so that you’re probably annoyed by my SEO friendly version of the spelling), this box set is for you, but you already knew that. If you’re not, this obviously isn’t a great jumping in point and even in the realm of YuGiOh, it doesn’t make much sense. Read on for our full YuGiOh Season 4 Review.
Animation and Presentation
Yu-Gi-Oh is a visual throwback. It’s consistently well crafted animation, but it’s also mostly static screens with the occasional exaggerated movement or background shift. It’s not like there’s a fluid battle to animate with truly difficult set pieces. I’d argue that Season 4 is the best looking of the original series and the art style is more true-to-manga than our current slog of long-running shows.
It’s in a 4:3 aspect ratio, so no widescreen, but that also means no forced stretching. It’s worth noting that this series originally aired in 2003, so it’s natural for it to seem dated, but as far as being true to its source material in looks at least, it’s spot on.
There are moments that drop in quality, but they’re minor moments, I noticed most of them with minor characters on Disc 5. Tristan’s face. Look for it.
My issue with Yu-Gi-Oh’s presentation is its insistence on being obvious at all times. Loud musical cues for important moments, hard camera cuts to serious faces etc. It might seem nit-picky, but it happens so often that it becomes bothersome. Once again, though, it’s a kids show, but perhaps I have more faith in a young person’s intelligence.
Ultimately, it’s nice enough to watch visually, the character designs are iconic, but the direction of the show is a little too on-the-nose for my taste. Still, it’s important to state that Yu-Gi-Oh improves throughout its run, I imagine due to its success at the time, so the quality does build over time and that benefits Season 4.
In Season 4, we pick up from where we left off: Yugi has just defeated Marik in the Battle City Tournament and won all of the Egyptian God Cards as a result. Not content with a bit of peace, Yugi has his Egyptian God Cards stolen and the world becomes infested with actual duel monsters, harming people the world over. Having caught up to the thieves, Yugi is challenged to a duel wherein, if he loses, he’ll lose his soul as a result. Thus, Season 4 kicks off with a new threat and brings back some familiar faces.
At this point, we’ll be getting in to SPOILER TERRITORY so if you’re just after the overall impression, scroll on past everything from here.
The plot of Season 4 failed to engage me for the most part. Fresh off of the focused narrative of Marik in Season 3 with heavy connections to Yami the Pharaoh’s Ancient Egyptian past, it was always going to be hard to top in regards to relating the story to Yugi and Yami themselves. Even so, this season almost pretends to be about that and then pulls a complete shift away from it. We begin with Yugi and Yami looking for the secrets to be found in the ancient stone tablet that depict the original duel monsters games. Not long after, we’re focused on a Biker Gang that starts wreaking havoc on behalf of the thieves that stole Yugi’s God cards. From here, we’re led down a completely different narrative about Atlantis because, that’s right kids, duel monsters is older than Ancient Egypt! Now it has a history of 10,000 years at least and is the primary cause of Atlantis’ destruction.
The reason this caused me to question my interest is because I’d always appreciated the Egyptian focus, and I thought we were getting closer to a look at that world, along with the Millennium Items in full effect. This time around, the Millennium Items are practically meaningless, having no impact (mostly) against the Seal of Orichalcos cards that steal the souls of the duel’s loser. Everything that made Yu-Gi-Oh intriguing from a narrative stand-point is left by the wayside: the Shadow Realm, Egypt, a meaningful villain; all of it.
In some odd form of compensation, Season 4 brings back fan favourites like Pegasus to feature and ground it in the original narrative in some way. Of course, Yugi’s usual cast of buddies and rivals return to assist him in this baffling quest to stop a nonsense bad guy from causing a catastrophe.
This season isn’t without some merit, however. There are some genuinely interesting characters that take a while to come to fruition but ultimately they do, like Rafael. His initial approach compared to where he ends up is the most believable and engaging plot throughout, going from seemingly evil to having a tragic past and finding redemption. He’s the only fully realised character in the series. Alister, too, had a decent backstory that also grounded Seto Kaiba firmly in this season.
Of course, with Rafael comes a whole heap of let-down narratives. Mai Valentine, Dartz the Stereotypical Villain and even Yami-Yugi himself have weak ties to this entire plot. Mai outright abandons her friends to be “evil” because she’s afraid of being weak out of seemingly nowhere. This causes a pretty great duel between Joey and Valon featuring Armour Cards, but it weakens what used to be one of the most interesting characters in the show. Dartz takes the entire season to reveal his motivations and intentions, too long to wait and too short a time to become invested in it. As for Yugi’s issue, it’s more an issue with how the season redirected, as I thought we were taking a deeper dive in to Egypt before it began its nonsense obsession with Dartz.
The whole Leviathan threat is necessary for an over-arching plot, as are the legendary Dragons to counter it. It’s not really interesting, but knowing that the souls being captured as used to feed the Leviathan’s strength at least lends the plot some credence.
What didn’t really matter was Dartz’s purchase of the major dueling corporations. Nor did Yami’s “darkness”. He loses Yugi because he gave in to it. He “might” have been an evil Pharaoh. Guess we’ll never know! The plot was all over the place in my eyes. That’s not to say it can’t be dumb fun, but dumb it certainly is.
I have many points to make on why Season 4 is a departure from what makes Yu-Gi-Oh interesting, but I think I’ve made my case. If you’re a huge Yu-Gi-Oh fan, maybe this doesn’t bother you and maybe you found some investment here, but for me it felt like filler laced with familiar terms. Also, although Seto Kaiba is the most interesting protagonist this time around, he’s still so very annoying. Having endured all that he has, he still refuses to acknowledge the magic in his world. What was once an amusing, stubborn outlook is now a nuisance to hear. That’s more of a personal gripe with a decent character.
In the final few episodes, we are given more insight in to how Dartz knows Yami from the past, but his reasons for not confronting the Pharaoh back then are flimsy at best.
My final note? Knight of Destiny is pretty awesome. As was Blue Eyes Tyrant Dragon. There were some good duels in this otherwise flat season.
Sub and Dub
The Region 2 DVD features only the English Dub. There are dependable stalwarts, such as Yami-Yugi and Seto Kaiba, but Mai Valentine’s change in voice actor is jarring.
It’s a decent dub, not great, but it’s also horrible in certain moments. Valon’s misuse of the word “bloke” is one such example. That accent is a nightmare that no British person should have to endure. Who approved that?
As always, Joey Wheeler’s voice is unintentionally hilarious. The New Jersey, Italian-American stereotype is strong in this one.
Outside of the terrible attempt at an English accent, the dub is bearable-to-good. That’s from a man that enjoys his dubs. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, as we have such good talent now compared to the few we had back then. As I said, it’s not awful for the most part.
Look; Yu-Gi-Oh has always been a bit of dumb fun and an excuse to sell trading cards. This season is no exception. This time, however, it felt like they didn’really try to keep it grounded in the admittedly interesting past of the Pharaoh. A few thin ties, but nothing significant until the final episodes, and a terrible villain. If you do find yourself enjoying this season more than I did, there’s 880 minutes of card clashing to be had. That’s plenty of time to D-D-D-D-DUEL! For me though, Yu-Gi-Oh is akin to the Pharaoh himself: a relic of the past. Season 4 does away with the best bits for the sake of introducing new cards and characters. It’s great value for how much you get out of the box set, but your enjoyment will depend entirely on how invested in Yugi’s journey you are.
(Note: Review copy provided by Manga UK. Screenshots unavailable due to HDCP protection and no streaming options).
Game: Yu-Gi-Oh Season 4
Review Format: DVD