22 July 2017



For the uninitiated, YU-GI-OH! started life as a Japanese manga series about gaming, written and illustrated by a chap called Kazuki Takahashi. As is usually the way with these things, a franchise was built up around it that eventually included trading card games, video games and spin-offs of both the manga and animé variety. In other words, the guy who came up with the idea is now a flippin' billionaire, unless he squandered it all on hookers and booze. Which, if he did, I'm sure he enjoyed...!

YU-GI-OH! started out being about a cute kid called Yugi Moto, a shy student at Domino High School. He loves to play DUEL MONSTERS, a game he was taught by his Grandpa who owns the neighbourhood gaming shop, called GAME, and who is a shit-hot expert himself on every game you care to name.

Something else that Grandpa does for Yugi is that he gives him a mysterious Egyptian artefact known as the 'Millenium Puzzle' that no-one has so far been able to solve. Yugi solves it, however, and immediately becomes imbued with these magic powers that enable him to challenge opponents to trading card games, dice games or role-playing board games.

If he 'plays with honour,' as his Grandpops taught him, and respects 'the heart of the cards,' ie, if he believes in his deck, then as you can imagine he'll be lucky. But it isn't luck really, is it? It's good winning out over bad. Yugi's game-playing alter ego is called Yama Yugi. He's more powerful than the real Yugi because he's filled with the spirit of the ancient Pharoah who was bunking down in the 'Millenium Puzzle,' if you follow me.

Through the cards, Yama Yugi has a load of super-cool monsters at his disposal, such as 'Mammoth Graveyard,' 'Summoned Skull,' 'The Magician Of Black Chaos,' Dark Sage' and 'Dark Magician.' Was Yugi's Grandpa right to open up such a Pandora's Box of a can of worms of a kettle of fish for a young lad like Yugi? Who knows? That's a horse of a different colour all right...

Anyway, that's just a wee bit of background for you guys before we talk about THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS. It's a brilliant and exquisitely crafted two-hour film with Yugi as the central character, of course, but there are a couple of other main guys too, of whom much more in a minute. We start off at Yugi's high school in Domino City.

Yugi and his friends, Honda, Jonouichi, Bakura and Anzu, the lone female in the gang, are close to graduating and they're all talking excitedly about what they're gonna do with the rest of their lives. Yugi wants to continue 'gaming,' in the gamer sense of the word, and invent new games and even go to Germany to win a huge gaming contest that's being held there. More power to your elbow, kid. You go for it.

It's so nice to see how close the gang of friends are to each other. Even the boys are bawling like babies at the thought of soon being separated from their school-chums. 'We're graduating soon, but I never want to lose the memories of my friends!' These films often teach a good lesson to kids about the bonds of friendship and how important it is to protect these bonds and keep 'em safe. Water 'em like they're a cherished plant and keep 'em strong and healthy, that's the way to do it, kids.

Anyway, Kaiba and Aigami are the two main characters here aside from Yugi. Kaibo, Yugi's rival from Day One, is the sort of dictator of Domino City and the owner of his own huge fancy corporation. Kaiba-Corp has created a new super-cool and super-modern Duelling Disk for the people of Domino City to use in their trading card game.

'Free your soul with the new-gen Duelling Disk! Your weapons will be your cards!' 

Kaiba looks a bit like Hitler addressing the Nuremberg Rally when he's giving the town his sales-spiel at the end there, you know, when he's launching the game and unveiling it to the public? You see, Kaiba's deal is this. He wants to resurrect the soul of the Pharoah that lies dormant within Yugi, purely so that he can battle him. He'd be a worthy opponent, after all.

Yugi is possessed with the awesome spirit of this Pharoah when he's duelling. It's like he has an alter ago, kind of, and it all started when Yugi solved the Pharoah's legendary Millenium puzzle, which features heavily in this film, and resurrected the Pharoah, soul and all. Bringing the Pharoah back from his snooze in the afterlife, however, is bad news for some.

Namely, a chap called Aigami, also known as Diva. He's in the process of creating a perfect sort of alternate universe known as Plana, which will be free of hate and fear and all that bad stuff. He can even 'disappear' people to there if he wishes. There have been several such suspicious 'disappearances' in Domino City already and they're causing a good deal of consternation.

Aigami is carrying on the work of the deceased Master Shadi Shin, the Pharoah's servant, who has a lot of sensible stuff to say about why there's so much conflict in the world. 'All conflict arises out of the fear of losing something, your loved ones, your country, land, etc.' He's right, when you think about it. Anyway, listen to the cool-sounding stuff that Aigami and his blissed-out followers with the spooky eyes are trying desperately to avoid.

If seven special items are placed in the Pharoah's magnificent memory box, like the pieces of a puzzle all slotting neatly together, the door to the afterlife creaks open and the Pharoah's soul will move smoothly into it. That's not really the problem, though.

The problem is that if the Pharoah's soul is resurrected from this nice cosy afterlife, the people all planning to go and live in Plana (or even Blisstonia, the planet of eternal happiness promised by the leader of the cult, the Movementarians, in THE SIMPSONS!) will be stuck forever on Earth for some reason, no longer able to access the afterlife or other dimensions. The Plana, who all have a 'unified consciousness,' don't seem to want that to happen. Maybe they like to flit between dimensions like little butterflies, haha.

That's why Aigami has to fight Kaiba, who's determined to fight Yugi in order to unleash the power of the ancient Pharoah so that he can fight him. Yeah, it's a bit complicated all right, the whole who's-fighting-whom? thing. My kids were laughing their heads off at me earlier, sitting in front of the film with my notebook and pen, frantically trying to understand everything like a big fool, haha.

The epic battle- or duelling- scenes are tremendously well done. The animation is magnificently sharp and highly-defined. Any five-year-old kid will tell you that all three protagonists, Yugi, Kaiba and Aigami, are each fighting with their own personal deck of cards, allowing them to keep producing bigger and better monsters with which to scare the living shite out of each other.

We've got Krystal Dragon, Pandemic Dragon, Krystal Avatar, Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the Dragon of Demolition, to name just a few, and my personal favourite, Obelisk the Tormentor, a servant of the Pharoah's.

The busty Apple and Lemon Magician Girls are no more than eye candy for the lads, the minxy little hussies. There are loads more monsters popping up in the film during the battles, enough to satisfy even the most monster-hungry fan, and they're all equally brilliant.

One of the coolest scenes, to my own mind, was the one where Yugi's friend Jonouchi is running and running and running down an empty street, trying to out-race himself, almost, before he's erased along with the street and the world in which it exists.

This is the work of Aigami, the master of the Alternate Dimension, and it puts me in mind of several of my favourite films. VANILLA SKY with Tom Cruise, Stephen King's THE LANGOLIERS, and even Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 

Aigami, who's not exactly evil but he's not exactly good either, has pulled a George Bailey on Jonouchi. He's rapidly being erased, not a nice feeling as I'm sure you can imagine, and only his memories can save him. It's lucky for Jonouchi that 'our bond of friendship connects beyond dimensions...'

Other films you might be reminded of include superb British sci-fi horror VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and even Peter Jackson's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, as there's a ring in it which sort of turns people a bit cuckoo-bananas. Still the best trilogy of movies ever filmed, in my humble opinion, unlikely ever to be bested, even by the great Peter Jackson himself.

Now to tell you about my personal connection to the whole YU-GI-OH! phenomenon. At a recent animé and gaming convention held here in Ireland, my firstborn offspring met and conversed with none other than Eric Stuart, the actor who provides the voice of Seto Kaiba in YU-GI-OH! and also, incidentally, the voices of hugely popular characters Brock and James (resident baddie from the evil Team Rocket!) from POKEMON. He signed my sproglet's POKEMON and YU-GI-OH! cards with the immortal words... ERIC STUART. I really think he meant it too...



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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