Card Games on Motorcycles! And now that that’s out of the way, here’s our review of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds season 1.
If you follow us on Twitter, you’ve probably seen that I’ve been watching this at a breakneck pace in order to get our review out by release day – curse Manga Entertainment for opting to release it as an 8-disc set (That’s 22 hours, 55 minutes, 14 seconds of anime). Manga released season 5 of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters back in June earlier this year, and like that release, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds Season 1 utilises Flatiron’s NTSC disc masters. Once again, this release is dubbed only, but that is probably for the best to ensure consistency throughout their range of Yu-Gi-Oh! releases. Thankfully, that has no real impact upon the show until the Season 2 release, due out later this year. It should be noted that Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is available, in its entirety, subtitled on Crunchyroll; even if season 1 dubbed isn’t to your liking, I implore you to give it a second chance via the subtitled version.
This season 1 collection is actually made up of what was broadcast on television as seasons 1 and 2, with the first season of 26 episodes being the Signers Arc, and the remainder of the episodes being the second season, known as the Dark Signers Arc. The first season serves as an introduction to the characters; the characters are also introduced to each other for the most part. It’s immediately apparent that the characters in 5Ds are a lot less idealised than in the prior two Yu-Gi-Oh! series.
The first episode effectively starts off with the main protagonist, Yusei Fudo, being hunted by the Neo Domino City equivalent of a police force for implementing a stolen chip in his Duel Runner (a motorcycle with a duel disk, used for turbo duels). Yusei duels with Tetsu Trudge, our first antagonist, in order to escape, and wins by using a Synchro monster (a synchro monster is summoned by combining a tuner monster and the appropriate secondary monster/s to make up the same level as the monster being summoned).
Tetsu Trudge is recognisable on two counts – he was a bully in the original Toei series of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and appeared in a flashback in the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, as a hall monitor, and bully, who was beating up Tristan and Joey in front of Yugi; he is also voiced by Dan Green, the voice actor for Yugi in other instalments of the dubbed Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. Using a voice actor from an earlier series of Yu-Gi-Oh! to voice a recurring character such as Trudge is perfect in that it evokes pangs of nostalgia despite being a much newer anime.
The remainder of the Signers arc involves the appearance of marks on several talented duelists, including Yugi, and their participation in the Fortune Cup, held by Goodwin, in order to both test them as duelists and gather them together to fight an evil force – the Earthbound Immortals and the Dark Signers that wield them.
The Dark Signers Arc sees Yusei and friends, the signers, going up against dark signers, those that also have glowing marks on their bodies, but of bugs rather than sections of the Crimson Dragon, in dangerous shadow duels in which they summon Earthbound Immortals to try and defeat the signers. Another of Yusei’s friends, Crow, despite his lack of a signer mark, stands out in this arc for his willingness to potentially sacrifice himself for the benefit of others even though it is not his destiny like it is the others. The second arc is an even more enthralling arc than the first, and by the end, the group of friends, and signers, is cemented, and both Neo Domino City and the Satellite, are at peace. It’s the perfect point at which to end the first 5Ds collection, but peace obviously never lasts.
Visually, this release is excellent; the series was animated at 540p, so the quality loss for an NTSC DVD is minimal. Thankfully, Manga just ported the US release for UK fans, so the dub is presented as it should be, without any speedup or pitching issues. It’s dubbed only, just like their earlier Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters releases so is the perfect addition to the collection of anyone who owns those releases, or for those that want a Yu-Gi-Oh! anime that feels less childish than the original series did. That’s not to say that this series is as dark as the first 7 volumes of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, but the story is most certainly both better written and more comprehensively thought out than the original series. It’s really a shame that the season 2 collection is going to leave things unresolved thanks to 4Kids, but at least the subtitled version is available legally for those that want to supplement their viewing of the dub, or watch it subbed in its entirety.
The first 64 episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds do an excellent job of introducing the series’ overarching plot, without actually providing too much information about what is actually going on as a whole, focusing solely on the current implications of the two sub-plots this collection comprises – that of the Signers being gathered, and then the defeat of the Dark Signers. The role of antagonist is held by a few characters in this collection, but the progression seems somewhat natural and is aided by a cast of characters that feel more believable than those in previous Yu-Gi-Oh! series.
As was to be expected, there are no special features in this release, but at sub-£30 for 64 episodes, that is to be expected, and is an excellent price for so much content. Additionally, while the release itself is billed as “Season 1”, the disc art is split into “Season 1 Vol 1” and “Season 1 Vol 2”; this is made more inconsistent through the disc menus – Season 1 Vol 1 through Season 1 Vol 4, with two discs per volume as per the menus. This is perfectly acceptable as a side effect of utilising the NTSC disc masters rather than authoring PAL discs and giving the show PAL speedup.
I thoroughly enjoyed rewatching Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds episodes 1-64 through the English dub. and it’s a shame that the upcoming season 2 release won’t be able to really resolve this brilliant series in any way, as 4Kids opted to both skip episodes throughout the remainder of their dub and end the series long before its ending proper. I’m looking forward to consuming as much Yu-Gi-Oh! as Manga bring to the UK, and I’ll definitely be rewatching the Bonds Beyond Time 3D blu-ray at the appropriate canonical time when I watch the season 2 collection for my review later this year. I’ll be hoping that Manga turn their attention to that Arc-V blu-ray that Cinedigm are releasing in the US this month at some point.
The first 64 episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds make for an enjoyable viewing experience. The plot in 5Ds is more interesting than the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters series, yet the dub is not as nostalgia-inducing. Thankfully, it makes incredibly patent use of prior voice actors to invoke pangs of childhood nostalgia. Back when I first watched 5Ds, I switched to the subbed version one TV season (26 episodes) in, and didn't look back aside from the Bonds Beyond Time movie. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is possibly the greatest series in the franchise, though the currently airing Arc-V is some stiff competition. I'm truly glad that Manga UK have given me reason to give the 5Ds dub a second chance, as it is far better than I remembered it being.