Manga Entertainment have finally released the fifth, and final, season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters anime in the UK, and with 52 episodes that culminate in one hell of an emotional duel between the two halves of Yugi’s soul, Yugi and the pharaoh, buyers are certainly in for a treat, after some suffering though. This release is a 7 DVD set, in NTSC format once again, and only contains the 4Kids dub that we all either love, or love to hate. Regardless, you’ll be hit with some nostalgia when watching, and may even shed some tears during the final disc as I did.
After four seasons of searching for answers, Yugi finally uncovers the secrets of his ancient past! Through the magic of the three Egyptian God Cards, Yugi and his friends are suddenly transported 5,000 years back in time! Now they must battle the ultimate evil force to save the world from devastation, for if the past is destroyed…so is the future! – Manga Entertainment
The original Japanese fifth season contains only 40 episodes, split into two arcs, 14 episodes making up the KC Grand Prix arc, and the remaining 26 being titled Dawn of the Duel. The US broadcast followed this scheme as well, but a few months after the final episode had aired, a 12 episode 4Kids-funded Capsule Monsters arc was aired. This Capsule Monsters arc was animated by Studio Gallop but has not seen a Japanese release unlike the Pyramid of Light movie. Although initially airing after the series had wrapped up, it takes place between KC Grand Prix and Dawn of the Duel and is included on this release of the fifth season. Personally, I’d have preferred Cinedigm or Manga Entertainment have removed Capsule Monsters from the season line up and release it separately, as its original US DVD release that compiled it into two movies was. Capsule Monsters is 12 episodes of pure boredom right after the disappointing KC Grand Prix filler arc.
KC Grand Prix is another tournament from Kaiba in his attempt to strip Yugi of his King of Games title; there’s really nothing new here after four seasons, although seeing Yugi’s grandfather duel in a lame costume to hide his identity is worth a couple of laughs. Capsule Monsters sees Yugi and his pals in a Pokémon-esque world which for some reason seems to make his companions seem all the more useless than they’ve ever been before. That arc really screams 4Kids at you, I’m talking from a foot in front of you with a megaphone.
Thankfully, this release is easily raised to the status of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! season through its inclusion of the Dawn of the Duel arc; 26 episodes of meaty manga adaptation that finally delves into the Pharoah’s past and his name. This final arc focuses on two simultaneous stories for a while – The Pharaoh engages in a battle with Yami Bakura with the Ancient Egypt of his memories as the gameboard, while Yugi and the rest of the gang travel this world in order to find the Pharaoh’s real name. After this grandiose arc, we finally get to see a proper face-off between Yugi and the Pharaoh in a duel to allow the latter to finally pass – Yugi must defeat the Pharaoh for this to happen. The duel takes place over the final four episodes, though your emotions will be required during the preparation in the episode prior as well. These episodes on the last disc, with Yugi and the Pharaoh giving it their all in order to prove themselves to each other and effectively terminate their years-long friendship, is emotional torture to watch, and managed to bring me to tears just as easily as the last time I finished watching Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters. If you’re not crying just as much as Yugi at the end of that duel, you’re watching it wrong.
The video quality remains as good as can be expected for an early 2000s anime; the video is incredibly soft and does not look ideal when watched on a large TV. Colours are still less muddied than the earlier seasons. Character designs fluctuate a little, but that is to be expected of a long-running series with different directors working on episodes. The series is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, which is much appreciated, as older series should always be experienced as originally intended. The dub track is provided as a 2.0 Dolby Digital offering. While far from the perfect dub, being one of the many butcherings produced by 4Kids, it is the form in which many will have been introduced to Yu-Gi-Oh! and nostalgia Dan Green’s voice will fuel sales for this release.
With Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters all available on DVD now, we can only hope Manga Entertainment opt to bring us that Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions movie next year; they brought us Bonds Beyond Time and even gave it a theatrical release so I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t come to pass. Manga do have some more nostalgia-inducing DVD-only releases on the slate for this year though in Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02; it’d be nice to see a return to Yu-Gi-Oh! with Yu-Gi-Oh! GX after those are out though.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters Season Five is a must-buy for anyone that had a childhood 10 years ago. This season fills you with nostalgia as the last four seasons did, but also brings the series to a satisfying and tear-inducing conclusion with none of those pesky commercials getting in the way of those multi-episode duels. Though, there is now that new movie to look forward to, set 6 months after the end of the manga, and therefore the anime.