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'Yu-Gi-Oh': Anime Marketing

By Sara Gebhardt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2004; Page WE44

There's nothing new about a Japanese anime trading card and television series phenomenon that takes its characters to the big screen to capitalize on its popularity. Well, almost nothing.

"Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie" introduces new cards just in case young collectors playing the Yugi card game together want the newest powerful tool to beat their opponents. Like all of the "Pokemon" movies, the film is an obvious ploy to keep kids' watching the animated series so that they continue to play the "Duel Monsters!" game and buy the merchandise. The producers don't waste time on subtlety or creative story lines in their quest for upholding their successful brand. They follow the winning formula of the television show, creating a supersize episode that centers its plot around Yugi Moto, a short, friendly, spiky-haired teenager who is the champion Duel Monsters! player. In case people do not how to play the game, the characters explain the rules as they lay out their cards, which unleash colorful monsters that possess unique powers. Yugi himself has always drawn his unbeatable strength from the power of Yugi's mysterious alter ego, an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who defeated the evil sorcerer Anubis 5,000 years ago. Somehow, though, Seto Kaiba, a mean teen out to topple Yugi's card-game reign, brings Anubis back to life, and Yugi and Seto become trapped in ancient Egypt as Anubis endeavors to destroy the world. Not only does Yugi have to defend himself from Seto, but he also has to save the universe.

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It's hard to believe a cartoon with a strange story that uses so much of its time showing characters playing a bizarre card game and pairs Japanese cartoon characters and ancient Egypt is such a hit among youngsters. At least the sea of weird beings that play a part in Yugi's movie debut are more engaging than its story. Though there is a strong theme that promotes loyalty to friends throughout the movie, there's nothing inspiring about "Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie," unless you count the way it compels kids to continue to support the "Yu-Gi-Oh" franchise.

YU-GI-OH! THE MOVIE (PG, 91 minutes) --Contains combat and monster images. Area theaters.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company