Preview: "Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters" Breathes Stale Life to Dying Franchise
It seems no one can quite let go of that little trading card game phenomenon known as Yu-Gi-Oh! Not only do we have a spin-off series set 10 years after the original series ended in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, but now we have essentially another filler arc (much like the Dungeon Dice Monsters, Legendary Heroes, Noa and DOOM arcs) for the original anime in Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters.
Yugi’s been noticing lately that his Millenium Puzzle is acting strangely, and both he and the Pharoah wonder what’s going on. On top of that, Yugi has been having strange dreams where the Pharoah is battling a weird shadow monster inside the puzzle (You know, that endless maze thingy in Yami’s mind) while wearing some strange armor. As that is happening, Yugi and Tea take a break from Duel Monsters to play Capsule Monsters, which is essentially a fusion between Duel Monsters and Dungeon Dice Monsters. Unfortunately, Tea’s fondness for the cuter creatures doesn’t help her defeat Yugi. While all that’s going on, Yugi’s grandfather disappears on his latest expedition and Joey wins four tickets to Paradise (a.k.a. India). In the middle of the plane ride though, our heroes crash on a deserted island (and are miraculously uninjured, while the plane looks like a scrap heap), which just happens to also hold the tomb Yugi’s grandpa was exploring with his protégé Alex Brisbane! As the group explores the weird temple, Yami wonders if all these recent events are too convienent. The gang comes across a weird map, which actually takes them inside the mapped world when stepped on! Oddly enough, all of them automatically recieve a belt and a high-tech launcher (essentially CapMon’s version of the Duel Disk), as they all realize they’re in the world of Capsule Monsters!
Now, if you’ve read the manga, you may remember Capsule Monsters from the pre-card game days. In the manga, Mokuba (yep, Kaiba’s little brother) was a master of the game and challenged Yami at gunpoint so the little brat could defeat Yami, who at the time was just starting to get a reputation. The monsters were grabbed out of vending machines, much like the ones you see at toy stores and dollar stores across the country. Well, wipe away that entire manga storyline from your mind because the only thing these two share in common is the name Capsule Monsters. The CapMons in the anime are housed in Egyptian tombs, and are about the size of your typical action figure rather than the pint-sized ones in the manga. Also, the original CapMon took place on an expansive, Dungeons & Dragons-type board, whereas this CapMon plays on a modified version of the Duel Monsters playmat. And because this is Yu-Gi-Oh!, there’s also a launcher on everybody’s arms (looks more like a laser cannon you’d see on Power Rangers, but whatever), including Joey, Tristan, and Tea, meaning they’ll see some action as well.
The screener I recieved only contained the first episode, which any good Yu-Gi-Oh! fan knows doesn’t really tell the whole story. 90% of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is made up of multi-parters, Capsule Monsters being no different. But this little mini-series doesn’t exactly feel fresh. The world is reminiscent of the Legendary Heroes arc in the original series (where Yugi and the gang were transported to an RPG world via virtual reality) or the Noa arc (where essentially the same thing happened, only lasting 30 episodes longer), with the whole transported-to-another-world plot and the lush forests everywhere. Even the gang’s clothing isn’t fresh, as they’re wearing the same outfits from the Dungeon Dice Monsters arc. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s just something to note. Unfortunately, it shares a bit too much with those previous arcs, as it feels a bit stale. It doesn’t help that we already know all about Yugi’s past and everyone’s character arcs have been successfully completed in both the anime and manga, so this extra journey just feels all the more pointless. Alas, there’s no Kaiba anywhere in this episode, and judging by the intro, I wonder if he’s going to show up at all in this mini-series. If he doesn’t that would be a real shame, as Kaiba’s easily one of the more entertaining characters on the show and a fan favorite to boot.
The animation is roughly standard Yu-Gi-Oh! and the designs retain the same detail the original series had, which instantly puts it above the flat designs of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Unfortunately, nothing is really done with the animation this time around, at least not yet. There are no Duels or anything of the sort (well, there is one, but it lasts all of 30 seconds), and the plane crash happens off-screen. Most of the episode is made up of our heroes walking and talking. One thing that did bug me was the gang walking through the jungle on the way to the temple. The character movements seemed digitally manipulated (as in the animators just moved the stills up and down instead of actually animating them walking) and the background just made everything stick out far too much. The animation isn’t anywhere near the series’ best (some of which is shown in the intro), but it works. Speaking of the intro, it seems to be an amalgamation of all the various arcs in the first series. Not only does it feature CapMon footage, but also scenes from Battle City, the DOOM arc, the Pharoah Memories arc, and even the original Pegasus arc! It is kind of weird that the intro to this mini-series would spotlight villains who don’t actually appear in this season (especially since we have yet to get an actual villain for CapMon), but the really cool scenes involving the Dark Magician and the three Egyptian Gods make it worth it. Though I could’ve done without those lame Legendary Dragons.
It’s pretty much the same old in regards to the audio. The theme is the exact same you remember from the original series, and all the voice actors reprise their roles in this feature. While I’ve gotten used to Dan Green’s Yami and Yugi voices, Amy Birnbaum’s Tea still irks me (it doesn’t help that she’s given several lines that don’t match Tea’s facial expressions), as does Wayne Grayson’s Joey. Frank Frankson’s Tristan is still one of the best voices in the show and the only one that fits the character right off the bat. Except for Alex’s voices, which is given the usual high-class British accent 4Kids loves to use, all the other characters are mere side characters, and are all voiced decently. The script is typical of the dub, but I did enjoy Yugi’s “I put you in danger week after week” line to Tea and Tristan. Music-wise, it uses the exact same soundtrack as the original series, so it’s used the same way: droning on and on, getting a bit too loud at some points, and in general makes scenes with tension in them lack any real tension at all. Oh, and before I forget, none of the Capsule Monsters are given any names except for Celtic Guardian, who’s been re-used yet again from the card game.
Overall, if you enjoyed the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series, or even the movie, you should be entertained at the very least by Capsule Monsters. One does has to wonder how an ancient map on a temple transports you into another world filled with giant capsules that just happen to look exactly like the toys AND just happens to give you a high-tech launcher and a belt to hold all your capsules in. I know the possessed paper cards were stretching things, but this is just ridiculous.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters premieres September 9th at 10:00 AM on 4KidsTV.