Yu-Gi-Oh is a franchise most people have fond memories of thanks to the iconic 4Kids dub. (To this day, I can’t get Yugi’s iconic “it’s time to d-d-d-duel!” out of my head.) The original manga ended years ago, but has been continued by a show adaption and anime sequels. (Subsequently, there have been manga adaptions of the latter.) The animes have one coherent continuity, and Bonds Beyond Time brings the main characters of the original, GX, and 5D’s together for an adventure. The film is certainly a treat for longtime fans of the franchise. It’s impossible not to smile the entire time and is recommended to watch with other fans especially.
The film is fully geared toward longtime fans. And why shouldn’t it be? This is purely meant to be a fun crossover 10th anniversary celebration of the first anime. It’s not totally inaccessible to newcomers thanks to the extended intro, but it’s mainly for people whom have been following the anime/manga throughout the years. The story is very good, though sadly can’t be developed too much due to the rather short run-time. The idea of the three heroes uniting against a doomed future is an awesome concept, and for the most part it’s executed well. If the film had an extra half hour it would have been enough to fully develop the story and showcase better how the characters meet.
The intro does a very solid job at recapping the three series. (The only negative I have is that the first segment doesn’t feature Bakura/Zorc, when they were the true main villains.) The film then jumps into a fantastic sequence with Jaden dodging blasts from Stardust Dragon in a ruined city. Since we’re so used to simply seeing the monsters in the dueling format, it’s a treat to see them in real-time causing destruction. This set the tone for the rest of the film. Jaden, along with Yusei and Yugi, get adequate screen time. Yusei has the most, mainly because this film was released during the 5D’s anime. Yusei is a perfect counterpart to the more carefree Jaden. They’re both heroes, but the latter is laid-back while the former more serious. Yugi is more of an amalgam of the two. All three personalities play off each other well.
Paradox is a pretty standard antagonist. The idea of someone from the future going back in time to stop duel monsters from destroying his world was a fantastic idea. This at first gave Paradox dimension as a character, but sadly he ended up being just another villain that enjoys seeing people die. It would have been far more interesting to see a more somber take, focusing solely on his goal to save the future which would have made the viewer question if he was truly evil or not. Instead, the film opted for the more generic route and just made him another bad guy.
The film’s middle to last act is basically one big duel. Longtime fans will have a blast following along, mainly of course to see how the different main characters battle together. The writing throughout the film is pretty solid and gives the impression of a summer blockbuster, much like The Avengers. The dialogue, to put it bluntly, is simply fun. The three characters meeting happens rather suddenly, but nothing bad. The only dialogue sequence I didn’t care for was when Yusei told Yugi that “it’s alright to destroy Stardust Dragon.” This is technically an emotional well done scene until you realize that Stardust wouldn’t actually get destroyed, because the card would still be there. So these lines are rendered irrelevant. The soundtrack is great throughout. Each main character has distinctive themes, and there’s a fantastic amount of choir accompanying the dragon summonings.
Overall, as an anniversary celebration Bonds Beyond Time delivers. The characters are dynamic and excellent to watch together. The animation looks beautiful and there’s a lot of great monster cards to see. (From the newer Cyber End Dragon to the classic Dark Magician.) The tone is very good, having great balance of danger and pure enjoyment. The short run-time does hurt the development a little, making the film almost seem like just an extended episode. Also, while not a bad character, the motivations behind Paradox is a greatly missed opportunity. At the end of the day though, the film is a must-watch for all Yu-Gi-Oh fans.