Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
Yugi vs Kaiba in The Dark Side of Dimensions
Spoilers for the anime and The Dark Side of Dimensions film ahead.
For the uninitiated, the 2016 (2017 for the English dub) movie Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions revisits the original anime's world and explores the aftermath of Pharaoh Atem's departure, the ancient spirit who aided Yugi in his duels. Now, even as a Yu-Gi-Oh fan, I fully admit some of its movies aren't worth your time. However, other than a few cheesy voice actors and haphazard dialogue, I was thoroughly impressed with TDOD and highly recommend it for both newcomers and dueling veterans.
The movie showcases several exciting duels, including a fresh bout between protagonist Yugi Moto and his arrogant rival Seto Kaiba. Now, Kaiba has never defeated Yugi in a fair match, and at face value, TDOD seems to continue the trend, suggesting that Yugi was about to win before their clash was interrupted. However, closer examinations of the duel's intricacies reveal several reasons indicating that Kaiba should and would have emerged victorious. Is this just a desperate plea from an upset Kaiba fan or a legitimate list of evidence supporting Kaiba's triumph? Read on to decide for yourself!
1. Kaiba Attacks Apple Magician Girl (When He Should Know Better)
In actual dueling, once a card is face-up on the field, both players can and should carefully read its effects, letting them know what abilities that unit can provide its owner, helping you plan a counterattack. In Yugi's match against Kaiba, Kaiba declares an attack against a face-up Apple Magician Girl while he has the advantage, but this triggers her effects and lets Yugi begin a comeback. In an actual duel, Kaiba would likely have stalled until he could employ a non-attack removal to destroy Apple Magician Girl without triggering her traits.
To be fair, this technicality happens frequently in the anime, so I'll admit it isn't today's strongest point. Still, it's an odd deviation from actual dueling that worked in Yugi's favor.
2. Kaiba Beat the Hologram of Atem
Kaiba duels against Yugi, but his real goal is to tackle the Pharaoh Atem, the ancient Egyptian spirit who honestly did most of Yugi's work for him. To that end, Kaiba constructs a hologram of the Pharaoh that accurately simulates his deck, voice, and strategies—in fact, the hologram is so convincing, it's not until after the duel concludes (with Kaiba's victory) that the movie reveals Atem was just a simulation.
You could argue that the hologram doesn't bear the spirit of Atem and is thus weaker, but in real-world terms, the hologram operated just as efficiently as the real Pharaoh would have, and made the best plays possible. It just wasn't enough to beat Kaiba.
3. Kaiba's Deck Beat Jaden Yuki; Yugi's Lost to Him
I know I'm stretching for this one, but hear me out. In the second anime, Yu-Gi-Oh GX, protagonist Jaden twice duels against Yugi's deck and once against Kaiba's. Keep in mind Jaden is a skilled duelist who won the vast majority of his matches. He first battled Yugi's build when the deck had been stolen by a copycat duelist (Dimitri), but despite the change in owner, this was very much Yugi's deck, and Jaden successfully conquered it. Much later, in the final duel of the series, Jaden duels against Yugi himself, and the result of the match isn't shown (and can be debated).
Now, Jaden never duels against Seto Kaiba, but he does confront Kaibaman, a duel spirit wielding a Blues-Eyes theme similar (if not identical) to Kaiba's deck list. Jaden actually loses this match, being one of only four losses he suffers in the entire series. This evidence suggests Kaiba's deck performs better against most opponents than Yugi's (another example is Kaiba's frequent trouncings on Joey compared to Yugi's near-losses). In other words, Yugi's protagonist status gives him plot armor despite a generally-inferior deck.
4. Yugi Draws on the First Turn (Which You Can't Do)
Okay, to be fair, every character who goes first does this in the movie, and back when the original series debuted, you did draw on the first turn. However, dueling has evolved since then, and to offset the huge advantage first-turn players were gaining, going first now only accesses your opening hand of five cards.
In other words, by modern rules, Yugi would have had one less card in his match than he did, and that card would have made the difference—Yugi eventually activates Magical Contract Door, a spell that requires you to give a card to your opponent. Without that initial draw, Yugi wouldn't have had fuel to save his bacon. If the first player still drew on their first turn, I'd want to go first in every match for the card and field advantage gained, a now-illegal advantage that Yugi would have lost without.
5. Yugi Included a Banned Card (Monster Reborn) in His Deck
This one's pretty simple. Yugi had Monster Reborn in his deck, a card that is as of this writing limited (one copy per deck), but at the time of the movie's release, was still very much forbidden in official play. Yes, it's Kaiba who ends up playing the card, but that's because it was given to him through Yugi's Magic Contract Door, and the foul still falls upon Yugi.
This is yet another piece of the puzzle that indicates, were this an actual match following the 2016-2017 rules, Yugi would have been disqualified for having such a card in his deck.
Bonus Point: activating Magic Contract Door by giving Kaiba Monster Reborn would normally be a terrible strategy. I realize Yugi didn't have any other options, but if you have to give your opponent a card, best to provide them something that only works with your archetype (like "Dark Magic Attack") and not a generic spell they can actually use.
6. Yugi Lost 4000 Life Points Before Kaiba
This one's a bit weird because the movie actually follows the game's rules. Just like in regular duels, Kaiba's bout against Yugi has both duelists begin with 8000 life points. What's strange is that for many years, most anime duels (even the later ones of the original series) only give each combatant 4000 life points, quickening matches into manageable chunks.
Had Yugi and Kaiba fought under the standard anime template, Yugi would have lost since he took 4000 life points before Kaiba. Also, Kaiba never lost 4000 life points in his match against the Pharaoh's hologram, meaning he would have won both bouts with the regular format. Yet another convenient alteration that just happened to work for Yugi.
7. Kaiba Still Had a Face-Down Card
As we saw earlier, one card can and often does make all the difference. After all, how many anime fights have we seen where the duel's outcome hinged upon a single card? Often, characters lose once they simply have no further plays to make face-downs are typically (and conveniently) exactly what a character needs, allowing for exciting comebacks.
Right before the match cut off, Yugi had directly attacked Kaiba with Dark Magician, which (if the attack were successful) would have reduced Kaiba's life points to zero. However, Kaiba still had an unrevealed face-down card left, "Polymerization". Had the writers chosen to, it would have been easy to make this card something to counter Dark Magician—whether a "Mirror Force" to reflect his attack, a "Bottomless Trap Hole" to destroy him upon arrival, or any other of the hundreds of traps that would have worked.
8. Kaiba Might Have Had a Plan Ready
As we just discussed, Kaiba still had a face-down right before he was about to "lose." However, his demeanor during these moments is very atypical. Remember, Kaiba is an arrogant duelist who believes himself superior to others. In past matches, when Yugi finally has his rival cornered, Kaiba tends to freak out with a variation of the old "this can't be happening!", exhibiting a state of shocked disbelief at his inevitable loss.
However, in the last moments of the match, once Dark Magician is summoned, Kaiba shows almost no reaction. Yugi asks Kaiba whether he's ready, to which Kaiba responds yes, before declaring his attack. Not only that, Kaiba even smiles after taking the hit, and does a dramatic eye-open, almost as if he's about to reveal a counter.
Sure, a real-life Polymerization wouldn't stop the hit, but then again, we've seen how cards in the anime often have different effects than the actual game, so it's possible (albeit unlikely) that Kaiba could have a defense.
9. Kaiba Saves Yugi in Their Tag-Team Duel
Admittedly, this evidence revolves around a different duel, but it still paints a portrait of Kaiba's dueling mastery. After their fight is impeded, Kaiba and Yugi cooperate against the film's antagonist, Dark Aigami, in a match called a "Dimension Duel" that operates under different rules.
Regardless, the bout ends with Kaibi losing, then Atem (through Yugi) claiming victory against Aigami. However, Yugi would have lost were it not for Kaiba's sacrifice—Kaiba purposefully redirected an attack at Yugi to himself, allowing time for Yugi and Atem to make a comeback. Thus, Kaiba was just as crucial, if not more so, than Yugi in defeating Dark Aigami.
10. Kaiba Believed in the Pharoah's Return
TDOD initially portrays Kaiba as a fanatic who can't get over the Pharoah's departure. The film misleads us into thinking its moral message stems from Yugi: sometimes you have to let go of your past and move on, just as Yugi accepted that Atem is gone.
While that's not a bad tip for real life, in the end, it turns out Kaiba was right all along—the Pharaoh does indeed return, just as Kaiba predicted. Definitely an interesting message on faith, especially from such an unexpected source. And even if this hadn't been the case, after Dark Aigami is defeated, Kaiba successfully combines his technology with the Quantum Cube to time-travel and actually findsthe Pharaoh, with the two apparently gearing up for another duel. Not only was Kaiba right to believe in Atem's rebirth, he constructed the means to locate Atem, showing both faith and a willingness to make that faith become reality.
Yugi and Kaiba's Future
Though The Dark Side of Dimensions makes us think Kaiba would have lost their epic battle, it's possible he had a counter ready to claim the victory, and even if he didn't, he would have won under normal duel conditions.
Regardless of your outlook on their battle, Yugi's match against Kaiba was probably the film's best moment, revealing modernized upgrades of classic cards that stay prominent in competitive dueling today. Yugi's Dark Magician and Kaiba's Blue-Eyes White Dragon remain the game's most famous cards, and thanks to several modern supports, both structures can still hold their own. But for now, as we eagerly await more thrilling spellcaster vs dragon battles, vote for your favorite duelist and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh review!
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you think Yugi having the advice and cards of his grandfather gives him an advantage?
Answer: Maybe a bit? But Yugi long ago lost most of his grandpa's Exodia cards, and honestly, Solomon's official duel record is surprisingly bad (he lost to Arthur, Kaiba, and Joey, and has yet to score an official win).
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
BEWARE DANGER on October 23, 2018:
Well yes, Kaiba should have won but as Yugi or should I say Atem was always the main character and never really was meant to lose (except for the few times like that time against the first duel with Rafael from the ring of orichalcos series). So yeh no matter what, yugi was meant to win in fact was destined to but if he wasn't the main character then Kaiba would have obviously won. Also about that thing you said about monster reborn, cards like that and Pot of greed weren't banned in the yugioh classic series through so yeh, thats the thing. But anyways I voted yugi to deserve the duel because of things like that Kaiba basically cheated in this duel
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on August 13, 2018:
Glad you mentioned that. I explore the Jaden vs Yugi debate more fully in the article linked to below, but we're not *quite* sure whether Jaden actually declared an attack or if it was simply a stylistic posing of monsters before the scene faded. And if the match was so clear cut, why not just show the outcome?
But even if you still believe that Yugi without a shadow of a doubt, won that match take a look at the article to see all the random handicaps they gave Jaden to ensure Yugi's older deck kept up. At any rate, the exact winner of that match doesn't change my point: Kaiba's deck (on Kaibaman) beat Jaden while Yugi's (on Dimitri) lost to him.