Sadly no more images, as what I used to review were bad quality and I can't find better online
It's hard to do a plot summary of the series, as the five seasons are five different arcs. The basic (and very much abridged) plot revolves around a game played in Ancient Egypt, a game involving a different dimension that causes injury to the players, and monsters that do the battling. Eventually, the evil power was sealed withing different items known as the millennium items. Some are kinda practical and make sense, like the main item, the Millennium Puzzle, Millennium Ring, and Millennium Eye. Others like the Millennium Scale... not so much. Eventually, in "Totally not Japan" like a lot of other anime at the time that didn't name the region they were in, again this is 4-Kids, and cultural diversity wasn't their strong point, take the Jelly Donuts for example, four friends get wound up in the return of the "Shadow Games" in its newest reincarnation, a card game called Duel Monsters... and then the plot starts to become a mess when trying to look at the five seasons as a whole. Nothing I could say could do it justice, there are far better explanations out there, but in short, the plot has not aged well, at all. Individually it's fine, but together it suffers from what I'm now calling Korra Syndrome, trying to make new villains every season without any real connections between them.
Sadly what makes it worse is the characters. I get the feeling this is 4-kids's doing, as I review the english dubs of anime, but nothing about these characters stands out from the crowd, they all feel generic. You've got the wide eyed, always willing to see the best in people kid, who's the main character and can, thanks to his Millennium Puzzle (for something that takes far to long to be explained that I can't cover it here), can somehow turn into a bad-ass spirit of a pharaoh. Your generic female friend, who so far has the record for worst female character I've seen for this site who didn't come from a Michael Bay movie and who isn't a playable character in Pokemon. There's also the testosterone driven teenage, kinda but not really bullies, the rival, the rival's younger brother and more that I honestly forget are a thing. They all have names, but it doesn't help them stand out, but for future refference in this review, the main character is called Yugi Moto and the rival is Sato Kaiba. The one exception of this is Maximillion Pegasus, who is the villain for the first season of the show, and is one of the better villains I've seen for this reviews site, just because of his charm and charisma.
The stand out thing for this series, what all the work went into are the duels themselves. The focus of the series is a card game, which is just called Yu-Gi-Oh in real life. However the problem with this goes back to the title of this review, and is just as much my fault as it is the shows. You see, when I was playing the card game, for some reason, not only did my primary school have a problem with fake cards, but none of us actually read the instruction manual that came with starter decks. As such, we relied on the show to know how to play, and that backfired spectacularly because the show leans more for "What will make an interesting battle" more so then how the game is actually played. It covers the basics, but not limits, meaning that the show had a habit of making things up as it went, which would be fine if it's reason for existing wasn't to sell a card game. It got so bad at my school that I was able to have, what I dubbed the Blue Eyes Shiny Supreme Dragon, a fusion of three Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragons and a Blue Eyes Shining Dragon to make a 10 headed abomination that killed everything, combined with a card from the show's movie, which I'll cover later, and the fact I kept getting what's known as the Egyptian god cards, with no deck limit, no life points and my awful shuffling at the time leading to what many called a rigged deck, let's just say I didn't use my deck often.
Going back to the show, it would be fine if the show actually established the limits of the game, something that shows like the Pokemon Anime, which also had that problem early on (especially gym one and two), did better. Establishing a deck limit, how the life points work, the limits of card restoration to stop clowns from becoming unbreakable walls and metal hydras from fusing monsters so many times, just to name a few. At least the battles do look good. Stupid at times for the sake of the plot, and they aren't in the best battles I've seen for this site, but to be fair, not much comes close to Souzin's Comet, but they do look good and hold up well. The same can't be said for the artstyle and sound. The voice acting's mediocre and because 4-kids had a habit of recycling voice actors without letting them experiment with other voices, you're probably going to be hearing a lot of very similar voices, especially if you know the actors for other work (Such as Lisa Ortiz and Mike Pollock) and it can be very distracting. The music is also kind of generic and the art style's kinda basic by today's standards.
The show has not aged well, and if you're looking for a place to start, this probably isn't it. I don't know of a better place to start watching the show though as my knowledge of the franchise is limited to this period in time, it didn't stick with me like Pokemon did, and to be honest, the only reason I looked at this again wasn't to review, it was because of a Top 10 list by Watch Mojo. There is still one more anime from my childhood I'll probably get to eventually (that isn't the Pokemon anime, as the sheer size of it now scares me), and other cartoons that I saw. But for now, we do have to look to the future, as the next review is Star Wars III, and a new impression coming tomorrow.