Cinedigm’s ‘Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season’ Box Set: An Overview

September 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, English dubbed, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 34 Comments
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Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 1 Disc 1 menu

The Yu-Gi-Oh! season 1 DVD box set that hit the streets today from Cinedigm is the first Yu-Gi-Oh! home video product to be released in over five years. “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season” comes to us from Cinedigm’s Flatiron Film Company label, which also distributes the Digimon series and Rooster Teeth’s Red vs. Blue. The Region 1 DVDs contain the English-dubbed broadcast versions of episodes 1 through 49 on two 3-disc DVD volumes and retail for $44.95. Each volume is also available for sale separately without the box, retailing for $24.95 each.

This post will provide a brief overview of the contents of the “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season” box set, with an emphasis on the set’s packaging and artwork, video contents, and extras.

Packaging and Artwork

When it comes to full season sets of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cinedigm has some pretty big shoes to fill. FUNimation’s 2004 “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Complete First Season” set was a rock star item when it came out, and it’s particularly memorable because of its cool packaging. It included an elegant metal collector’s case, a slipcover, and a 14-panel fold-out Digipak-style case with large, bright illustrations of various monsters. That packaging was likely very expensive to produce and was never again replicated in any of FUNimation’s other Yu-Gi-Oh! releases. So how does Cinedigm fare?

Cinedigm’s release isn’t nearly as extravagant as FUNimation’s, but it is nevertheless very well put together. Each of its two volumes uses a black Amaray clamshell case with a two-sided swing tray. They are together housed in an attractive card stock box. The artwork used for the box and cover art includes a fun design element that hasn’t been seen on previously released Yu-Gi-Oh! DVDs or manga. When the spines of the DVD cases of all five seasons are lined up, they will form a larger image of Yugi wearing his Duel Disk. The spines of the DVD boxes of all five seasons will form a picture of Exodia.

One unfortunate aspect plaguing both Cinedigm and FUNimation’s releases is the use of unoriginal artwork. All of the images appearing on their packaging and the DVD menus have been used numerous times on various other Yu-Gi-Oh! merchandise. How many times have we seen those images of Yugi, Kaiba, Pegasus, and the Blue-Eyes White Dragon? We’ve seen them before and we’ll certainly see them again elsewhere. Naturally, there’s a simple explanation for this.

As part of their Yu-Gi-Oh! License agreement, the Japanese licensors and Konami/4K Media (and previously, 4Kids Entertainment) developed a portfolio of artwork and designs that all Yu-Gi-Oh! products are required to use. The use of portfolios or style guides is customary in the licensing industry and allows licensors to control how their brands appear. And, as further explained by a 4K Media rep on Facebook, each season of the show actually has its own dedicated stash of artwork.

So, 4K Media cannot simply capture a screenshot from the anime and send the characters or monsters in that image off to a merchandiser to do as it pleases. All product licensees with whom 4K Media does business must use only the images in the portfolio on their merchandise. Look at WizKids/NECA’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Game Wallet Kickstarter campaign and the various products that are up for grabs, for example. Those items all use stock artwork from the portfolio, not original designs.

The Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! DVDs, on the other hand, feature a lot of original character artwork that hasn’t been seen on any American DVDs. It would be wonderful if some of those made their way over here. Then again, it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected if the licensors wanted to keep those designs all to themselves as Japan exclusives.

Video Contents

The first five of Cinedigm’s season 1 DVDs contain eight episodes each, while the sixth DVD holds nine episodes. When compared to other R1 anime DVDs, Cinedigm’s release skews a bit high on the episode-per-disc scale. Most R1 anime distributors typically shoot for no more than six to seven episodes per disc.

Still, Cinedigm’s episode-per-disc count beats that of FUNimation’s 2004 season set, which painfully squeezed 49 episodes onto only five DVDs. And while that FUNimation release didn’t include any of the opening narratives to the story (“Long ago, when the pyramids were still young…”) and episode recaps as a means of conserving space, Cinedigm’s release isn’t subjected to these cuts.

As far as video quality goes, how does Cinedigm’s release compare to other previous releases? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Below is a table containing some screenshots from episode 1 captured from all of the major R1 Yu-Gi-Oh! releases: FUNimation’s single volume release, FUNimation’s full season release, FUNimation’s uncut release (only available for the first nine episodes), and Hulu’s streams (on the “high quality” setting). For further comparison, the Japanese Region 2 release from King Records is also included.

All links open in a new window. Warning: Uncropped, full-size PNG images!

 

[1]
Yugi plays

[2]
Unwanted invitation

[3]
Lacking faith?

[4]
Just a bunch of pieces

[5]
Showdown

[A] Cinedigm

A1

A2

A3

A4

A5

[B] FUNi (Single)

B1

B2

B3

B4

B5

[C] FUNi (Season)

C1

C2

C3

C4

C5

[D] FUNi (Uncut)

D1

D2

D3

D4

D5

[E] Hulu

E1

E2

E3

E4

E5

[F] King Records

F1

F2

F3

F4

F5

Cinedigm’s release consists of episodes that are, for the most part, identical to those found on FUNimation’s single volumes and season set and on Hulu. One particularly notable exception, however, can be spotted in episodes 47 and 48 of the Dungeon Dice Monsters storyline. Cinedigm’s release includes the episodes where the DDM game dice appear in their original, unedited forms, which were only shown during the episodes’ first broadcasts and haven’t been seen since. All of the other releases (rebroadcasts, home videos, and streams) feature the episodes in which the dice appear in their edited forms. Curiously, for episode 49, the final part of the DDM storyline, Cinedigm’s release goes back to using the version with the edited dice.

Extras

Bad news for fans of extras. Cinedigm’s release is completely bare bones. You’ll get all of the season 1 episodes and… that’s it. You won’t find any of the music videos, commercials, trailers, or even monster and character profiles that were present in FUNimation’s original single volume DVDs. Even FUNimation’s season 1 set bothered to include all those extras (albeit in a pathetic, space-wasting, 1 GB standard DVD)!

While some fans might not consider those extras to be particularly memorable or worthwhile additions, the mere fact that they were included in the original releases but left out of Cinedigm’s re-release is quite upsetting. The loss of any extra, however insignificant it may seem, is the loss of a piece of Yu-Gi-Oh! history and the neglect of someone’s hard work.

Personally, I’d love to see future releases include TV bumpers from Yu-Gi-Oh!’s original broadcast on Kids’ WB and old commercials for anything related to Yu-Gi-Oh! from that era. I wonder if the masters for those are even still around.

Product Summary

Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season
Street Date: September 10, 2013
Distributor: Cinedigm Entertainment
Label: Flatiron Film Company
Licensed by: 4K Media (Konami)
Region: 1
MSRP: $44.95
Disc count: Six DVD-9 discs
Episodes: 1-49
Language: English
Closed Captions: Yes

34 Comments »

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  1. The fact that they re-instated the recaps is more than enough to buy this. Could you just tell me if they have a “TV Y7 FV” logo in the recaps? I’ve seen it appear in encodes before that weren’t TVRips.

  2. Yes, a few episodes have a Parental Guidelines logo present.

  3. Flatiron sets do not have extras. Totally Spies was barebones while Digimon only had some very fluff character profile booklets. The most notable extra they did was translating the Japanese opening and ending songs for the first Digimon season.

  4. A character profile booklet and Japanese opening and ending translations sure sound like extras to me. Yu-Gi-Oh! has no extras because 4K Media didn’t provide the video materials for any. It has nothing to do with Flatiron Film’s other offerings. Its Red vs. Blue sets have plenty of extras, for example. As does its release of The Guild, Norwegian Wood, and Citadel. It all depends on what a licensor/studio decides to provide.

  5. Thank you for the screenshots!!! Cindedigm’s release seems to be a little better than the others except in the first screenshot, were for some reason there is more dotcrawl, It’s a shame that they did not crop the in-video black bars (even knowing that we later still get black bars on the sides on 16:9 TVs, but that has to do with aspect ratio). Also, those screenshots of Kaiba’s face withouth rainbowing are glorious, It’s a pity that censored imports have in some aspects better quality than the Japanese DVDs ಥ_ಥ

  6. This is a complete guess, but I think Cinedigm kept the black bars so as to retain more of the picture. If it had cropped them, it would also have to crop some of the top and bottom of the picture to retain the aspect ratio, which would result in a more zoomed-in picture. Most DVD releases that I’ve seen have some black bars.

  7. The translations were only for Season 1. Seasons 2 and 3 didn’t get them. Also, the booklets are not really all that much to be jealous about. It uses the same art from the covers and the bios themselves feel liked they were ripped off of Disney XD’s website. The discs themselves not only have no extras, but the background music was not changed each season. Both Season 2 and Season 3 used the Season 1 theme, complete with sound effects.

    Cinedigm is approaching this the same way Shout Factory! has been approaching its non-PR Saban releases. Slap as many episodes as possible on the discs and sell them to starved masses. And even the PR Sets are barebones (and split up into multiple sets) in stores. To get the extras you need the expensive boxset.

    Heck, this set has more effort put into it than the Pokemon DVD releases and Viz is a pro anime licensing company!

    And if they really wanted to use the Japanese coverart or make their own, they could easily work out a deal.

    I am not defending Cinedigm, but expecting any extras is expecting a bit too much.

  8. Almost forgot, but Cinedigm is also putting more effort into the YGO singles than Digimon. The Digimon singles use the exact same cover art for all the singles of a given season, which is the exact same as the box set, just with less foil and a “Volume #” pasted on top.

  9. Why do they even put in the Parental Guidelines logo? I think it’s because they’re un-removable from the masters since I noticed they appeared for a split second on Nicktoons before being covered by their own Parental Guidelines logo, but I might be wrong.

  10. @Duke
    If Cinedigm is approaching the Yu-Gi-Oh! release a certain way, it’s because that’s how 4K Media wanted it done. How much of a say do you think distributors get in deciding what to release and how to release it anyway? The answer: none. Everything depends on what the licensor wants. I don’t think it’s too much to expect extras, so I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree there. I’m not familiar with Pokemon DVDs or what VIZ Media does and doesn’t do, but anime fans love extras and companies that don’t include any aren’t doing themselves any favors.
     
    @Charles Martin
    That would be my guess as well. They’re in the masters for those particular episodes.

  11. Sorry to bother you again, but do you know if these releases are limited edition (like the Dragon Boxes of Funimation)? I might consider buying this edited releases at some point to support the industry, and hope it serves as an incentive for them to work out an uncensored deal with the licensors (one can only hope right?). But if it is limited and stocks run out fast, prices would definitely go way up, and I’m definitely not paying Japanese-like prices for dubbed media. This release is not high on my list, but the best thing that can happen to the franchise (and uncensored fans maybe?) is that stocks run out fast so that they see that there is more profits and high demand for the series that started it all.

  12. Don’t worry, you’re not bothering me. Neither 4K Media nor Cinedigm has called this a limited edition release, but there is no way to tell how many copies were actually printed. I agree that it’s important to support this release. Like you, I’m a fan and advocate of the uncensored Japanese version, but I will always support all Yu-Gi-Oh! video products. The way I see it, if fans don’t buy the products that have already been released, 4K Media will have no incentive to even attempt to release something new (i.e. the Japanese version).

  13. The boxset release might be kinda sorta limited, mainly in that it is online only. However, the singles exist for a reason, so expect to see those in Walmarts and TRUs.

    As for anime sets with extras, they’re not quite that common. High profile series get commentaries and bonus shorts, but the vast majority get restless songs and trailers.

    It’s also even worse for kids TV shows, which this is marketed as. After Volume 4, none of the TMNT DVDs had extras, none of the Saban shows had extras aside from the Power Ranger LEs, and Justice League Unlimited was the last DC show to get actual extras (instead of just pasting episodes from a different show on there to fill space). In fact, the only kids shows nowadays getting extras are those with significant older fan bases such as Transformers, GI Joe, Legend of Korra, Adventure Time, and Regular Show.

    The whole reason Cinedigm probably got the license instead of somebody like Discotek or Shout Factory was because they were cheaper. This is most obvious for Digimon. Saban has no problem granting extras for Shout Factory and Lionsgate and wants to build the Digimon brand up again, yet the Digimon sets are just as bare bones as YGO’s.

    And as for the DDM dice, Cinedigm only uses the original broadcast masters. That was made most obvious by Tamers keeping the Biomerges unedited.

  14. Anime sets with extras are uncommon? It doesn’t feel like it. Western anime distributors like FUNimation and Manga UK do their best to get the same extras as the Japanese releases get (or so they say) because that’s what fans demand. I agree with your point about kids’ shows getting the shaft when it comes to extras though. It’s really unfortunate. I also agree about the cost factor. Although Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! release looks great visually, its packaging feels cheap and is unquestionably a step below FUNimation’s previous releases. Add the fact that it has no extras and you have a DVD set a la FUNimation’s S.A.V.E. line. I still love it though, imperfections and all.
     
    Regarding the DDM dice, both the unedited and edited versions have been broadcast, as I noted in the post. What’s puzzling here is that the unedited versions of episodes 47 and 48 (but not 49) have suddenly reappeared in Cinedigm’s release, after not being seen at all since they first aired in 2002. All rebroadcasts, DVD releases, and streams since then have used the edited versions of those episodes. Saying “Cinedigm only uses so-and-so” is a bit misleading because, again, what it releases depends on what materials it gets from a licensor. Someone at 4K Media probably unintentionally grabbed the wrong tapes and ended up providing a mix of unedited and edited episodes.

  15. Their Digimon release uses the original Fox masters (as any of the edits made in subsequent runs, such as the Daemon Corps saga and the Biomerges, are missing) and their Totally Spies DVDs do not contain any of the music edits from previous DVDs or CN airings. Whoever gets their footage apparently makes sure to get the original dub masters. Probably the same guy who managed to talk Saban into using the original Digimon season names and logos in their releases.

  16. Nice review. You can’t compare this to normal anime from Funimation though.

  17. @Duke
    It’s possible I guess, but don’t you think you might be giving Cinedigm a bit too much credit? I would be very surprised if anyone at Cinedigm actually has any in-depth knowledge about the shows that it distributes beyond what it’s pitched by a licensor. The topic of “original dub masters” probably doesn’t even come up. We have the licensors to thank for providing the materials that they do. A distributor only distributes what it’s given.
     
    @Dan
    “Normal anime” you say? Heh, I think I know what you mean. Yu-Gi-Oh! isn’t like the otaku-catered shows that Western anime fans generally consider as anime. It’s more like the big franchise, toyetic shows that Duke talked about. Well, that doesn’t mean Yu-Gi-Oh! can’t get a super premium release. If money is the issue, I’m sure there are fans out there willing to pay a bit more for a higher-quality product. I know I would.

  18. No offense to GX and 5D’S fans, but why is New Video Group releasing these seasons on DVD and Blu-Ray? They’re not completely dubbed and they really have no advertising purpose since you can’t really buy most of the key GX and 5D’S cards anymore since we’re now into Zexal. The original Yu-Gi-Oh! is the exception here since it’s the most popular of all the series and most recognized (Not to mention they do reprint a lot of the original cards time to time).

  19. Probably because there are fans that are asking for a physical copy of those shows. As far as the dubbed versions go, the stories are complete, even though not all of the episodes have been dubbed. It’s too bad, but what can we do about it at this point? By the way, the company is just called Cinedigm now. The New Video Group name isn’t used for its DVD business any more after Cinedigm bought that company.

  20. The same reason why Saban has been getting its entire back catalog onto DVD.

    But, did 5Ds and GX have their final episodes dubbed, but never aired? Or were they just scrapped altogether?

  21. The remaining episodes of GX and 5D’s were not dubbed. :(

  22. Did the old Funimation DVD’s have the recaps?

  23. You mean the old FUNimation single volumes? Yes, those included the episode recaps. The season set did not.

  24. @ravegrl Which episodes have the TV Y7 FV logo? I watched a few random episodes and didn’t see any.

  25. I don’t remember. I could have sworn that at least one episode has it, but it’s also possible that I was mistaken. I had DVDs scattered all over the place while this post was active and might have looked at the wrong discs. Oh well, if none of the episodes have it, all the better!

  26. Man, as long as ALL 5 SEASONS GET RELEASED and not only the first 3 I’ll be HAPPY. Got the longest time, I was thinking this series would NEVER get released.

  27. Yup, they will be released!

  28. That article is actually how I found about the releases. Thank you btw (: I CAN’T WAIT for Season 4. That one is the best in my opinion, my favorite too. My biggest fear was that once again only the 1st 3 seasons would see the light of day, and not 4 and 5. Like what happened with the previous season sets. Never understood why they weren’t released??

  29. FUNimation didn’t release season 4 in its entirety for whatever reason, but did complete season 5 in three volumes: “Grand Championship,” “Dawn of the Duel, Part 1,” and “Dawn of the Duel, Part 2.” Each volume had two discs.

  30. That’s right I forgot about that. I remember seeing those thinking, “why not release these as season sets” but yeah not sure why Season 4 never got released. All I know is, it better this time 🙏

  31. Hey, Ravegrl.. Are you on Twitter? Would be easier to keep up with your blogs and updates lol

  32. I only use Twitter for work, but you can still subscribe to this website’s feed to be automatically alerted of updates.

  33. 💯👍

  34. The TV Y7 FV thing is in ep 22


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