I thought American markets had kid
crack toys figured out by 2000. Make a cool show with heroes that battled, maybe even changed forms, throw in some villains, a few vehicles, and you have yourself a money printer. As the ’90s went on, action figures seemed to die. With Pokémon becoming a hit, 4Kids Entertainment looked to Japan for the next big thing. Enter Yu-Gi-Oh!
Yu-Gi-Oh! (god I hate typing that) is about a card game, called Duel Monsters, that is brought to life via holograms. Main character Yugi was possessed by some ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, and they would take turns being in control. To avoid staying static, the show even introduced another game based on dice, though Duel Monsters remained more popular.
I must admit, the idea is smart. A show about a game that can be produced and sold to kids. I’m surprised no one’s thought of it sooner, or if they did, why it didn’t take off earlier. I’m not claiming Yu-Gi-Oh! invented collectible card games (CCG — they’d been around for years by 2001), I’ve just never seen a show that was built around one. Action figures were out, CCGs were in, especially since the production cost for the cards was a fraction of the figures.
Like all good (or decent) anime, Yu-Gi-Oh! started as a manga — one that didn’t feature the card game for quite some time. Creator Kazuki Takahashi wanted to create a horror series that didn’t involve fighting. Instead, he arrived at the idea of games. Possessed Yugi would play different games with evil people, punishing them if they lost (disfigurement, etc.). After 59 chapters, the Duel Monsters game was introduced, and the series completely changed. I read the manga in Shonen Jump. It wasn’t bad. The horror elements were very evident while they were present, though my interest in the series faded when it did.
While Yugi’s story concluded long ago, Yu-Gi-Oh! has had half a dozen spin-offs totaling over 700 episodes, not to mention specials, movies, and the like. The show is set to debut another entry next year, Arc-V. A whole lotta (that’s a metric term) games have been released as well. I played one of the early ones, The Eternal Duelist Soul, on Game Boy Advance a few years ago. It was a lot of fun with a surprising amount of content.
While the Yu-Gi-Oh! CCG never rose to the heights of the Pokémon one, it was still fun to play (note: I only ever played it digitally). While I would have liked to have seen where the series went without Duel Monsters, I’m glad kids had their version of Magic: The Gathering to grow up with. Rope ’em in while they’re young.
Did you play Yu-Gi-Oh! (don’t lie Matt)? Surprised the show is still running (I was a little)? Comments, ho!
Craziest anime hair, ever.