Matt Kamen takes a look back at the history of Yu-Gi-oh. Are you ready to duel?
Would you believe Yu-Gi-Oh has been around for almost 15 years? Kazuki Takahashi’s original manga first appeared in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump anthology way back in 1996, and having gone through several different iterations since, is still running today. Its original hero was Yugi Mutou, a young boy possessing an ancient artifact known as the Millennium Puzzle. Early chapters saw a darker personality possessing Yugi, inflicting punishments on wrong-doers in the form of various cruelly ironic games. This idea was soon dropped, and the far better known Duel Monsters card game soon dominated the series, with Yugi and friends battling holographic creatures for over-the-top odds. Though the original concept received an anime adaptation courtesy of Toei, most western viewers are familiar with the later 224-episode presentation of Duel Monsters, which ended in 2004.
The next series, 2006’s Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, was set 10 years later, switching focus to newcomer Judai Yuki (Jaden Yuki in the dub). A low-ability student at the Duel Academy – a school for card duellists set up by Seto Kaiba, Yugi’s rival in the original series – Judai was given a powerful card by a grown-up Yugi at the start of the series, before delving into the secrets of the academy and facing down a number of organisations out to conquer or destroy the world using Duel Monsters. Though not as popular as its predecessor, the series still racked up a respectable 180 episodes.
The next update, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, was a firm departure from the established lore, with no returning characters. Set in a futuristic city, 5D’s opted for a slightly more mature take, with 18-year old protagonist Yusei Fudo participating in high-speed Turbo Duels, fought from top spec motorcycles called Duel Runners. One of five ‘Signers’ – Duelists descended from an ancient civilisation, each marked with the sign of a dragon they can summon – Yusei and friends defended New Domino City from a variety of invaders. While the backstory explored darker themes such as class segregation – yes, really! – the emphasis was still very much on the pitting ancient, powerful monsters against each other through the medium of cardboard. Much like the revised real world game cards released alongside it, 5D’s took the new setting and characters as an opportunity to revise the rules of the duel, introducing all-new monsters and battle techniques, alongside noticeably improved animation quality.
It’s during 5D’s that the events of the new movie Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time takes place, an anniversary movie teaming up Yugi, Judai and Yusei in a cross-time caper against new villain Paradox, who steals Yusei’s powerful dragon monster before travelling into the past with it, using it to change history. While fans will need to see the movie to find out if the trio of young heroes can save the day, they’ll be pleased to know it’s not the end of the saga….
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, the newest series, premiered in Japan on 11 April 2011. Introducing new lead Duellist Yuma Tsukumo, Zexal so far seems completely removed from its forebears. Helping a spirit named Astral reclaim his missing 99 memories – which have, of course, been converted into playing cards – Yuma’s quest is set to take him around the world, battling those possessed by Astral’s errant thoughts. Keep an eye out for a western release soon!