Yu-Gi-Oh! debuted in 1996 as a manga series in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. The author of the series was Kazuki Takahashi, who had intended to create a manga where the main character never actually engaged anyone in physical combat. To that end, he created a story based on games, where the characters resolved their differences through skill and luck, rather than through physical prowess.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and its anime adaptation went in two different directions. While the original comic was focused on telling a dark story about reincarnation and sacrifice, the anime was trying to promote the real-life card game. These differences, coupled with the censorship that Yu-Gi-Oh! had to endure to secure an international release, caused a wide gap to form between the adaptation and its source material.
We are here today to look at the many differences between the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and its anime adaptation. From the Pharaoh’s murderous streak to the definitive answer concerning the final duel of the Battle City tournament, here are the 16 Biggest Differences Between The Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime And Manga.
16. The Pharaoh Used To Murder People
The 4Kids dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! had to invent the concept of the Shadow Realm. This allowed them to explain away the loss of life and the death traps that commonly appeared on the show. Is an enemy going to use a buzzsaw on Yugi’s legs the Japanese version of the anime? Well, how about changing them into dark energy discs, which have the ability to banish your soul to the Shadow Realm.
The North American programming company would have had a heart attack if they had to localize the early chapters of the manga. Before the Duel Monsters card game was introduced, the Pharaoh would go around inflicting punishments on evildoers who failed at his games. He was like a supernatural version of the villain from Saw.
In the first few chapters of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, the Pharaoh traps a high school student in a never-ending illusion, allows a man to be stung by a scorpion, electrifies a gang of thugs, and allows a criminal to be burned alive. It’s a good thing this version of the character was toned down, otherwise all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! villains would have been killed straight away.
15. There Are No Filler Arcs
There are two different TV adaptations of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. The first was produced by Toei, which closely follows the manga. Studio Gallop produced the second series, which is a looser adaptation that focuses more on the card game. This second adaptation skips a lot of the darker elements of the early series and starts at the point when Yugi defeats Seta Kaiba with Exodia.
Since the anime was adapting a weekly comic that was still being written, it was only natural that it would eventually catch up. To prevent this, the producers of the anime created several filler story arcs that were meant to give the author more time to finish the comic.
This means that the Virtual World, Waking the Dragons, and the Grand Championship arcs were made solely for the anime and never appeared in the original manga. The anime also featured numerous one-off episodes that used stories which never appeared in the manga, such as Mai’s battle against Jean-Claude Magnum.
14. Two Of Joey’s Monsters Worked Differently
The card game that appears in the manga and the actual Yu-Gi-Oh! card game are not the same. This was especially true in the story arcs before Battle City, as the rules were very different from the real card game that fans could buy. The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game was often forced to change how certain cards worked from their anime/manga counterparts, in order to keep them balanced.
One of the biggest differences between the manga and the anime involves two of Joey’s monster cards. Jinzo was originally level seven in the manga, which means that it required two tributes to summon. This was changed in the actual card game to a level six monster, which means that it only needs one tribute. The other card was The Legendary Fisherman, which required no tributes in the manga, but was changed into a level five monster in the actual card game, where it requires one tribute to summon.
13. Marik Almost Poisoned Téa
One of the best duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! is the battle between Joey and Yami Yugi at Domino Pier. Yami Marik uses his Millennium Rod to possess both Joey and Téa, in order to force Yugi into a deadly duel.
The duel between possessed Joey and Yugi takes place on Dominio Pier, where they are both connected to an anchor, which can react to the life points of both the duelists. When one of the players’ life points hits zero, then the anchor will fall and they will plummet to the bottom of the sea. Yugi willingly risked his life in this duel in order to save his friends.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga decided to add some extra stakes in order to ensure that Yugi would play by Marik’s rules. Téa was forced to hold a poison pill between her teeth. Marik told Yugi that if he didn’t duel Joey, then he would force her to swallow the pill.
12. Bakura Trapped The Cast In A Tabletop RPG
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga used to focus on multiple games. It took a while for Duel Monsters to take over the story, and even then, this was mostly abandoned during the final story arc (until Yugi and Yami’s final duel).
One of the story arcs in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga involves Bakura trapping the main characters in his own twisted version of Dungeons & Dragons. Bakura is the Dungeon Master of a game called Monster World. He did not realize that the spirit of the Millennium Ring was trapping people within the game, which left their physical bodies in a coma.
Yugi and his friends manage to finish Monster World by defeating the Demon King Zorc, which allows them to return to their bodies. There are some elements of the Monster World story that make it into the anime-only duel between Yami Yugi and Yami Bakura during the Duelist Kingdom tournament– where the main characters become their favorite cards.
11. PaniK Almost Choked Yugi To Death
PaniK is one of Maximillion Pegasus‘ Eliminators. These are a group of vicious duelists who hunt down lesser players during the Duelist Kingdom tournament. The Eliminators include PaniK, the Paradox Brothers, and the Ghost of Kaiba. In the anime, they mainly just crush duelists and take their star chips. However, the manga version of the Eliminators is slightly more extreme…
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the duel between Yugi and PaniK takes place in a special arena with built-in flamethrowers. When PaniK loses the duel, he tries to roast his opponent alive. Yugi is able to use the Millennium Puzzle to destroy his mind before he can do so.
The version of PaniK from the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga actually has a portable noose and strangulation cord built into his gauntlet. It wraps around Yugi’s neck at the start of the match, with the promise that it will choke him to death if he lost the duel. He tries to activate the noose when he looses, only for Yugi to enforce a Penalty Game onto him, where PaniK experiences the sensation of being hung.
10. Duke Devlin’s Backstory Is Completly Different In The Manga
After everyone returns home from the Duelist Kingdom, all of the main characters decide to take a short break from playing Duel Monsters. In both the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga, this meant that they played Dungeon Dice Monsters for a few chapters/episodes.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, Yugi is forced to defeat Duke Devlin at Dungeon Dice Monsters. It is revealed that Duke had created the game and successfully pitched it to Maximillion Pegasus. Dungeon Dice Monsters was going to be Pegasus’ next big game… until Yugi defeated him. Duke is now seeking vengeance on Yugi, as he believes no one could defeat Pegasus without cheating.
The Japanese version of Duke Devlin is called Ryuji Otoji. He is pushed into pursuing Yugi by his father, who once challenged Yugi’s grandpa to a Shadow Game and lost, which caused him to age fifty years in a single day.
Ryuji’s father then decides to steals the Millennium Puzzle and forces Yugi to play Ryuji at Dungeon Dice Monsters in order to win it back. When Yugi wins, Ryuji’s father tries to choke him to death with the Millennium Puzzle’s chain.
9. Pegasus Killed Bandit Keith
Bandit Keith’s primary motivation is getting revenge on Pegasus for embarrassing him at a duel. Keith was the Duel Monsters champion of America, which earned him a chance to play against Pegasus.
This duel ended with Pegasus using his Millennium Eye to read Keith’s mind, which allowed him to bring a child down from the audience and instruct him how to finish the duel. This result infuriated Keith, which led to him entering the Duelist Kingdom tournament.
Joey Wheeler ends up defeating Bandit Keith during the semi-finals of the tournament. However, Keith refuses to leave the arena and confronts Pegasus with a gun (which is edited out of the 4Kids dub). In the anime, Pegasus activates a trap door which sends Keith plummeting into the sea. The manga version of Pegasus is a little more vicious in his response, to say the least. He uses his Millennium Eye to force Bandit Keith shoot himself in the head.
8. There Was No Final Match In The Duelist Kingdom
The four players who make it to the Duelist Kingdom finals are Yugi Muto, Joey Wheeler, Mai Valentine, and Bandit Keith. Yugi defeats Mai during the first semi-final match by summoning the Black Luster Soldier. Joey beats Bandit Keith by turning his own Time Machine card against him.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the next duel takes place between Yugi and Joey, in order to decide who gets to face Pegasus and challenge him for the title of “King of Games.” Joey puts up a good fight, but he accidentally helps Yugi summon his Dark Sage monster, which costs him the match. Yugi gives Joey the prize money for the tournament anyway, so that he can pay for his sister’s operation. He is only interested in defeating Pegasus and freeing his grandpa’s soul.
Joey is never given a chance to take on Pegasus in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Pegasus just declares Yugi the challenger and they move on to their duel. The anime decided to rectify this and gave Joey his rightful shot at the title.
7. Bakura Killed Bonz
Bonz is one of Bandit Keith’s lackeys. He uses a deck that is filled with undead monsters, which matches his own ghoulish appearance. Bonz loses to Joey in the Duelist Kingdom and seals the main characters up inside a cave. This forces them to travel through an underground complex, where they encounter the Paradox Brothers.
The Battle City story arc allows many characters from Duelist Kingdom to return. Bonz is one such character, though he may have wished that he had stayed at home instead. Bakura duels Bonz, as he needs more Locator Cards. Bonz is crushed by Yami Bakura, who ends the duel by sealing Bonz and his friend’s spirits in the Shadow Realm forever.
6. Joey’s Father Was Never Explored In The Anime
The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime mentions that Joey’s parents got divorced when he was young. Joey was forced to live with his father, while his mother took Serenity. We don’t hear anything about Joey’s father in the anime… or at least we didn’t in the series that we received.
We are given a brief glimpse of Joey’s father in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. He is portrayed as a drunk, who wastes his time gambling. It is suggested that Joey’s father is both verbally and physically abusive to his son. Joey is forced to take on a part-time job in order to pay for his father’s gambling debts. The original Toei Yu-Gi-Oh! anime also shows the brief glimpse of Joey’s father.
Joey’s deck often uses cards that rely on luck. He uses the Time Wizard, which requires a coin toss in order to determine whether its effect is successful or not. Joey also has several cards that rely on dice rolls, such as Skull Dice. This is most likely a reference to his father’s gambling ways. Joey’s father is terrible at gambling because he only does it for wealth, while Joey is lucky because he duels on behalf of his friends.
5. Bakura Killed Pegasus
Maximillion Pegasus is one of the best villains of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, which may be why he returns so many times after Duelist Kingdom. He is a mixture between Michael Jackson and Howard Hughes.
Pegasus has significant roles in the first Yu-Gi-Oh! movie and Bonds Beyond Time. He also shows up during the Waking the Dragons filler arc. Pegasus is also still active during the days of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. It is confirmed that he had died when 5D’s started, as it is mentioned that there is a memorial foundation in his name.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was unable to bring Pegasus back for light-hearted cameos, as Yami Bakura murdered him at the end of the Duelist Kingdom tournament. In the anime, Bakura steals Pegasus’ Millennium Eye after he loses to Yugi in a duel.
4. Yugi Kept Torturing Kaiba
The first episode of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime depicts a duel between Kaiba and Yugi. Yugi is able to win the duel by drawing all five pieces of Exodia. He then uses the power of his Millennium Puzzle to destroy the evil side of Kaiba’s soul.
Kaiba suffers much more at the hands of Yugi in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, though he mostly deserves it.
The first duel between Yugi and Kaiba in the manga happens when Kaiba tries to steal Yugi’s grandpa’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Yugi punishes Kaiba by inflicting a Penalty Game on him, which transforms his soul into that of a Duel Monster. Kaiba has to experience the feeling of being killed by hundreds of different monsters.
Kaiba eventually recovers from the Penalty Game. He then creates his own deadly theme park, called Death-T, in order to seek revenge on Yugi and his friends. This story arc ends with Yugi beating Kaiba by drawing the five pieces of Exodia. He then inflicts a second Penalty Game, which shatters Kaiba’s mind and leaves him in a coma for six months, while he is forced to rebuild the pieces of his heart.
3. The Death Of Kaiba’s Adoptive Father
Seto and his brother, Mokuba, were put up for adoption at a young age. Luckily for the pair, they were adopted by Gozaburo Kaiba, who was a wealthy industrialist. Gozaburo was also a chess champion, which Seto used to his advantage. Seto defeated Gozaburo in a game of chess, which convinced him to adopt the two brothers and give them his surname.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Seto manages to take over Gozaburo’s company and supplants him as the president. Gozaburo then commits suicide by leaping out of the window and falling several stories to his death.
Gozaburo appears in the Virtual World filler arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, where he has implanted his personality into a computer. This version of Gozaburo already has a son named Noah, who also has his personality uploaded into the KaibaCorp computer. Seto Kaiba and Yugi are forced to battle Gozaburo and Noah in a virtual reality world, which ends with Gozaburo’s destruction.
2. Yugi’s Grandpa Was Trapped In A VHS Tape
Maximillion Pegasus wants Yugi’s Millennium Puzzle, as it is required for the process that would resurrect his wife. In order to force Yugi to attend the Duelist Kingdom tournament, Pegasus steals Yugi’s grandpa’s soul and places it within a Duel Monster card. Yugi is forced to win the tournament, in order to free his grandpa’s soul.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Pegasus traps the soul of Yugi’s grandpa inside a VHS tape. This allows Yugi to remain in contact with his grandpa after he is imprisoned. All Yugi has to do is put the tape inside a video camera and he could see his grandpa in the viewfinder. The two of them remain in regular contact throughout the Duelist Kingdom story arc.
1. The Final Duel Of Battle City
The Battle City tournament officially ends when Yugi defeats Yami Marik in the final duel. This is not the last duel of the story arc, however, as another battle takes place between Yugi and Joey. The final scene of the arc shows the two of them preparing to duel, and then… nothing, we don’t get to see the conclusion. The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga moves straight on to the final story arc, with no explanation as to who won the duel.
It seems that the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime felt the need to give a definitive answer to this question, as Joey takes part in more duels after Battle City. He is seen using the Red-Eyes Black Dragon, which he had previously lost to one of Marik’s Rare Hunters. Yugi wins the card for himself and uses it during the Battle City finals.
If Joey has the Red-Eyes Black Dragon, then that means he must have defeated Yugi and won it back. Yugi had previously offered to give the card back to him, but Joey refused, stating that he would only reclaim his Red-Eyes through winning a duel.
Are there any other differences between the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga that you can think of? Let us know in the comment section!