In the year 2000, 4Kids Entertainment brought a new anime series to American TV screens. The show had the bizarre name of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and it treated the trading card game that it was created to promote like it was serious business. In the world of Yu-Gi-Oh!, everything revolved around the card game. Is an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh trying to reclaim his lost memories? The card game will help him find them. Are a group of people hunting down ancient magical artefacts as part of a plot to take over the world? The card game can help decide who deserves to wield them.
As silly as the show could be sometimes, there was an infectious enthusiasm to Yu-Gi-Oh! that endeared it to the fans. The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game also happened to be really good. Like Pokémon, the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise continues on to this day, with the release of numerous anime series, movies, video games, and of course, more sets for the card game.
We are here today to look at the history of this anime series/card game, which managed to be massively successful, despite being utterly bizarre. From its incredibly violent origins to the game coming to life before our eyes. Here are 15 Facts You Didn’t Know About Yu-Gi-Oh!
15. Yu-Gi-Oh! Was Based On A Dark And Violent Manga
While the name Yu-Gi-Oh! is closely associated with the trading card game, the franchise actually started with a dark manga series. It took a while for Duel Monsters to show up in the manga, and the story mainly focused on other kinds of puzzles, riddles, and games.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga ran in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and featured most of the same characters from the anime. Yugi completes the Millennium Puzzle, and the spirit of the Pharaoh is awoken in modern times. This early version of the Pharaoh didn’t care about card games, though; he was more interested in creating his own supernatural version of Saw.
In the first issue alone, the Pharaoh challenges one of Yugi’s bullies to a game where you had to stab money off your hand without cutting yourself. The bully then tries to stab the Pharaoh, at which point he is driven insane by dark magic. A movie director starts hassling Yugi and Joey at their school, so the Pharaoh turns his eyes into permanent mosaics. An escaped prisoner kidnaps Téa, so the Pharaoh sets him on fire, and everyone just laughs it off.
14. There Was Another Series Of The Anime (That We Never Saw)
The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime that most fans are familiar with is actually called Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters in Japan, and it was the second series to be produced. The first Yu-Gi-Oh! anime (sometimes referred to as “season zero” by fans) was produced by Toei Animation, and ran for a single season in 1998.
What we now know as the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game did not appear until later episodes, where it was called Magic and Wizards, and was in a much more primitive form. The anime followed the story of the original manga, with the much darker version of the Pharaoh (and his murderous antics). Early versions of characters like Kaiba and Bakura also appeared in this series. This season of the anime had its own film, called Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie. The character designs in the film more closely resembled the ones seen later in the Duel Monsters version of the anime.
By the time the next season of the anime was released (the one that was released in America), the Duel Monsters card game had been fleshed out. It became the central focus of the story, and was entwined with the story of the Millennium Items.
13. Both Bandit Keith & Pegasus Died In The Manga
Two of the recurring villains from the Duelist Kingdom arc in Yu-Gi-Oh! were Pegasus and Bandit Keith. Pegasus forced Yugi to enter his Duel Monsters tournament by stealing the soul of his grandfather. He also stole the souls of both Mokuba and Seto Kaiba. This was all part of his plan for resurrecting his dead wife. Bandit Keith was the best Duel Monsters player in America. He was embarrassed by Pegasus at a tournament, and he came to the Duelist Kingdom to seek revenge.
After losing to Joey Wheeler, Bandit Keith threatened Pegasus, and is dropped through a trapdoor, which slid him straight out of the Duelist Kingdom. He would later show up under the control of Marik, during the Battle City arc. After being beaten by Yugi, Pegasus had his Millennium Eye stolen by Bakura. He later became a recurring character in several of the movies, filler seasons, and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
This was not the case in the original manga. When Bandit Keith threatens Pegasus with a gun, he is trapped under Pegasus’ mind control, and shoots himself in the head. Then, after Pegasus loses to Yugi, Dark Bakura kills him, by ripping the Millennium Eye from his head.
12. One Card Was Responsible For Creating The Forbidden List
A lot of competitive card games have an equivalent to a “Ban List”. These are cards that have been officially listed as unsuitable for use in tournament play. The reason for this is that the card is somehow unbalanced, and offers an unfair advantage. Another reason might be because the card is hard to enforce. An example of this is “____’s Pikachu” card from the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The space in the card’s name is where you are supposed to write your own. The card’s effect depends on if it’s the player’s birthday or not. Naturally, this would be very hard to enforce in a competitive setting, so it was banned.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the ban list is referred to as the Forbidden List. The first one was created in 2004, and it was mainly to stop the overwhelming use of one card: Yata-Garasu.
Yata-Garasu is over-powered for two reasons. The first is its effect; if it manages to directly damage the opponent’s life points, then that opponent does not get to draw a card on their next turn. The second effect is that Yata-Garasu returns to your hand at the end of your turn. If you can damage the opponent with Yata-Garasu, and they have nothing in their hand to counter it, then you have won the match. The opponent won’t be able to draw any more cards, and they won’t be able to destroy Yata-Garasu, because he retreats to your hand after he attacks.
11. Seto Kaiba Is Based On A Real Person
The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise was created by Kazuki Takahashi. He was a budding mangaka (writer/artist of manga) for years, until he finally got his first big success with Yu-Gi-Oh!. As previously mentioned, the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga focused on many different games. During a two chapter storyline, a game called Magic and Wizards was introduced in the manga. Takahashi originally only intended to use this game once, but the editors at Weekly Shonen Jump received numerous letters asking for more details about it. They convinced Takahashi to focus more on Magic and Wizards, and the game we now know as Duel Monsters was born.
Kazuki Takahashi revealed in the foreword of the 10th volume of the manga that Seto Kaiba was based on a real person. Takahashi had a friend who was into collectable card games. This friend introduced him to another player, and asked him to teach Takahashi how to play the game. The player refused, and told him to come back after he had collected ten thousand cards. This encounter pissed Takahashi off initially, but he realized that a jerk who thought he was too good to play a card game with a lesser player would make for an excellent character. We can only assume that this player did not also fly around in a jet shaped like a dragon.
10. One Of The Cards Was Created By The Make-A-Wish Foundation
A common misconception about the Make-A-Wish Foundation is that they only grant wishes to children with a terminal illness. This is not the case, as kids who have survived a life-threatening injury or illness have also received a wish from the foundation.
In 2002, a boy named Tyler Gressie was diagnosed with liver cancer. He needed to have a quarter of his liver removed, along with part of his lower intestines. His chances of survival were low, but Tyler fought for his life, and was able to fully recover. The Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to grant one of Tyler’s wishes, and he asked to create a card for Yu-Gi-Oh!, his favourite game.
Tyler was allowed to design the art for his card, which was called “Tyler the Great Warrior“. Fans of Dragon Ball Z might find the design of “Tyler the Great Warrior” to be familiar. Let’s be honest here, the design is basically Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. If this card hadn’t been created as part of a Make-A-Wish, then the makers of Yu-Gi-Oh! would have had a lawsuit on their hands.
9. There Are Numerous Cards Based On The Gradius Series
The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is developed and released by Konami. It is because of this relationship that Yu-Gi-Oh! has had so many video game adaptations over the years. The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series was released in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and the anime is currently produced by Studio Gallop. Despite all of the different companies involved, the many facets of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise help to support the other. There is a deep level of synergy between these four aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and it is the main reason that it has continued to be successful for so long.
With Konami having such a strong connection to the card game, they have allowed the use of some of their video game characters in Yu-Gi-Oh!. There is a card called “Tactical Espionage Expert”, who is clearly based upon Solid Snake of the Metal Gear Solid series. “Soitsu” is a character from a more obscure Konami game, called Sexy Parodius.
The most prevalent of the Konami video game references belongs to the Gradius series. The Gradius games are space shooters, in a similar vein to R-Type. Many of the ships and upgrades from Gradius made their way into the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, where they form the “Konami Arcade Games” archetype.
8. Slifer The Sky Dragon Is Named After A Real Person
The Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! introduced a new set of cards that had the potential to bring about the end of the world. They were called the “Egyptian God Cards” in the English dub, and the three of them were said to be overwhelmingly powerful. The three Egyptian Gods were called Obelisk the Tormentor, The Winged Dragon of Ra, and Slifer the Sky Dragon. These cards required three sacrifices in order to be summoned, and each of them had unique abilities that could swing the match in favour of the player who summoned them.
Slifer the Sky Dragon entered the possession of Yugi Moto, who used it the during the final tournament of Battle City. In the original Japanese language version of the game, Slifer was called Osiris. The reason for this change is because he was named after Roger Slifer, one of the employees at 4Kids Entertainment, who worked on the English dub of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime.
7. The 1st Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie Gave Away A Card That You Couldn’t Use
Much like the Pokémon movies before it, the first Yu-Gi-Oh! film gave away trading cards with each showing. You would receive one of four random cards for each ticket you bought to see the film. The four cards were Pyramid of Light, Sorcerer of Dark Magic, Watapon, and Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light was actually the second Yu-Gi-Oh! film. There had been an earlier movie based on season zero of the anime that was only released in Japan. Pyramid of Light was about the resurrection of Anubis, the Egyptian lord of the dead. As with all Yu-Gi-Oh! villains, he only wanted to beat the main characters in a card game.
The four cards that were given away at showings of the movie are actually part of the plot. Both Yugi and Kaiba used these cards in battle. The Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon was meant to be the most powerful variant of the Blue-Eyes type monsters.
At least that was the intention. For you see, American and European players couldn’t actually use the card in-game.
In order to summon Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon, you need to sacrifice a Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The movie was released in 2004, but the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon card was not made available until it was released as a promotional card for Shonen Jump magazine in 2006. This meant that the card was totally useless for two years.
6. The Lovecraft Monster Cards
The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game has been running since 1998 in Japan. It won’t be long now until the game will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Throughout that time literally thousands of new card designs were created.
In the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the monsters were mainly based around fantasy creatures, like wizards and dragons. When Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was released, the cards were changed to a superhero theme. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s focused on cards based around science fiction, and post-apocalyptic monsters. As time has went on, more varieties of fictional character have appeared as monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh!
One of the most bizarre inspirations for monster cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! was for the Arcana Force. The creatures in the Arcana Force archetype are based on monsters from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The books of H.P. Lovecraft are abouy unspeakable gods and cultists who commit terrible atrocities on the human race, for whom they care nothing. The works of Lovecraft are not really appropriate inspiration for monsters in a kids game.
5. Yu-Gi-Oh! Sent 4kids To The Shadow Realm
4Kids Entertainment were responsible for bringing some of our most beloved TV shows to the West. They dubbed shows like Pokémon, Sonic X, Ultimate Muscle, and Yu-Gi-Oh! into English. While their level of censorship left something to be desired, they still managed to make these shows broadcast-worthy for American television.
The fate of 4Kids Entertainment came about because of Yu-Gi-Oh!, which had become one of their most popular shows. In 2o11, TV Tokyo issued a lawsuit against 4Kids Entertainment, stating that they were improperly reporting royalties, making illegal deals with other TV companies (like Funimation), and creating false invoices for the cost of dubbing the show. The ensuing lawsuit forced 4Kids to file for bankruptcy, and the Yu-Gi-Oh! license went up for sale. Konami would purchase 4K Media (a subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment, who were shut down when they went bankrupt), and revived them as the license holders of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the West.
4. The American Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime
The popularity of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime led to interest in the card game. Fans of the show couldn’t wait to start playing Yu-Gi-Oh! when the cards finally went on sale. With the two original Yugi and Kaiba theme decks, you could recreate your favourite rivalry from the show.
With the card game becoming a success due to the anime, the makers of Yu-Gi-Oh! decided to try and promote another game in the show. In the episode “Dungeon Dice Monsters, Part 1”, a new student named Duke Devlin is out for revenge against Yugi. Duke was the creator of Dungeon Dice Monsters, a dice-based board game that was going to be funded by Pegasus. Duke challenges Yugi to a game of Dungeon Dice Monsters. These episodes were meant to promote a real life version of Dungeon Dice Monsters, which never became as popular as the card game.
In 2006, 4Kids Entertainment actually commissioned their own season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. It was called Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters, and was created to promote a collectable figure game of the same name. The Capsule Monsters anime is notable for having low quality animation compared to the main show. Capsule Monsters was never broadcast in Japan, and the episodes can only be found on single DVD release there.
3. The New Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie
Since the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime ended its run in 2004, there have been several sequel series that have their own settings. Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was set in a Duel Monsters training school. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s was set in a society that has fell into ruin, forcing people to play Duel Monsters on motorcycles. Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is set in a futuristic world. The latest series, Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, mixes elements from all of the previous settings into one.
Despite all of the new series, cards, and characters, there are fans who long for the days of Yugi and his friends. It is because of this nostalgia that a 2010 movie called Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time was released. The film unites the protagonists of the first three Yu-Gi-Oh! seasons, through the aid of a time-travelling villain.
In 2016, the cast of the classic Yu-Gi-Oh! anime would return once more, in a film called Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions. This film follows the events of the anime, with the Pharaoh having recovered his memories and finally passing on into the afterlife. Kaiba is mad that he never got a chance to defeat the Pharaoh in battle, so he wants to rebuild the Millennium Puzzle, and bring him back for one more card game…
2. It Is The Biggest Selling Trading Card Game In The World
While the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series has gone through five different iterations over the past two decades, the one thing that has remained the same is the card game. Yu-Gi-Oh! is often put in the same category as Magic the Gathering and the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The three games all involve collecting cards, and using them in a competitive format, where you play against other people. The one thing that differentiates Yu-Gi-Oh! from those other two games is in its resource management. Both Magic and Pokémon require you to draw cards that grant you a resource (Land cards and Energy cards respectively), which are needed to play other cards. This aspect is what turns some people off from those games, as drawing a hand without resources will significantly lower your chances of winning. In this sense, Yu-Gi-Oh! has a lot less focus on the luck of the draw.
In 2011, Yu-Gi-Oh! appeared in the Guinness World Records as the Biggest Selling Trading Card Game of all time. At that point in time, over 25 million Yu-Gi-Oh! cards had been sold across the globe.
1. Fans Are Working On A Holographic Version Of The Game
The reason a lot of kids cartoons are made is to sell toys. You might adore the works of a company like Pixar, but the purpose of their movies is no different than that of He-Man. When the show itself is selling a product (like Yu-Gi-Oh! did with the card game), their purpose is to make that product look as exciting as possible. This can sometimes leave the customers feeling dissatisfied, when the product doesn’t match the hype (the makers of Beyblade are lucky they were never sued for false advertising).
When it comes to the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the cards are played using computer systems that project holograms. Yugi would play a monster card, and a life size 3D image of the creature would appear. This was obviously not possible when the show was released, and the closest you could get to seeing the monsters in action was in the Yu-Gi-Oh! video games.
In 2016, Microsoft released a development kit for a product called the HoloLens. It is similar to a VR headset in appearance, except that it has a clear visor over the eyes. Its purpose is to show high quality Augmented Reality images, so that they appear to exist in real life. Fans have been working on creating a Yu-Gi-Oh! game using the HoloLens, which displays images of the cards and monsters in a way that makes them look real. While still early in development, the dream of one day being able to play Yu-Gi-Oh! like they did on the show may become a reality.
Are you still a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan after all these years?