Forget-Me-Nots: My History With Yu-Gi-Oh

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“Long ago, when the pyramids were still young, Egyptian kings played a game of great and terrible power. But these ‘Shadow Games’ erupted into a war that threatened to destroy the entire world, until a brave and powerful pharaoh locked the magic away, imprisoning it within the mystical Millennium Items.

Now, 5,000 years later, a boy named Yugi unlocks the secret of the Millennium Puzzle. He is infused with ancient magical energy, for destiny has chosen him to defend the world against the return of the Shadow Games, just as the brave pharaoh did 5,000 years ago.”

If I chronicled the phases of my childhood obsessions, it probably would look something like this: 3-5 years old, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 5-7 years, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. 7-8 years, Beast Wars. 9-10 years, Spider-Man and X-Men. 10-13, Pokemon and Digimon. 13-15, Dragon Ball Z. And finally, 15-17, Yu-Gi-Oh. By the time I was 18, you’d think I’d give up obsessing over kids shows, and you know what, so did I for a little bit.

“But nooooooo.” Because Nickelodeon just had to whip out one last kickass series that would ultimately annihilate any chance I ever had of growing up (Pranger’s Note: It’s Avatar. I bet he’s talking about Avatar). Anyway, what was the subject of the day again? Oh right, Yu-Gi-Oh, what I consider the finale of my official unofficial childhood.

Yet again, don't ask me where they all went. I couldn't tell you.

 Probably the most common misconception I’ve seen repeatedly concerning the Yu-Gi-Oh card game is that duelists (people who play Yu-Gi-Oh) are often thought of as aggressive, insecure outcasts who get easily offended when outsiders either mistake their game for Pokemon, or worse, call it a shallow knockoff of Pokemon. I’ll say while it is true that several older Yu-Gi-Oh fans have been known to be quite defensive in their support of this franchise, it’s not without its reasons. One reason being, well, it’s annoying honestly. How is Yu-Gi-Oh any more a knock off of Pokemon than Monster Rancher, Card Captors, or friggin Digimon? (It technically predates Pokemon, but that’s an argument for the ages.) It’s almost as annoying as people who wouldn’t stop calling James Cameron’s Avatar ‘Dances With Smurfs’ and think they’re so clever for it, even though all they’re doing is quoting South Park.

As for the card game itself, it is far from shallow. If there is anything Yu-Gi-Oh shares with the Pokemon card game, I would say it is its sense of simplicity of structure. Besides that one element, both games have a very unique style to play. In the case of Yu-Gi-Oh, the detail surrounding its simple structure feels far more complex. In Pokemon, all strategies are built strictly around the monsters you chose for your deck, with the energy’s being a requirement and trainer’s just sort of there for a little support. With Yu-Gi-Oh however, there are so many ways to string the three types of cards together; Monster, Spell, and Trap cards are all equally important in constructing a deck.

Pity this guy was never on the show.

To talk briefly about my strategy, I stuck with Dark type monsters for the majority of playing the game. Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer was the driving force of my deck for quite some time: A four star monster (the highest level monsters that can be summoned without sacrifices) with 1800 attack points that allowed me to remove from play two monsters in my opponents Graveyard (discard pile). This ability was useful because it highlighted my biggest strategy. Monsters that were sent to the Graveyard were never really gone forever, because there were far to many avenues to revive them, (Monster Reborn, Call of the Haunted, a ton of others). Figured my best bet was to remove as many cards from my opponent’s Graveyard as possible. I also stocked my deck with other removal cards like Noblemen of Extermination and Noblemen of Crossout.

These were especially helpful when up against a Fiber Jar (a card very popular when I was a duelist) that’s effect enforced both players to reshuffle all cards in play and essentially reboot the game with the exception of life point count. Any cards I removed previously would not return to my opponent’s deck, and even if my opponent had a similar strategy, Kycoo had a second ability that prevented my opponent from removing any cards, and that was my strategy: Ostracize my opponent from his minions while keeping my own team together.

And that is why friendship is the greatest thing in the... wait, what the heck is Duke doing here?

Probably one of the most appealing things about Yu-Gi-Oh was that its card game was so much in sync with the anime. They made starter decks named after characters in the show, containing cards identical to the ones they used. I remember being sixteen and in High School when this game was a hit, but I could only imagine what it must have been like to be six and in Grade School at the time of this game’s/show’s hay days. It must have felt super special awesome to actually use the exact same cards as Yugi and Joey. All we were missing were complex holographic duel systems, which, let’s be honest with ourselves, if they really existed, EVERYONE would play this game.

I would now like to focus our attention on the Anime. Yu-Gi-Oh was based off the manga of the same name by Kazuki Takahashi. The series was licensed by Shonen Jump in Japan and localized in US on Kids WB by 4Kids Entertainment. Now, before we all jump on the 4Kids hate wagon… again, I want to be fair and admit that at the time, I had no problem with the way the series was translated. We hear over and over again how 4Kids has utterly ruined every single anime series ‘One Piece’ at a time (Pranger’s Note: I see what you did there), starting with their opening themes, and I am more than aware of this occurrence. But to their credit, the opening theme music for the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh, was actually really good. Easily some of the best work 4Kids’ music department has done.

The name changing, censoring of guns, and a couple punches to the face didn’t bother me all too much either. What did bother me was when I found out about how several bits of dialogue completely changed subject matter in translation. At its roots, Yu-Gi-Oh is the story of a young boy [Yugi] in present day Japan who discovers the game he thought to be a simple hobby has become the battleground for modern day sorcerers attempting to harness ancient Egyptian magic to do their bidding, and he must ally himself with the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle [Yami] to return the magic back to whence it came. It’s quite a compelling story to juxtapose kids in modern day just playing a game with a 5,000-year-old Egyptian prophecy, yet much of the discussion about the mythology surrounding the game, including Yami’s origins, is etched out of the early portions of the dub and replaced with more pep talks about friendship. What ends up happening is once we do get to the final season that actually does take place in Ancient Egypt, it wasn’t built up properly and almost felt like it came completely out of left field.

I think I was maybe one of four people in the theater when this came out.

I should mention as I write this, I have not seen any of the current Yu-Gi-Oh spinoff known as 5D’s, and I only watched a few episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh GX before I completely lost interest. So when I say that I loved this show for its colorful characters, surprisingly clever strategies, and its ability to create a legit amount of suspense and drama (out of playing children’s card games no less), you’ll know I’m talking specifically about the original series. But now that I’ve gotten this far, it would not be right if I left my history of Yu-Gi-Oh without talking about Little Kuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series.

Actually now, it's three times.

What we have here is quite possibly the greatest series of web videos ever made. Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged stars a full grown British guy named Martin Billany, better known throughout the web as Little Kuriboh, who takes clips strait from the Yu-Gi-Oh anime and dubs the voices of all the characters himself (save for a few guest appearances), adding sound effects, music clips, and well-known movie/TV quotes to create one of the most balls-out equal-opportunity-offender parodies of all time.

The series first aired July of 2006. I was introduced to it somewhere late 2007. At first I wasn’t sure what to think because the videos struck me as someone who didn’t even understand the series trying to put it down (LK has openly admitted to never actually playing the Yu-Gi-Oh card game). But as I watched more of his videos, his audio and voice work got better and his writing and sense of satire grew on me. I realized just how much he got this series and was probably no less a fan of the show than I was. On his 50th Episode, Joey Wheeler Ace Attorney (my favorite character BTW), which aired end of October last year, there was one bit of dialogue where Little Kuriboh dropped the act and let his true feelings for Yu-Gi-Oh shine through, even if it was only for a moment:

Joey: Maybe we have committed copyright infringement, but you gotta’ know we’ve done everything in our power to support the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, and if it weren’t for us, I don’t think the show would be nearly as popular as it is right now.
Johnson: And where is your evidence, as such?
Joey: Look around, Johnson. There are more Yu-Gi-Oh fans now than ever before, and the more you try to stifle our creativity, the more we’ll try to express our love for a show that’s more than just about children’s card games. It’s about fighting for what you believe in. And I believe in this show and its fans now more than ever. Because they believe in me.
Yugi: This is so Meta.
Joey: Flame Swordsmen! Use the power given to me by the Yu-Gi-Oh fanbase to wipe out Judgeman’s life points!
Flame Swordsmen: My name is FRAAAAAAAAAAAAANK! (cuts down head of 4Kids Legal Department)
Johnson: NOOOOOOOOOO!

And for that, Mr. Martin Billany, I thank you for persevering through so much controversy to keep this series and it’s fan base alive. For better or for worse, you pioneered the entire Abridged fad that is sweeping across Youtube. I’ll keep watching, and praying to the Egyptian Gods that you survive another 50 episodes.

P.S. your voice work as Frieza in Team Four Star’s DBZ Abridged is easily stealing the show. Keep up the Super Special Awesome work.

So there you have it, and you know what? I really want to play some Yu-Gi-Oh right now.

Like Children’s Card Games? Maybe you’ll like these:

Forget-Me-Nots: My History With The Pokemon Trading Card Game

Bakugan Battle Packs Game Review

Uno: A Brief History of the Classic Card Game

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