Flashback Review: Yu-Gi-Oh: Duelist Kingdom

In 1996, Kazuki Takahashi created a manga series for Shōnen Jump titled, “Yu-Gi-Oh.” The series is about a high school boy named, Yugi. He acquires an artifact shaped like a pyramid called, the millennium puzzle. Whenever he transforms, a spirit with no memory of his past, goes by the name Yami. His goal is to partake in duels. Eventually, they form a partnership sharing the same body. The puzzle grants them additional powers. With the help of their friends Joey, Tea & Tristian, they duel notable opponents including arch rival Seto Kaiba, Pegasus, Marik and an evil spirit who uses Bakura’s body to obtain all millennium items to obtain ultimate power. The manga became a billion dollar franchise ranging from action figures, video games, a card game and an anime produced by now defunct 4Kids.

Yu-Gi-Oh’s first season aired in 2001 (same year Gorillaz’ first album came out) on Kids WB. It received praise from critics, fans and viewers alike. The series spawned four seasons and spin-offs such as “GX,” “5D’s,” “Zexal,” “Arc-V,” “VRAINS,” “Sevens” and the most recent one “Go Rush!!” I used to watch Yu-Gi-Oh as a kid. Plus, I used to own the cards. I stopped watching after GX in favor of expanding my horizons trying out serious television dramas.

This review contains no SPOILERS. I’m giving newcomers a chance to see the original series. Due to a ridiculous number of episodes spanning 49, I’ll do my best to recall as much as I can. So bear with me.

Winner & Loser Qualities

Winner: Dan Green, Eric Stuart all did a great job for their respective voiceover performances.

Animation still holds up for an anime that aired in 2001-2002.

Character Development involving Yugi & Yami. As the series progresses, they begin to form a partnership. Joey adapts as a skilled duelist with Yugi & Yami’s support.

There are funny moments. Especially Joey & Mai’s antics.

Unlike Pokémon’s repetitive plot threads, Yu-Gi-Oh’s storyline doesn’t wane out very quickly.

Each character has a motive to duel Pegasus. Yugi seeks to his grandpa’s soul.Joey wants to win $3 million to pay for his sister’s eye surgery. Kaiba seeks to rescue his brother Mokuba.

Yugi/Yami and their friends face off against contestants Wevil, Rex, Bonz, Mako, Mai, Para, Dox, Panik & Bandit Keith. Mai later becomes a trusted ally in future storylines. Most of the contestants show up in Battle City.

Grandpa’s philosophy, “The Heart of the Cards” plays a huge role. It represents a duelist playing with honor and believing in yourself with your friends giving you full support.

My favorite character is Kaiba. Yami is the runner-up. I like both of their decks.

A kid named, Bakura has a key role. He owns a millennium ring that carries an evil spirit whose goal is to obtain all millennium artifacts like Yugi’s puzzle.

A duelist’s deck reflects his/her advantages and disadvantages.

My favorite duels are the second match between Yami & Kaiba, Joey & Keith, Kaiba & Pegasus and the final match with Yugi/Yami & Pegasus. I also like the three-part virtual reality story arc.

Pegasus’ plan is to overthrow Kaiba and take over his company. His other plan is using his millennium eye to use it for bad deeds. Near the end of Duelist Kingdom’s story arc, his motivation becomes crystal clear.

Opening Credits never gets old. You can’t skip “It’s time to d-d-d-d-duel!!!!!”

Primary Themes are Friendship, Teamwork & Trust. Each one is handled carefully.

After Duelist Kingdom’s storyline is over, there’s two short storylines. Yugi/Yami, Joey & Mokuba enter a virtual reality game to find Kaiba. Yami faces off against Duke Devlin in a game called, “Dungeon Dice Monsters.” Duke later becomes Yugi’s friend in future storylines. Yugi (without relying on Yami) duels with his grandpa’s friend’s granddaughter.

Loser: 4Kids was notorious for editing various scenes including erasing a gun making it look like a henchman pointing and Pegasus drinking fruit juice from a glass instead of wine.

Tristian’s voice in the first ten episodes sounds like a horrible impression of Barney the Dinosaur.

Every time Yugi transforms into Yami, nobody addresses Yugi has grown a few inches and his voice’s deeper. Until Yugi’s friends realize he has a spirit within his puzzle after Yami’ second match with Kaiba.

There’s no logical explanation how the Thief from Bakura’ ring managed to return after his match with Yami.

The Final Verdict: B-

Yu-Gi-Oh’s first season is an average start. If there’s an uncut English Dub without 4Kids’ edits, I’ll give it a B. The equivalent of an 8/10. If you wanna introduce your kids to Yu-Gi-Oh, start with Duelist Kingdom.

Rest In Peace Kazuki Takahashi. Thank you for the memories. Your legacy will live on.

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