Manga Reviews

Monday, February 20, 2006


Yu-Gi-Oh! by Kazuki Takahashi
Licensed by Viz

Topic: Games, Supernatural

Yugi Mutou is a high school student who's obsessed with various types of games, from board games, to card games, to puzzles. He's always alone until one day he manages to put together the legendary Millenium Puzzle, one of seven magical Millenium items. By being able to complete it, he's granted his wish of having friends. However, he also unleashes the soul of a 3000 year old pharoah from within the millenium puzzle. The pharoah's soul takes up residence within Yugi's body and comes out to protect him when Yugi's under extreme duress.

The completion of the Millenium Puzzle, and the unleashing of the pharoah's soul has put great events into motion. The other millenium items are scattered throughout the world and are not all in the hands of good people. They too have spirits residing in them, and some of those spirits are capable of using the items' powers for great evil. For example, Maxamillion Pegasus, the owner of the Millenium Eye, has the power to extract people's souls and place them in other objects. Yugi slowly learns about his alter-ego, and discovers that the two of them must fight together to fulfill their destiny and learn of the pharoah's past. If they falter on any step, the Millenium items might fall into the hands of the wrong person, and that could cause the entire world to fall into darkness.

To do battle with the other Millenium item users, Yugi plays a card game known as duel monsters (in fact Yu-Gi-Oh literally means King of Games). As he plays, he learns more about the game's mysterious past (the game seems to have originated 3000 years ago in Egypt) as well as his connection to that past. Furthermore, not only he is connected to that past, various other people he knows are linked to that past as well, for example his arch-rival Seto Kaiba. What exactly happened 3000 years ago and what's the truth behind Duel Monsters and the Millenium items? Can Yugi survive long enough to discover his origins and his fate? Or will he falter along the way and plunge the world into darkness?

Yu-Gi-Oh! was a single series in Japan but has been broken into three series in America. The first series, Yu-Gi-Oh!, discusses how Yugi first solved the Millenium puzzle and introduces many of his friends and rivals. The second series, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist, discusses his games of duel monsters and the various tournaments he has to participate in to help his alter-ego find out what happened in the past. The final series, Yu-Gi-Oh! Millenium World, explores the past 3000 years ago, finally revealing what events occured and the reason behind the Millenium items. As you can imagine, this is a very long series and the art evolves with it. At the beginning, most of the characters are drawn rather inconsistently, and all have childish demeanors. But as the story evolves, they all take on more adult-like figures. The background art also becomes more elaborate from as the series progresses. Some of the early two page spreads are very simple buildings with empty expanses, whereas some of the later spreads are very detailed drawings of large cityscapes.

The characters of Yu-Gi-Oh's strong suit. Kazuki Takahashi (the author) does a good job of constantly refering to the past to keep the reader interested. The actual battles are entertaining but become repetitive. The reader soon learns that Yugi will face ever stronger opponents and start to lose, only to return on some amazing technicality or incredible luck. But unlike other manga which use this formula, not even Yugi understands why he's doing this. That sense of mystery helps the reader maintain interest a lot longer than if there was no backstory. However, outside that mystery, there's very little to recommend about the plot. As mentioned above, Yugi ends up battling newer and more powerful opponents in each story arc, always using some special trick or lucky card to defeat his opponent at the last moment. If you actually play the card game you might be somewhat entertained, although many of the cards and their abilities in this manga differ from their real-world counterparts or don't even exist.

The primary issue I have with this series is pacing. To be able to obtain information on any of the other Millenium items, Yugi ends up having to battle through multiple volumes worth of opponents and cryptic riddles. It's much like playing an rpg where, to defeat the next boss and advance the story, you have to spend hours grinding until you're high enough level to defeat the boss. This type of pacing forces the story to drag on without introducing any compelling subplots that might warrant this extension.

Rating: 5.0/10.0


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