Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine from 1996 to 2004, Yu-Gi-Oh! is a fantasy manga series written and drawn by  Kazuki Takahashi. Following the adventures of a high school boy named Yugi Mutou, who becomes possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh upon assembling the pieces of an artifact known as the Millenium Puzzle, the series would go on to become a multimedia franchise encompassing several anime adaptations and spinoffs in addition to videogames and table top games. The franchise has perhaps become most internationally recognized for its in universe card game Duel Monsters, which would serve as the basis for the official Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game, the best selling collectible card game in the world as of 2011.

The manga chronicles Yugi’s life living with the nameless Pharaoh taking residence within his soul. As a game enthusiast whose grandfather owns a game shop, Yugi dabbles in a variety of tabletop and video games that he participates in with his friends, making numerous rivals of ill intent along the way while slowly becoming more confident and self assured than the timid and socially awkward person he started as.

When in danger, the Pharoh seizes control of Yugi’s mind and uses the powers of the Millennium Puzzle to challenge Yugi’s morally questionable opponents and enact Penalty Games (ironic psychological illusions designed to induce insanity unless they overcome their own character flaws) upon winning.

Yu-Gi-Oh! featured a variety of games as the centerpieces of adventures that would slowly begin to focus more on the mystery of who the Pharoh was and what the Millennium Puzzle truly is. As this mystery moves to the forefront, the variety of the games gradually decreases until the focus narrows in on the trading card game Duel Monsters.

Duel Monsters’ popularity and subsequent evolution into the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game would leave a permanent impact upon the development of the series and franchise to the point of receiving two anime adaptations with one focusing on the earlier episodic storylines featuring a variety of games followed by one adapting the larger story focusing on the mystery of the Pharaoh centered on the mythology of the Duel Monsters card game.

The Manga and the second anime adaptation concluded with Yugi and the Pharaoh solving the mystery of the Millenium Puzzle in order to stop an ancient Egyptian evil, ultimately allowing the Pharaoh to pass on into the afterlife but not before he is defeated in a Duel Monsters match by Yugi in a symbolic gesture of the series’ protagonist’s growth into a stronger and more independent young man. Future entries in the franchise would be anime set in the future of the manga’s plot, developing original and self contained storylines starring different casts of characters, with the plots focused almost exclusively on the Duel Monsters game.

The success of Yu-Gi-Oh! would inspire a trend of collectible card games based on running anime and manga series and additionally contribute to the success of dubbing company 4kids, whose properties would lead to the sharp rise in anime and manga popularity that would occur in the early to mid 2010s.

— Jordan Wright

Further Reading

  • Sakamoto, Mizuki, and Tatsuo Nakajima. “Augmenting Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game as persuasive transmedia storytelling.” In Design, User Experience, and Usability. Health, Learning, Playing, Cultural, and Cross-Cultural User Experience, pp. 587-596. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013.