Those of you that have watched that little “All-New Anime” box at the bottom of the Crunchyroll home page know that adding the entirety of Yu-Gi-Oh! in its complete, subtitled version has been a long time coming. But now it’s here — All 224 episodes are ready to watch if you’re willing to take the plunge into a story of duelists, gods, pharaohs, dragons, and trap cards. And personally, I think it’s more than worth your time, not just because it’s ridiculous fun and you’ll soon be falling in love with the effortless cockiness of Seto Kaiba, but because it’s actually kind of an inspiring series.
Yu-Gi-Oh! inspiring for two reasons. First of all, its story is all about heart, not just the “heart of the cards,” but the passion we share: for our hobbies, for our goals, for our friends, etc. Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s main theme is being there for one another, and though it definitely has lead characters (The main character’s name is pretty much the title), the emotional thrust of the series is a community effort. And while, in many series, this turns into the primary protagonist succeeding while everyone else in the opening credits claps and gets crushes on them, with Yu-Gi-Oh! it feels less centralized on the little guy with the big, spiky hair. There’s a big “You can do it!” energy to Yu-Gi-Oh!, and it’s a universe where having the support of the people you love is just as important as any kind of talent.
That said, the truly inspiring part comes from the creation of Yu-Gi-Oh! itself. Kazuki Takahashi was 35 when Yu-Gi-Oh! was first published in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, and while that’s not an old age by any means, it definitely doesn’t fit into the typical story of young, wunderkind manga prodigies striking gold in their early twenties. And he definitely didn’t land it on his first try either. In Volume 10 of the manga, he relates a story about how, in 1990 while he was working for a game company, he presented “100 pages of manga and 200 pages of sketches” to an editor. The editor read through it all, but rejected it, and Takahashi wouldn’t debut with the series that would land him among manga’s best for eight years.
As we detail in this wonderful Crunchyroll video, it would be a while before Takahashi landed on the titular card game (called “Duel Monsters” in the series), finding his voice and eventually building the narrative around a theme and “battle” aspect that resonated with fans and propelled the franchise to higher and higher levels. In short, Takahashi’s story isn’t an easy one, but if you’re an artist trying to find a foothold in a harsh and often unforgiving industry, it is hopeful. Because nowadays, Takahashi wins comic achievement awards and trades fan art with the creator of Hellboy. It’s the dream, really.
You probably know what Yu-Gi-Oh! is about. Even if you’ve never watched any of the subtitled series, the dub — which premiered on Kids WB in 2001 to be the left hand in the 4Kids licensing Exodia — has permeated pop culture and is now just as popular as a meme as it is an actual show. And who can forget those poetic, awe-inspiring lyrics, which tell audiences that “It’s time to d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-duel.” I believe it was Chaucer that first wrote that.
Yu-Gi-Oh! remains good. The storylines are fun (Battle City is one of my favorite anime arcs in general), the characters (especially the villains) are joyously charismatic, and Takahashi’s monster designs blend Magic: The Gathering-esque fantasy sensibilities with a kind of goth creepiness. Speaking of which, did you know that the reason that Yugi Muto, timid high schooler and all-around good boy, is so covered in big belts and huge cuffs and leather is that Takahashi is a huge fan of the look of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands? Break that tidbit out in your next Zoom work call.
In short, give Yu-Gi-Oh! a chance if you haven’t yet. There’s a lot of cool stuff to be found in it, whether you’re looking for awesome battle stakes in a card game format or just the result of a lot of hard work and a refusal to give up. And it’s all finally here!
Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
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