Yu-Gi-Oh! vol 1 (of 38)

UK Distributor:  Gollancz Manga

Author:  Kazuki Takahashi

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £4.99

Number of Pages:  208

ISBN:  0-5750-7737-9

Reviewed:  9th May 2004

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Most people will know Yugi Moto, the small kid with bizarre hair, a penchant for card games and a smug adult alter ego.  However, those who know him through the anime series or card game may be more than a little surprised if they read this manga.

Firstly, it’s very dark, and secondly Yugi doesn’t play the Duel Monsters card game at all in the first volume, in fact, he doesn’t play any card games.

The manga starts off relatively innocuously – Yugi seems to be a normal schoolkid (except for the hair, but considering everyone in Yu-Gi-Oh! has a mad barnet I suppose that doesn’t count), he gets picked on in a jovial way by his friends Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler in the USA) and Honda (aka. Tristan Taylor) and stood up for by Anzu Mazaki (aka. Téa Gardner), and nothing really happens to him.  However, as is always the way in these things, not everything is normal – he lives in a games shop with his more than slightly creepy grandfather and he has an ancient Egyptian puzzle that if completed will grant the user a wish… and the power of judgement over evil.  Ho hum.

Of course Yugi completes the puzzle (I’m not really giving anything away here, the thing might as well have IMPORTANT PLOT DEVICE written in large letters across it) and from then on he unknowingly obtains the ability to change into a confident and powerful alter ego who challenges anyone who wrongs his friends to a ‘Shadow Game’ – a random contest with pretty shocking consequences for the loser.

As mentioned this isn’t like the popular anime (although there is an earlier series than the ones shown here that follows the manga more closely).  For starters when Yugi’s alter ego manifests itself he doesn’t suddenly age ten years and double in height, Anzu looks a lot older than her animé counterpart, Yugi borrows porn off of Jonouchi and most of the games don’t feature anything really merchandisable.  The biggest difference though is how dark this is.

The losers of the shadow games really do end up with some horrible things happening to them, from simple humiliation to insanity and even death.  Obviously great pains are made to show that these people are nasty (boo, hiss) but even so the punishments are extreme, and Yugi’s near sadistic pleasure in dishing them out will come as a big shock to fans of the anime.

This aside though, Yu-Gi-Oh! is a bit of a mixed bag.  The artwork is good, the characters are likeable, there’s some good comedy and the games themselves are often interesting and ingenious.  The potential is there for a manga that could match Ranma ½’s addictiveness but with an added edge, but unfortunately what lets it down is there is no real sense of tension.  Every time Yugi challenges someone you are near certain he will win, he’s almost the moral of the story, just acting as the villains comeuppance when they do something bad.  It’s a shame, given the infectiousness of the story, that this is the case and, when Yugi does question himself later in the volume it’s too late to rescue the plot from the repetitive situation it has ended up in.

In fairness though you will enjoy reading it, it’s certainly better than the constant card game advert that makes up the series, and it is entertaining and also quite funny.  The main problem is that no-one Yugi has come up against yet has really been powerful enough to trouble him and none of the enemies have really been interesting characters.  Although volume 1 manages to gloss over this enough to make it still worth buying, you have to hope it is rectified in later volumes.

Best Bit:  When Yugi & Jonouchi go to Burger World.

Worst Bit:  When Yugi goes on about people ‘trespassing on his soul’ for the 50th time.


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