Yu-Gi-Oh! Vol. 1

By Kazuki Takahashi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Sometimes you think you know what a book’s about before you even read it. I’ve had the extreme misfortune to both discover a Magic: The Gathering card game tournament on cable as well as an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! and I’m not sure which was less exciting, watching people play card after card after card. So when I first encountered the original Yu-Gi-Oh! comics that spawned the hit cartoon and collectable card game, I figured I already had this book completely figured out.

Wrong.

Yugi is a timid high school student who is content to sit in the back of class and fiddle with his puzzles when others are socializing. When he solves the Millennium Puzzle, an ancient Egyptian artifact, his life turns upside down. Now he’s sometimes possessed by a dark spirit who forces people to take part in the dangerous Shadow Games… and no one is better at games than Yugi.

It’s funny, because when I first started reading Yu-Gi-Oh! all I could think is, “How on earth does a book with such a pathetic, simpering character become such a hit?” Before solving the puzzle, Yugi’s an annoying kid that you’d really just want to avoid at all costs. It’s funny, then, that it takes him being possessed to make him more interesting. Dark Yugi is completely different; he’s self-confident, funny, and remarkably cunning. Personally, I’d be thrilled if the possession never ended. Even more importantly, Dark Yugi brings out the Shadow Games, the most inventive part of Yu-Gi-Oh!. Each game is different than the one before, and they all become more and more inventive than the previous one. When games involve lit lighters, a cocked gun, and an ever-spilling amount of alcohol that is about to ignite, you know that Takahashi is having fun.

As inventive as Takahashi’s stories are, the art is distinctly average. The most inventive thing here is Yugi’s hair, which is a strange, punk rock spiky hairdo. It certainly sets him apart from the rest of the characters, if nothing else, and it is a little funny to see it standing up a bit straighter when he’s possessed. Takahashi does a good job of drawing the Shadow Games, though, making sure to get all the details right so it’s easy to follow. Aimed at younger children, Takahashi’s art is straight-forward enough that they shouldn’t have any problem at all with Yu-Gi-Oh!.

In these early Yu-Gi-Oh! stories, there are no long, drawn-out card duels like I was expecting. (Apparently those come much later.) With these early volumes, it’s about a dark spirit, and one dangerous game after another. At the end of the first book I still can’t stand the un-possessed Yugi, but I suppose it just makes the eventual appearance of Dark Yugi all the better. No, trust me, this is not at all what you’re expecting. It’s much better.

2 comments to Yu-Gi-Oh! Vol. 1

  • I’m a huge fan of the yugioh manga and anime, so this is a great review and a sweet post

  • Zane Galluzzo

    AFAIK the serial of novels this is based on is yet pending (on suspension?), so when the anime quit short, it was rumored that if and when the novels get finished, there might be more. Of course quite a act of time has went since then, so it might be wishful thinking at this point… I would enjoy it, though.