Known world wide for its trading card game, not many know that there was a time when Yu-Gi-Oh! was not entirely about card games. With the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga we get a look into the bizarre origins of what would ultimately go on to become a trading card games colossus.
Never released in English there was a little known first season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series dubbed by fans as ‘Season 0’ it follows Yugi and friends during high school as Yugi finds himself entangled in a number of ‘shadow games’. Essentially Yugi and his darker ‘Yami’ side would engage in all manner of competitive games in order to solve whatever problems faced them. What many might not know is that what resulted was far from the kid-friendly card games anime many know and love, in fact the original Yu-Gi-Oh! was downright sinister and with this first omnibus volume of the manga we get a deep look into the dark world that existed before ‘Duel Monsters’.
This first volume proves to be a compelling read for fans of the series in general as it depicts a far darker side of the Yu-Gi-Oh! world than what many have come to know. In fact we see characters threaten eachother with knives, brutally assault one another and Yami Yugi’s penalty games are some deadset awful fates to suffer. For example, if a player loses to Yugi (which is pretty much always) they become the victim of a psychologically torturing punishment that leaves most of its victims clinically insane. Why was this okay? I don’t know but it is hard to not keep on turning the page.
Part of what makes this early parts of the series so compelling is the fact that each chapter is a different game. There are countless games that Yugi challenges people to, each more intriguing than the last. There is even an early version of ‘Duel Monsters’ seen here with an appearance of high school student Seto Kaiba stealing Yugi’s Grandpa’s Blue Eyes card (something he would attempt again later to no avail) and battling Yugi in a game of ‘Magic and Wizards’. It is here that we get a very interesting look into what is possibly the entire origin of Yu-Gi-Oh’s infamous ‘Duel Monsters’.
In these Kaiba chapters it is evidently clear that Takahashi, a self-proclaimed games freak, is in fact deeply inspired by the Western card game Magic: The Gathering. The similarities are astonishing and the name does little to hide the fact. It’s all very interesting to see what went into making what has ultimately become a multi-million dollar trading card games franchise. I guess just like Yu-Gi-Oh inspired Duel Masters and Cardfight Vanguard, Magic: The Gathering inspired Yu-Gi-Oh.
Worth noting is Takahashi’s art style utilized in these early chapters. The artwork is simultaneously unsettling and engrossing, with wonderful designs and elaborate compositions, Takahashi’s work was crude yet complex making for one of the most visually interesting manga to ever be serialized in Shonen Jump.
For Yu-Gi-Oh! fans this collected release is a must have however if you are looking to buy the little ones a Yu-Gi-Oh! manga this one might be a little bit too graphic of a novel for them. Is it time to duel? No not quite yet but the shadow games of the sinister Yami Yugi are utterly captivating in a way that the Duel Monsters series never was.
You can pick up Yu-Gi-Oh! (3-in-1) Volume 1 over on Madman’s Online Store.