Anime has always been a part of my life, though it took me a long while to realize it. Dragon Ball was the first show I watched where I was conscious of it being an anime. But it wasn’t the first anime I had ever seen. There were plenty of shows that I had watched before that.
All of which were advertisements for toys or video games. Yeah, I’m talking about shows like Pokemon and Bakugan (yeah, remember that shit?) But even before both of those, I was a huge fan of one show in particular. That show being the card game anime that will tell you the least about the actual card game as possible: Yu-Gi-Oh.
Now, as an adult, I can look back and say “Yeah, that show is pretty dumb.” But I don’t hate it. It’s a nostalgic piece of my childhood that I have a lot of fun revisiting (so long as I’m either high or drunk). It is an incredibly weird, dumb, and fun card game anime.
But here’s the weird thing. This series didn’t end with one weird anime and survive as a weird card game. Oh no. There are many Yu-Gi-Oh shows! Each one more bizarre than the last!
First, there’s the original Yu-Gi-Oh (not counting the oddly dark Chapter 0). This series has some strange story arcs, each one completely disconnected from the one that came before it. Not only that, but each arc ignores the actual rules of the game more than the one that came before it! I can only imagine how painful watching this show must be for rule-lawyers.
Granted, I feel like this show is the least dumb out of all the Yu-Gi-Oh shows. The characters are actually characters (mostly, and they’re not especially deep or interesting) and they drive the story along, battling through tournament after tournament with consistent decks that, once again, completely break the rules of the game. It’s all pretty normal stuff.
Aside from the dark magic rituals, evil ancient artifacts housing spirits, and people using a children’s card game to decide the fate of innocent lives, corporations, and the world.
Then there was Yu-Gi-Oh GX. This was, initially, the least weird Yu-Gi-Oh. Though even as a kid, I didn’t think it was as good as the original. The bland characters were somehow even more lifeless than before, with their character sheets boiling down to ‘school student/ *insert personality here*’. It started off as a strange but boring school life story.
And then it flew entirely off the rails! Holy shit did GX get fucking weird! It completely abandons the whole ‘school for a children’s card game’ plot and flies so far off the rails it ascends into space!
But it wasn’t even half as strange as the next follow-up. Which may hold the prestigious title of ‘dumbest anime to ever exist ever’. Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s.
Unlike the two shows that came before it (and the spin-offs and movies that came between them), this show doesn’t waste any time flying off the rails! The first episode features the main character getting into a motorcycle chase with a police officer! Normal stuff, right? Well…
They play card games. On the motorcycles. And if you lose, you might fucking crash and die. And believe it or not… it only gets weirder as it goes on!
Aside from that… gimmick (I’m not sure what else to call playing a fucking card game on a moving motorcycle), this show is pretty standard for Yu-Gi-Oh. The characters are bland, the story is non-sensical and bat-shit crazy, only getting more so as it progresses. It is a bizarre, barely-animated kids show that kids will probably really enjoy.
I should know. Because I was one when I watched all this shit.
Now, I can’t say the same for the three next follow up shows, Zexal/Zexal 2 and VRAINS. By the time they started rolling around, I had grown out of the franchise and moved on to other things. I didn’t even know they existed, thinking that the series ended with 5D’s, until years later. So I can’t say anything about how those shows made the series even more/less bizarre than the series already was.
But from what I’ve seen on the card game front? It’s gotten fucking weird. Back in my day, there were Monsters, Spells, and Traps. Now Monsters can also be Spells?! What the fuck?
That’s the thing that really gets me about this series. With each new iteration, the actual card game has only grown more and more confusing! I used to know how to play Yu-Gi-Oh, and I had a lot of fun playing it! But there are so many new rules and card types that I have no fucking clue how this game works anymore!
But hey. At least there are still people who enjoy it. I think… Is there still a competitive scene for Yu-Gi-Oh?
Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get really bored (and really high) and make my way through this entire franchise. That could be a fun little project. But right now, I’m pretty comfortable with my spot as a long-distance spectator. Keeping an eye on this franchise from my youth from a great distance away. It lets me simply admire how incredibly far off the rails it has flown without having to suffer through the actual plots.
Man. Kids have stomachs of iron to be able to get through this stuff without even blinking.