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Review: ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ 3-in-1 Volume 1

Yu-Gi-Oh! became popular in US due to the cartoon and trading card game, but it started out as a manga. It was brought over here by Viz Media as part of the debut of Shonen Jump manga magazine and was one of the anchor titles. Yu-Gi-Oh! emphasizes the importance of friendship while also indulging in a bit of of “comeuppance theater.”

Review: Yu-Gi-Oh! 3-in-1 Volume 1
Yu-Gi-Oh 3-in-1 v1By Kazuki Takahashi
Viz Media, February 2015, ISBN: 978-1421579245
594 pgs, $14.99

Yugi Mutou is a small, sheepish high school boy. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, and he spends most of his time playing games he gets from his family’s game store. His one treasure is the Millennium Puzzle, an artifact from Ancient Egypt that he has been trying to solve for several years. He finally succeeds, releasing the power of the puzzle in the form of another version of himself, Dark Yugi. Dark Yugi only comes out when Yugi and/or his friends have been wronged in some way, or if they are put into danger. Dark Yugi challenges the wrongdoers to a Shadow Game, where the loser will face a Penalty Game usually ending with them getting their just deserts.

I didn’t think I was going to like Yu-Gi-Oh! when it first came out. All the hype about the cartoon and card game sapped my interest, but I was pleasantly surprised when I read the manga. Yugi is timid and doesn’t like fighting, but he is genuinely a good person. All he wants are some friends he can count on and who can count on him. The series starts out with him having just one childhood friend, Anzu. She has a strong personality and can even intimidate some of the boys in their class. Jonouchi and Honda are two boys who like to pick on Yugi and tend to get into a lot of fights. But when Yugi tries to defend them from a bully looking to extort “bodyguard” money from Yugi, they change their tune, and become Yugi’s friends. The theme of friendship extends through the entire volume, building on their growing relationships and becoming an important element in of the Shadow Games.

While the cast of characters is good, and it’s nice to see them grow closer through their adventures, the real draw of the series is Dark Yugi and the Shadow Games. It’s easy to tell when Yugi has changed; his eyes become more confident, he stands up straighter, and his clothes don’t look so frumpy. Each game he challenges wrongdoers to is different, using one of their vices or weaknesses, but what they all have in common is the element of danger. Dark Yugi doesn’t pull any punches. Whether it’s nearly stabbing a hand with a knife to get some money, pulling coins out of a shoe with a live scorpion in it, or playing air hockey on a hot griddle with explosives set in ice as the puck, the danger is presented as real, and rarely does the wrongdoer come out unscathed. It can be satisfying, though, to see these people get their comeuppance.

The Shadow Games aren’t the only games shown. Takahashi uses variations of real games that were popular at the time as well. The chapter with the Magic and Wizards collectible card game that introduced Seto Kaiba is a nod to Magic the Gathering. There is also a chapter that uses virtual pets as the focus. It’s this variety and use of real and could-be-real games that makes this volume so appealing. Takahashi also throws in little puzzles throughout the chapters, such as a “Where’s Yugi” panel, and a Millennium Puzzle-shaped maze to keep the gaming theme throughout the volume.

The art at the beginning is a little rough, with Yugi and Dark Yugi appearing very exaggerated in their differences, but as the chapters go on, the characters settle into the look they have for the rest of the series. The designs of the monsters in Magic and Wizards and Capsule Monsters are original and detailed.

Yu-Gi-Oh! is a fun title that could have been rated for all ages if it weren’t for the dark elements of the Shadow Games. The Egyptian theme isn’t just window dressing, as chapters near the end of volume show. There are other Millennium items that seem to be connected and deepen their mystery. This volume is an omnibus, collecting the first three volumes of the series, making it a good value. Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s strong emphasis on friendship and use of games for competition instead of battles makes this a great addition to any tween/teen library or graphic novel collection.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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