The original Yugioh series, sometimes known as Yugioh Duel Monsters is where the card game first started to gain popularity and was a big part of my childhood. There are five series with different story arcs and Yugi is constantly having to save the world.
Series 1 – Duelist Kingdom, In A Game, Dungeon Dice – The first few episodes introduced Yugi Muto, a boy who bonded with the spirit of an ancient Pharaoh and a lot of the other major characters; it brought in the concept of a shadow game and gave us peril in the form of a cartoon loving rich guy that would steal the souls of anyone who dared challenge him. The rules of the card game weren’t fully formed at this point, having ideas like type advantage and attacking anything with physical presence like the moon and the tribute summon system wasn’t in place yet but the battles were interesting to watch. Lacking a proper rule set did mean viewers could focus on the growth of the characters like Yugi having mercy, Joey learning to duel or Mai understanding the power of friendship as well as so much more. There was a little bit of filler and some characters don’t really get used properly again but future plot lines are set up. Once the main villain is defeated the series finds a way to give Kaiba (a major character) more involvement with crooked corporate directors becoming a new threat in a digital world where powerful monsters roam. Then once that is dealt with we get an introduction to Dungeon Dice monsters which introduces another character.
Series 2&3 – Battle City, Back In A Game – A new duelling tournament begins bringing with it a new villain who has a dark past that brings crazy powerful shadow powers. We get proper Yugioh card game rules emerging with new cards including the incredibly powerful (for the time) Egyptian God cards. We see a lot of the characters from the first series in different matchups that keep things interesting. The story gets deeper, darker and more complex with characters forming unlikely alliances as they fight for one another as the fate of the world is at stake. In the middle of all the world ending drama the characters are thrown back into a digital duel world which gives Kaiba even more backstory and allows the lesser characters a chance to get involved. Then the Battle City story resolves itself with a few too many flashbacks to previous episodes and what should be an epic climax gets dragged out a bit.
Series 4 – The Orichalcos – Everything we know is wrong, duel monsters are from long before the Egyptian period we’ve seen so much about. A power greater than the shadows is bringing evil to the world as it feeds a mighty beast. Three legendary dragons are brought to face the new threat. Annoyingly some characters that had resolved their stories are forced to redo plot lines, parts of this series feel like they were running out of ideas and battles become silly with some characters as it becomes hidden special ability after hidden special ability. It manages to be a decent story without too much unnecessary filler. New characters have interesting backstories and the villains all have interesting motives. One character did get a changed voice actor so didn’t sound right after binge watching the other series.
Series 5 – KC Tournament, Capsule Monsters, Pharaoh’s History – After another duelling tournament which has its own villain who hates Kaiba with a vengeance we get to the next section of series five where our heroes are transported to a strange land, a land based on a board game that’s themed on duel monsters. What this really means is Yugioh is basically Pokemon in how the monsters work now rather than a card game and they go to a Jumanji-like world. They encounter a character from history, find new monsters and manage to be quite funny compared to the seriousness of the rest of the show, at this point it wasn’t really Yugioh anymore but it still was (I know that doesn’t make much sense). The series, and all of the original Yugioh concludes with the Pharaoh visiting his ancient past and having to defend it from a great threat who has been present since the beginning. The show concludes in a fitting yet emotional way.
The whole of this original Yugioh tv show had so much going on with friendship and self belief at the heart of it. It is such an amazing show and doesn’t feel childish like some anime shows can. There’s a lot to learn from the characters if you pay attention and to me they were very relatable. It was a trip down memory lane but with a new perspective it felt as good as new to watch.