Childhood Nostalgia Reflections: Yu-gi-oh

It’s time to…

Time.

What do you think of when you hear of the word, time?

It’s something that is always eluding our grasp, whether we manage it well or not, and some may disagree with this statement. Time is something we hope to control.

As a middle school English teacher, I feel like I am that hamster on the wheel, running endlessly to catch up, or more accurately in my case, to speed ahead, so I won’t feel like I will fall behind. I am someone who feels like I need to keep planning ahead in order feel more in control, to make the most of my time. I’m not sure if that makes me feel good. But it is a necessity. Or so I tell myself.

And at the end of the school year, I feel like I can finally bring my head above water from a long deep dive in the endless waves of…classroom hurdles and mazes.

God, keep my ahead above water…

Then, summer hits. And I slow down, at least for the past years before 2020.

This year forced me to slow down way before summer. Slowing down…to reflect and dive into something else.

Yu-gi-oh.

Ah, an old childhood love of mine, that I never had the time to finish.

I started watching Yu-gi-oh, in my mid-elementary years on Saturday mornings. However, something kept taking up my time and stopped me from ever watching a full episode of Yu-gi-oh–my piano lessons.

(I’m not going to dive into my complicated feelings towards playing the piano–that can be for another post.)

And so, I would watch like the first 15 minutes of Yu-gi-oh, before I was whisked away into another chapter of my life. It’s like barely getting a sip of the story and the characters. It was a tantalizing experience. What happens next? But it only took watching 15 minutes of an episode to make me fall in love with the world of Duel Monsters…and the mysterious Pharaoh; his deep voice (*cough* Dan Green) would draw me in, telling me…it’s time to

D-D-D-D-UEL! *Cues Yu-gi-oh’s opening OST epic music in the background*

***WARNING: From this point on, this blog post may contain spoilers for the anime and manga.***

Yes, the Pharaoh was an old childhood crush. It bugged me that I could never know his full story. I remember a moment where I tried to “duel” a friend. My friend had bought a deck, and it had the Dark Magician. I was so excited. Unfortunately, I did not know how to really play, so I was stuck with just putting random cards out, pretending I was Yugi dueling.

And so, for the past months, I had an opportunity to watch/re-watch the 5 seasons of Yu-gi-oh, together with my (now) husband’s Hulu account. We would watch 1 to 3 episodes a week together, and as I watched each episode, I started spoiling myself with reading additional information on the internet, where I came across the manga.

As I dived deeper into the Yu-gi-oh universe, I realized how much richer–and darker, the story of Yu-gi-oh is. There was this whole chain of censorship that it went through, before it appeared on American television. When it first became an anime in Japan, that was level 1 censorship. This was called “Season 0,” which never made it the United States. Japan then revamped Season 0 into the official season 1, where it underwent another round of censorship. And then last but not least, it got more filtered and then dubbed into what we now could see on American television. I’m not sure if I missed some steps here.

When I started reading some parts of the manga online, I had some mixed feelings. It almost, almost, tainted my precious childhood memories. Yu-gi-oh is a Shōnen manga, which targets young teenage boys. So, certain actions and scenes between the little Yugi and his grandpa with Tea were bit too “distasteful” for me. I haven’t read enough of the manga to see how Tea is fully characterized or presented, but I’m hoping it does it get better. If I ever do save up enough money, I hope to buy all the volumes just to see how fully fleshed out each of the main characters are. I don’t like seeing female characters as mere 2-D sexual objects in stories as only fanservice to the readers. (Side-note: I do appreciate how the anime does give Tea some powerful scenes, but personally, I don’t think it was enough. Even so, I do understand the story is mainly focused on Yugi and the Pharaoh.) At the same time, I appreciate these realistic moments, because it made the characters flawed and human.

Now, here comes the part that I wished the anime could have dived a little better in from the manga–expanding the game universe. In the anime, we only see the one iconic card duel game–Duel Monsters. However, Yugi/Pharaoh, has been consistently referred to the “King of Games,” which is in fact, the literal translation of the manga’s title itself. In the manga, Yugi actually competes in numerous games beyond the Duel Monsters card game itself, thus justifying the name of the manga, “Yu-gi-oh”–“King of Games.” Yugi’s “alter ego” as the Pharaoh, would take control and win these intense games and would administer “justice” as the “Judge of Evil.” Things would get pretty violent from there as each round of games end. I cannot say I am into violence, but I think maybe incorporating a little bit more of the Pharaoh’s dark moments would have made the anime a nuanced and interesting watch. There is an immense satisfaction seeing evil opponents and bullies punished mercilessly that the anime does not quite capture. Alas, it is a “kid’s” show, so, maybe not.

On another note, I’m not a gamer, but I started playing this Yu-gi-oh duel monsters game online because of my love for Yu-gi-oh. I am pushing myself to learn the intricate rules of the game, and I can see why the anime chose to focus mainly on this game. (Sadly, I am currently stuck in the “Bakura” round 😞.) Through this game, I am reliving the story itself, using the same characters’ decks to defeat the same opponents, but on my own terms, with my weak dueling skills…and perhaps the heart of the cards (or the luck of the draw).

Without a doubt, Yu-gi-oh has left a lasting impression on my childhood. Perhaps a sort of escape, where I can enter a world of magic and forget dueling monsters in “real” life, along with some other fun lovely childhood memories. Now, I do want to proudly say that I have now finished the original 5 seasons of Yu-gi-oh. I can’t say I enjoyed every single episode or season, but I am extremely satisfied with the last season, the season that I have been dreaming of watching since I was a child, the journey of the Pharaoh into his past life and rediscovering his identity– his name. His name holds the power to defeat the great evil that has been looming over all the characters’ lives in the background.

How much power does a name hold in this world?


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2 thoughts on “Childhood Nostalgia Reflections: Yu-gi-oh

Add yours

  1. I learned so much about nurturing our inner child in this piece. I enjoyed the writers decision to use explore her childhood through the lens of Yugioh. The writing is eloquent, balanced and raw. I can hear the writers voice as I read each line and I felt connected to her story. Thank you for sharing! I am inspired to nurture the passions and imagination of my inner child.

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