Hi there! Seeing I was bored and needed an excuse to watch the first Yu-Gi-Oh! anime
, I’ve decided to do a liveblog of it. This is my first time doing something like this, so I’ll be figuring some stuff out as I go. I will be writing the reviews as I watch the episodes, so there may be some capslock screaming at parts. Also, I’ll try to avoid making comparisons between the manga and the anime, since this is supposed to focus on the anime. Let’s get started!
Episode 1: Harsh Battle, the Shadow Game
I have to wonder about the people that watched this show the first time it aired in Japan. The opening to the episode sure does hint at a lot of stuff that should show up later in the series, but it must not have made much sense at first.
Okay, so the first thing we see in the actual episode is a group of archaeologists exploring a tomb in Egypt. Inside the tomb, set on a shelf, is a golden puzzle box. When one of the explorers reaches for the box, he…dies, I think? Wow, the puzzle hasn’t even been solved yet, and people are already dying. Great.
(Whoever subtitled this episode left the word “Yami” untranslated for some reason. Not really sure why.)
After this nice little event, the scene changes to Domino High. The bell is tolling, and some guys are running out to do stuff and enjoy being alive.
And then we see our lovely protagonist, Yugi Mutou, staying inside and building a house of cards. By himself.
When one of the other guys invites Yugi to play, he turns the offer down, saying that he would just be a load on whichever team he played on. Of course, Yugi has a point since he’s a tiny guy and basketball is typically played by the human equivalent of athletic giraffes, but I’m having trouble paying attention to the subtitles right now because YUGI HAS A SUPER ADORABLE VOICE. LIKE WOW HE EVEN SOUNDS CUTE HOLY CRAP.
After the guy leaves, Yugi starts thinking to himself about how he would like to play games with his classmates, and he always brings games with him to school. He then reaches for his bag and gets out the puzzle box that killed someone earlier by magically choking them to death—he refers to the puzzle as his “treasure,” and says that he always has it with him. He then recites a riddle to himself: “The treasure in this box is something you can see, but you’ve never seen before.” (Wait, did Yugi himself come up with the riddle?) Just as Yugi is about to open the box, it is snatched out of his hand by Jounouchi, who comments on how Yugi is apparently talking to himself (oh good, so somebody in-series noticed this). Yugi gets up to reach for his puzzle box, but Jounouchi hold it up above his head so he can’t get it. He then throws the box and jumps over a desk to catch it before it hits the ground, which would have been kind of cool if Jounouchi wasn’t being a massive jerk at this point. Jounouchi says that he hates how Yugi acts so timid about everything, and that he will “coach [Yugi] into being more of a man.” Ugh, that sounds kind of sexist, but we aren’t here for my “Yugi can behave however he wants and still be a guy” rant.
Jounouchi tries to provoke Yugi into attacking him, but Yugi gets upset and yells that he hates fighting and violence. And Jounouchi is right about one thing—Yugi is quite loud when he yells this. Their little argument is interrupted by Honda, who in this version is some kind of straight-laced, bossy…clean up member? Ah, no, beautification club member. Because that is totally better than being part of a cleaning club. He gets pretty passionate about the distinction, and I’m pretty sure Jounouchi is going to need a hearing aid before this show is over. Honda starts talking about something that makes him sound like some kind of student butterfly, and Jounouchi tunes him out to ask Yugi about the puzzle box. Yugi says that he can look inside the box as long as he doesn’t lose anything in it, so Jounouchi takes a peek inside. He gets a really bored look on his face, then Anzu comes through and grabs the box. She gives a mini-lecture about how they should give the box back to Yugi and bullying someone like him is a pathetic thing to do. Jounouchi tries to defend himself by saying that he wasn’t bullying Yugi (YES YOU WERE DON’T EVEN TRY TO SAY YOU WEREN’T), but Anzu tells him to shut up. Then…
Who the heck? Some girl with blue hair enters the classroom while all this going on, and she thinks Anzu’s order is directed at her. Anzu apologizes to the girl, saying that she wasn’t saying shut up to her…and the girl’s name is Miho? Who? What? Care to explain where this girl came from, Toei?
Miho says that so many people are in the lunch room that she hasn’t gotten a chance to eat, and Honda volunteers to buy lunch for her—wait a minute, Miho has a yellow ribbon tied around her ponytail. Does that mean that she’s Ribbon-chan? WHAT IS SHE DOING IN THE VERY FIRST EPISODE, TOEI?
Anyways, Jounouchi and Honda both volunteer to buy Miho’s lunch for her, then run off. The scene follows them into a hallway lined with windows. Jounouchi starts complaining about Anzu, then he runs into Ushio’s chest, which is roughly equal to running into a brick wall. Ushio is enormous, and some really interesting music starts playing when he shows up. He asks them about their conversation, and when Jounouchi starts to smart off, Honda quickly covers his mouth with a hand to shut him up. Ushio tells them that bullying is bad as he leaves (HYPOCRITE. I HOPE YOU DIE IN THIS SHOW). By this point, Jounouchi is about to die from lack of oxygen. He yells at Honda for almost choking him, and Honda tells him that Ushio has made almost all the rules that the school follows.
The scene then jumps back to Anzu and Yugi in the classroom. Yugi’s impressed with Anzu’s tough behavior, and she tells him that sometimes you just have to stand up to jerks. Yugi defends Jounouchi by saying he isn’t a real bad guy, but Anzu tells him that defending someone like Jounouchi is just going to make other people tease him more. Then she asks him about the puzzle box. Yugi opens it and shows her the puzzle, explaining that since he doesn’t know what the shape the puzzle will make, it is something that can and can’t be seen. He says that the puzzle used to belong to the previous owner of the game store, and he came to be in possession of it when he moved into the store. He says the hieroglyphs carved into the puzzle box say that the solver of the puzzle will have their wish granted. He’s SUPER DUPER SERIOUS as he says this last part, then he starts laughing and saying that Anzu must think that he’s stupid now. She says that isn’t true, then asks Yugi about his wish. Yugi says that his wish is an absolute secret, which kind of reminds me of birthday wishes. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HERE HAVE A PSYCOPATHIC SPIRIT WHO IS GOING TO DRAG YOU INTO A CRAP-LOAD OF ADVENTURES AND ALMOST GET YOU KILLED ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS.)
Then we jump back to Jounouchi and Honda in the hallway, and it is revealed that Jounouchi stole a part of Yugi’s puzzle earlier when he looked in the box (how?). Jounouchi says that without that one piece Yugi will never solve the puzzle, and Honda chides him for being a MASSIVE JERK. Jounouchi then reminds him about Miho’s lunch (don’t worry, Honda, I forgot about her too), and Honda runs off. Jounouchi then throws the puzzle piece into…a moat? That runs around the school? Are they in danger of being invaded or something?
We then see Ushio being a drill sergeant to a group of guys from the Public Moral…thing. Yugi tries to get past them without being spotted, but Ushio stops him and asks him if he’s being bullied by his classmates. Of course, Yugi denies it, but Ushio says that he needs to see about it for himself. He then declares himself to be Yugi’s bodyguard. Yugi gets a bit weirded out by this and runs off.
When Yugi gets home, he opens the door to find Anzu waiting for him. She says that it’s been a while since she came to his house to visit, and then Grandpa comes in and makes a comment on the size of her chest (to be honest, I’m surprised Toei used this part of the dialogue in the episode, seeing as they removed the earlier part where Yugi imagined seeing up a girl’s skirt). Grandpa asks Yugi about the puzzle, and then explains the history of the discovery of the puzzle. Apparently, EVERYONE in the excavation team seen at the beginning of the episode died, except for the guy who left the puzzle in the shop.
Anzu gets creeped out by the story, but Yugi only becomes more interested in the puzzle. Grandpa then translates the hieroglyphs on the box, which actually say that the solver of the puzzle will receive dark powers. Yugi interprets this rather sinister message as meaning that his secret wish will be granted by the puzzle. (Yugi, the fact that you think “dark knowledge and power” will somehow grant you your wish really disturbs me.) Yugi gets even more excited about solving the puzzle, and then gets into an argument with Grandpa because Grandpa wants to sell the thing.
Later that night, Yugi is working on the puzzle in his room while Grandpa looks in on him through the keyhole of his door. He remarks that Yugi has been working on the puzzle for EIGHT YEARS, and no matter how many times I am reminded of this, the fact that he has spent ALMOST HALF OF HIS LIFE UP TO THIS POINT working on ONE PUZZLE never fails to surprise me. EIGHT. YEARS.
As Grandpa walks away, he says that the solver of the puzzle will receive the Shadow Games, so maybe it would be better if Yugi didn’t solve the puzzle. We’re then treated to a shot of Yugi falling asleep with a half-completed puzzle on his desk. Then the eye catch appears, and it’s really loud and bright and references the spirit in the puzzle even though we have yet to actually see him.
The next day at school, Ushio takes Yugi to see something. He shows him Jounouchi and Honda, who have beaten by the members of Ushio’s “Public Moral” thing. Yugi freaks out and asks what happened, and Ushio explains that since he is Yugi’s bodyguard, his job is to beat up any bullies that mess with Yugi. Yugi protests this and runs to check on Jounouchi, who isn’t very pleased to see Yugi at the moment. Yugi says that he never asked for them to be hurt, but then Ushio knocks him out of the way to continue the beating. (Worst. Bodyguard. Ever.) Yugi jumps in front of them and tells Ushio to stop. When Ushio tells him to vent his frustration and hit them himself, Yugi replies that he could never hurt his friends. When Ushio says that Honda and Jounouchi were just bullies that took advantage of Yugi, Yugi insists that they were just doing that to make him toughen up. Then Ushio drops the fine print of his bodyguard arrangement on Yugi: his fee is 200,000 yen.
Yugi goes home to worry about Ushio’s payment, and while he’s worrying about it he works on the puzzle. He almost finishes the puzzle, and all that’s left is one piece in the center, but he doesn’t have that piece because Jounouchi stole it and threw it into the school moat earlier. Not good.
Speaking of the moat, the scene jumps back to it as Honda and Jounouchi walk by it. Honda says that they can’t trust Yugi because they don’t know what his real motives are, but Jounouchi isn’t really paying attention because he’s thinking about what Yugi said earlier when he called them his “friends.” Jounouchi then jumps into the moat.
Yugi runs back to school to see if he might have lost the puzzle piece somewhere there, but when he arrives he is greeted by Ushio. Ushio asks about the bodyguard fee, but Yugi doesn’t have it because he was just coming back to school to get the puzzle piece AND NOBODY NEEDS TO GIVE YOU MONEY, USHIO, BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T EVEN MENTION A FEE UNTIL AFTER YOU DID YOUR SERVICES AND THAT IS NOT A GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICE.
Jounouchi retrieves the puzzle piece from the school moat, and then he and Honda go to see why Ushio is at the school. Said massive jerk has just finished beating Yugi up, and when Jounouchi sees Yugi laying on the ground he runs to help him. Yugi tells him his wish—he asked the puzzle to give him true friends—and Jounouchi puts the last piece of the puzzle in Yugi’s hand. He and Honda then get into a fight with Ushio, but even with the two of them against him alone, he beats them easily. While this beatdown is going on, Yugi recites his full wish: to have a true friend who will never betray him, no matter what. He then looks over at Honda and Jounouchi and sees that they have been hurt because of him, and when he starts to freak out he notices the puzzle piece in his hand. He reaches over to the puzzle and slides the last piece in, and then SOME UPBEAT MUSIC STARTS PLAYING AND MAGIC STARTS HAPPENING AND THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT.
Okay, so when the puzzle is completed it starts glowing and shoots a beam of light at Yugi’s face. Yugi’s shadow is displayed on the wall behind him, and then it grows really tall and a third eye starts glowing where the forehead of the shadow would be. (How is it possible for a shadow to glow? Who knows.) There’s some freaky thing a door opening and Yugi’s magical shadow being there and Yugi falling into the shadow and THERE’S A BIG BEAM OF LIGHT SHOOTING UP INTO THE SKY AND LEAVES ARE BEING BLOWN EVERYWHERE AND SOMEHOW USHIO IS NOT NOTICING THIS STUFF. (I literally just typed an entire paragraph to explain something that takes about five seconds to happen.)
And then we are introduced to Yami Yugi: “So…it’s game time.” And his voice is GREAT, like GOD I LOVE THAT SO MUCH PLEASE JUST KEEP TALKING.
Anyways, the world suddenly…tilts? And Ushio finds himself hanging from a rope tied around his waist on the side of some curvy building thing. Yami Yugi is at the top of the building thing, and he tells Ushio that he has the money up there with him, but if Ushio wants to get it, he’ll have to play a Shadow Game. When Ushio accepts, Yami Yugi jumps and slides down the side of the curvy thing, trailing a deck of playing cards beside him as he goes (this is also a good opportunity to see that weird leather-ish, belty, tank top/vest thing he wears under his jacket). He eventually hits the end of the rope tied around his own waist, and Ushio is pulled up a few feet since they are tied to two ends of the same rope.
Yami Yugi then explains the rules of the game: they will take turns flipping the playing cards over, and when they flip a card over the value of the card will be the number of steps they will climb up. When they go up, their opponent will slide down, and the first person to reach the top will win. Pretty simple, even if it is a bit difficult to explain (and I’m pouting because it’s completely different from the manga’s first Shadow Game, and I found that first game to be really interesting).
As the game goes on, Ushio soon ends up at the very bottom, and Yami Yugi is one step away from winning. Ushio’s next card is the joker card, meaning that he loses his turn, and Yami Yugi will win. Ushio starts climbing to the top of the curvy thing, and as Yami Yugi says that Ushio’s breaking the rules and will be punished for it, Ushio tries to hit him. Yami Yugi just kind of dodges and falls off the building (????). Ushio tears the rope so that he won’t go down with Yami Yugi, then reaches for the money…and it’s a deck of playing cards. Nice.
Yami Yugi says that the door of darkness has opened (wait, isn’t that the thing Yami Bakura’s trying to use the Millennium Items to open in the later arcs?), and Ushio falls off the curvy thing. Since the Shadow Games reveal a person’s true character, Ushio will be “swallowed in [his] own greed” as a punishment. He sees that he’s about to fall into the school moat, but then GIANT WORM SNAKE THINGS COME OUT OF THE WATER AND SWALLOW HIM???
GIANT WORM SNAKE THINGS.
THEY HAD TEETH.
And then Ushio is shown lying on the ground, surrounded by his cronies, crying hysterically. We then see a group of girls talking about Ushio, and apparently he was hospitalized because of shock. Good god, Yami Yugi.
Of course, none of this matters to Yugi since he has his treasure. Jounouchi stops him in the hallway and says that he has done the same thing as Yugi—he brought his treasure to school with him that day. After he asks Yugi if he wants to see it, Jounouchi repeats the riddle from earlier: “You can see it but you can’t, so I can’t show it to you.” Inside his head, he reprimands himself for saying such goofy stuff. Then he tells Yugi his treasure is friendship—he and Yugi can be seen, but you can’t see their bond. (Also, the exact word he uses is “Yujo”, which is a pun smashing his and Yugi’s names together. Jounouchi himself made a portmanteau of his and Yugi’s names, and it’s an actual word in Japanese. Why is Yujo not used in their shipping name?
Yugi just looks stunned for a second, then his face lights up AND IT IS LITERALLY THE CUTEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. HE’S BLUSHING OH MY GOD.
Jounouchi gets flustered by how goofy this all was and runs off (WHILE BLUSHING), and Yugi runs after him because he lost his shoe. And then the episode ends on this ridiculously adorable note.
Also, The ending animation is dripping in Egyptian imagery, but the spinning card part at the beginning gave me a headache. And why is Ribbon-chan on one of the cards? Did you try to make her an important character, Toei?
At the very end, we see a preview of the next episode. Between the subtitles, all the things happening on the screen at once, and Yami Yugi’s voice, I had trouble paying attention to what it’s supposed to be about. I think it’s going to be the guy who escapes prison and holds a burger restaurant hostage?? Maybe??
And with that, the first episode is over, along with my review. See you next time, whenever that time may be.
Next episode: Devil Gamer, Hellish Trap!
I'd always wondered about how the powers of darkness could bring Yugi friendship, but I think I've figured it out; "Will never betray me"- dude, Yuug's willing to friggin mind control people into being his friends. That's what he wanted to use the powers of darkness for. That.