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"Generation next!"
"Get your game on!"

Ten years after Yu-Gi-Oh!, Duel Monsters has skyrocketed in popularity all around the world, to the point where dueling is a professional spectator sport of equal importance to politics and the economy. Like other athletes, duelists start training at a young age, and a good place to start is Seto Kaiba's boarding school, Duel Academy, a high school where kids come to learn how to duel with dreams of becoming the next King of Games.

Not only that, but the game has also gained more importance in dealing with the structure of the universe itself. There are now some Mon-like counter-parts to the cards called Duel Spirits and a Spirit World where these spirits live. Under these circumstances, new Big Bads appear every now and then trying to Take Over the World by making use of these powers.

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is the story of a group of Duel Academy's students thwarting the plans of these new threats while dealing with the dueling school in general. It particularly focuses on Jaden Yuki, a Slifer Red student who happens to be The Hero, and his friends and rivals.

The anime seasons are as follows:

  • Season 1, Part 1 (Duel Academy arc): Jaden has sucessfully enroll into Duel Academy and enjoys his adventures with friends and allies he befriends with. However, Dr. Crowler attempts to get Jaden expelled (ever since the latter defeated the former in the first episode). Meanwhile, Chazz Princeton, The Rival for Jaden, ends up dropout from Duel Academy (because he is defeated by Jaden and later Baston) and transfers to North Academy. After becoming their best student and obtaining the Armed Dragon deck, Chazz becomes stronger than last time as he wants his revenge on Jaden.
  • Season 1, Part 2 (Seven Stars arc (Japanese dub)/Shadow Riders arc (English dub)): It's revealed that the school was built over the hiding place of three powerful, Evil Counterparts of the Egyptian God cards and that its purpose is to raise students strong enough to defend them (the gate sealing the cards can only be opened if its 7 keys are won in a duel). Naturally, Jaden and co. are entrusted to guard said keys from the Hidden Agenda Villain's henchmen.
  • Season 2 (Society of Light arc): Sartorius, possessed by the Light of Ruin, comes to the school to recruit members for his cult, the Society of Light. Jaden meets his Anti-Hero counterpart, Aster Phoenix, whose best friend and manager Sartorius uses to brainwash his victims by putting a Defeat Means Friendship spell on Aster's deck.
  • Season 3 (Dimension World arc): When things starts to get... strange as the show heads down a slow but steady path from lighthearted comedy to nightmare fuel levels of disturbing, angst, and creepiness. Jaden becomes close friends with Jesse Anderson when students from Duel Academy branches around the world come to compete in a tournament. When an unknown Hidden Agenda Villain's actions get Jesse Trapped in Another World, Jaden becomes dangerously obsessed with finding him. His journey eventually leads to: the apparent deaths of all of his friends, the discovery of his Superpowered Evil Side and the past life of his Reincarnation, and meeting Yubel, a horrifying card he had as a child that harmed anyone who defeated him, prompting him to launch them into space. Now they're back and not too happy about that. [Episode 156 is the only episode of this season that never received an English dub.]
  • Season 4 (Darkness arc): Each character's individual Coming of Age Story as they choose careers and carve paths for themselves (For example: Chazz wants to make a name for himself in the Pro League without relying on his family's fame or fortune, and Alexis has to choose if she'll accept a job as a teacher in America...) is interwoven with an Assimilation Plot executed by the personification of all despair and inner darkness, and the resolution of the mystery of Atticus' Enemy Within introduced in Season 1. [This season never received an English dub.]

Season by season, as Story Arcs pass, the cast grows, as different students graduate or arrive and villains are defeated and replaced. The manga, which came after the anime, uses the same characters and the same setting but includes none of the arcs covered in the anime.

The anime has a very Post-Modern tone, blending elements of Gaming and Sports Anime & Manga, Mind Screw, and Deconstructor Fleet. The absurdity of the Serious Business of Duel Monsters is taken up a notch, with entire educational and athletic industries centered around the game. Meanwhile, the plot has serious, painful, and traumatic psychological effects on everyone involved, particularly Jaden, whose psyche collapses under the pressure, power and responsibility he's burdened with. "I've lost a card game! I have no reason to live!" suddenly isn't funny anymore, as it can metaphorically become a Career-Ending Injury, or cause you to literally lose your life. In short, it's a very self-aware Genre-Busting series that plays some tropes absurdly straight and others painfully realistically.

The dub is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and for free on yugioh.com. and The Official Yu-Gi-Oh! YouTube Channel.

It was followed by Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. Jaden also appears in the Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time movie that teams him up with Yugi and Yusei.

All spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


This show provides examples of:

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    A - D 
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Quite a lot of the duel disks in the third season, including The Supreme King's (which spins like a buzzsaw), Jesse's (which appears to be ... made of giant razorblades), and Yubel's (which is actually an extension of their arm). The question many a cosplayer has moaned over is: How do you actually build and use any of these?
  • Back from the Dead: Most of the cast at the end of Season 3, since Death is Cheap. The same occurs in the end of Season 4 as well, this time on a global scale.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Syrus and Hassleberry after they settle their differences and start working as a team against Frost and Thunder. Hassleberry does another one with Axel as they hold the line against Duel Ghouls long enough for Jesse and Zane to open a portal to deliver the "Rainbow Dragon" card.
  • Backstory Invader: In Season 4 the characters are shown instantly treating the previously unknown Yusuke Fujiwara like he's one of the True Companions all along — because he's hypnotized them into thinking so. Too bad his magic doesn't work on Judai. It doesn't work on Fubuki, too, because Fubuki knew Fujiwara before hand.
  • Badass Biker: Sartorius on a Yamaha is pretty damn epic. Then Jaden tries it and crashes it a few episodes later.
  • Badass Longcoat: Several characters wear long coats as part of their school uniforms, as do a couple of villains.
  • Battle Against the Sunset: The anime exclusive card One-on-One Fight (played by Dox in the first season) has its artwork depict a sword duel that takes place during a sunset, their bodies covered in shadow against an orange background.
  • Begin with a Finisher:
    • Prince Ojin's playstyle is built around this, using Satellite Cannon and turbo-charging its ATK so that he can obliterate the opponent in a single attack. He attempts this on Sartorius, who blocks the attack and then uses his own cards to turn Ojin's monster on its controller, defeating him without taking a turn.
    • Doctor Collector versus DD. The Doctor uses a clever combo involving banishment-based cards to bring out five strong Spellcasters on his first turn, creating a field that will block all attacks, give him a sizeable amount of offense, and burn the opponent considerably with each turn, complete with a strong Trap for insurance. DD brings out Plasma—we don't see the resolution, but it's clear he won immediately after.
    • When Edo fights DD, Edo brings out his own ace monster, Dogma, which is immediately consumed by Plasma on the next turn, showing he'll be in for a rough match.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • At first, Asuka is the nice, soft-spoken Betty who Cannot Spit It Out and Rei is the flirty, loud-spoken Veronica to Judai's Archie.
    • After Johan is introduced however, Rei is put out of the picture, and he becomes the mysterious new transfer student Veronica, still to Asuka's Betty.
  • Be Yourself: A common theme in the show is to always use your own deck and never someone else's. Examples include Dimitri using Yugi's deck in Season 1, Syrus attempting to master Zane's deck in Season 4, and later on Chazz, Alexis and Syrus pass up a chance to win a copy of the King of Games' deck in favor of their own.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Sartorius in Season 2 is a fortune teller and very loyal to his craft. He even uses fortune telling to tell how his luck based deck will land his coin tosses. His sister also has the same mindset.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Zane in the underground duels in Season 2 is forced into an underground ring where everyone duels with shock collars. He eventually decides to screw honour and pulls a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: The dub is made of it due to the dialogue transforming the setting into a World of Snark, especially in the later seasons where the borderline Gag Dub kicked in. Syrus and Adrian, in particular, are responsible for a number of borderline fourth-wall-breaking observations (or just plain Breaking the Fourth Wall in Syrus's case).
  • BFS: In the second episode of Season 2, one character plays Gilford the Legend and equips him with four different swords, each of which gradually increase the size of Gilford's already largish sword. Ultimately the sword ends up about five to six times as long as he is tall. Heavily lampshaded in the English dub.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Chazz's brothers, which is lampshaded by Kaiba in the dub after they lose to Chazz in the duel for ownership of Duel Academy — while Chazz was using a deck whose monsters only had 500 or less attack points.
    Kaiba: Of course he won. Did you really think I would give Duel Academy to [his brothers]? They have a lot to learn about world domination...
  • Big Ball of Violence: Overabused by obscuring monsters with a cloud of smoke when they are destroyed, though as a result the animation is significantly less Off-Model than its predecessor's later seasons.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Zane with Syrus, and occasionally Syrus with Zane in later seasons (a rare brother-brother example).
  • Black Knight: The Supreme King, complete with black armor. There is also an entire kingdom that follows this trope in Season 3.
  • Blaming the Tools: Alice is a duel spirit whose original owner blamed his losing streak on his deck rather than his own skill. The English dub lampshades this by having one of his friends sarcastically remark "yeah, blame it on the card, real mature."
  • Bond Creatures: Some characters have spirit partners, which can be very helpful to a person.
  • Book Ends: Jaden's adventure in Duel Academy started by meeting Yugi, the King of Games himself, and giving him the Winged Kuriboh card. It ended with Jaden going back in time and dueling Yugi himself as his true Graduation Duel. Jaden lost, but not before realizing that the whole point of the duel was to return his lost passion for dueling.
    • Jaden's final duel with Yugi is very similar to the season 1 finale with Jaden being a different duelist and him facing off a blue clad duelist considered the best who helps him find his way.
    • Jaden defeats Crowler the same way he did at the Entrance Exam.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: In season 1, it turns out Atticus was being controlled by the entity that would make him Nightshroud, one of the Shadow Riders. In season 2, the Society of Light is populated by Sartorius brainwashing most of Duel Academy's students.
  • Brainwash Residue: After being freed from the Society of Light's mind control, members no longer had memory of ever being brainwashed.
  • Break the Cutie: Jaden, Syrus, Alexis... After Cerebus Syndrome kicks in there is hardly any character who is not broken by the events.
    • The duel with Brron is a huge version of this. Jaden breaks and it does not turn out well for Brron.
  • Break the Haughty: Chazz, Zane and Aster all go through this to some degree. All are Expyies of Seto Kaiba. This is not a coincidence.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Much more so than its predecessor, especially in the English dub's third season, where Syrus and a few others do this.
    • In one example, the new professor is organizing a system where students' grades will depend on them dueling one another over and over again.
      Syrus:"Oh, man. Something's not right about this."
      Hassleberry:"What gave that away — the maniacal laugh or the creepy music?"
    • In the first episode of Season 3, Jaden has a bunch of flashbacks to make sure the audience is caught up.
      Jaden: "Man, I could sit here and have flashbacks all day!"
    • In one episode in Season 3, Jaden asks Syrus to go find some water, for some reason, while Jaden duels against someone. After the duel, Jaden says the water isn't needed anyway, to which Syrus just says "Aw man. And I've been carrying that water for three whole episodes."
    • "The sooner I beat you, the less bad dialogue I have to hear."
      • "And speaking of walking clichés..."
    • "Man, was that a weird episode."
    • At one point, Jaden sings the show's theme song.
  • Bright Is Not Good: Not just the dorm colors; in defiance of the "black = evil" trend in media, members of the Society of Light all wear white, probably because of the "White = Death" trend in the East. The West may also see all-white as related to madness and/or zealotry, two qualities in which the Society of Light is not lacking.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The copycat duelist Dimitri stole Yugi's deck and challenged Jaden to a duel with it. He lost, but allegedly it was because he didn't put any heart into his deck. This plot carries an argument against "netdecking" — i.e. copying a tournament-winning decklist off the Internet instead of building your own — since owning a strong Deck doesn't mean you can play it well. However, Dimitri made very few misplays with Yugi's Deck despite having claimed it for one night, as he's put up a fight that's even recognized as impressive in-universe. Despite not having the heart of the cards, Dimitri was sure using it effectively enough to strengthen the argument for netdecking.
    • In one episode, Jaden battles Kaibaman, in a duel with apparently high stakes. He loses and is admonished that it's just a game, and it's not like it's a matter of life or death — a valuable lesson for kids in Real Life. Except that, throughout the series (as well the other Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series), dueling really is Serious Business, and the stakes really are very high, including life or death.
    • In Jaden's duel against Damon/Taira Taizan, a duelist obsessed with perfecting his drawing skills (as in the anime, drawing cards from your deck is a skill you can train on instead of just simply being lucky), Jaden insists Damon should enjoy the duel instead of obsessing about his draws since no matter what, you won't always draw what you need to win. He says that and immediately proceeds to draw Elemental Hero Avian that was shuffled previously into his deck, fuse it, and win thanks to the effect of Elemental Hero Flame Wingman. Maybe he should have said that only protagonists will always draw what they need to win?.
    • In the 2-part season 1 finale, Jaden duels Zane as the latter is leaving Duel Academy. Since Zane has only one loss to his name (against Camula, where he threw the duel for Syrus's sake), Jaden's nervous and carefully plays around Zane's threats. Zane is irritated, saying that Jaden is losing because he's overthinking things and isn't dueling with his heart. However, Jaden's made some smart decisions when "dueling with his head", and only ends up on the back foot due to factors he couldn't know or control. And even when Jaden DOES use his heart, the duel ends in a draw.
    • In Syrus and Hassleberry's double duel against Frost and Thunder, Syrus and Hassleberry have to work as a team to defeat the brothers, who get into a fight about strategy (with Frost focused on victory Thunder focused on teamwork). The intended moral is that sometimes, people should put aside their difference to overcome obstacles. However, the problem isn't that Hassleberry and Syrus are in conflict with each other, aside from a few remarks about their own field. In fact, the problem is that they want to work together, but need to figure out how (they couldn't see each other's hands at first, as they could only attack the opponent in front of them). Ultimately, they're able to see each other's hands through the reflections of the owner's cards, but by then it was already too late and they ended up getting defeated anyway. Even worse, Frost manages to win by BETRAYING Thunder so that everyone lost the duel except himself.
  • The Casanova: Atticus. He even has a little blue book. In one of the last episodes of Season 1, Chazz tries to be this. The English version of the episode is even named "Chazz-anova". He subsequently fails at beating Alexis in a duel and thus (through some strange logic that doesn't even apply in most anime) fails to win her heart. Instead, he loses while having all the Spirit Keys in his possession and thus lets the Sacred Beasts/Phantom Demons free.
  • Cain and Abel: Chazz and his brothers. Also a non-sibling related example with Jaden and Jesse. Yusuke Fujiwara tries to tempt Jesse to defeat Jaden, so Jesse can be the best and he proceeds to attack Jaden. Subverted because it was all an act and both Jesse and Jaden reveal they don't carry any ill will in trying to outdo each other in dueling.
  • Card Games: It wouldn't be a Yu-Gi-Oh show without Duel Monsters being involved and it being the cornerstone of the world, with Duel Academy being a school revolving around the game.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: The series' tone is very inconsistent, hand-in-hand with it being an Indecisive Parody. Light-hearted school antics are often followed up with dark, serious high-stakes threats, which then revert back to light-hearted after. For example, episodes 12 through 17 are, in order: a duel between Chazz and Bastion that gets Chazz expelled and serves as Bastion's introductory episode as a duelist; Jaden dueling a cybernetically enhanced dueling monkey that escaped KaibaCorp; a story about the duel spirit of Jinzo haunting a group of students that unwittingly summoned him in the real world; a duel between Jaden and a tennis player who is infatuated with Alexis; Crowler has Jaden and his friends investigate a mysterious "duel giant" who is stealing the cards of his defeated opponents; and an episode about a student that went to live in the wilderness and became a Tarzan-wannabe to get in touch with his instincts and hone his drawing skills. By Season 3, the show finally settles as "serious" for the rest of its run, with only a few moments of lightheartedness.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Lampshaded in the dub at least, during Aster and Jaden's third duel, when the former summons Destiny Hero Dogma, Jaden's scooby gang reacts with shock, saying things like "Aww, man!" (Syrus), "Great Scott!!" (Bastion), and "Sam Hill!!" (Tyranno). Then Alexis asks why she doesn't have a catchphrase.
    • "Great Scott!!" isn't Bastion's catchphrase, but it is a catchphrase. One of his more common phrases is "Good show."
    • In terms of actual character catchphrases, in the English dub, Jaden Yuki says "That's game" upon winning, and "Get your game on!" whenever he's about to start a duel. In the Japanese original, Judai has the Gratuitous English phrase "Gotcha!" which is said when he wins a duel. In season 4, after he beats Chronos, the whole school gets in on his catchphrase by yelling and doing the same gesture he usually does to the professor.
    • Chazz Princeton has "Chazz it up" in the English dub of the anime, along with "you go bye-bye." The Japanese version has one that is a bit more complicated, where he hypes up the crowd by shouting "ichi, jū, hyaku, sen, Manjōme-sandā!" which translated into English is "one, ten, hundred, thousand, Manjome Thunder!" This chant is entirely based on number wordplay and puns from Jun Manjome's name.
  • Character Development: More or less everyone gets some character development, but most noticeable are Jaden's, Syrus', and Chazz's development.
  • Character Focus: Switches from Jaden's friends to the four new Transfer Students in Season 3.
  • Character Witness: On the day of an important exam, the Duel Academy's card shop got a shipment of newly released cards; but Professor Crowler got there first and bought them all. Then he gave them all to Chazz, and said he would manipulate the match-ups in the field exam so that he and Jaden were opponents, hoping Jaden would not only fail, but be humiliated. Meanwhile, Jaden overslept, and while running to class, met an old lady struggling with her stalled truck. Knowing he'd be late anyway, he stopped to help her with it. Later, when he finally got to the card store, he found out she owned the place, and saved one of the new packs of cards for him; Jaden was actually able to win the duel against Chazz with it, gaining a promotion. (Which he turned down.)
  • Chaste Hero: Jaden. Debatable as to whether he's oblivious or uninterested.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Sacred Beasts were the main Sealed Evil in a Can for the first season, but after they were sealed away they never made a return... until the third season, when a Yubel-possessed Marcel forcibly unseals and uses them. After Yubel's defeat, the fate of the Sacred Beasts is never mentioned again.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Averted. The volcano is featured prominently in far-off shots and is the site of several duels. But it never erupts.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Atticus, Alexis's missing brother, gets rescued in the midpoint of the first season.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Jaden, who naturally saves people via dueling.
  • Class Trip: To Domino City in Season 2 for a handful of episodes, where the academy students visit the iconic sites of the first Yu-Gi-Oh! series.
  • Clip Show: Episodes 66, 105, and 156.
  • Cloning Splits Attributes: When Belowski's Mokey-Mokey King is defeated, it turns into three regular Mokey-Mokeys. (Sort of. Technically, Belowski special summons them from his Graveyard using the monster's card effect, but the Solid Vision system "animates" it as an Asteroid Monster.)
  • Club Stub: A small storyline of Season 2 revolves around the Slifer Red dorm being in danger of demolition with only Jaden and his friends there to defend it.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The students' ranks are seperated by colour: Slifer Red (lowest), Ra Yellow (middle) and Obelisk Blue (highest).
    • The Society of Light invokes this trope in their attempt to defy it; they wear white in order to show how they do not follow the school system.
    • An interesting incidence of color-coding with a bit of Fridge Brilliance: there are two boys in GX, and only two, with brown hair and brown eyes (Jaden and Atticus). Jaden has light brown hair/eyes, and is the embodiment of the Gentle Darkness (of creation). Atticus' hair and eyes are dark, and in the first and last seasons, he appears as the Darkness of Nihility, which goes around destroying things.
  • Color-Coded Stones: The anime has the Crystal Beasts, a group of monsters that are based on the following Gemstones:
    • Ruby Carbuncle: Red
    • Amber Mammoth: Orange
    • Topaz Tiger: Yellow
    • Emerald Tortoise: Green
    • Sapphire Pegasus: Blue
    • Cobalt Eagle: Indigo
    • Amethyst Cat: Violet
  • Combat Commentator: It's Yu-Gi-Oh, so someone has to be there on the sidelines to make sure the audience didn't miss anything. In some Season 4 duels where there's nobody left alive to commentate, the duelist currently representing the protagonist's side of the fight will serve as his own commentator.
  • Combining Mecha: XYZ-Dragon Cannon returns in this series, with additions VW- Tiger Catapult, and both can combine into VWXYZ-Dragon Catapult Cannon.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Inverted, as Mr. Stein observes—Jaden's great responsibility gave him great power, since those who see him as an All-Loving Hero want to help him.
  • Comet of Doom: One provides the light of Dark World and heralds the fulfillment of Jim's prophecy.
  • Continuity Cameo: Several of the original series characters, among them Pegasus, Kaiba, the Paradox Brothers, and Yugi's grandfather. Also, Yugi himself in the first episode, although his face isn't seen.
    • Then Yugi shows up again both as his faceless older self and his younger self as Jaden's last opponent of the series.
    • In Season 1, Jinzo and Dark Magician Girl, regular monsters that were popular in the original series, appear in one-shot episodes as duelists. Dark Magician Girl is carefree and just looking for fun, but Jinzo is a soul-eating villain and the first sign to Jaden that not all Duel Spirits are benevolent.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The series' first tag duel is played against the Paradox Brothers, who were also the opponents in the first tag duel featured in Duel Monsters. In Season 2, Syrus and Hassleberry tag duel two opponents on top of the same building that Yugi and Kaiba did in the original, and in Season 4, the dock Jaden and Jesse meet on in Domino is the one Yugi and Joey dueled on in Battle City of the original series. Then there's the various nostalgic appearances of Dark Magician and other signature monsters of the Duel Monsters characters, including a replica being offered as a prize in Season 4.
    • Then there's the second episode, where Syrus speculates that maybe he and Jaden were destined to meet, with them being reincarnations of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and his loyal priest, Seto. Jaden considers the whole scenario to be ridiculous. He's later on proven half-right in that Jaden really is a reincarnation of a royal figure.
    • The duel against Dimitri has him copy Yugi's deck and mannerisms. Throughout the duel, tracks from the previous anime series are used. Dimitri even refers to Spells as "Magic Cards", an antiquated term from the game's early days.
    • In Season 4, Axel's list of Trueman's victims include numerous characters from the original Toei anime.
  • Cooldown Hug: At the end of the Jaden vs. Yubel duel, the pair embrace as Yubel's Brainwashed and Crazy finally comes to an end.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Has elements of this with 2 major villains.
  • Cue the Sun: The end of The Supreme King's reign and after Jaden vs. Darkness.
  • Cult: The Society of Light.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Two of Jaden's three (four if including Yugi) losses fit the bill.
    • His first duel against Zane lasts only six turns, and the only time Jaden had the upper hand in the duel was taken away by Zane immediately.
    • When Jaden duels Kaibaman, Kaibaman defeats him with hardly any difficulty, losing only 600 life points during the entire duel.
  • Cute Machines: Syrus' Vehicroids.
  • Dad the Veteran: Axel's father.
  • Darker and Edgier: Seasons 3 and 4, compared to the first two seasons.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Jaden's Superpowered Evil Side is actually supposed to be the "gentle darkness" and in reality might not have been that bad of a guy if Jaden hadn't crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Atticus uses a Red-Eyes Black Dragon deck and can use his Darkness Mask (which is very evil) to explore his opponent's mind. He's otherwise a good guy, but Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • Dark Is Evil: Darkness/Nightshroud, on the other hand is most definitely not the above, and holy shit how.
  • The Dark Side: Jaden's Superpowered Evil Side convinces Jaden that the only way to defeat evil is to become evil himself. Considering being good did nothing that season but get his friends killed and his taking of all of The Reason You Suck Speeches to heart, Jaden gives in, and a Split Personality Take Over ensues.
  • Death is Cheap: Hello, all you people who sent Jaden over the Despair Event Horizon halfway through Season 3. Good to know you were all just trapped in another dimension (albeit a hellish one).
  • Death Is Dramatic: Season 3. At least until you find out Death is Cheap.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Hoo boy. The show started the deconstruction long before Cerebus Syndrome came in.
    • Alexis/Asuka is a self-aware Ms. Fanservice and absolutely loathes it because she wants other people to notice her for her skills and hard work rather than her looks. She also more or less fails to achieve this due to circumstances both in and outside of her control, such as facing off against opponents that so vastly outclass her that she can't do much against them, or just being so utterly overshadowed by Jaden/Judai that she struggles to stand out.
    • The Principal falls under Adults Are Useless. He is aware of this and the few times he tries to avert this trope, he fails. This causes him a great deal of inner anguish.
    • Parental Abandonment is deconstructed by Jaden. His parents have always been very busy with work, so in their absence with nobody to look after he, he keeps inviting all sorts of people to his house, including significantly older ones (fortunately, his guests turned out not to be dangerous but this could have gone really wrong), and a Yandere Duel Monster spirit who put all those guests into a coma.
    • The way the Society of Light recruits their members is seen as a reversal to the standard Defeat Means Friendship plot point of the original series, while Jaden's Heroic BSoD in Season 3 is a more realistic look at what would happen to a person's psyche if they were forced to play a card game for the fate of the world and/or their friends' lives.
    • Each and every Ace in the show becomes a Broken Ace.
      • Jaden, who is a near Invincible Hero, ends up shouldering too much responsibility, finds himself in a situation beyond his control while unwilling to accept help, and eventually reaches the Despair Event Horizon. In season 4, while still technically the best duelist around - and he knows it - he has lost all love for it, his humour, and is afraid to form or maintain personal relationships.
      • Jaden's insistence to keep saving the day and his No One Gets Left Behind mindset devolve into a dangerous obsession that indirectly drags in the rest of his friends into a lot of suffering, because he's incapable of seeing their needs and abilities or realizing they're not just going to stand back while he puts himself in danger.
      • When the Kaiser, who was the best in the Duel Academy by a mile, went pro, he found out he was a Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, and kept losing. Eventually he was pushed to underground duels, where his "manager" broke him and turned him into a Blood Knight.
      • Phoenix became a dueling champion specifically to find clues behind his father's death/disappearance, as the man used to design duel monsters. Duelling is largerly a means to an end.
    • As Chazz displays, trying to make your own name while your super rich family opposes you is far from the easiest thing in the world. He is left without possessions or resources, and even after he beats his family members and the people they hire in duels, he still lives under their shadow.
    • Alexis deconstructs Patient Childhood Love Interest; she never dared to admit her feelings for Jaden to herself, much less to him. By the time she does realize she has feelings, he is already part of an Official Couple.
    • Spotlight-Stealing Squad is deconstructed, as Jaden's quick friendship with the new arrivals puts ever increasing strain in his relationship with all his old friends.
    • Hard Work Hardly Works is also deconstructed with Jaden. Sure, he is a Book Dumb carefree guy who is very talented at dueling. That on its own is not a bad thing; the problem is that this tactic works only for Jaden. As a particularly disgruntled professor points out, all other students picked up on Jaden being the best while doing no studying whatsoever, and decided to copy his attitude even though they themselves do not have the kind of talent that Jaden does. It's shown in a flashback that attendance for certain classes has dropped to zero. The teacher basically accuses Jaden of causing the drop in dedication from everybody else.
    • Invincible Hero is also deconstructed through Jaden, as his friends start treating him as a Crutch Character, and not just in terms of duelling. As is demonstrated very early in Season 3, Jaden's friends turn to him for answers to their personal problems (such as Syrus wondering if he should participate in Professor Viper's duels or not), and Jaden doesn't have an answer because his focus is to have fun duelling. As Jaden points out, they are different people and what works for him doesn't work for them. Yet Syrus still treats it as a betrayal of his trust.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The fourth season starts with Jaden a changed person from the Break the Cutie events of the previous season, and he appears a much more cynical person for it. As the season ends however, his previous optimistic traits return as he's determined to convince everyone trapped in the World of Darkness they can move past their doubts of either past mistakes or the fear of the future in his duel with Darkness. Finally at the very end with his duel with Yugi, after 2 seasons of life and death duels, he rediscovers his passion for dueling again.
  • Demonic Possession: The Light of Destruction possessed Sartorius during the whole second season. Yubel possesses Marcel and Jesse in Season 3.
  • Demoted to Extra: Bastion who, again?
    • The Sacred Beasts become less powerful and less important as the series goes on, eventually just being forgotten about completely.
  • Denser and Wackier: It's quick downward spiral into Darker and Edgier territory in later seasons aside, the first several episodes of the series can get really freaking weird, especially in comparison to the original series. Not only are some of the duelists Jaden duels very quirky in nature, at one point, he even ends up dueling a literal dueling monkey! While it does start to take itself more seriously later on, it can be a bit hard to press through at points because of it.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • Drillago's attack name is Drilling Drill. In addition, there's a trap card called Entry Forbidden! No Entry!. The dub shortened this to No Entry!, which was actually a well-received change.
    • Then there's the card Mirai Yūgō - Future Fusion, which translates into Future Fusion - Future Fusion. Naturally, it was shortened to Future Fusion in the dub.
  • Deprogram: In Season 2, Jaden saves both Chazz and Alexis from being brainwashed by the Society of Light by defeating them in duels. Chazz deprograms the entire white dorm at the end of the season. Subverted with Zane that season.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Jaden, from about midway through his duel with Brron. Also, Zane in Episode 65.
  • Destruction Equals Off-Switch: Hassleberry learns (slightly too late) that technology does not work this way in the climax of the Society of Light arc.
  • Determinator: Several duelists in the show. Notably Jaden, Zane, Jim, etc.
  • Deus ex Machina: In true Yu-Gi-Oh! fashion, you get duels being settled by the Magic Poker Equation when the hero, who's on the back foot, turns things around with a single miracle draw. Philosopher's Stone - Sabatiel might be the most obvious, as it's only around to help Jaden get past the Sacred Beasts and then disappears.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: A rare heroic example. Upon learning that Chazz defeated his brother Slade with a deck filled with monsters of 500 or less attack points, Seto Kaiba (the man who proposed the duel in lieu of a complete buyout like the Princeton brothers had originally proposed and accepted the handicap on Chazz's behalf) is completely unsurprised. He then says this trope verbatim, admitting he never had any intentions of selling Duel Academy and only allowed them the opportunity to teach the brothers a lesson.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Jaden sings the English intro song in episode 35.
  • Digital Bikini: Done very obviously in Episode 4 when several of the girls are in a hot tub. Even without the obvious edit, nothing even remotely suggestive would have been visible.
    • Being an attractive female monster with Stripperiffic outfit, Elemental Hero Burstinatrix also suffered from this. And not only does her outfit get censored, her previously big and round breasts get smaller and flatter as well.
  • Disappears into Light: Anyone who "dies" in Season 3's second alternate dimension.
  • Disney Death: Done with several characters in Season 3.
  • Ditto Fighter: One-time opponent Dimitri is known for copying other Duelists' Decks and mannerisms. The episodes featuring him make an implied statement of "netdecking" — the practice of copying a tournament-winning Deck in hopes of earning easy victories.
  • Doing in the Scientist: After extended use of dueling using shock-collars, Zane develops heart problems. Initially explained as overuse of the shock collars, this reason was done away with in favor of the dark power of his deck, which he stole from his mentor.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The second ED, "Wake Up Your Heart", is performed by Judai's VA, KENN, alongside his band The NaB's.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In the dub, while Jaden is dueling Sartorius, Jaden not only tells an incredibly lame joke, but he explains it immediately afterwards, making it even less funny than it already was. It seems 4kids was aware of this, as Aster points out the failness of the joke immediately after.
    Jaden: You said I was the puppet, but it looks like you're the dummy. Get it? Puppet, dummy?
    Syrus: Oh, yeah. Good one, J.
    Aster: A joke's not funny when you have to explain it.
  • Double Entendre: Most people, when they summon a monster, say "I summon (insert monster's name here)". Jesse, on the other hand, does things like "Rainbow Dragon! COME OUT!" (And yes: "come out" means in Japanese exactly what it means in English).
  • Double Standard: All girls who enter Duel Academy are placed in the luxurious Obelisk Blue regardless of talent, wealth or connections. Whereas a boy who lacks those same things can find himself living in the shed they call the Slifer dorm. It can take years of hard work for a boy to reach the same level of living standard the girls get automatically on entry.
  • Dragons Versus Knights: The main protagonist Jaden uses a deck of Warrior-type monsters called the Elemental Heroes while two of his rivals use dragons; Chazz uses the Armed Dragon as one of the archetypes in his deck while Zhane uses Cyber Dragons, Machine-type monsters with dragon appearances. In the manga, Chazz uses a Dragon-type focused deck.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Blair may have passed for eight years old in the first season, but not in the second.
  • Dub Name Change: Being dubbed by 4KidsEntertainment, nearly every character. For exceptions, we have Jim "Crocodile" Cook, the distinctly Japanese-sounding villain Kagemaru, and his underlings Camula, Abidos, Titan and Amnael. Princess Rose, Prince Ojin, Yubel, The Alien of Light, Alice, Doctor Collector and The Supreme King also retain their original names (in Supreme King Juudai's case, the perceived "name change" is actually just a translation, with the word "Haou" meaning "Supreme King"). Though Americanization runs rampant, there are some odd cases of reverse Americanization such as Jim's crocodile Karen becoming Shirley and Sara becoming Yasmin. To avoid confusion since both names for a given character may pop up, here's a list.
    • Juudai Yuki > Jaden Yuki
    • Sho Marufuji > Syrus Truesdale
    • Hayato Maeda > Chumley Huffington
    • Asuka Tenjoin > Alexis Rhodes
    • Jun Manjoume > Chazz Princeton
    • Daichi Misawa > Bastion Misawa
    • Daitokuji-sensei > Professor Lyman Banner
    • Ryo Marufuji > Zane Truesdale
    • Fubuki Tenjoin > Atticus Rhodes
    • Edo/Ed Phoenix > Aster Phoenix
    • Tyranno Kenzan > Tyranno Hassleberry
    • Cronos de Medici > Vellian Crowler
    • Rei Saotome > Blair Flannigan
    • Johan Andersen > Jesse Anderson
    • Austin O'Brien > Axel Brodie
    • Amon Garam > Adrian Gecko
    • Debuted in Season 1:
      • Prinicipal Samejima > Chancellor Sheppard | Emi Ayukawa > Fonda Fontaine | Momoe and Junko > Mindy and Jasmine | Tome-san > Ms. Dorothy | Kumazo Maeda > Mr. Huffington | Chosaku and Shoji Manjoume > Slade and Jagger Princeton | SAL > Wheeler | Takadera > Torrey | Ayanokouji Mitsuro > Harrington Rosewood | Ohara and Kohara > Brier and Beauregard | Taira Taizan > Damon | Kagurazaka > Dimitri | Kousuke Kunisaki > Gerard | Mokeo Motegi > Belowski | Yuri Edogawa > Czar | Principal Ichinose > Chancellor Foster | Sara > Yasmin | Taniya > Tania | Anacis > Admiral | Darkness > Nightshroud | Mitsuo > Pierre
    • Debuted in Season 2:
      • Takuma Saiou > Sartorius | Napoleon > Jean-Louis Bonaparte | Houzan Gokaido > Reginald van Howell III | Ran Kouchou > Missy | Kabayama > Sarytr | Monkey Saruyama > Mr. Shroud | Inukai > Mad Dog | Gin Ryusei > Lorenzo | X > Howard X Miller | Kourimaru > Frost | Ikazuchimaru > Thunder | Honomaru > Blaze | Iwamaru > T-Bone | Mizuchi Saiou > Sarina | Kabukid > Orlando | Tsugio Kanda > Bob Banter | Frantz > Franz | Sombre Guerro > Elroy Prescott | Sommelier Parker > Maitre'D | Tachibana Ikaku > Lucien Grimley | Albert Zweinstein > Eisenstein | DD > The D
    • Debuted in Season 3: Professor Cobra > Professor Thelonius Viper | Karen > Shirley | Professor Kouji Satou > Mr. Stein | Geise Hunt > Trapper | Rick > Pierce | Martin Kanou > Marcel Bonaparte
    • Monster spirits also receive names changes, though most of them were made into TCG cards with name changes first..
      • Hane Kuribo > Winged Kuriboh | Android - Psycho Shocker > Jinzo | Ally of Justice - Kaibaman > Kaibaman | Birdman > Harpie's Brother | Devil Dozer > Doom Dozer | Skull Bishop > Skull Knight | Sea God's Priestess > Maiden of the Aqua
  • Dub Personality Change: This happens a lot with the English dub. Some examples include, but aren't limited to:
    • Reginald, an Obelisk Blue student Chazz duels in early season 2, is one of the most blatant examples, despite only appearing in one episode. In the Japanese version, he respects Chazz despite being demoted to Slifer Red, and is honored to be dueling him. He thinks something must be wrong with the school instead of Chazz for him to be in Slifer Red. In the dub, he's the typical Smug Snake like most of the other Obelisk Blue students, and looks down on Chazz because of his rank.
    • In episode 35, after Chazz beats his brother Slade in a duel, Slade and Jagger's reactions differ between versions. In the English dub, they claim they'll be back to get their revenge, and are upset that the duel made Chazz look like a hero for the academy, implying they don't accept Chazz. In the Japanese version, Jagger considers getting revenge for the loss, only for Slade to convince him to let it go, pointing out how much Chazz has grown up, implying they actually respect Chazz for stopping them.
    • Mad Dog, the underground duelist Zane duels in episode 65, is a tough no-nonsense man with a deep voice in the Japanese version. The English dub makes him a Manchild with his speech patterns, as well as a high-pitched voice that sounds like Mike Tyson.
  • Dub Text: Syrus gets it worst. "Jaden, I want you to be my shipmate!" and "Jaden's my best friend! He's my hero! He's the hot fudge on the sundae that is my life!"
  • Duels Decide Everything: Naturally. Everyone duels, even when they have little to no reason to.
    • At one point Jaden agrees to a duel where the stakes are whoever wins becomes Alexis' fiancée, even though A: Alexis didn't agree to this at all, and B: Jaden doesn't even know what a fiancée is!
    • In season 2, the Big Bad gains control over a Kill Sat after beating its owner in a duel! Said Big Bad subverts this trope when he refuses to duel Jaden because he's already got what he needs. It's Double Subverted when circumstances force into a duel anyway.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Aster enters a plot important duel to the death with Adrian to save Echo from him in Season 3. This even confuses him, not just the viewers.

    E - H 
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Being the first proper anime spin-off of the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, GX stands out in a lot of ways compared to subsequent series.
    • Of all the lead protagonists, Jaden stands out due to how relatively plain he looks compared to other Yu-Gi-Oh series protagonist. Even though he has Anime Hair, it's nowhere near as crazy as every other protagonists, and seems downright normal compared to some of the hair styles in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. Also, while every protagonist has "Yu" in their name, Jaden stands out as the only one without "Yu" in his first name, and it instead being his last name. He's also the only protagonist to be hit with Dub Name Change.
    • GX by far has the most amount of connections to the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, to the point where many characters from the first anime appear here. Even though Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is still set in the same continuity, GX by far has way more Call Backs and in some cases what could be considered direct sequels to certain episodes of the original anime. It even caps off with Jaden dueling Yugi and the Pharaoh in the final episode.
    • While every spin-off has a Kaiba expy of their own, it's usually limited to one rival character. GX has three characters serving as Kaiba expies in the form of Chazz, Zane, and Aster, who each have different aspects of Kaiba's character.
    • With every spin-off, a new summoning mechanic would be introduced. While GX did put emphasis on fusion summoning, that mechanic already existed in the game beforehand. Also, while there were characters like Jaden whose deck relied heavily on Fusion Summoning, there were a lot of major characters whose decks either barely used the mechanic, or never fusion summoned at all. While there were other spin-offs that didn't rely entirely on their unique mechanic, they usally made a plot point about why people don't use that summoning method, whereas GX doesn't try to explain why some people didn't use Fusions. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds had the Yliaster members who used the Meklords, and while they weren't Synchro monsters, they were designed with the intent to counter Synchros. Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V didn't have everyone use Pendulum Summoning because there were multiple dimensions that each had their own summoning mechanic, but didn't have access to the other ones.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After going through hell and becoming a Broken Bird, Jaden is able to recover his love of dueling through a friendly battle with none other than Yugi Motou himself. Though he loses, Jaden walks away from the duel pleased with the result, and ends the series by continuing on his path, but this time with a calm smile on his face.
  • E = MC Hammer: Bastion scrawls a lot of equations and formulas on his room's walls and on his baseball bat to keep track of his work on formulating his decks, especially when he's determining the formula to beat Jaden. Unless he's crunching a lot of numbers to optimize his odds, he's investing a lot more effort than it normally does to build a Deck. These formulas also appear on his own cards and help him identify them when he discovers that his deck is tossed into the ocean.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Trapper the spirit hunter in Season 3.
  • Elaborate University High: Duel Academy
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Oops, that's the end of the universe.
  • Empathic Weapon: Any monster card known to have a spirit. Actually, all the cards, period, although only some Duelists are sufficiently in touch with theirs for this to apply.
  • Enemies with Death: The Grim Reaper appears in one episode where a Duelist made a Deal with the Devil with him to get supernatural draw luck. Jaden naturally had to Duel that person, putting this trope into effect by proxy.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Jaden/Judai has quite a bunch of male admirers, from Sho and Kenzan with the whole "aniki" business, Johan who appears in season 3 and acts as if they have been married for a long time, even Manjoume at times. female, half-male]] Yubel in the end. But it's not surprising considering the show only has two female characters that even begin to qualify as "main characters."
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Jesse and his Rainbow Dragon—no, just Jesse's deck in its entirety.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Duel Ghouls in season 3.
  • Evil Counterpart: Elemental Heroes/Evil Heroes, Gem Beasts/Advanced Gem Beasts, Cyber End Dragon/Cyberdark Dragon, Egyptian Gods/Sacred Beasts. Need we go on?
  • Evil Costume Switch: Zane after his Freak Out, Jaden while he is in the Supreme King armor, and Jesse after his possession by Yubel. Atticus has a pretty wicked trench when he's busy being Darkness.
  • Eviler than Thou: Yubel vs. Adrian in Season 3.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Ask Fujiwara, Atticus and Zane. The former two played with evil and ended up with the same Superpowered Evil Side, while the latter used a dangerous forbidden deck that gave him a fatal heart condition.
  • Evil Hand: Yubel somehow alters or transplants their own arm onto Viper, Marcel and Adrian as a sign of their power.
  • Evil Overlord: The Supreme King and Brron the Mad King.
  • Evolving Credits: In the original, the credits in the first part of Season 3 featured Jaden recalling events from previous seasons as he stands back-to-back with Jesse. The latter part of the season after Jesse's disappearance features Jaden recalling his memories of Jesse, standing back-to-back with a ghostly, transparent Jesse.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In the past, Jaden actually had ears. You know, that you could see.
  • Expospeak: As in the original series, for the benefit of viewers, duelists have to describe the effects every time they play a card, even one they've already played... sometimes against the same opponent or even in the same episode! Not surprisingly, the dubbed version uses Lampshade Hanging, with the opponent frequently responding, "Thanks, but actually, I already knew that!", or some variant thereof.
  • Expy: A bunch of them for characters from the original series:
    • Jaden seems to display a blend of Joey's personality and Yugi's dueling skills. Téa's view on friendship also comes up occasionally, but to a lesser degree.
    • Zane, like Seto Kaiba, is an Aloof Big Brother with a deck built around three Light-attribute dragons and an ace monster that results from fusing them. Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon and Cyber End Dragon even have similar ATK points. By extension, one could make the argument that his frequently-endangered little brother Syrus is a Mokuba expy, at least in Season 1.
    • Chazz is another Kaiba expy, mostly in how he dresses, talks, and some identical dueling strategies. He's also from a filthy rich family with massive influence in politics and business, which is a plot point in Season 1 when his brothers try to use him to get a foothold in the dueling industry.
    • Aster is a third expy of Kaiba, displayed by his role as one of Jaden's rivals, superior attitude, and major parental issues. The fact that all three characters go through some form of Break the Haughty cannot be a coincidence.
    • Jesse, who is, quite undeniably, an Expy of Jaden!
      "I feel like we've met this kid before."
      • Jesse also looks a bit like Nagisa Kaworu, and serves a similar role (shows up late in the show, befriends the main character immediately and then later turns against the protagonist). The main difference is that Jesse didn't turn against Jaden in the first episode he appeared in.
      • Likewise, Jaden himself looks a very little bit like Ikari Shinji, the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
      • It doesn't stop there. The two girls in the story who have crushes on Jaden are named Asuka and Rei in the original Japanese version.
    • Alexis: fills Téa's role for Jaden, but duels and acts more like Mai. Also, looks like Kaiba.
    • Also worth noting is the fact that hey-wasn't-he-a-main-character-once Bastion Misawa has a couple things in common with Ryo Bakura, including getting British accents and keeping their original (and distinctly Japanese-sounding) last names in the dub.
    • Blair: Rebecca.
  • Eye-Dentity Giveaway: Judai/Jaden's eyes are normally a shade of brown, but whenever his Superpowered Evil Side is in control, his eyes become Supernatural Gold Eyes.
  • Fairy Companion: Winged Kuriboh.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Abidos III is built up as being "the unbeatable God of Dueling." As it turns out, the reason he was "unbeatable" was because his servants kept jobbing to him because he was the Pharaoh. (It's stated that they never once tried to destroy the First, Second, or Third Sarcophagi, even though that trio of cards is easily the biggest weakness of Abidos's strategy.) Consequently, he's one of the only characters that Jaden was able to beat with nothing but Normal Elemental Heroes.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry:
    • Elemental Hero Burstinatrix has an outfit that is rather reserved on her left side and just downright Stripperiffic on her right side.
    • Yubel, whose asymmetry is to symbolize that they are a hermaphrodite monster, with their right side having the female boobs covered and shorter pants with smoother knee and thigh, complete with eyelashes on their right eye, while their left side has the male chest left bare, no eyelashes on the left eye and more muscular left leg. It can be a Fridge Brilliance if you know a saying in Asia that is "female on the right, male on the left", which means Yubel's design is based on that saying.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Yubel uses Jesse's body in a duel against Jaden.
  • Fictional Sport: The Pro League for Dueling. A circle of the highest ranking duelists in the world featured in a mainstream sport like any other real life sport. It is the goal of many Duel Academy students to one day compete in the Pro League. Known pro duelists include Aster Phoenix, Zane later becomes one, and Chazz himself in Season 4 tries to become a pro duelist.
  • First-Name Basis: Syrus/Sho begins calling Jaden/Judai his given name, rather than "Aniki" after he loses faith in him during Season 3. He reverts back to "Aniki" in Season 4.
  • Flipping the Table: There is a card called "Flipping the Table". In one episode, used by Chumley's father who (in the Japanese version, at least) was a substantial drunkard and owns a sake company (in the dub, he just owns a hot sauce company). When played, a giant table does invariably appear and Chumley's father does overturn it fairly violently.
  • Foreshadowing: It's all over the place. Very much so that it truly deserves it's own page.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: In Season 3, four new champion duelists from different branches of Duel Academy show up.
  • Freak Out: Zane Truesdale, triggering a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Common with cards, where a pause and a good eye will reveal a lot. Pause while Lucien Grimley is discarding cards, for instance, and you'll see he also plays Mystic Tomato, Big Eye, Magical Stone Excavation, Reload, and Exchange of the Spirit, among other cards, all of which make sense in his deck.
  • Freudian Excuse: Quite a lot of them.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Hot sauce is serious business. This is, of course, the dub; in the original, it was explicitly sake.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The dueling monkey SAL: "Super Animal Lerning [sic]". Also a pun on saru (Japanese for monkey).
  • Fusion Dance: Fusion summons are the primary gimmick of this series; While they were present in the original Duel Monsters anime, they are far more common and central to the playstyle of characters in this series.
    • Jaden's Elemental Hero Fusion monsters and several other characters using Fusion monsters as their main strategy.
  • Gag Dub: Several episodes in early Season 3 tread into this territory with a script not unlike that of the abridged series, although seasons 1 and 2 also had their fair share of humour.
    • Highlighted in this collection of clips. Yes, that's the real dub's dialog, not an Abridged version.
  • Gecko Ending: The English dub ends one episode short of the end of Season 3 and insinuates that Jaden sacrificed himself to stop Yubel.
  • Genre-Busting: Gaming and Sports Anime & Manga + Mind Screw + Take That!, Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • Genre Shift: After the initial arc of season 3, the series suddenly becomes about surviving in a hostile alternate world, fighting real monsters and trying to find a way back.
  • The Gift: A recurring theme is that the better someone is at Duel Monsters, the more painful their fall will be.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Jaden's trademark catchphrase is the English word "Gotcha!" accompanied by pointing with his index and middle finger. In the dub, it's "That's game!"
  • Gone Horribly Right: Bronn wanted to break Jaden's spirit. He woke up the Supreme King.
  • Good Is Boring: In-universe example in Season 2. Zane realizes, during his Despair Event Horizon, that respecting others has gotten him nothing and decides to make a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When the Supreme King kills Jim in their duel, only his duel disk was left of him. Previous and later episodes displayed hundreds of duel disks left all over the place as a result of completing his Super Polymerization card.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Jesse, searching for Rainbow Dragon.
  • Graduate from the Story: Jaden and the rest of the main cast graduated from Duel Academy at the end of the series, with Alexis giving the graduation speech. There was also a graduation ball after the ceremony that Jaden did not attend in order to get packing and leave early.
    • Zane and Chumley graduate from Duel Academy at the end of Season 1, due to them being being older than the rest of the cast. Unusually for this trope, Zane remains a prominent character throughout the rest of the series despite his graduation.
  • Gratuitous English: Jim 'Crocodile' Cook provides enough of it to cover everyone. Judai in the Japanese dub also has one as his catchphrase, "Gotcha!"
    • There's plenty in the first Season 1 opening as well.
  • Gratuitous German: The names of Yubel's second and third forms. The name "Yubel" itself can be traced to the German word "übel" (meaning "evil").
  • Gratuitous Italian: Cronos de Medici.
  • Gratuitous French: Bonaparte and Marcel.
  • Greed Makes You Dumb: Pegasus invokes this during his 1v2 duel against Crowler and Bonaparte, who have challenged Pegasus to a duel where they will receive a job at his company if they win; Pegasus sets a stipulation saying that if they win, the one who has more Life Points remaining will receive a better position at his company, hoping to turn them against one another. Crowler doesn't take the bait, but Bonaparte does and starts attacking Crowler to lower his Life Points, causing Crowler to respond in kind. As a result, they end up not getting jobs at Pegasus's company because they wasted cards that could have used on Pegasus on each other.
  • Growing Up Sucks: In Season 4, most of the students, especially the graduating ones, have to grapple with what they want to do with their lives going into adulthood.
  • Guns Akimbo: The art for Don Zaloog shows him with a pair of pistols.
  • Hammerspace: Sartorius gets a particularly absurd use of this before his Duel against Chazz, pulling a table out of nowhere to play his cards on.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Jaden, who fails almost every test but is still regarded as one of if not the top duelists at the school. It's implied he fails the tests solely because he falls asleep during them. He's repeatedly established as being an incredible duelist, but hopelessly Book Dumb.
  • Hate Plague: Given to Syrus, Atticus, Alexis, Hassleberry and Chazz toward Jaden temporarily in Season 3.
  • Hermetic Magic: Amnael's Emerald Tablet which he used to trap Atticus', Chazz's and Alexis' souls as well as Sartorius' Tarot deck. Then there's Fujiwara's ritual to summon Darkness, resulting in the Abandoned Dorm.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jaden suffers through an epic one a few epic ones in Season 3 after Jesse is kidnapped and after his Split-Personality Takeover.
  • Heroic Rematch: Jaden gets a rematch with Aster after losing to him the first time and acquiring his new Neo Space Deck.
  • The Hero Dies: Subverted in the last episode of Season 3 when Jaden's friends, except Syrus, believe he may never return after his supposed Heroic Sacrifice, but he does.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: After dueling with the fate of the world at stake several times over, Jaden's a little worn out by Season 4, as he starts playing for quick and complete victories even when the stakes are considerably lower.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Several characters in Season 3.
  • He's Back!:
    • Chazz after his stint at the North Academy in Season 1, after getting his snobbishness thoroughly broken down.
    • Jaden after his trip to Neo Space in Season 2, his return at the end of Season 3, and rediscovering his passion for dueling in the duel with Yugi in the last episode.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jaden and Jesse, Jaden and Syrus.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: Exact words said by Jaden in episode 67. Finally having made his way back to Duel Academy, Jaden walks in on Aster and Alexis about to duel and Aster says "get your game on."
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Yubel and Kagemaru
  • Hidden Depths
    • Cronos is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who grows to appreciate Jaden over the course of Season 1 and as shown in his duel against Camilla, is very protective of his students.
    • Alexis at first only appears as a skilled and beautiful duelist, but she has lingering issues over her brother's disappearance.
  • Hide Your Gays: Averted in the third season, where two separate people (three, if you count Syrus ranting about Jesse in the previews) assume Jaden may have an interest in guys, to the point where Yubel possesses Jesse in an attempt to make Jaden surrender to them. The actual ship that's most hinted never happens (that we know of), but Jaden ends up with someone who's half-male anyway. There really isn't any smoke without fire in this case.
    • Special mention goes to an absolutely trope-smashing line from Axel in Episode 139: "Jim, was there... anything between you and Jaden?"
    • And another from Yubel, talking to Jaden about Jesse, in Episode 154.
  • Horse of a Different Color: In the Dark World, Aster and Zane are shown riding bipedal dinosaur-like monsters.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Sartorius holds Aster hostage, threatening to kill him if Jaden doesn't hand over the Kill Sat keys. Jaden, in what's probably his most idiotic moment ever hands them over, then challenges Sartorius to a duel. Which the villain declines, until outside forces (Neos) force him to duel.
    • Earlier, a villain holds Syrus hostage, causing Zane to lose so that Syrus' soul is spared.
  • Hot for Student: Nurse Fontaine for Atticus. She is seen alongside most of the female students in Atticus' rabid fangirl cheering section. The first Tag Force game expands on this. Fontaine will only agree to be the player's partner if they bring her Atticus' autograph.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Syrus: Woah! It [the monkey] talks?
    Scientist: Please! That would be completely unrealistic. His helmet reads his mind and talks for him.
    • Also, in Season 2 when Crowler and Bonaparte duel, Crowler comments that he's "such a dramatic little man", even though Crowler and pretty much everyone else in the series, is just as much of a Large Ham as he is.

    I - P 
  • Idiot Hero: Jaden, to a T. This trope applies well in his case only up to the halfway mark of Season 3, when his deconstruction begins in earnest. By the time Season 4 rolls around, he can be described as an interesting combination of All-Loving Hero and the Ineffectual Loner—in the sense that while he still cares for his close ones, he makes efforts to distance himself somewhat from them in order to allow them their own growth, away from his influence. During this time, most of his interventions are generally marginal and only meant to nudge the other person in the right direction, not whip them around in what fashion Jaden sincerely (but also selfishly) wanted them to take.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight:
    • Subverted with Zane in Season 2; his friends at first refuse to accept he simply snapped and the vicious "Hell Kaiser" persona is part of the obsession with victory he needed to survive in the Underground. They assume he's Brainwashed and Crazy (like every other character that season) as opposed to just plain crazy.
    • Played straight with Jaden in Season 3, when Jim and Axel duel the Supreme King trying to turn him back to normal.
  • Inaction Sequence: Happens often with card effects being explained (even if the same card was played by other player five minutes ago and its effect is "Draw two cards") and villains telling their life story and evil plans to the heroes during duels. Ultimately Lampshaded by Aster in the dub. "Is he gonna duel or stand there and ponder his purpose in life?"
  • Incest Subtext: Not technically canon, but Atticus does enjoy trying to force his sister into the most revealing clothes he can find. A LOT. And she's also his date to the graduation banquet in episode 179, complete with matching costumes—even though it's well-established he's popular enough with the ladies to have asked anyone in the school.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: Johan Anderson's name in Japanese has been spelt three different ways officially: Johan Andersen, Johan Anderson, or Johann Anderson, with all three having been used in official Japanese merchandise or materials. All three are technically correct spellings, varied by country ("Andersen" is Danish/Norwegian, while "Anderson" is Swedish/English, with "Johann" being the German variation on the Scandinavian "Johan"). On top of that, Johan's name in the Japanese version is written with the katakana ヨハン, with the "ヨ" character being "Yo" instead of "Jo" (ジョ), leading to many instances where Japanese fans write his name as "Yohan", even though "Johan" is the official spelling.
  • Indecisive Parody: The series is this to Duel Monsters. There's a lot of Lampshade Hanging and Meta Fiction on the tropes that defined the series, numerous characters are blatant Expies of someone from the previous series, and storylines and character arcs can have direct parallels drawn. However, later seasons increasingly shifted from parodying Duel Monsters to deconstructing it, with secondary characters being aware they're overshadowed by the hero, The Rival being aware of his Badass Decay and trying to turn himself around, and the stresses of deciding the fate of his friends through a card game and discovering he has a past life and a secret destiny triggers a Break the Cutie in the protagonist when it's too much for him. That said, it's hard to draw the line between what is meant to be parody and what is meant to be deconstruction, as the series' overall tone is a Cerebus Rollercoaster between serious drama and light-hearted comedy, and it is inconsistent on when it is clearly parodying tropes, deconstructing them, or playing them straight.
    • Self-Parody: With the dub however, it's the writers were deliberately trying to make GX more goofy and silly than Duel Monsters. As the CMoF page will demonstrate, the dialogue in some episodes would not sound out of place in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, and 4Kids is known to be aware of the parody's existence so this may well have been on purpose. This is especially prominent with Season 3 where there's the occasional meta joke, like Syrus complaining he's seen as "just the goofy sidekick who would never have an idea of how to move the plot along."
  • Invincible Hero: Jaden, who loses three times and achieves just as many draws out of his 73 duels throughout the whole series (not counting his third duel against Zane, which Jaden would have lost had the latter not had a conveniently-timed flare-up of his heart condition). Ironically becomes one of the reasons for his fall to The Dark Side.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Jaden gets rather tired of having the responsibility of saving the universe from evil. He just wants to play a card game. He eventually accepts that he isn't normal and decides that's not so bad after all, since it means he can actually help other people for a change, instead of being a selfish brat.
  • Invisible to Normals: Duel Spirits, though the definition of "normal" in this case isn't ever really clarified beyond "not able to see Duel Spirits".
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Dimitri does this with at least three different people (Crowler, Yugi, and Jaden), starting with vocal impersonations and culminating in full-on cosplay. And it's especially irritating when it's your deck he's copying. Or when he gets your catch phrase wrong.
  • I See Duel Monster Spirits: Several characters can see and interact with Duel Monster Spirits, and in the different dimensions everyone can.
  • It's All My Fault: Almost Jaden's mantra for the middle part of Season 3 after Jesse's disappearance and the supposed deaths of some of his other friends.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Professor Vellian Crowler, Jaden's worst enemy of the (mostly) non-lethal variety. Multiple early episodes centered around Crowler trying to get Jaden expelled for the extremely petty reason that Jaden beat him in a duel, even going far enough as to hire what amounts to a duel hitman to get rid of Jaden. Turns out he honestly cares about and is protective of his students, even Jaden eventually.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Jesse's fake summoning of Rainbow Dragon in Episode 106. For the cast, his seeming mockery of something that is Serious Business is enough to cause shouting, anger, and general uproar. Jesse even lampshades it by giving a large grin and announcing that he's "just kidding".
  • Just Smile and Nod: Used word for word in the dub with a character's delusions that he's actually Yugi since he stole his deck.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Kagemaru. He wasn't possessed or controlled by anything. He made all of his own choices out of not wanting to die and what happened to him? Nothing. No punishment except the old age he already suffered from.
    • The underground promoter who triggered Zane's Despair Event Horizon and Freak Out by duping him into a Duel laced with Electric Torture, and is implied to have done the same for a number of other people? He gets absolutely no punishment other than Zane declaring that he doesn't need the guy anymore, which doesn't amount to anything.
  • Kick the Dog: Zane's defeat of Syrus after the former's Freak Out. This was meant to dissuade fans of Zane from viewing him as a Draco in Leather Pants. It didn't work.
  • Kids Versus Adults: In Season 1, the Duel Academy students vs. the 7 Shadow Riders, who were all adults.
  • Kill Sat: Prince Ojin holds the control keys to one, and loses it to Sartorius in a Duel.
  • Kirk Summation: Seemingly every episode of Season 2, to the point where they ultimately lampshaded it when Jaden rolled it out against the Big Bad.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": When Jaden meets Yugi again in the final episodes, he is nearly awestruck. At this point, Jaden had saved the world four times and could probably destroy it himself if he felt like it. But then again... it's frickin' Yugi!
  • Knight Templar: Sartorius, who believes he's doing the right thing in bringing humanity "into the light".
  • Kryptonite Factor: Destiny Hero - Plasma/Bloo-D, when paired with D - Force (a card that puts itself on top of the owner's deck to enable Plasma's effects), is nearly invincible, negating all of the opponent's monster effects while becoming immune to their Spells and Traps. Aster defeats it using Destiny Hero - Dark Angel, a monster whose primary effect is to discard itself and put itself on top of the opponent's deck, an effect specifically designed by his late father to counter Plasma by shutting off D - Force and rendering it vulnerable.
  • Kudzu Plot: There are quite a lot of plot elements that get left unresolved, most notably the Abandoned Dorm. Or maybe they were resolved.
    • One that stands out is way back in Season 2 during the battles against Shadow Riders, Bastion obtains a card that Contains a Duel Spirit, but it holds no significance after that scene.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The show is set 10 years after the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series, but when we finally see Kaiba, his character art is exactly the same. Sartorius possessed by the Light Of Destruction meets him and remarks "It's true, you haven't aged in years".
  • Laser Blade: The "Elemental Sword" card, which depending on your point of view, was either thankfully or unfortunately used only twice.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Society of Light and the Light of Ruin. The Neo-Spacians emphasize the fact that regardless of good or evil intentions, it's really bad for either Light or Dark to completely destroy the other.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Even if the students who wear uniforms are considered exceptions, there are still: characters who aren't students, like teachers, who wear the same clothes; students like Chazz and Aster who don't wear uniforms but still wear the same clothes; and students, like Zane, who graduate but continue to wear their uniform!
    • Lampshaded by Aster, who actually has a whole closet full of clothes. They're just all identical.
    • Chazz wears the same clothes: it's made fairly plain that his black North Academy uniform is the only one he has. And he never washes it. Ew.
    • Jesse has one main outfit, a modification of the Obelisk Blue uniform ... which he wears before coming to Duel Academy, and possibly even before starting at North Academy (which has a different uniform to begin with).
  • Literal Genie: Yubel, who grants Professor Viper's wish of being reunited with his son after he fails to complete his end of the bargain... by killing him. Overlaps with You Have Failed Me, but it's doubtful Yubel would have spared him either way.
  • MacGuffin: The keys to release the Sacred Beasts in Season 1 and the 2 Satellite Keys for the Kill Sat in Season 2.
  • Magical Queer: Ignore the gay bit, and Atticus IS this trope. And if you want to Have a Gay Old Time, you could argue the title still fits him pretty well.
  • Magic Skirt: In spite of their incredible shortness. This would be the girls' uniform, by the way.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: This is apparently not only an inherent magic power some have, but a skill you can learn, and more than one duelist sold their soul to a Duel Monsters spirit to gain this power.
    • Adrian gets a special mention for his ridiculous starting hand in his last duel with Yubel: four Exodia parts and an alternate win condition that he can use to complete Exodia anyway if he loses them, which he does.
    • In particular, Bastion Misawa’s apparently CALCULATED said equation; but prefers to rely on his own dueling skills.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: A villainous example in Season 1, the 7 Shadow Riders sent to Duel Academy to acquire the keys to release the Sacred Beasts. Played straight with the 7 students and teachers chosen to defend them.
  • Male Gaze: Surprisingly for a shounen anime, a lot of male bodies are on the receiving end of this. Though Asuka may have a prominent bust, not only is there plenty of chest in the series, but most of the ass shots in this series are male, with most of those on male monsters. And then some of those are on animalistic male monsters...
  • Manipulating the Opponent's Deck: Jaden at one point duels the pro-duelist Howard X Miller, whose name is even a pun on 'mill'. As his name suggests, his deck revolves around using Monster Register to force his opponent to discard cards each turn while stalling with spell and trap cards.
  • Mark of the Beast: Syrus, to an extent, in Season 3 representing his doubt of Jaden.
  • Mass Teleportation: Yubel teleports the entire Duel Academy to a different dimension in Season 3.
  • Meaningful Name: An interesting example is Juudai's (Jaden's Japanese) given name. The kanji it's rendered with translate as "teenager," but a different set of kanji with the same pronunciation mean "warrior"—reflecting first his personality in the first portion of canon, and then the role he takes later on as the universe's defender. (And the fact that his signature monsters are Warrior-Types.)
    • The dub gives Chazz and Alexis university-themed surnames. Princeton is an Ivy League school commonly stereotyped as snobbish, while Rhodes refers to the Rhodes Scholarship for studying in Oxford, the most prestigious scholarship in the world.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Lyman Banner, though he became Jaden's Spirit Advisor after he died.
  • Merchandise-Driven: To a point even fans of the original series complained. Jaden's deck uses an archetype built entirely around fusion, so in any given match, Jaden is likely to either introduce a new Elemental Hero, or just fuse a different combination of Heroes to make one. While Yugi has only had 2 of his cards be cover cards (shown on the packaging, and usually one of the rarer cards in the set) in a booster pack, Jaden has had 5.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Yusuke Fujiwara
  • Mind Screw: Most of Season 4.
  • Moment Killer: Jaden/Alexis shippers were dealt a hard blow in the fourth season.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: A variation. Yubel doesn't murder Jesse, they just possess him.
  • Mukokuseki: Averted with Axel, who at least gets an attempt at actual black features.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jaden, after being freed from his Superpowered Evil Side, still has the memories of the atrocities he's committed and is initially terrified of trying to Fusion Summon.
  • My Greatest Failure: Jaden, as part of his Deconstruction as The Ace.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Professor Cobra/Viper. Lampshaded in the dub.
  • Necromantic: Professor Viper's motive for working with Yubel is a chance to revive his dead son.
  • Nested Mouths: Uria and Saint Dragon have different forms of this.
  • Never Say "Die": The dubbed version of Season 3 replaces all references to death with awkward-sounding term "sent to the stars", though death was still heavily implied. They also kept all implications of Zane's fatal heart condition, surprisingly. This was probably helped by the fact that none of Jaden's actual friends were really dead anyway. Adrian, Echo, and anyone else who Jaden didn't care for? They're dead...
    • Zane does actually die; his heart actually stops. But he just reappears in Season 4 alive but still with his fatal heart condition, with no explanation given as to how he's alive even though we clearly saw him die in the previous season.
  • Next Tier Power-Up: Jaden's Neos Deck in Season 2, his powers as The Supreme King in Season 3, and his merger with Yubel. Zane's Cyberdarks also count.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Brron believes that he can defeat Jaden by killing off his friends and causing him to lose all hope. This doesn't work out too well.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Adrian's ace card in the later part of season 3, Exodius the Ultimate Forbidden Lord, can't be destroyed by battle and is unaffected by the opponent's card effects, making it extremely hard to deal with. Keyword here is "the opponent's" - Yubel unveils a second effect of Armityle that shifts control of it to Adrian's field for one turn before banishing everything, meaning it's no longer "the opponent's" card when the removal effect goes off and thus defeats Exodius.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Played With when Zane starts Pro-dueling in season 2; In Duel Academy, he was the undisputed best duelist, with Jaden barely etching out a tie during his graduation duel, and had it not been for his opponent cheating he would have easily taken care of most Shadow Riders as well. Once Zane joins the big leagues, he at first continues his winning streak, but once he comes face-to-face with Aster Phoenix- the fourth best duelist in the world, and the absolute best currently still active- he suffers a humiliating defeat that shatters his confidence and causes him to believe he never was anything but this trope, resulting in a major losing streak that drops him from major to minor leagues and eventually forces him to make a living in underground dueling. It's then subverted when he has an ephiphany (of sorts) in said underground ring, reinvents himself, and quickly becomes one of the best duelists around again.
  • Not Brainwashed: Atticus brings back Nightshroud and his Red-Eyes deck in an attempt to perform a "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight on Dark Zane. To his surprise, Zane's not under any form of mind control unlike almost everyone else.
  • No Body Left Behind: Anyone who dies in Season 3 get returned to the real world perfectly fine once the conflict is resolved.
  • Official Couple: Adrian and Echo are the first characters in the franchise to outright profess love for each other.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Jaden's reaction upon realizing he's dueling Birdman to the death in the alternate dimension and that the pain is real. One fansub renders it as "Shit, I'm going to die".
    • We're explicitly shown the moment when O'Brien realises his fatal mistake against Trueman just a second too late.
  • Old Beggar Test: After Chazz left Duel Academy in disgust after a second humiliating loss to Bastion, he ended up shipwrecked and near North Academy, Duel Academy's rival school, which was situated in an arctic tundra. He was told by a disheveled man by the door that they wouldn't let anyone in without a full deck of 40 cards, and there were cards hidden around the area; he himself had found 39, but was too exhausted to keep looking. Because the man refuses to sell them, Chazz goes out and searches for his own, finding forty of them; but when he fears the man might freeze to death, he gives him one so he can go in (fibbing and saying he has 41). When the man goes in, Chazz wonders what he's going to do now; and suddenly he sees another card, which later becomes essential to winning a duel later in the episode. He later finds out that this was a Secret Test of Character; the guy was North Academy's chancellor.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Light of Destruction is this by default and tried to use a Kill Sat to destroy the planet in Season 2. Yubel tries to destroy the 12 dimensions in Season 3.
  • Only I Can Kill Him: This is lampshaded repeatedly in Season 3, where other characters step in when Jaden tries to duel Mooks and remind him that he has to save his strength to face the person pulling the strings.
  • One Turn Kill: Sartorius against Ojin in Season 2. Actually, he won before his first turn, causing Bastion to declare it a "Zero Turn Kill". Chazz pulls off a more traditional example against a zombie student in Season 3 (not that it helped).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Kaiser" Ryo Marufuji, whose first name is barely ever mentioned. Not so in the dub, where Zane simply goes by his real name.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: The Duel Monster Spirits.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Duel Zombies (Duel Ghouls in the dub) in Season 3 as a result of duelists losing their duel energy from the bio bands. Those turned into Duel Ghouls include Chazz, Syrus, Fonda Fontaine, Crowler, Bonaparte, and the majority of Duel Academy when the school is sent to the different dimension by Yubel.
  • Papa Wolf: Of all people, Crowler slips into this during one arc. He instantly steps in to duel a vampiric enemy saying something alone the lines of "What kind of teacher would I be if I allowed my students to be harmed?" Despite losing, it was still one of the few truly good things he does in the series.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: There was apparently a sale at the generic gray cloak shop during Season 3. Alexis also fails to recognize her brother in Season 1, despite his only disguise being a mask.
  • Parental Abandonment: Chumley's father is the only one we ever see or hear mentioned in the series; the other closest thing to a parental unit the main cast has is Chazz's much older (and politically and industrially successful) brothers. In fact, it was Jaden's Parental Abandonment that gave rise to the seeds of his obsession with dueling.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: Used in Season 1, where Syrus is shown to love Dark Magician Girl this way. It's played for laughs.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: Sartorius fails at brainwashing Jaden. Instead, he loses the ability to see Duel Monster spirits and his cards. He gets better.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Zane and Alexis in Season 1.
  • Plot Detour: Several times. Averted in Season 3.
  • Poor, Predictable Rock: Several characters often make use of the same strategies over and over again, and when the time comes their predictability isn't forgiven. But what the series really makes interesting is the subversion of this trope when a character experiences Character Development and throws their old strategies out the window. When Sheppard dueled Zane to "save him", he used Cyber End Dragon against Zane himself, thinking Zane would reclaim his favorite monster, but that simply lead to Shoot the Dog. A brainwashed Chazz dueled Alexis, he revealed his own hand and used his normal cards in unorthodox methods to achieve a win, even though Alexis had a plan for every scenario. What does the Supreme King duel with, even though everyone knows Jaden's deck? New Evil Hero monsters...
  • Portal Pool: Used once to allow Jaden to duel Kaibaman.
  • Press Start to Game Over: Sartorius achieves a zero turn kill against Prince Ojin by using cards that can be activated from the hand during the opponent's turn to win before his own first turn ever begins.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The storyline of Season 3 is about Jaden going from All-Loving Hero to Evil Overlord because of the Deconstruction of Leeroy Jenkins, up to mid season. Then he experiences a Heroic BSoD for the second half that leads to Must Make Amends to save everyone from Yubel.
  • Punny Name: Copious amounts in the dub, though the original isn't devoid of it. Including most episode titles.
    • One such name is "Howard X Miller"— a reference to "milling," a strategy in trading card games wherein you win by making your opponent run out of available cards. Guess what kind of deck he plays.
    • Yubel's name may be a Japanese pronunciation of the German "juwel" (pronounced "you-vell," with b/v pronounced the same in Japanese), meaning "jewel" or "gem".
      • Also consider that Yubel's name can be related back to both "Jubel", meaning "happy", and "Übel", meaning evil. "Happiness from evil"...?
  • Purposely Overpowered: Camula's Illusion Gate. Like Raigeki, it destroys all monsters on the opponent's side of the field, but it also allows the user to steal one of the destroyed monsters to their side of the field. Its only cost is external to the game in a way similar to The Seal of Orichalcos: it requires the user to offer a soul, which gets claimed if they win, but if they lose, the user's soul is taken instead. The only reason the card exists is as a Diabolus ex Machina to force Zane to lose with a Sadistic Choice between his soul or Syrus's.
  • Put on a Bus: Chumley leaves to work at Industrial Illusions at the end of the first season (cameoing in Season 2); Bastion leaving to work on a theory in Season 2 (returning in Season 3, only to get Put on a Bus again). Possibly even Atticus between Season 2 and 3 (returns with no explanation after Duel Academy is transported back from the alternate dimension in episode 131, only to be 'killed' off). The Foreign Champions return to their schools in Season 4.
  • Putto: "Cupid's Kiss" is an equip spell-card used by Blair Flannigan in her duel against Jaden in Episode 20. The card is equipped onto "Maiden of Love", protecting the monster from being destroyed but still allows battle damage. The effect of this card then activates, allowing Blair to take control of "Avian". Later "Maiden in Love" attacks "Elemental HERO Sparkman". Due to the effect of "Maiden in Love", it is not destroyed, but Blair still takes Battle Damage. The effect of this card then activates, allowing Blair to take control of "Sparkman". The card itself is just an illustration of a blond-haired winged-cherub wearing white gauze for pants and wielding a bow with a heart-shaped arrow.

    R - S 
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • When Dimitri banishes a LIGHT and a DARK monster from his Graveyard, Bastion recalls the Envoys which can be Summoned this way. He mentions that Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End is so strong that it was forbidden from tournament play, and it certainly was banned in real life at the time.
    • Pot of Greed was used during nearly every episode of the first two seasons. Then it was banned in real life in 2006 and has been ever since, and the duelists in the show stopped using it too.
    • The same can be said for Graceful Charity, another staple card. After Episode 132 it isn’t used anymore because the card became Forbidden in the real game and has been ever since 2007. Interestingly, its final use aired AFTER it became forbidden in both English and Japanese.
    • Metamorphosis was also banned in 2007. Its final use was in episode 80; its final appearance was episode 116.
    • Mirage of Nightmare has been banned since 2005. Its final use in the anime was in episode 30. In Japan, it aired one month after it was banned in the OCG and the very month it got banned in the TCG.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jaden gets his share of these having to do with his lack of serious motivation, first from Aster, then Sartorius, then constantly in Season 3 until he goes over the edge. His duel with Brron is full of them, mostly from his friends.
  • Recap Episode: A total of three episodes are recap episodes.
  • Red Herring Twist: The Abandoned Dorm, though it was partially resolved.
  • Red Shirt: Most of Duel Academy in Season 3.
  • Reincarnation: Jaden gets a glimpse of his past life.
  • Reset Button: The end of Season 3.
  • Rescue Arc: The latter half of Season 3 is concerned with the characters trying to find Jesse in the different dimension.
  • Ret-Gone: Part of Darkness' Assimilation Plot.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Winged Kuriboh and Ruby Carbuncle, among others.
  • Rivals Team Up: Jaden and Aster in Season 2, and Jaden and Jesse in Season 3 and 4.
  • Running Gag: In the Japanese version, people forgetting Bastion's in the room, which becomes a big sore point for him in the second season.
  • Satellite Family Member: Jun Manjoume/Chazz Princeton's older brothers, who look to control the world with their family's finances and influence, with Jun being poised to do so using Duel Monsters. They however only make these appearances during Jun's character arcs in Season 1, where he is trying to step out of their shadows. After the first season, the antagonistic brothers are never seen again, as Jun grows to become a respected duelist in his own right without needing his family's influence.
  • Save Our Students: Jaden does for Duel Academy in Season 4, and the rest of the world apparently.
  • Secretly Dying: Zane in Season 3 from all the underground duels the previous season. (Except it was later revealed to be the work of his evil deck instead of the Electric Torture.)
  • Screw Destiny: Jaden and co. greatly oppose the destiny that Sartorius has envisioned in season 2.
  • Sculpted Physique: The various machine/organic fused mons.
  • Send in the Search Team: Jaden and friends go to the different dimension to search for Jesse who was left behind.
  • Serious Business: It's Yu-Gi-Oh!, so this is a given. But even then, "Attack Point Quantum Mechanics?"
  • Shoot the Dog: When Aster's about to win their duel, DD reveals that his monster has his father's soul trapped inside, trying to scare him out of attacking. Partly because his father asks him to free him, and partly since he's the Anti-Hero, it doesn't work, and Aster attacks.
  • Shout-Out: Every single Elemental Hero Jaden uses is based off of a comic book superhero (with Elemental Hero Neos being based off of Guyver as the only exception), while almost every single Destiny Hero is based off of a British hero (or, in some cases, hero/villain — Destiny Hero Double Dude Guy, for example, is notably based off of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).
    • Similarly, Syrus' Solidroid monster Super Vehicroid Stealth Union is a clear reference to GaoGaiGar.
    • The Supreme King's outfit, is quite similiar to Lelouch's Zero Outfit in Code Geass. The color scheme and the cowl that goes with it is too similar to be a coincidence.
    • Ruby Carbuncle is based on the Carbuncle summon from the Final Fantasy series.
    • There are a lot of similarities between GX Season 3 and a Super Nintendo game called Illusion of Gaia. Just a few of them (listing them all could take a page all its own!):
      • General Freed > Freedan, the Dark Knight (whose armour resembles The Supreme King's)
      • The Light of Destruction makes Yubel evil > The Light of Ruin turns men into twisted creatures, reflecting the darkness in their hearts.
      • Jaden and Yubel fusing in Season 3 and going to fight the Light > Kara, the "Light Knight," and Will, the "Dark Knight," fuse together to fight the Comet of Destruction that brings the Light of Ruin.
      • The Supreme King and Jaden are actually the same person > Will and Freedan are actually the same person.
      • Jaden and Jesse can see spirits -> Will and Kara (who swears she feels like she met Will before) can see spirits.
      • The Jeweler Gem has a special gift for "the chosen one" who collects all 50 Red Jewels.
      • The location for Jaden vs. Yubel strongly resembles the battlefield for the Fused Knight/Shadow vs. Dark Gaia (the embodiment of the Light of Ruin).
      • Dark Gaia and Light Gaia both bear a resemblance to Yubel.
      • One of Supreme King Jaden's strongest monsters is out-right called "E-HERO Dark Gaia".
      • In the first save point (all save points appear to be in outer space): "Only the chosen one of Darkness can see this space."
      • There's a mysterious character—the only one with no backstory, as it happens—named "The Jeweler Gem."
      • The game begins and ends in a school classroom.
      • The character "Lilly" resembles Jesse in appearance.
      • Some settings in the Freejia/Diamond Mine section of the game strongly resemble settings in Dark World.
      • Other settings in Freejia resemble the street Jesse's on in the flashback with Tom.
    • Vampire Camula is a walking Shout-Out to Castlevania. Plus, she sort of looks like Morrigan.
    • Asuka's foil is named Rei. Also she disguised herself as a boy with last name being Saotome.
    • During Season 3 of the dubbed version, there's a duel with a teacher named Mr. Stein who talks in complete monotone.
    • In Episode 4 of the English dub, when Jaden is helping out a women whose car has broken down, he says, "Never fear, Jaden's here!"
      • When she asks him if he's from the auto club, he replies, "Don't let the red jacket fool you. I'm just your average good deed dude".
    • In the dub we get Destiny Hero: Captain Tenacious.
    • After the Light Of Destruction is destroyed, Jaden's Duel Spirit Elemental Hero Neos tells Jaden to tell Hassleberry thanks for his help (as Hasselberry can't see or hear Neos). Hasselberry says, "tell your alien friend 'Nanu Nanu' right back at ya".
    • In the dubbed version, Abidos III has apparently traveled through the Time Vortex to get to the academy in the 21st century, as he encourages Jaden to 'find a Time Vortex warping loophole'.
    • Rainbow Neos looks very similar to RahXephon.
    • The dub has various monsters be voiced with celebrity impressions. Crystal Beast Emerald Turtle is given a Woody Allen impersonation, for that, and as a nod to another turtle who sounds like Woody Allen.
    • Along with the Crystal Beasts, Don Zaloog of the Dark Scorpions is given a Christopher Walken impression.
    • To list the other Crystal Beast dub impressions:
    • In the English dub of Season 3 Episode 16. Bonaparte and Crowler spot something up in the sky and argue over whether it's a bird or a plane.
  • Silly Prayer: One early episode begins with Sho praying to a poster of Osiris the Sky Dragon for good grades on an upcoming exam.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: It disappears during Season 3 of the dub. Thanks, LittleKuriboh!
  • Smurfette Principle: Out of the main(ish) characters, Alexis is the only female (see this page's picture).
    • This principle applies to the Elemental Heroes too—Burstinatrix is the only feminine monster out of them all.
  • So Last Season:
    • In early Season 2, Aster handily defeats Zane and Jaden. Noted because the grand finale duel was set between Zane's Cyber Dragon deck and Jaden's Elemental Hero deck, which Aster had them beat with his own newer Elemental/Destiny Heroes.
    • Subverted in Season 3 when the Sacred Beasts come back into the plot. Despite having acquired his Neos deck in Season 2 and rolling out more advanced cards that season, Jaden isn't confident facing the Sacred Beasts again without the plot device card that allowed him to triumph last time.
    • This is a sight gag in Season 1. In the episode where Chazz has to duel his brother with the condition that all his monsters have to have less than 500 ATK, he goes to build a new deck from a well of abandoned cards. One of them? Relinquished, Pegasus's ace monster from the original series.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: Jaden was probably wondering this a lot in Season 4 before Trueman showed up.
  • Sparkling Stream of Tears: Yubel, during their duel with Jaden, when they ask how they're supposed to survive if he doesn't love them. They also cry facing Adrian.
  • Specifically Numbered Group: The "Seven Stars Assassins" consist of seven Duelists whose goal is to retrieve the seven Spirit Keys from their guardians. Although, the concept of each member of the Seven Stars facing each of the seven guardians is pretty much thrown away, as soon as multiple of the guardians keep losing to the best members of the Seven Stars. Three members of the Seven Stars and end up dueling multiple guardians individually, and three of the guardians also end up dueling multiple members of the Seven Stars (Judai defeats five of them himself). The fact that the seventh of the Seven Stars and the seventh guardian are the same person makes it even more complicated. Furthermore, while the group was form and assigned to retrieve the seven Spirit Keys, the reason was actually arbitrary, since they were just pawns used to generate enough Duel Energy to awaken the Sangenma, and the Spirit Keys were just an excuse to give the characters a reason to duel for, just as Kagemaru planned.
  • Spirited Competitor: Jaden. Zane also steps into this about halfway through Season 3 where before he had turned into something of a Blood Knight. With card games.
  • Spirit World: Referenced often enough and then becomes the main setting of Season 3.
  • Split Personality Take Over: Jaden, with his Superpowered Evil Side.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The foreign champions in Season 3. The dub makes fun of this, mostly though Syrus, who is aware he's been replaced as the second most important character by Jesse and is quite resentful of this fact.
  • Super Natural Gold Eyes: The Supreme King has them and when Jaden taps into his power later on, his eyes shift to them.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: The Supreme King, to Jaden.

    T - Z 
  • Take a Third Option: Jaden decides to fuse his soul with Yubel's to end the conflict in Season 3.
  • Technician/Performer Team-Up: Series protagonist Jaden/Judai Yuki leans very highly towards the performer side in his dueling, who makes a big spectacle out of his duels and having fun. This contrasts him with Aster/Edo Phoenix, the professional rival duelist introduced in Season 2, who treats the game and his profession seriously, having a rather technical dueling style that carries an efficient strategy in order to win. Late into the second season, the two are forced to compete in a Tag Team duel against Mizuchi Saiou/Sarina Kumar. While their two dueling strategies clash at first, the two are able to pull off a comeback thanks to Aster loosening up and allowing himself to have fun like Jaden, while also lending him one of his cards that end up being a critical part of their victory.
  • Technician Versus Performer: There are plenty of technician duelists to contrast against Jaden, whose own dueling style is based on having fun and making a big spectacle and comeback. These include Bastion Misawa, Zane Truesdale, Aster Phoenix, along with several other Villain of the Week duelists who employ technically sound strategies against Jaden. When Jaden tries dueling with a technical strategy against Zane in the first part of the Season 1 Finale, he ends up actually struggling to reconcile his playstyles, eventually leading to Jaden the usual way in the second part after a small revelation.
  • Tempting Fate: Anyone who says "my victory has already been decided" has a 100% chance of losing by the time their next turn would have rolled around. This goes double if they use a card that takes effect on their next turn, or puts a specific card on top of their deck for them to draw next turn.
  • That Wasn't a Request:
    Adrian: Come with me, Echo.
    Echo: I don't want to go with you, you're scaring me.
    Adrian: That wasn't a request!
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: If Crowler isn't the one who's trying to demolish the Slifer Red Dorm, you can be sure he'll defend it.
  • Thirsty Desert: Duel Academy is sent to another dimension with this setting in Season 3.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: Zane Truesdale, after becoming Dark Zane, has been dueling with Shock Collars since he was forced to use them in the underground dueling arena. After numerous duels with them, he's gotten used to wearing them and doesn't feel the same sort of excitement without them.
  • Third-Person Person: If a character refers to Manjoume without the -san honorific, he's likely to correct them with "Manjoume-san da!" which, loosely translated, means "That's Manjoume-san to you!" This is retained in the dub, where Chazz insists to be called "The Chazz".
    • Also an instance of Punny Name, since his nickname in the Japanese show is "Manjoume Thunder," with "Thunder" being pronounced sandaa.
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Bastion and Jaden in Season 1.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Everyone looks tiny next to Tania, even Bastion (who had a larger build than most of the other characters to begin with).
  • Tournament Arc: The Genex Tournament in the second half of Season 2. Although this tournament isn't the highlight of the plot.
  • Trapped in Another World: In Season 3, it's revealed all of Jaden's friends believed to be dead were actually sent to another dimension by Yubel.
  • True Companions: Upon learning that he was used to brainwash members into the Society of Light, Aster questions Sartorius if their friendship was real or not, and Sartorius responds that their meeting was predetermined by destiny and whatever purpose Aster served was exactly that. Later on, Aster attempts to save Sartorius from the Light of Destruction and has a discussion with the real Sartorius, who apologizes for being a puppet of destiny and deceiving his Only Friend in hopes that he may one day save him from his demise, but Aster admits he really does consider Sartorius a friend and does want to save him. Regardless of whatever Sartorius has done to setup their predetermined meeting, their friendship has been genuine the whole time.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Bastion reveals Jaden and the Supreme King are the same person.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Jaden receives half a pendant from the Gravekeeper's Chief, and is told the other half was taken by another duelist long ago. Jaden finds out this is Alexis' brother Atticus, one of the Shadow Riders. When he defeats Atticus and claims the other half, he forms an amulet that protects him from the shadow powers of the subsequent Riders.
  • Uncertain Doom: Zane's last move against Mad Dog generates a massive explosion and a very possibly lethal electric shock. Mad Dog gets blasted through the steel bars of the cage and lies on the ground, smoking. He does not move and is never seen again.
  • The Unfought: The Super Polymerization card in Season 3 is involved in a lot of buildup as the villains intend to use it to Summon terrifying monsters, but the card's execution would be sabotaged to keep the payoff from being seen on-screen. Of note is "Colorless, Chaos King of Dark World," whose only revealed details are his Level and Materials, leaving players to theorize what he could have been until he was finally given form in the real-life card game many years later.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them:
    • In Pegasus's Triangle Duel against Cronos/Crowler and Napoleon/Bonaparte, he uses a card called Comic Hand to take control of Cronos's Ancient Gear Golem, turning it into Toon Ancient Gear Golem. Then he uses Mimicat to copy Cronos's Ancient Gear Explosive. The Explosive takes out Napoleon and the Golem takes out Cronos.
    • Judai/Jaden inverts this in Season 2 against Pro Duelist X, who runs a Deck Destruction Deck by planting his Neo-Spacian Glow Moss on X's side of the Field. Its secondary (anime-only) effect allows him to Deck Out X instead.
  • Victory Is Boring: In Season 2, Zane spends the season winning as many duels as possible simply because he only finds pleasure from winning duels. He later grows tired of the Genex tournament because there is no one there to provide a challenge. This sets him up for next season searching for a Worthy Opponent to provide the perfect duel.
  • Vigilante Man: Aster Phoenix in Season 2 to find his father's murderer who held the Ultimate D card.
  • The Virus: The Light of Destruction. It starts out infecting the Ultimate D card, then affects The D and Sartorius through it, then Sartorius tries to spread it across the world, and that's before the reveal that it also found its way into Yubel.
  • Vocal Dissonance: At least in the English dub, Mad Dog (a muscular guy) has a high-pitched and childish voice.
    • Johan is voiced by a female seiyuu in the Japanese version, leading you to wonder why the animators thought that a tall and handsome character should have a feminine voice.
    • In episode 24 in the dub, Kyle, a student at North Academy, has the voice of an 8 year old.
  • Warrior Therapist: Jaden believes dueling can solve anything. Anything. He's often right... And the fact that he's often right comes back to bite him in the ass, painfully so.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Aster Phoenix, who goes to extremes to fight crime (through dueling) and find the culprit who killed his father.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Actually, they named the monkey Wheeler. And you just know Kaiba had a say in that.
  • Winged Unicorn: Jesse's Sapphire Pegasus.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?
    Axel: There's no way he'll attack head on.
    Jaden: Battle! Featherman, direct attack!
  • The Worf Effect: Chazz, thought not to the extent of his predecessor Kaiba.
    • When the exchange students from the other Duel Academies arrive, protagonists such as Hassleberry also get defeated to show the caliber of the overseas Duelists.
  • World of Snark: The dub has much, much snarkier dialogue than the original. Especially noticeable in filler duels, where every other comment is bound to be sarcastic.
  • Yandere: Yubel is a particularly extreme example for Jaden, dragging an entire season's worth of characters and several alternate dimensions into it.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: The second ending, Wake up your Heart, ends with one of these, showing Judai jumping alongside his Elemental Heroes (and Hero Kids). This was later turned into an actual card (sans Judai): Wake Up Your Elemental HERO.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Jaden convinces everyone trapped by Darkness to break free from the Lotus-Eater Machine by restoring their faith in themselves, while at the same time accepting his past mistakes as the Supreme King and moving on.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This trope comes into play a lot in season 2, where Sartorius firmly believes that destiny can't be changed.
  • You Meddling Kids: Said by Viper in episode 114 when his plan to blackmail Jaden into losing a duel with the threat of Alexis drowning gets foiled.

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Birth of the Supreme King

Jaden is broken by the loss of his friends and gives into the darkness overwhelming him.

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