TAKAHASHI Kazuki (original concept), ITO Akira (story/art)
Shounen – Fantasy, adventure, action
5 Volumes (complete)
Yugi has always had an interest in games and puzzles. But one thing has stumped him for eight years: the Millennium Puzzle. It is said that whoever solves this puzzle will be given a strange power. But solving the puzzle turns out to be only the first challenge Yugi will face.
Lots of anime (and Western media as well) often go back and make additional adventures set before the ending to give fans one more chance to spend time with the full cast before any split-ups. Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a perfect example. Well, it’s unusual for a manga series to go back later and add in a filler or missing arc. It’s even more unusual for another artist to draw it!
So, in a situation like this, you may be wondering two things: is this canon, and where does it fit in the canon storyline?
Well, the second part is easy to answer. Yu-Gi-Oh! R is a short series that takes place after the Battle City arc but before the memories arc. So readers could stop after Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist, read this, and go back to Millennium World without spoiling anything. The first question is a little harder for me. I did not immediately read Yu-Gi-Oh! before this, so I can’t be absolutely certain. However, from what I remember, there doesn’t seem to be anything here that goes against canon. With Ito being a former assistant of Takahashi’s, this feels similar to the original. So even if it’s not fully canon, Yu-Gi-Oh! R is close enough to not feel like an officially sanctioned bad fanfic.
Anyway, one day, Yugi and his friends discover Anzu has been kidnapped, and they need to fight a tower full of high-level Duel Monster players in order to defeat the mastermind, a protege of Pegasus’ who is intent on getting revenge. Jounouchi and Honda eventually separate from Yugi; meanwhile, the Kaiba brothers are far from happy that their company and technology have been hijacked by outsiders.
In short, Yu-Gi-Oh! fans should feel right at home.
My biggest disappointment is the duels themselves. Even with the final volume clocking it at nearly twice the normal manga page count, there are simply too many of them for a series like this. Most of the series is just rotating between Yugi and Jounouchi duels. I think the number of Card Professors could have been cut from its dozen or so members to make the battles a little longer. There are some neat decks a few interesting Duelists, but I wish there were a few more rounds in each Duel. Since each player only has 4,000 LP, direct attacks are heavily used to drive the heroes to the brink rather quickly. Readers of the original will recognize some familiar cards and strategies, but there are a few surprises here and there to not make this a complete rehash of Battle City. I also applaud Ito for including some uncommon Duelists. Again, had the number of Card Professors been reduced, we could have spent more time with them and remind the characters that all kinds of people love games.
If you’ve followed the Battle City arc (and, if you’re interested in R, you should), you will know that Yugi has received some powerful cards as a result. The Duel Monsters showdowns don’t always turn into him summoning those ultra-rare monsters, and even if he wanted to, his main opponent has some super-rare cards of his own. This part feels a little fanfic-y, as yet again Pegasus has some cards that he worried were too powerful.
The theme of friendship continues to shine. Everyone is frantically trying to rescue Anzu, and the relationship between the two Yugis is always a treat. Unfortunately, some of the other significant secondary characters don’t make an appearance. As for the main group, Anzu is, of course, tied up, so she’s a literal damsel-in-distress here. Honda, meanwhile, continues to be just along for the ride, and outside of punching some villains, an extra arc like this might have been the time for him to prove he’s not just a guy who wanders around with champion-level card players (and Anzu).
Instead, the manga features on a new main villain and a returning antagonist, and Yugi is joined by a new ally as he climbs up the tower. As you might expect, this character has a connection with the mastermind behind this whole affair, and it feels very similar to relationships in previous arcs. I do think the manga should have had more people point out that although Pegasus is gone, it’s not as if he hasn’t done some bad things himself — Millennium Eye or not. Otherwise, this manga is a series of climbing up, playing card games, and moving on to the next.
As for the art, the style is much closer than many other works where a different artist takes over.
The original often has its rough patches considering this was Takahashi’s first (and still only) major work, and that works in R‘s favor. Expressions are usually dead-on, but when they aren’t, it’s not a big deal since Yu-Gi-Oh! isn’t perfect either. In fact, Ito’s art looks closer to the main series than some of Takahashi’s more recent drawings of Yugi and the gang. You won’t be doing a double-take and going, “Is that supposed to be so-and-so?!” because they still look like the visuals we know. So while it’s not Takahashi, Ito puts up a very good imitation. The only thing, as I mentioned before, is that it can feel incredibly rushed at points.
Most of the style is kept as the same as the main Yu-Gi-Oh! So the white-haired villain’s name is Maximilian Pegasus instead of Pegasus J. Crawford, but it’s Anzu instead of Téa. A list of card names in both English and Japanese are at the end of the book, although the official English names are used in the manga itself. I recognized this was done by the person who worked on the later volumes of Yu-Gi-Oh!, as some particular speech patterns return. Like the original, the script seems altered in places to add extra insults and the like.
Yu-Gi-Oh! R is pretty much what most people think of when they think of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! (card battles and friendship), but that works in a short midquel like this. It may not be overly exciting or reveal a whole lot of new information, but it gives fans an extra chance to see the King of Games and company. Most importantly, it doesn’t step on the main series’ toes; in fact, it finds ways to connect the latter two arcs of the main series.
Viz has published several Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. The Duel Monsters anime is available on Crunchyroll. Ito helped co-create Cardfight!! Vanguard and drew the manga, which is available from Vertical, Inc.