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The widespread success of Yu-Gi-Oh! in North America mirrors other smash hits like Pokémon and Digimon.  It’s not just a television series, it’s a complete marketing monster geared at the younger market.  And just like its brothers-in-arms, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been distilled into a weaker and less weighty version so that kids can watch it.  Though this is a travesty to most real anime fans, it’s no real loss to the marketers who’ve made millions selling Japanese series as shows, card games, and video games.

Originally created in Japan back in ’96, it didn’t really explode into the Japanese market for a few years.  In fact, Yu-Gi-Oh! is a rare in that it became fashionable and popular at the same time across the world.

The entire anime story arc spans two series.  Series one consisted of a mere 27 episodes.  Series two really broke ground with 224 episodes, bringing the grand total to 343.  Each episode lasts for 30 minutes.  Its television run lasted from early 1998 up till the end of September 2004.

The actual story is about Yugi, a teenager who happens upon a gift from his grandpa that turns out to be a powerful ancient artifact.  He finds out later that it’s the Millennium Puzzle, and allows Yugi to attain crazy powers if he can solve the riddle contained within.  Once he figures it out, he can transform himself into a Duel Monsters player who is unbeatable at his craft.  Make no mistake, Yu-Gi-Oh! is centered on duels between players of a card game (which you can also buy separately).

Another central figure in the story is Sehto Kaiba.  He’s some sort of tycoon who fuels his passion for the card game with his massive fortune.  He takes note of Yugi’s skill and ends up challenging him to a game.  Unfortunately for him, Yugi defeats him easily and Sehto vows revenge.  The rest of the series focuses on their rivalry as Sehto battles him in real life and in the card game.

Later in the story, the originator of the card game (Pegasus) lures Yugi into a huge Duel Monsters tournament at a secluded island.  He achieves this by trapping Yugi’s grandfather in another artifact, the Millennium Eye.  From there Yugi must venture to the tournament to save his grandfather and figure out what exactly the Millennium Puzzle is.

The American dub is significantly weaker than the original anime series.  Fan criticisms have piled up about the poor dubbing and terrible re-editing of sequences with heavy themes.  Like most anime brought to America for syndicated television, it’s not geared towards adults.  Few ever are.  Ah, the kids are all right.  I’ll stick to my action series while the young’uns play card games with each other.