Sunday, September 4, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! (Volumes 1-6)

On September 30th 1996, in Issue #42 of Weekly Shōnen Jump, one of the few comics that Kazuki Takahashi managed to get published in his fifteen year career saw the light of day. Concepts he'd been working on since the start of his career and even before came to light. After years of honing his craft, several failed attempts at getting published, and even a few published comics that didn't go anywhere fast, the first chapter of the biggest series of his entire career was published. A fifty-four page horror comic about a kid with impossible hair and a puzzle. Thus was born one of the biggest franchises of all-time, the legendary juggernaut, Yu-Gi-Oh! Thirty billion plus trading cards printed. Two animated adaptations. Four feature films. Six spinoff series. A novel. Sixty-three video-games ranging all the way back to the original GameBoy. Action-figures, card catalogs, collections of card catalogs, board-games, Heroclix, Dicemasters. Merchandise from every single venue you can possibly think of. We have the twentieth anniversary of the series coming up at the end of the month, and to commemorate that I'm delving into the history of the franchise. This is The History of Yu-Gi-Oh!
Today we're looking at the thing that started it all. The original black and white comic, which paradoxically a lot of fans are likely unfamiliar with.
I will be reviewing the manga out of the 2012 reprinting of the Viz published tankoban (Trade-Paperback) collection from 2003. Further down the line I'm going to get to the bunkoban (Deluxe) edition printings, but not this year, because I don't have them yet.
Looking at those publishing dates, you can tell that this was a series published back in the early days of the Japanese culture boom. Facts that will become even more apparent the further we dig into the franchise. First is the seven year gap between initial publication of the comics in Japan and the introduction in the United States, second is the six year gap between the publication of the TPB's in Japan and their publication in the United States. I can sort of see why they didn't introduce the series internationally for a good long while, since Dragon Ball was still riding high outside the land of the rising sun, while within it the series was wrapping up only a year after Yu-Gi-Oh! debuted. I'm not saying that was the only reason, far from it, but it was likely one of many contributing factors. Another being the complete implosion of the comics industry outside of Japan during the 90's. As well as the fact that black-and-white comics were stereotyped as poorly made for a very long time. Most of the ones that saw any kind of release in the states were monumentally bad, at least until The Walking Dead came along. Plus, why would a kid pick up something that looks so bland when there are colorful comics with their favorite superheroes in them? This isn't just speculation, this was the exact reaction my friends and I had when our library started getting black and white comics in alongside the typical Marvel and DC fare. We learned better later obviously.
As usual, spoilers inbound. Also, for those of you wondering, I'll be referring to the characters by their international names as opposed to their Japanese ones where applicable.
Yu-Gi-Oh! begins rather innocuously, with a kid named Yugi Moto playing a game of Pop-Up Pirate by himself. He wishes to play with others, but he doesn't really have any friends. He takes out a golden box with a puzzle inside to fiddle with it, but Tristan Taylor snatches it away before he can open it. He and Joey Wheeler start tossing it around the room, teasing Yugi before Téa Gardner catches the box and runs the two of them off.
Yugi and Téa start talking about their mutual distaste for basketball before conversation drifts towards the box with the puzzle in it. Yugi shows her the puzzle, and tells her about how his grandfather found it in an Egyptian tomb, and how the writing on the box says that whoever solves the puzzle will be granted a wish. Yugi laments that he's been working on the puzzle for eight years with no progress, but Téa encourages him to keep going.
In the hallway, Joey and Tristan run into the hall-monitor Ushio while discussing bullies. Ushio leaves when Tristan keeps Joey from picking a fight. Apparently Ushio and his gang have taken over the school and run the place. Joey then tosses a piece of Yugi's puzzle out of the window into the pool outside.
Ushio goes to Yugi and tells him that he's going to be Yugi's bodyguard whether he likes it or not. Perplexed, Yugi and Téa go back to the game-store his grandfather owns. There, we meet Solomon Moto, Yugi's grandpa. Solomon mentions that the archaeologists who discovered the puzzle died and their last words were "The Shadow Games."
At school, Yugi finds that Ushio and his gang have beaten Joey and Tristan within an inch of their lives. Naturally horrified by this, Yugi tells them to stop, but Ushio beats them up more. Ushio encourages Yugi to do so, but he refuses. Ushio scoffs and says that Yugi owes him 200,000 yen (About $1,600 USD) for his services. Ushio beats up Yugi and then threatens to stab Yugi if he doesn't pay.
Yugi spends the rest of the day worrying and trying to put together the money to pay off Ushio, but he winds up working on the puzzle, the pattern becoming clear to him, the puzzle coming to him naturally. Until he comes to the end, the last piece. The missing piece. As he despairs, Joey, soaked to the bone gives the last piece to Solomon, who returns the piece to Yugi. Solomon also mentions that Joey told him about the issues with Ushio, and gives Yugi the money he needs to pay him off. Yugi finishes the puzzle, and an eye of Horus begins glowing on his head.
Yugi, now more imposing and confident, tells Ushio that he's upped the ante to 400,000 yen and that he wishes to play a game of courage with the knife. Put the bills on your hand, stab them with the knife, you get to keep the bills you stab. Gotta take more than one bill, and if you try to cheat and take it without stabbing, you forfeit the money to your opponent. Ushio naturally gets greedy, thinking that he can just overwhelm Yugi with sheer strength. Yugi Mind-Crushes Ushio, causing him to see money falling everywhere, and leaves with all the money.
The series continues much in this vein for the next several chapters. Not to say that it's formulaic, it's just mostly episodic, standalone stories. Things happen to set up the villains, Yugi gets involved, bad things happen to bad people, Yami Yugi is the angel of vengeance. Along the way, we see some incredible development of the principle cast, Yami Yugi being a bad-ass, cool concepts for games, and some amazing strategies from Yugi. Sometimes he outright punishes or kills people, other times he just screws up their minds, and sometimes he just wins outright. Yami Yugi is like The Punisher with magic powers, and he plays games. Thing is, Frank Castle wasn't quite this gleeful in his actions. Not quite as sadistic. He never stuck someone with a fate worse than death, not like this. Yami Yugi is a freaking beast. I would love to see an official crossover of him going up against someone like The Joker, or Wilson Fisk. Their encounter might not last very long, but it would be an epic showdown.
Before we move on to the more plot-heavy chapters of the series, I'm going to touch on Chapter 4, which is both important in terms of character development (like anything in this series isn't) but also contains one of the coolest moments in the entire series.
Yugi and Joey are going to get something to eat on the way home, and are headed to Burger World before Téa nervously tells them to go to Calorie Burger instead. Téa says that she can't join them because she's got chores and doesn't want to run into the escaped Prisoner 777 while she's out, and the teachers order them straight home anyways. Yugi and Joey start wondering why Téa acted so strange when they suggested going to Burger World, or why she hasn't been hanging with them lately. They follow her and strangely enough wind up at Burger World. While there, Prisoner 777 shows up demanding alcohol and cigarettes. I don't know what exactly fast-food chains serve in Japan, but I'm almost certain that they don't serve booze and smokes, for no other reason than if there was a McVodka and a McMarlboro in Japan it would be number one on all of these lists. Maybe Takahashi confused it with a convenience store, maybe I don't know jack about how Japan runs their fast-food chains, so if anyone has a clue why a burger chain has Russian vodka and Lucky Strike cigarettes please inform me.
Lucky 7 (This is what I'm calling him from here on out) takes Téa and everyone else in the restaurant hostage until he's had enough to eat and drink. He blindfolds Téa to scare her even more and orders Yugi to bring him cigarettes and alcohol. Téa shouts for him to stay away, but when Lucky 7 slaps her and tells her to shut up, causing Yugi to transform into Yami Yugi and start seriously screwing with the escaped prisoner. Yami Yugi challenges Lucky 7 to a game with only one rule. You can only move one finger. The prisoner chooses his right index finger and Yugi chooses his thumb.
Yugi uses his thumb to light Lucky's cigarette and drops the lighter on the mans hand. The one pouring out the vodka. Yugi yanks Téa away from the table as the cigarette slips from Lucky's lips and sets the man ablaze, burning him alive and establishing Yami Yugi as Téa Gardner's knight in shining armor.
This is by-far one of the most important moments in the series. While the previous chapter had a similar premise, with Yami taking over and beating someone down because someone hurt Yugi and Joey, this chapter introduced Téa's crush on Yami, something which would stay with the series all the way to the end. Plus, while it's really cool to see Yami punishing a corrupt news producer with seeing the world as mosaic, this chapter blurred the lines between Yami Yugi and regular Yugi, something else which would stick with the series up until the very end. Plus, Yugi saw one of his friends, his love-interest even being smacked around by a gun-wielding lunatic and what did he do? He burned the sumbitch alive. You can't say that was all Yami's doing, because while they are to some extent distinct strategists and distinct personalities, they're still inherently intertwined, irrefutably interlinked. Yami might be the driving force, but as the series later proved, Yami doesn't do what Yugi doesn't let him.
In the authors notes, Takahashi mentions how odd he finds the series as opposed to where he started from.The idea was to create a story about the mysterious nature of everyday life. Then it became a horror-comic. Then it became a horror-comic with strategy thrown in. Then it became a gaming-horror comic with ties to ancient Egypt. Then it became all about card games.
Despite the character development and some foreshadowing, there is very little resemblance to an overarching plot for the first eight chapters, until we hit the very first two-parter in the series, The Cards With Teeth. Here we are introduced to Yugi's recurring rival, Seto Kaiba, and the card-game that would come to define not just the series, but the entire franchise, Duel Monsters.
A card game popular in America (ironic) that is picking up some significant steam in Japan, Duel Monsters in its earliest form is much closer to Magic: The Gathering than it is to the current incarnation of the iconic card-game. As such, this version will be almost entirely unfamiliar to casual fans, and seems like what it is, a prototype that eventually led into the final version. There are only two types of cards, spells and monsters, and only one type of monster. In fact, no monster types are visible on the cards.
Eventually, talk drifts to how expensive the game can get, and how good some of the cards are. Solomon shows the gang his rarest card, the Blue Eyes White Dragon. Eventually they start
While they're talking about the game, one of Yugi's classmates, Seto Kaiba, walks into the shop and sees the card. Being a rich son of a bitch and wanting to be the best duelist in the world, Seto Kaiba offers Solomon whatever he wants for that card. Solomon refuses, and Kaiba slinks back into his gaming cave to plot his heist.
Later on Kaiba swaps out the card for a counterfeit, but Yugi catches him in it. Kaiba claims innocence at first before smacking Yugi upside the head with an aluminum briefcase full of Duel Monsters cards and pisses off back to his castle. Naturally, Yami Yugi takes over and challenges Kaiba to a duel.
Yami brings the monsters and the battlefield to life with his otherworldly powers. After some back and forth, Kaiba eventually cheats, and summons his stolen Blue-Eyes White Dragon. However, the monster refuses to attack, because it's not actually Kaiba's monster. It self-destructs, and on his turn, Yami activates Monster Reborn to resurrect the fallen monster. He wipes out Kaiba's life-points and traps him in a repeating illusion of death, returning the Blue-Eyes to Solomon.
The two chapters that follow this are some of the most important chapters in the entire series in terms of characterization and story. You see, "The Wild Gang (Part 1 &2)" delve into Joey Wheeler's back-story and the formation of the person we see throughout the series, from the beginning to the end. Joey lives with his abusive alcoholic father and used to run with a gang in junior-high, before they were split up when they went to different high-schools. A gang who's caught up with him now, and he's trying to play it cool with. At least until Yugi, Tristan and Téa catch up with them and one of the gangers clocks Yugi upside the head. Back at the gangs hideout, Joey knocks the guy out, but the rest of the gang still outnumbers and overpowers him despite his incredible brawling skills.
Tristan, Yugi and Téa manage to track them down to the warehouse the gang calls their base, and find the unconscious gangster. The three split up the search out the rooms.
Elsewhere in the designated torture-chamber, the gang beats on Joey and electrocutes him with tasers to within an inch of his life.
Yugi, pretty much unaware of his transformations at this point, tries to find Joey without much success, and holds the Millennium Puzzle tight, hoping for some kind of hint, a feeling about where Joey might be. Yami takes the reigns, and uses his powers to scope out the warehouse, finding the room where the gangers are keeping his friend.
Right in the nick of time too, because they were about to kill Joey if they keep on going. What follows is one the single most bad-ass beatdowns of the entire series, possibly the whole franchise. It's a masterful piece of planning on Yami's part, and one of the most brilliant gambits of the entire series. Not even kidding. With a cursory glance around the room, Yami exploits his environment and his opponents like he's the god-damn Batman. Except, he takes down every single bad-guy in the room without throwing a single freaking punch.
Yugi lets himself get hit to cover for propping up the arm of one of the taser-wielding gangers Joey knocked out, using the Millennium Puzzle as a Chinese water-torture device on the guys head to wake him up in time, and perching himself upon a rubber tire while the gang traipses around in the water looking for the "bomb" Yugi tells them he set. He knocks all of them out in one swoop and rescues Joey. Check-mate in two, maybe three moves if we're being generous.
Following the second two-parter is the third, "The Man From Egypt (Part 1 & 2)", although it's more like an eight-parter considering the fact that the story of Chapter 13, "The Man From Egypt (Part 1)" doesn't conclude until Chapter 20, "Game Over". These chapters set-up the overall narrative of the series, the one which would last all the way to the end. Within the first two chapters we see the debut of two more Millennium Items, the Key and the Scales. Held by the only other Millennium Item wielder we've seen thus far, Shadi. These eight chapters are among the most important in the series as well. Aside from the obvious points from above, it also builds on the character development we've seen in previous chapters.
Yugi is approached by Kanekura Kanchō, the curator of the Domino City Museum about displaying his Millennium Puzzle alongside his teams recent findings and Yugi agrees. However, Kanekura wants to sell off the puzzle (and presumably other artifacts from the museum exhibit) and bribe Yugi into silence. Usually this would end in Yami beating the guy within an inch of his life with his own museum and then finishing him off with a mind-crush or a steep dive out the nearest window. However, that's just the start, and it's not Yami who does it. It's Shadi. Yes, Shadi actually gets involved in the fray, killing the buyer and Kanekura, seeing the completed Millennium Puzzle, and running into Yugi on the way out of the building. Yugi asks him if he's seen the puzzle or Kanekura, and Shadi is naturally taken aback by the idea that a kid was the only one to solve the Millennium Puzzle in a good three-thousand years.
Shadi uses the Millennium Key to look inside Yugi's head and see if he's the one who could actually solve the puzzle. Within, we see two doors. One wide-open and full of toys like the room of a child, and the other sealed shut, with the Eye of Horus molded in. Inside, Shadi finds Yami, and a maze of other doors. He tries to find the right one, but winds up falling down a hole. Yami helps him up, and Shadi exits Yugi's mind, returning the puzzle, and leaving the museum.
Later that week, Yugi and company find out about the death of the curator. Solomon's old friend, Professor Yoshimori Kyōju, who was also involved in the recent excavation of the tomb, and wants to talk to someone about the death of his boss. He didn't believe in curses before Kanekura's death, and afterwards he's worried.
Sadi arrives to weigh Yoshimori's soul, but within the mans mind finds that he's waiting on Yugi, and decides to use this opportunity to try and lure Yami Yugi out into the open. He mind-controls Yoshimori and forces him to attempt to kill Joey once the gang shows up. This is a fairly decent cliffhanger to end Volume 2 on, since it would have less of an impact if it was followed by another chapter instead of punctuating the end of the volume.
Based on what Takahashi has said, he wasn't really expecting Duel Monsters to become the breakout game of the series. Indeed, he didn't expect it nor Kaiba to be more than one-offs, but fans were interested in the game, and wanted to know more about it.
The rules in the earlier, unrefined versions of Duel Monsters were closer to Magic: The Gathering than what we think of as Yu-Gi-Oh! today. (Although the game is practically unrecognizable in its current incarnation) The levels are practically meaningless, there are no trap-cards, the monster-types are basically non-existent and there are elements of random-chance introduced into the game. Not that I mind, I'd actually appreciate a bit more of those percentile chances in the game today. Mostly because the comics and television series had them, and it added strategies that could be used and tension as well.
While the MTG inspired roots of the game aren't too obvious today, what's known in-universe as "First Edition" Duel Monsters wears its influences on its sleeve. In fact, it's basically a Brand-X copy of Magic, with more interesting monsters, and better artwork. I'm glad that the game evolved over time into the one we play today, but I'd still like to see some form of the original concept preserved in the modern game as an alternate rules-set or something. It'd be kinda cool to see at least.
In the end, as we all know, fan-demand for more Duel Monsters became so great that Takahashi had to bring it back for what he thought would be one last epic arc.
Back in the story-arc, Téa whacks the professor over the head with a globe, before being possessed by Shadi herself.
Joey lures the possessed professor out of the room, while Shadi threatens to kill Téa in a successful attempt to draw out Yami. They begin a test of the strength of the heart on the roof. Shadi suspends a plank from the roof with ropes tied to Ushebti, which represent the strength of the persons heart. Yugi has four, Shadi has one. Téa has been made to stand on the end of the plank. Yugi's four Ushebti support the plank, while Shadi's one supports the Millennium Key. Shadi's Ushebti breaks, the Key touches Téa, Shadi's mind-control fades, Yugi wins. Yugi's four Ushebti break, Téa dies, Yugi loses.
The first two tests are a riddle and a logic puzzle, but the last one is versus Joey Wheeler. Not the real one, but an illusion. Not like Yugi can really know that because Shadi can control peoples minds and actions. This is a game of chance.Toss the Millennium Puzzle and your opponent moves two paces in that direction. Yami Yugi refuses to play the game, and ultimately defeats Shadi, saving Téa, dispelling Shadi's spell on Professor Yoshimori, and ultimately proving to Shadi what the puzzle means. The power of unity.
Despite Volume 3 being titled Capsule Monster Chess, that's actually the last chapter in the book. The other chapters are mostly dedicated to the Shadi arc, with a standalone single-part chapter and a standalone two-parter in-between them. The only reason Capsule Monster Chess is important is because Mokuba Kaiba makes his debut in this chapter.
Yugi uses his mad tactical skills and fast-learning to take Mokuba down a peg and promptly move on. This is probably the single shortest showdown when it comes to chapters immediately related to the plot, although it sets up possibly one of the most iconic moments in the series. One of the things everyone remembers when you hear the name Yu-Gi-Oh!
The foreshadowing to Yugi's inevitable showdown with Kaiba is diabolically brilliant, and that's all I really have to say about it until we finally get around to Kaiba's plan.
The next volume, appropriately titled Kaiba's Revenge is dedicated in its entirety to Seto Kaiba executing an elaborate revenge-plot against one Yugi Moto for beating him at a card-game and then proceeding to screw with his mind for god-knows how long Yami's illusions last.
Yugi and Joey run into a mugger in the arcade while hearing rumors about Seto Kaiba's new project. The mugger takes Yugi's Millennium Puzzle by cutting it off with a knife and legging it before Yami could challenge his ass to a game of Mortal Kombat that eventually evolved into the arcade-machine ripping the dudes spine out.
With Yami and Yugi separated, Joey takes it into his own hands to take the scumbag down a peg. As if possessed by the spirit of the Puzzle, the mugger challenges Joey to a game where they hold a knife in their teeth and try to kill each other. Joey agrees to hold one in his teeth, but he's not nearly as ruthless a killer as Yami Yugi is and demands the mugger not hold one in his own teeth. After dodging the guys punches, Joey blasts him in the face with the soda he got for Yugi and breaks his jaw with a massive uppercut.
A few minutes later, Mokuba Kaiba rolls up in a limousine and tells the duo that Seto wants to see them at his home. They agree and are treated to a Russian roulette lunch. Six dishes, two of which are poisoned (Or possibly just roofied, Mokuba doesn't really strike me as as much of a stone-cold killer as his brother is) you spin the lazy-susan and eat whichever dish lands in front of you. Joey gets the poison on the first turn and Yugi is naturally pissed. Mokuba tells him that he has thirty minutes to play the game and win the antidote before Joey dies. Yugi goes dark on him and out pops Yami, although with the sheer amount of rage on Yugi's face it's hard to tell which is which. Yami figures out the trick Mokuba is using to control who gets the poison, and smashes it with the Millennium Puzzle, stopping Mokuba's cheating and dropping the poisoned hamburger straight in front of the brat.
Yami doses Joey with the antidote and they promptly move the fuck on.
Meanwhile, Seto Kaiba continues to have nightmares about Yami beating him with the Blue-Eyes White Dragon and his continuing torture at the hands of Yami's illusions.
Despite knowing that at least one of the Kaiba brothers is out to kill them, Yugi and Joey spend the night, possibly because Yami has balls of steel or possibly because he just wants to show Kaiba up again.
Kaiba joins Yugi and Joey for breakfast before showing them to his latest creation, none other than Kaiba Land. While he's wearing a kings cape and looked on by thousands of adoring fans. Seto Kaiba has a huge ego and literally nobody is helping this.
Kaiba brings him to the dueling box, where Solomon Moto has been challenged to a game of Duel Monsters after kidnapping and blackmail by Kaiba. As fans of the show should know, Kaiba's holographic monster box scares the absolute hell out of Solomon. However, he pulls out his trump card, one of only four Blue-Eyes White Dragons known to mankind. He can wipe out Kaiba's remaining monsters and life-points with a single attack from this card. However, Kaiba has a trick up his sleeve. Or rather, three. The other three Blue-Eyes White Dragons. They ultimately wipe out Solomon's life-points and Kaiba floods the old man with holographic monsters to blackmail Yugi into agreeing to partake in the gauntlet of murder he's set up in Kaibaland. Yugi agrees and Solomon gives him his deck before being hauled off to the hospital. Joey won't let Yugi go alone and Tristan, who's babysitting his nephew at the park comes along as well.
Up on the next floor with the first challenge of the tower, they run into Téa, who works as the games guide. It's basically a form of laser-tag with a story. Evil dudes invading the space-station, drive them back, try to survive. The twist is that Kaiba has the vests set to electrocute the wearer if the guns are tuned to the right frequency. I know that's not what the comics actually said, but their explanation makes no sense. I don't know if it was lost in translation or what, but last time I checked lasers don't actually conduct electricity. Plus, considering Téa somehow wound up with a gun that actually trips the massive electro-shock setting on the vests, not to mention Tristan being able to adjust the level of voltage it trips I'd have to say this is Viz's translation at fault, not Takahashi's writing. I'll verify this sometime later on when I can get my hands on untranslated versions of these comics.
They make it through the entirety of Kaiba's crazy castle, braving voice-activated electric chairs. A literal murder mansion complete with its own version of Leatherface. A featureless room that turns into a twisted version of Tetris combined with Q-Bert. Tristan gets trapped in the room helping the others escape, and the volume ends on that note.
While having a few nonsensical moments, this volume was cool to read, and it was great to actually see Kaiba put Yugi in a position where he absolutely had to follow his plan. Plus, the tension and build-up over these chapters help to increase the impact of what happens in the next volume, although it could have been tightened up a bit with the absence of Tristan's nephew.
We only got to see a little bit of Duel Monsters in this volume, which is just enough to keep us going until the big showdown in the next volume.
Angered at Kaiba for putting the lives of his friends in danger and giving his grandfather a heart-attack, Yugi sparks with anger, blurring the lines between Yami Yugi and regular Yugi. Yugi confesses his fears about his other self to the remaining members of the gang, but they support him, and they proceed to the next stage of the tower. A game of Capsule Monsters Chess against Mokuba. There the gang catches their first in-depth glimpse of Yami Yugi in action. Mokuba has rigged the capsule dispenser to give Yami the weakest monsters while he gets the strongest. However, Yami uses the tactics and game-knowledge that's gotten him this far to utterly trounce Mokuba's overpowered army. Kaiba tries to punish his brother for losing the same way he did Solomon, but Yami busts into the dueling box and hauls Mokuba out, and heads for the final duel. Thus begins the duel that would define "epic" for the rest of time. One of the greatest encounters in all of comic-books. Goku vs Vegeta, Superman vs Doomsday, Batman vs Bane, Goku vs Frieza, Spider-Man vs The Green Goblin, and Yugi Moto vs Seto Kaiba are all moments that defined entertainment for years to come. Don't get me wrong, the other conflicts in the series all have their place on that list, but the monumental gravitas of this duel is positively unforgettable. Yugi does his best to build up a good defense to Kaiba's inevitable Blue-Eyes onslaught, but the billionaire gamer manages to cut through each of them, knocking Yugi's life-points down until he's forced into constant defense. Eventually, Yugi puts Swords of Revealing Light into play to prevent Kaiba from attacking until he can build up his defenses just as the second Blue-Eyes is played. Kaiba is beaten back upon Yugi's drawing of The Dark Magician, but as soon as his third Blue-Eyes comes onto the field, it blows it away. Yugi has one more turn, everything riding on just one card. With a hope and a prayer, Yugi draws his last card, and completes the ultimate monster. Exodia: The Forbidden One!
With the duel won, Yugi punishes Kaiba with a mind-crush, breaking apart Kaiba's psyche and destroying the evil in his soul that pushed him to where he is right now. Mokuba order's Kaiba's goons to stand down, and explains to the gang how Seto became the person he is now. Their parents died, relatives left them out to dry, and they wound up in an orphanage until Seto tricked Gozaburo Kaiba, Chess grandmaster and president of the Kaiba Corporation, into adopting them. Eventually Seto became ruthless and ousted Gozaburo as president of the company, which led to their stepfather flinging himself out a freaking window in front of Seto and the board of directors.
The next chapter is mainly important because it's the only time we ever see Yugi's mother. Yugi and Téa walk to school and she gives him a love-tester keychain. Some teacher starts giving them crap over their low test-scores (Something which makes no sense. Yugi's a certifiable genius) and then takes the keychain from Yugi. Yami challenges him to a game. Track down the keychain or be expelled. (Can teachers do that in Japan?) Yami uses deductive reasoning and Téa's matching keychain to track it down and wins the game. The main importance of this chapter was the development of Téa's crush on Yami. That's what makes this series so good, even the chapters that don't directly address the main plot are important to the characters. Plus they're usually just flat-out cool.
Can't say quite as much for the next chapter, since it doesn't really do much to advance the plot or the characters, it's just a one-off fun romp. Joey goes on a Japanese game-show (Complete with a game of Irritating Stick!) to win a million yen. The game is rigged, Yugi stops it from being rigged and exposes the producer on-air. It's cool, just not exactly necessary.
All in all, while this was easily one of the greatest volumes in the series, this is the point where the volumes start to end at points that have less impact. On the one hand, it's good that they were consistent with chapter distribution. On the other hand, I personally would have left the last two chapters out and saved them for the next volume just so they wouldn't wind up having a pair of extraneous chapters unrelated to the bulk of the content. But hey, that's just me.
The next volume marks a few historic moments for the series. For one, chapters 43 and 44 mark to first appearance of Yugi's iconic leather vest. For another, it marks the appearance of the series recurring antagonist, the spirit of the Millennium Ring.
Not to say that Chapters 43 and 44 are only good for a change of attire, but that's one of the few things that actually comes back later on in the series. Yami kind of mentions "levels" of Shadow-Game intensity, but those are never really brought up beyond this one chapter, and certainly don't come up at the end.
The next chapter on the other hand, 13 O' clock Terror is somewhat pivotal to the developing relationship between Yugi and Téa. Téa likes Yugi, but really likes Yami Yugi, and wants to see him again. A playing-card bomber attacks the amusement park they went to on their date, and Yami solves the "Clock Solitaire" game, saves Téa and they continue on.
Chapters 46 and 47 cover some kid name Imori from Yugi's school stealing the Millennium Puzzle and challenging Yugi to a game of Dragon Cards. Imori beats Yugi, and his soul gets sucked into the dragon pot, but Yugi gets his hands on The Millennium Puzzle long enough for Yami to take over and start the game anew. Yami has three months to get Yugi's soul out of the jar, which is plenty of time. Yami works out the rules of the game, gets Yugi's soul back and seals Imori's soul inside the jar. He then proceeds to seal the jar up and takes it... Somewhere it can never be found again.
Chapters 48 and 49 are a continuation of the earlier gang plot from Volume 2. Hirutani wants Joey in his gang, and baits Yugi and Joey into coming to the torture chamber. Hirutani threatens to hang Yugi if Joey doesn't join his gang, but Joey powers through and lifts Yugi off the chains.
Joey borrows The Millennium Puzzle and uses it to steal the Yo-Yo's from the gang. Yami challenges the gang to a game while Joey and Hirutani duke it out. Yami drops the gang through the rusty roof, and Hirutani throws glass in Joey's face, moving to kill him with a big shard. Joey manages to dodge out of the way, and knocks Hirutani off the roof. As the gangster clings with one hand, Joey uses his Yo-Yo to knock Hirutani's fingers out of place, causing him to fall to the ground below and presumably his death.
Come Chapter 50, we're finally introduced to the series recurring ally/antagonist, Ryo Bakura. Guy likes RPG's, and invites the gang over to his house to play a modified version of Dungeons and Dragons called Monster World. Unlike D&D, Monster World is a competition between one player who controls the monsters and the adventuring party. Find the boss, kill the boss, win the game. Or get killed by the Dark Master and lose.
They create their characters, Yami Bakura gives them their miniatures, and they begin their quest.
At a nearby inn, they learn that the dark lord Zorc Necrophades has assassinated the king and turned the world into one of frightful monsters. Within the game they run into miniatures based on other people Bakura knows, even the gym-teacher that bullied him earlier in the week.The NPC's tell them of the location of the dark creature, but they have to get there first.
The next volume was the very first volume of the comics I ever picked up, and it covers the rest of the Monster World arc, between Chapters 52 and 60. Between these chapters, they expand on certain concepts brought forth in Volume 6, namely soul separation, and the abilities of the normal and Yami versions of the host to interact with those separated souls. But that's going to have to wait until next time.
This volume appears to have been Takahashi's attempt to get the series back to the episodic beatdown format, while also creating foreshadowing for the unveiling of the series villain. Or more to the point, the concepts he would build the showdown off of. I don't know if this was his intention, but the chapters in this volume appear to be dedicated to testing out future concepts. The rest are dedicated to wrapping up loose ends.

Thank you for reading all the way through this review! If you liked it and wish to support my work, please check out my Patreon.
If you liked this, please let me know in the comments. I'm considering making this a yearly feature. If you want to see that, let me know and next September will be Yu-Gi-Oh! month all over again! I love Yu-Gi-Oh! and I really want to dig a bit further into it. Really, any excuse to talk about my favorite series.
The next article will be published on Wednesday, and I'll do my best to cover as much ground as possible. I originally intended to cover Volumes 1-12, but I ran up on the start of the month and had to cut it short. I then spent the next four days proofreading and improving the article as best I could.