Plot: Yugi is a timid kid without many friends. He’s smaller than most of the other students, and frequently gets bullied by Jounouchi, who claims he’s trying to help him be a man, and his friend Honda. Yugi’s precious treasure is an ancient puzzle from Egypt called the Millennium Puzzle that he believes will grant his wish upon completion. His wish? To have true friends. However, he’s been working on it for over eight years and hasn’t solved it.
The school public morals officer, Ushio, takes it upon himself to punish Jounouchi and Honda for bullying Yugi by beating them senseless. When Yugi arrives to defend them, Ushio agrees to let up if he pays him 200k yen as a bodyguard fee.
Yugi doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, so he struggles with figuring out what to do. In an effort to clear his head, he decides to work on his Millennium Puzzle. He manages to almost finish it, but is shocked to find a piece is missing. Jounouchi had taken it earlier that day and thrown it into the school pool.
Yugi’s grandfather, Sugoroku, arrives with a surprise – the missing piece! Jounouchi had secretly retrieved it from the water and returned it to pay Yugi back for defending them.
Upon completing the Puzzle, Yugi is endowed with dark powers and a stark new personality – one who punishes evil people by challenging them to shadow games – competitions where your life, soul and sanity lay on the line.
‘Yami’ Yugi invites Ushio to school claiming he’ll pay him his money. Even moreso, in fact. 400K worth. However, there’s a catch. Ushio has to play a shadow game with him to get it.
Ushio accepts. The game is simple, yet dangerous. They each take turns stabbing the stack of money as it is perched on their hand. Whoever has the most money on the knife at the end wins. Whoever has the least or stabs himself, loses.
Ushio’s greed manifests itself in a force controlling his hand. Worried that this force will drive the knife too far, Ushio opts to stab Yugi instead and take the cash. Having broken the rules, Yugi punishes him with a never ending hallucination of money raining from the sky.
Yugi reverts back to normal with no memory of what had just occurred that night. He meets with Jounouchi, who kindly offers his friendship, and Yugi realizes that his wish had come true.
Breakdown: I’ve been wanting to do an episode-by-episode review of Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero for a long time now – but why not go for the gold and also include an AniManga Clash for you guys? For those unaware, Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero is the (Unofficial) name given to a 1998 anime based on the original Yu-Gi-Oh manga.
Both the manga and Season Zero are much darker and, outside of the characters, virtually nothing like the 2000 ‘reboot’s’ plot.
In the manga (before it was essentially soft rebooted) and Season Zero, the stories are more episodic and there’s a much wider variety of games being played.
In the 2000 ‘reboot’ (Which is really just a new series that focused more on the later parts of the manga (Chapter 60 and onward) that shifted tone and focus), the plot is almost exclusively driven by Duel Monsters with only a few variations, such as Dungeon Dice Monsters and Capsule Monsters (which is also in the classic manga), popping up. That’s why Yugi is the actual King of GameS. Kinda weird to get a title like that when you really only play one game.
Since this series is so episodic, I decided to go chapter by chapter instead of volume by volume like I normally do, though there will be some exceptions down the line.
Let me just point something very obvious out before we start – the art, in both versions, is just terrible. Absolutely awful. Laughable at many points. Anyone who has made fun of the reboot’s art hasn’t seen anything yet.
In a complete 180 move, Honda, who was originally a fellow bully to Yugi and best friend to Jounouchi, gets turned into somewhat of a goody two shoes in the anime. He’s a school beautification club member and was even up for student council president, but lost the election.
I never thought I’d say this while doing this comparison, especially so early, but the reboot actually did this part more accurately. Even though this version gives Honda more personality and differentiates himself more from Jounouchi, the later anime keeps him as a fellow bully and best friend to Jounouchi, later fellow friend to Yugi…..And he basically becomes a load of nothingness once he stops being a bully because, unlike Jounouchi who has a strong personality, continues to better himself and goes off to become an amazing duelist, Honda basically stagnates for all of eternity, only duels all of once, and strives to…..drive a motorcycle, hit on his best friend’s sister and turn into a robot monkey.
This is a welcome change that I would’ve actually liked to have been kept in the reboot, kinda. At least it would’ve given Honda more personality. Honestly, it wouldn’t give him more of a reason to exist, but still, it’s better than nothing. My issue with the Season Zero!Honda in this situation is that he also gets beat up later in the episode even though he wasn’t one of the bullies attacking Yugi in this version, so you kinda feel bad for him.
Honda’s role is also increased quite a bit as he was basically a background character for most of the original seven volumes of manga this series bases itself from, only getting the spotlight a few times before being bumped up a bit to a moderate side character. This change was probably for the sake of increasing the main cast size and story padding since the material is typically a bit thin to run for a full 22 minutes.
Likewise, a character who barely exists in the manga, Miho, also has her role greatly expanded to being a side character. I assume this decision was for the sake of adding a little more to Honda’s character, as he has a massive crush on her, and to maybe add more girls/fanservice to the series. Miho, in the manga, appears for only one chapter centered around Honda trying to confess his love for her through a jigsaw puzzle. At the end, she rejects him and is never seen again.
Believe it or not, the bully, Ushio was indeed a public morals committee member who strictly enforced all school rules. In fact, if the subs on the anime are any indication, he WROTE all of the school rules, which I highly doubt.
Anzu is nicer in the manga than she is in the anime in this instance. She originally says that she couldn’t stand to watch a nice guy like Yugi get harassed by Jounouchi. She further expresses her frustration with them by explaining that Jounouchi and the other boys got the girls to play basketball with them just so they could see their panties when they jumped. In the anime, she says she has to be tough or else they’d pick on her too and berates Yugi for claiming Jounouchi’s not actually a bad guy since that kind of attitude is what gets him mocked in the first place. Kinda funny how a character who will later be known for her friendship speeches is acting like a cool jerk who believes thinking the better of people is good for nothing but getting your ass beat.
Minor, but the manga has a misunderstanding where Yugi tells Anzu that the puzzle is a memento of his grandfather, leading her to believe his grandfather passed away. When he brings her to the game shop later, she’s shocked to find he’s alive. Yugi then corrects himself and says he meant to say it’s going to be a memento of his. That’s a bit morbid, there, Yugi.
Sugoroku is a pervert in both the anime and the manga, by the way.
Ushio originally asks for 200k yen in the manga whereas, in the anime, he asks for 20k. The anime amounts to about 200 USD, while the manga amounts to about 2000, which is why it’s a bit more understandable for Yugi to be outraged. It’s still a lot in either version, but 2000 bucks is much more ridiculous to ask for than 200.
In the manga, Ushio says he’ll pass on the responsibility of punishment to Jounouchi and Honda if he pays the 200k. Yugi pretends to be interested in beating them up for the sake of getting Ushio off their back. As a bit of a down payment, Ushio beats up Yugi for a bit. In the anime, we cut straight from Yugi reacting to the 20k fee to him thinking about how to get the money while he continues work on the puzzle.
The scene in Yugi’s room continues beyond the point of finding that the last puzzle piece is missing. In the manga, Yugi starts crying and panicking because the piece is gone. Sugoroku arrives and hands it to him stating that a soaking wet boy delivered it to the house and asked to give it to him. It was Jounouchi, but he asked Sugoroku to not tell Yugi it was him. He had gone into the school pool to fish it out as a bit of repayment for Yugi protecting them from Ushio. Yugi then finished the puzzle and instantly becomes Yami.
In the anime, Sugoroku never comes into Yugi’s room or gives him the piece. Instead, he runs to school at sundown in hopes of finding where he dropped it.
In the manga, the now Yami’d Yugi invites Ushio to school at midnight with the promises of giving him the money he ‘owes’ him. Yami reveals that he ‘accidentally’ brought 400k yen instead of 200k and claims if he wants the additional 200k that he’ll have to play a shadow game. All they’ll need is Ushio’s knife.
In the anime, Ushio is still at school, for some reason, and catches Yugi returning. He asks for the money, but Yugi says he doesn’t have it nor does he think he’ll be able to get it. Ushio then takes Yugi out behind the school for some ‘education’ in the form of a beating. Jounouchi, who had just retrieved Yugi’s puzzle piece from the canal, and Honda see this happen, return his puzzle piece to him and attack Ushio in defense of Yugi. While he lies on the ground, Yugi mutters to Jounouchi that his wish was for true friends.
As they get beat by Ushio, Yugi elaborates more on his wish in inner monologue. When he sees Jounouchi and Honda lying unconscious, he crawls over to the puzzle and adds the final piece. Upon completion, Yami possesses Yugi.
In the manga, today’s shadow game is fairly simple. They each take turns placing the stack of money on their hands. Then they take the knife and stab the money. However much money they stab through, they keep. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins. If you stab yourself at any time during the game, you lose. If you break the rules, you end up with a penalty game.
Yami goes first. He gets less than ten bills.
Upon Ushio’s turn, Yami gives him a tip – don’t use too much strength or you’ll stab yourself. The aim of the game is to control your greed. He uses more strength than Yami, earning him more bills.
As the game goes on, Ushio pulls out ahead, but he finds himself struggling with controlling his arm as the amount of bills decreases.
As Ushio’s about to take his turn, Yami reveals that shadow games unveil a person’s true character and sort of turns that into something physical IE Ushio’s inability to control his hand. In order to win the game and save his hand, he has to learn to control his greed.
Ushio thinks there’s an easier solution to this problem that allows him to use all of his strength, save his hand and get all the money – simply stab Yami/Yugi to death.
Yami is able to dodge out of the way. Since Ushio broke the rules, Yami punishes him with a penalty game: illusion of greed. He is now cursed for all eternity to having uncontrollable hallucinations about money falling all around him.
The next day at school, he’s rolling around in leaves and garbage, thinking they’re piles of cash.
In the anime, the game is entirely changed. As Ushio walks away, he’s suddenly teleported to the side of the school’s water tower, hanging by a rope. Yami appears with the money and challenges Ushio to a game, which Ushio accepts out of pride over never having lost a game in his life.
Yami also descends down the tower, revealing he and Ushio are connected via the rope. The lower he goes, the higher Ushio goes and vice versa. He drags a trail of playing cards behind him. Each of them will take turns flipping over the cards. The higher the value, the more you ascend. Whoever reaches the top, gets the money. He neglects to explain what will happen to the loser until the game is up.
Yami indeed wins the match, but Ushio’s not done with him. He climbs up the tower anyway, accusing Yami of fixing the game in his favor. Yami briefly warns him to not break the rules or else something bad will happen. He knocks Yami off the tower and cuts the rope, seemingly murdering him. He reaches for the money only to find that it’s a deck of playing cards.
As punishment for breaking the rules, Ushio is ‘swallowed by his greed’ which equates to him being eaten by a bunch of giant worms. In real life, however, he’s perpetually locked in a nightmare and ends up huddled in a fetal position crying out that he’s scared.
I’m a little torn about this comparison, to be honest. The anime changed several things, but I can’t deny that some of them might have been for the better. Cutting out Yugi’s first beating was fine in my opinion. It didn’t make much sense to beat him then anyway. Plus Yugi trying to get out of it by saying he’ll beat Jounouchi and Honda was a little strange. He was asking for the money anyway and seemed like he’d let him off without him making that declaration.
Jounouchi did witness Yugi getting beaten up for them, but I think simply the act of standing between him, Honda and Ushio was enough to prove to Jounouchi that Yugi had guts and actually cared about them, despite what they did to him.
There was much more substantial buildup to Yugi getting his puzzle piece back in the anime. In the manga, Sugoroku just hands it over immediately after Yugi realizes that it’s missing. He never even learns that Jounouchi is the one who returned it to him (Granted, he’s also the one who took it….)
Yugi getting the piece back right before Honda and Jounouchi try to fight Ushio for Yugi’s sake is so much better. The inclusion of Jounouchi and Honda fighting for Yugi is a much better addition overall, to be honest. In the manga, Honda doesn’t do anything to earn Yugi’s friendship, and Jounouchi just gets wet. Even though Honda doing this when he was rewritten to not be a bully seems kinda unfair, it was still a cool thing to do.
Giving Honda more of his own personality was also welcome, even if it’s not the best personality. I don’t want him to be a watered down Jounouchi clone, but I also don’t want him to be such a massive bore like the reboot version is.
Miho is a bit of a question mark because she has no purpose here outside of making Jounouchi and Honda go away, which they were going to do anyway.
Anzu also kinda being changed to a slight jerk, in this episode anyway, also didn’t do it any favors.
The biggest aspect that the manga has in its favor is the shadow game, which is vastly better than the anime’s version. I don’t know why they changed it so drastically, to be honest. Was the knife thing too frightening?
The manga’s game actually involved Ushio’s greed and required a sense of self-control. The anime’s game relied entirely on luck. The only aspect that involved Ushio’s greed was in him cheating in the end. His attempt to kill Yugi there was pointless. He could’ve grabbed the money and ran, but instead he straight up murdered Yugi/Yami. However, he states he could survive a plunge into the canal and only end up getting wet, which is weird because the canal isn’t very deep and that is a very high tower.
His attempt to kill Yugi/Yami in the manga actually did have a point. It was either do that or stab his hand or risk losing the money.
The penalty game was also better or at least more creative in the manga than the anime. Him being trapped in a perpetual hallucination of money both fits his situation better and is a hell of his own design. In the anime, he’s just scared of giant worms with teeth.
All in all, it was really close, but I’ll have to give this episode to the anime. The additions and changes they made were almost entirely for the better outside of the shadow game, and while the shadow game was a lot better in the manga than the anime, it wasn’t enough for it to pull ahead.
Since the next chapter isn’t in the anime, I’ll be reviewing that as a singular chapter.
Episode 2/Chapter 4
Final notes: I feel I should mention that the 2000 Yu-Gi-Oh series did indeed keep this backstory for Yugi, Honda and Jounouchi, but obviously it’s toned down immensely in that series. It was cut down to basically a minute-long barely-animated flashback. Also, there’s no mention of Ushio getting comeuppance in any way outside of the dub which claims he got expelled because of his actions.
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