Play card games and you too can make hand gestures like this!
Remember back when you were a kid and everyone was into card games that had a direct bearing on the fate of the world? Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, I don’t remember those days either, but I do recall watching a certain anime about it. As the subject of my opening “Those Were the Days?” article, Yu-Gi-Oh will be the first of a handful of series to receive a (reasonably) good-natured grilling as I look back on the early days of my anime fandom.
Set in a world where the normally insignificant pastime of trading card games is an all-consuming passion designed to encourage kids in the real world to spend their pocket money on endless starter decks and booster packs of largely useless cards. In the world of Yu-Gi-Oh, the game of Duel Monsters is everything; it was integral to the history of Ancient Egypt and the sinking of Atlantis, and even now it take precedence over such trivial concerns such as attending school or going to work.
The Story: the fate of the world is at stake!
Yu-Gi-Oh is a story of many arcs, each of them much the same; for reasons ranging from a desire to destroy the world to a wish to see the destruction of earth, a semi-bishie villain has taken up Duel Monsters, and only our spiky-haired hero can stop him- by defeating him in a card game. You can’t just walk up to a villain and politely ask if he would mind facing you in a match, however; instead, the proper forms must be obeyed. First, a tournament of some sort must be arranged, with clear rules that ensure that you must face a set number of themed underlings and rivals from previous arcs before you are even considered worthy of approaching the final boss castle. The most important matches must be handled by the hero or his greatest rival; friends and allies are welcome to play, but they must be prepared to fail miserably against all but the weakest of opponents.
Once all the necessary conditions are met and a flashback or two has enlightened us to how the villains went from law abiding citizens to evil card game players, the concluding card game of the arc can finally be played. Such matches are clearly important, and to give them anything less than six episodes would be nothing short of a crime. Each and every move must be countered, re-countered and nullified, insults must be exchanged and life points must get down to single figures before the end can even be said to be vaguely in sight. Our hero must fight back from any number of impossible situations, cheat using the power of friendship and show the villain the error of his ways, before finally winning and forcing his opponent to admit that becoming evil was a big mistake and he never really meant to hurt anyone.
The Characters: Spiky Hair is the Key to Destiny
Yu-Gi-Oh is unique in that it does not have just one the one spiky-haired hero; technically, there are actually two- high school student Yugi Mutou, and the ancient Egyptian pharaoh that possesses him. Since Yugi is a bit of a wimp, he tends to leave the man’s work of playing card games to the Pharaoh, at least until the plot decrees that he actually step up to the plate himself.
Of course, no hero would be able to play without the support of his devoted cheerleading team, and Yugi is no exception. Whilst having The Hothead (Joey/Jonouchi), The Generic (Tristan/Honda) and The Token Female (Teá/Anzu) babbling on about friendship from the sidelines may sound like an unwelcome distraction, it is actually just what Yugi needs to overcome even the direst of situations. Skill and experience are simply no match for the power of useless friends who generally are only allowed to play card games in carefully controlled situations against weak opponents.
Equally key to the existence of a hero is the presence of his ultimate rival; in this case, Seto Kaiba, a rich boy who has nothing better to do with his time and money than buy rare cards, arrange card tournaments, and invent holographic simulators for the playing of card games. Since he is a loner, however, Kaiba has no hope of defeating Yugi no matter how hard he tries, for without the power of friendship, he is nothing.
How to play Duel Monsters
- First, put together a deck. Your deck must be hideously unbalanced, but preferably it should be stacked or marked somehow so that you always know which card you are going to draw next.
- Next, find an opponent. When starting it out, it is best to select a low level player with a humorous name and a preference for a themed deck.
- Although it is acceptable to play strong moves for the first few turns, for most of the game you should deliberately play poorly so that your opponent can gain an advantage. If possible, make sure you are down to 100 life points or less before starting to play well; it requires exceptional skill to fine tune your life points in this way.
- During the match, you should make sure to engage in trash talk with your opponent. If possible, try to make some poor puns based on their playing style; for example, if they favour an insect deck, it is acceptable to say “I’ll squash you like a bug!”.
- Once you are in a disadvantageous position, the time has come to briefly listen to the encouragement of your useless friends, and then start playing properly. At this point, there are several courses to take.
- Play a card that seems weak, but actually has a powerful effect that, for some reason, your opponent has no knowledge of. When they tell you how stupid you are for playing such a poor card, you can confidently reply “Ah, but I didn’t tell you about my card’s special effect- automatic game win!”
- Deliberately use a card that does not target your opponent’s strongest monster, but instead exploits an unnoticed weakness of theirs. When they say “But my Blue Eyes White Dragon is immune to the effects of your card”, you can nonchalantly counter with “Who said I was targeting your Blue Eyes?”
- Use the Heart of the Cards and the fact that your deck is stacked in order to draw exactly the card you need to turn the tide.
- Invoke a previously unmentioned and obscure rule of the game (you can even make one up, there are so many rules that your opponent probably won’t notice) to guarantee your victory.
- After you have claimed victory, feel free to steal rare cards from your opponent’s deck, thus ensuring that they can never threaten you again. If their character design is aesthetically pleasing, then you should be a gracious winner, but no one cares how you treat generic and ugly opponents.
With all this in mind, you too are ready for the world of Yu-Gi-Oh. Simply strap on your Duel Disk and Card Belt (available from all good toy stockists), prepare your deck (cards available wherever goods are sold), and go and challenge complete strangers to a game! Better yet, get all those lowlifes off the streets by playing card games with them and thus making them see the error of their ways! Have fun!
Enjoy Yu-Gi-Oh for yourself with the hilarious abridged Yu-Gi-Oh from LittleKuriboh.
 Please note: Azure Flame accepts no responsibility for any physical harm that may result from trying to force people to play cards with you.