Adaptation Displacement and Decay… a.k.a. Yuu☆gi☆ou

Black Magician Loli

o_o Wow! This is my first post of 2010. High school and video games have real­ly tak­en a toll on my ani­me blog­ging sched­ule ( most­ly video games! *shot*). Not to men­tion, I er… almost for­got I had an ani­me blog. xD;;

Any­how, I’ve been read­ing more man­ga and cut down on my ani­me-watch­ing this recent year (due to time con­straints) — and a thought popped into my head. I’ve noticed that man­ga real­ly isn’t as pop­u­lar as ani­me in gen­er­al, giv­en if said man­ga has an ani­me coun­ter­part, at least in the Unit­ed States and oth­er non-Asian coun­tries. Maybe because the human brain thinks watch­ing ani­mat­ed char­ac­ters duk­ing it out on the TV screen seems much more enter­tain­ing than still-images of Japan­ese car­toon char­ac­ters with words on paper.

Look, I’m not say­ing that’s a cor­rect belief. I’m pret­ty much opposed to it. That’s actu­al­ly the prob­lem I have with it, peo­ple can go on watch­ing an ani­me with­out know­ing the source mate­r­i­al (in this case, man­ga) even exists. It’s the same thing with movies. You’re not going to tell me that more than half of the peo­ple that came into the the­atres for The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2 were actu­al­ly fans of Bat­man and Iron Man before doing so, are you? Peo­ple did­n’t even know Kick-Ass had a com­ic (which was kind of pro­duced along­side it, but what­ev­er)! This is kind of the same with ani­me… peo­ple usu­al­ly think of the ani­meFull­met­al Alchemist” when some­one talks about the all-around bet­ter man­ga/reboot ani­meFull­met­al Alchemist” with­out clar­i­fi­ca­tion.  This is what peo­ple usu­al­ly call “Adap­ta­tion Dis­place­ment”.

Exam­ples of this that come to my mind are Drag­on Ball Z and Yuugiou! I’m not going to get into Drag­on Ball Z, since, with Drag­on Ball Kai air­ing, peo­ple are begin­ning to see that the series was­n’t the hor­ri­bly-paced, non-stop action series filled with ten-episode pow­er-up scenes that the Eng­lish dub and the orig­i­nal ani­me made it out to be. So let’s use Yuugiou. as the post­ing meat.

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Called Yu-Gi-Oh! in coun­tries out­side of Asia, peo­ple usu­al­ly think “Oh, it’s that hor­ri­ble show about chil­drens’ card games that takes itself too seri­ous­ly, made to com­pete with the mer­chan­dis­ing of Poke­mon.” My words to you dear read­ers, that is hor­ri­bly wrong. In fact, Yuugiou is a series that suf­fers hor­ri­bly from some­thing peo­ple call “Adap­ta­tion Decay” mixed in with Adap­ta­tion Displacement.

Hold it right there, though! Peo­ple that are actu­al­ly fans of Yuugiou will think I’m talk­ing about the Eng­lish dub, which was hor­ri­bly muti­lat­ed by 4Kids Enter­tain­ment. You’d be real­ly, real­ly sur­prised. That’s right, I’m talk­ing about the ani­me (both ver­sions) in general.

Let’s talk a lit­tle about the series first, shall we? I’m going to talk about the basic premise of the man­ga for a bit (remem­ber, the man­ga, not the anime).

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Yuugiou, when trans­lat­ed prop­er­ly, means Game King. Yuu­gi Mutou (moo-toh, not moe-toh. Hel­lo Moto!) is a boy, with an addic­tion to games, attend­ing a high school in Domi­no (game ref­er­ences galore!), a fic­tion­al city in Japan. His name coin­ci­den­tal­ly means “game” in Japan­ese. Small and lack­ing in con­fi­dence, he usu­al­ly stays after class alone, play­ing with the games he brings along in his back­pack. His only friend is a well-endowed girl named Anzu Maza­ki, who has known him since child­hood. His grand­fa­ther, Sug­oroku Mutou, is an old game mas­ter who hap­pens to own a local game shop in the city. He offers Yuu­gi a chal­lenge to put togeth­er an ancient arti­fact, the Sen­nen Puz­zle. Writ­ten on it is a rid­dle that describes puz­zles in gen­er­al, “What can be seen, yet can’t be seen”. It is said that whomev­er com­pletes this puz­zle will inher­it the pow­ers of dark­ness, the Games of Dark­ness, and dis­pense jus­tice to all and judge evil. It is also said to grant wish­es, and Yuugi’s one wish is to have true friends; friends that will stand by him no mat­ter what.

Kat­suya Jonouchi and Hiro­to Hon­da are two punks that fre­quent­ly pick on Yuu­gi. Jonouchi gets a hold of one of Yuugi’s Sen­nen Puz­zle pieces and throws it into the school’s swim­ming pool. After get­ting beat­en up bad­ly by Ushio, a hall mon­i­tor who becomes Yuugi’s “body­guard” with­out his con­sent in order to coerce him for his mon­ey, Yuu­gi risks injury to defend them, claim­ing that they were his friends. Threat­en­ing his life, Ushio demand­ed Yuu­gi 200,000 yen or else he would force Yuu­gi to taste the blade of his knife. Yuu­gi tries to com­plete the Sen­nen Puz­zle that night only to find that a piece is miss­ing. Touched by the pre­vi­ous event, Jonouchi, now con­sid­er­ing Yuu­gi a friend, retrieves the puz­zle piece in the rain. Upon com­plet­ing the puz­zle, Yuu­gi begins to under­go a per­son­al­i­ty change. With arro­gance and a pos­sessed smirk on his face, Dark Yuu­gi chal­lenges Ushio to a Game of Dark­ness, a game that would test the dark­ness in his heart. The win­ner will be able to keep the 200,000 yen. This game involved using Ush­io’s knife to stab as many paper bills as they could on their hand, with­out let­ting their Greed go too far and stab it. After los­ing con­trol of his hand, he tries to kill Yuu­gi with the knife. How­ev­er, the rules of a Game of Dark­ness does not give mer­cy to cheaters, and Dark Yuu­gi sub­jects Ushio to a Penal­ty Game with a lit­tle bit of dark humor added in — mak­ing him think every lit­tle piece of garbage around him is mon­ey. From that day on, Yuugi’s split-per­son­al­i­ty Dark Yuu­gi would appear when­ev­er the safe­ty of Yuugi’s friends and fam­i­ly were endan­gered, becom­ing the Game King and dish­ing out pun­ish­ment to the crim­i­nals that would harm them, all with makeshift games and a lit­tle dark mag­ic. After that, Yuu­gi would not remem­ber a thing…

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I know what you’re think­ing! “Where are the card games?! I thought this series revolved around peo­ple tak­ing cards seri­ous­ly!” Yuu☆gi☆ou start­ed out as a series for gamers in gen­er­al and focused on plot rather than mer­chan­dis­ing. Even after the card game, Mag­ic and Wiz­ards (Duel Mon­sters in the ani­me, a par­o­dy of Mag­ic The Gath­er­ing that was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to be a one-shot game), became a more impor­tant ele­ment to the plot, there was still some ran­dom games in-between and the man­ga always focused on the plot and char­ac­ter devel­op­ment rather than the cards them­selves, nev­er ven­tur­ing into the mer­chan­dise-dri­ven route that the ani­me wants you to believe it took. The ani­me skipped the first sev­en vol­umes entire­ly. Yes, they skipped the intro­duc­tion and set-up phase and jumped right into the sto­ry arc with the most poten­tial for mer­chan­dis­ing, assum­ing you already knew the char­ac­ters. A few episodes were obvi­ous­ly loose­ly based on some sto­ries of the first sev­en vol­umes, but just hav­ing them there in the wrong order and alter­ing them to make them have some­thing to do with the card game makes it look extreme­ly awk­ward, rushed, and non­sen­si­cal. For exam­ple, the first episode where Sug­uroku is some­how severe­ly injured while play­ing a card game.

They also altered some sto­ry arcs to try and make things look epic and huge but failed entire­ly and cre­at­ed huge plot holes (huge ani­me-only sta­di­ums in aban­doned ani­me-only ware­hous­es ftl), added unin­ter­est­ing, plot-hole-induc­ing filler con­tent which could have been avoid­ed if they adapt­ed 1/4 of the man­ga, changed one char­ac­ter’s back­sto­ry and cor­re­spond­ing sto­ry arc into some­thing Duel Mon­sters-relat­ed when it was­n’t orginal­ly (Oto­gi Ryu­u­ji), made RPG mani­ac Baku­ra into the “out­sider” char­ac­ter instead of a main char­ac­ter because of his con­stant ref­er­ence to table RPGs and turned Seto Kai­ba into a major char­ac­ter, and over­all cre­at­ed most of the stuff that peo­ple claim to be ridicu­lous about the series, with the Eng­lish dub tak­ing it up a notch. This series even­tu­al­ly lead on to the spin-offs, GX and 5D’s, which are TRUE mer­chan­dise-dri­ven shows that could­n’t fit into the man­ga’s canon even if they want­ed to. They’re just THAT ridicu­lous. No won­der all the igno­rant peo­ple assume this series was based off a card game and not a manga!

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The man­ga is also bet­ter drawn and designed com­pared to the ani­me. The man­ga, from begin­ning to end, has Yuu­gi and Dark Yuu­gi being the same height because, you know, usu­al­ly when you have a per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der, your body does­n’t sud­den­ly grow 5 feet taller. In the ani­me, they made Yuu­gi short­er (a.k.a. his legs are longer and his pro­por­tions look less awk­ward in the man­ga), and Dark Yuu­gi taller (a.k.a. his legs aren’t f‑cking trees and he does­n’t have pecks in the man­ga), result­ing in a large dif­fer­ence in their height. Some­times Dark Yuu­gi appears taller than the nor­mal one from the way he stands, but in pan­els where they’re stand­ing next to each oth­er and pan­els where you see how tall they are com­pared to oth­er char­ac­ters, they’re obvi­ous­ly the same height. Yuu­gi also fre­quent­ly los­es and gains new clothes with a dif­fer­ent col­oration upon trans­form­ing into Dark Yuu­gi in the ani­me, for god knows why. Of course, the ani­me in gen­er­al is hor­ri­bly ani­mat­ed aside from a few gems here and there.

(Every­thing above is even worse in the first ani­me made by Toei. You know,the one where Kai­ba screws the rules with his green hair? I’m not even going to get into that.)

When it comes to Yuugiou, peo­ple usu­al­ly think about the edit­ed, narmy Eng­lish dub first. We then cut it down to the peo­ple aware of the unal­tered Japan­ese ver­sion of the series. Out of those peo­ple, we get into the group of peo­ple aware of the first series made by Toei, which is incor­rect­ly referred to as the lost “Sea­son Zero” despite being a dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tion of the series. Cut that down to the peo­ple aware of the first sev­en vol­umes of the man­ga. And then, final­ly, cut it all down to the peo­ple that are aware of every­thing after that (peo­ple assume that every­thing after that is EXACTLY like what they show in the ani­me, which is incor­rect). That’s a very small amount of peo­ple. Yuugiou, unfor­tu­nate­ly, got hit hard by decay and dis­place­ment much more than any oth­er man­ga series I’ve ever seen. Well, except for maybe 4Kids’ One Piece. But unlike OP, this nev­er real­ly got any redemp­tion, did it?  It’s real­ly a sol­id shounen series despite the ani­me’s bad rep­u­ta­tion. What’s worse is that the tenth anniver­sary spe­cial of this fran­chise pre­tends the man­ga does­n’t even exist — it’s more of an anniver­sary of the abom­i­na­tion of an ani­me than any­thing, which it kind of is since Yuugiou is actu­al­ly four­teen years old. What would be a good thing to do for an anniver­sary? A prop­er adap­ta­tion of the first sev­en vol­umes with good ani­ma­tion and no bull­shit, but I guess that’s too much to ask.

In short, Adap­ta­tion Decay is the bane of the ani­me indus­try and sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­ers the qual­i­ty of plen­ty of ani­me series out there. This is why I pre­fer ORIGINAL ani­me series, like Mononoke.

P.S. I’ve noticed that I have a lot more ideas when I go on 6‑month long breaks. 😛

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