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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