It's pretty obvious that Kazuki Takahashi never dreamt that his Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series would ever be read by anyone outside of Japan. The first few story arcs of the manga were filled with violence, as the Pharaoh used his dark sorcery to punish evildoers like some sort of magical version of Jigsaw. He would eventually run afoul of Seto Kaiba, who used the power of his billion dollar company to trap people inside killer theme parks.
When Konami took over control of the real life Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, there was an effort made to clean things up. A new series of the anime was produced that made the card game the focus of the story, while the cards themselves were given a shiny new coat of paint. This was the version of Yu-Gi-Oh! that most of us are familiar with.
The updated version of Yu-Gi-Oh! still had problems that needed to be addressed, as the artwork on the cards could still be seen as objectionable to foreign audiences. The card game itself would later be forced to enact a ban list, as people began abusing certain tactics to gain an unfair advantage in the tournament scene.
We are here today to look at the most controversial Yu-Gi-Oh! cards ever made. From the mystical pot that was just too damn good, to the bird that almost brought the competitive scene crashing down around our ears.
Here are Eight Yu-Gi-Oh Cards That Had To Be Changed In America (And Seven That Were BANNED!)
15 Pot Of Greed: Banned For Being Too Good
Is there such a thing as a Yu-Gi-Oh! card that is too good? This card would need to be useful in every deck imaginable. It's the kind of card whose ability was so simple that it couldn't be screwed up by dodgy rulings.
Pot of Greed is that kind of card. It was used by pretty much every character in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime at some point. Pot of Greed was also a staple of every competitive deck until it was banned.
The effect of Pot of Greed allows you to draw two cards. This basically means that your deck is a card shorter than the minimum, as you are drawing two cards for the cost of one. Pot of Greed allows you to circumvent one of the main rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! without a cost, which is why it was banned.
14 Destiny Board: The FINAL DEATH
Kids cartoons have faced issues involving death. There have been some shows that were censored, simply because the main character said he was going to kill someone. Overt references to death are usually a problem, which is why the initial English dub of Dragon Ball Z had people being blasted to "Another Dimension."
Yu-Gi-Oh! faced this problem when Bakura dueled Yugi during the first match of the Battle City finals. Bakura's strategy was based around using a set of five cards known as the Ouija Board, which spelled out the word DEATH.
The English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! changed the Ouija Board into the Destiny Board and had the cards spell out FINAL instead. This change was kept for the real Yu-Gi-Oh! card game.
13 Cyber-Stein: The One-Hit Kill
It's generally impossible to win a Yu-Gi-Oh! duel on the first turn. This is because both players have eight thousand life points, which is far beyond the attack range of every monster in the game. Your best bet for winning on the first turn is drawing all five pieces of Exodia and good luck with that.
The creature known as Cyber-Stein had the ability to perform a kill during the player's first turn. You had to ensure that the other player went first and that you had drawn Cyber-Stein and Megamorph, or cards that would allow you to draw them from your deck.
If you have a clear field, you could summon Cyber-Stein and pay five thousand life points to summon a fusion monster with over four thousand attack points (like Master of Oz). You can then use Megamorph to double the fusion monster's attack and hit the enemy for an instant win.
12 Artorigus, King Of The Noble Knights: Male Armor
People being unclothed is one of the most common things that has been censored on Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. This is rarely anything explicit and is more along the lines of fanservice drawings of female monsters. The Harpie creatures commonly needed covering up, as their outfits left little to the imagination. The Dark Magical Girl is another frequent target of censorship, as her cleavage is often removed and turned into a flat chest.
Artorigus, King of the Noble Knights is one of the few cards that needed to be censored due to male body, and it wasn't even the real thing. The Japanese version of Artorigus had a design on the front of his armor that looked vaguely like male anatomy. This was removed from the international versions of the card.
11 Butterfly Dagger - Elma: Infinitely Useful
One of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! archetypes was a group of warriors known as the Guardians. Their gimmick involved the fact that they all had their own magical weapons that could be equipped on anyone, but granted a special effect to their specific Guardian. This archetype didn't last long because the process of drawing the Guardian and their specific weapon generally wasn't worth it in the end.
One of the Guardian weapons was banned due to its ability to create an infinite combo. Butterfly Dagger - Elma automatically returns to the player's hand instead of going to the graveyard. If you combined its effect with Gearfried the Iron Knight, then Elma would keep returning to your hand.
You could create an infinite combo with Elma by combining its effect with cards that powered up whenever a spell was played, such as Royal Magical Library.
10 Batteryman Fuel Cell: He Can Be Found In Different Area Codes
You might be wondering why the sweet pink robot in the picture above this text has the word HO written on its body. Was the robot really so promiscuous that the people at Konami wanted to brand it and let its shame be known to the whole world?
No. The H and the O stand for hydrogen and oxygen. The Batteryman archetype was based on robots and the methods through which they were powered. It's just that the people in Japan weren't aware that the term "ho" can also be used as an offensive insult towards someone.
The artwork for the international versions of Batteryman Fuel Cell was changed so that the dials on its body had colored buttons on them instead.
9 Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy Of The End: Brought Back From The Grave To Clear The Field
There are some cards that are so powerful that they seem destined to hit the ban list as soon as they are released. The two "Envoy" monsters seemed like they were designed to just be better than all other monsters. They both could only be summoned by banishing a Dark and Light-type creature from the graveyard, which was actually advantageous, as it was easier to banish two creatures than to keep them on the field.
Chaos Emperor Dragon- Envoy of the End was the most powerful of the Envoy monsters. This is because it allowed you to pay one thousand life points, in exchange for removing all of the other cards on the field and in each player's hand, while dealing damage to the opponent for everything they discarded.
8 Ultimate Offering: Banned AND Censored
Ultimate Offering is unusual in that it was both censored upon release and placed on the ban list when it was first initiated.
The Japanese version of Ultimate Offering depicts someone dripping blood from an exposed wound on their hand into the mouth of a demonic creature. This was replaced with a creature seemingly conjuring a demon from its own body.
The reason Ultimate Offering was banned was due to its ability to allow you to perform extra summons on your turn for the measly cost of five hundred life points. You could also use its effect during the opponent's turn. This allowed you to quickly swarm the field at an early part of the match and prevent the opponent from retaliating.
7 Monster Reborn: One Free Resurrection Coming Up!
A lot of the best cards from the earliest Yu-Gi-Oh! sets have made it onto the ban list. This is because they are so overwhelmingly powerful that they needed to be restricted. The reason they are so powerful is that the game was still being tweaked when they were created, so no one was aware of how powerful cards like Pot of Greed and Raigeki were.
Monster Reborn was a card that was so good that it rivaled Pot of Greed in terms of how commonplace it was. Monster Reborn allowed you to revive a monster from either player's graveyard for free, which can make for some devastating combos.
Similar cards to Monster Reborn were released in later sets, but these usually had an additional cost to use.
6 Last Day Of Witch: Witch Repellant
You would think that depicting a young woman being bound to a stake and set on fire would be too extreme an image to appear on a card game meant for children, and you would be right. Japan doesn't have quite the same amount of sensitivity to the burning of witches as America does, which is why the Last Day of Witch card exists.
Last Day of Witch is a rare example of a card needing a whole new piece of artwork commissioned, instead of the existing image being censored. The new picture shows the design for a theoretical "Witchbusters" movie, with a more cartoonish image being used for the witch. It's a shame they went to so much effort, as the card effect isn't even that good.
5 Solemn Judgement: Talk To The Hand
Yu-Gi-Oh! is a game of checks and balances. The three distinct card types (monsters, spells, and traps) could act as counters to each other, in order to prevent any single strategy from dominating the game.
The one card that defies the finely tuned balance of Yu-Gi-Oh! is Solemn Judgement. It allows you to stop any card from being played at the cost of half of your life points. A player's life points are one of the most disposable resources available to them, so the cost of using Solemn Judgement isn't that high.
Solemn Judgement's ability to pretty much counter every card in the game is what earned it a place on the ban list. It had a frightening level of utility that made trap cards the most dominating force in the game.
4 Enchanting Fitting Room: Silhouette Censorship
If we told you that a Yu-Gi-Oh! card had to be censored because it depicted a creature holding a pair of undergarments: you would likely think it would involve women's underwear. This isn't surprising, as the Japanese have a depraved fascination with bras and panties, to the point where it shows up in pretty much all of their media in some capacity.
In this case: the card that was changed involved a guy's underwear. Enchanting Fitting Room was actually censored because it depicted a thong worn by a male monster. The card depicts one of the Ojama creatures holding its tiny underwear in its hands while standing behind a curtain. The censored version of the card changed the underwear to a t-shirt instead.
3 Victory Dragon: Finish Him!
Cards that allow you to break the rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! are usually strong candidates for the ban list. This is especially true of those that allow you to influence the victory conditions, as finding a way to exploit these cards would give you a significant advantage over your opponent. One example of this was Last Turn, which allowed you to hinge a whole game on a single battle. The effects of Last Turn could be tilted in its user's favor, which gave it a higher chance of scoring an instant win.
Victory Dragon was banned due to its ability to affect the outcome of competitive matches. In most Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments, you play best of three matches. Victory Dragon's unique effect meant that if it dealt the winning blow, then you immediately win the whole set of three and move on to the next round.
2 Soul Of The Pure: Angels Hurting Themselves
Blood is one of the most common things censored on a Yu-Gi-Oh! card. It is usually changed to a different color (such as green) or removed completely. The color red in general seems to cause trouble, as glasses filled with scarlet liquid are also changed, in case anyone thinks it's blood or wine.
It's easy to see why Soul of the Pure had a new piece of artwork commissioned for the card, as the original depicted an angel hurting themselves with a knife and letting its blood drip onto its knee. Editing this card would have been a huge pain in the butt for the people at Konami, which is likely why a generic image of an angel was used in its place.
1 Yata-Garasu: The Bird Who Built The Ban List
One of the basic rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! is that each player draws a card on their turn. This is important, as it allows each player a fair chance to draw something that could turn the game in their favor. Drawing a card each turn was also linked to one of the victory conditions of the game, as running out of cards in your deck and being forced to draw meant that you lost the match.
Yata-Garasu prevented the opponent from drawing a card on their next turn if it landed a hit. The fact that it is a Spirit monster meant that it retreated back to its player's hand at the end of the turn, which meant that it was really hard to destroy. If the opponent didn't have anything good in his hand at the moment you drew a Yata-Garasu, then you have won the match, as they will be unable to retaliate.
Yata-Garasu and its "Yata-Lock" was so pervasive that it lead to the creation of the Yu-Gi-Oh! ban list, as the stupid bird needed to be locked away forever.