Influential, innovative and massively iconic, Yu-Gi-Oh! Is one of the most popular Japanese manga/anime series to hit American audiences. It's impact is in the same ballpark as massive anime franchises like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z. Yu-Gi-Oh! Was one of the hottest commodities for young fans that became enthralled with the dramatic soap opera that centered on a card game.
The amount of original content that was displayed throughout the series was excellent, and with the popularity of the Konami licensed card game finding life as its own intense competitive scene, and a recent movie release in The Dark Side of Dimensions, it is clear the love for this series is still going strong. The only problem is that the series that the American audience is enjoying from their homes is actually a completely different version as to the one that Japanese viewers were subjected to.
The only problem is that the series that the American audience is enjoying from their homes are actually experiencing a completely different version as to the one that Japanese viewers were subjected to.
Motives changed, moments censored, and even the wording of phrases was carefully edited by those who deemed the show to be a little too racy for the Saturday morning cartoon watching kids that it was intended to be marketed for.
These are some of the most note-worthy changes in the series that were made as the series transitioned between cultures.
Get ready for some eye-opening information that will have you mind-blown as to how the Yu-Gi-Oh! you probably grew up with is just one big lie.
15 Spot The Difference
Bandit Keith remains consistent as an anti-hero that lurks in the background and surfaces in a few select episode. His story is tragic, and his reasons for searching for redemption against Duelist Kingdom owner Pegasus is commendable. Possessing the power of the mind-reading Millenium Eye, Pegasus is able to defeat Bandit Keith by allowing a child to duel for him by giving him a piece of paper with instructions to defeat the American duelist during the Intercontinental Championship Tournament in the United States. Embarrassed and humiliated, he seeks redemption after the tournament and travels to Duelist Kingdom to give Pegasus a piece of his mind, at least in the American version. In the Japanese version, Bandit Keith plans on strictly finding Pegasus for the sake of murdering him, something removed for obvious reasons.
14 Where Did They Go?
While it is understandable to cover up a body that has been exposed, such as the Harpie Ladies that were given bodysuits to replace their skimpy outfits, but when somebody is censored for the size of their body, it just comes off as strange. One of the more notable ones of this is the infamous Dark Magician Girl, who had her cleavage reduced. But this censorship becomes borderline offensive to women with large bust sizes as the card X-Saber Anu Piranha (who is completely clothed from neck to toe) is given a severe breast reduction that makes her body look out of proportion. What makes this censorship so gross is that it was not done to protect children from overt "adult" content, but as a presumptuous precaution to shield people from a well-figured woman.
13 Parasite Action
During an episode that took place in the second season of the show (The Battle City saga), Yugi’s best friend Joey Wheeler is in the midst of an intense duel with his offbeat wily rival Weevil, when the latter begins to tease that there may be a parasite in the formers deck. Joey realizes that indeed one bug card has been snuck into his deck. So as Joey summons one of his signature cards Panther Warrior, he quickly comes to realization that something is not right. In the American version of this scene, the parasitic worm character merely squirms in the skin of the creature, the Japanese version features an admittedly gross scene that echoed director Ridley Scott’s Alien in which the parasite bursts out the mouth of Panther Warrior in spectacularly disgusting fashion.
12 Revenge Sacrifice
Strictly left to the anime and manga versions of the series and never released into the actual card game because of its unbalanced nature, Revenge Sacrifice is used by the character Nightmare Penguin in season 3 of the original series. The card is basically a trap card meant to counter the opponent with an effect that causes them to lose a monster after destroying one and this is rarely consistent with the Japanese and American versions. What is not, however, is the characteristic use of tentacles to portray the grasp of an unwilling woman in the artwork of the card that remains exclusive to the anime. This episode might be one of the only appearances of this raunchy card, but after the resurgence of “tentacle porn” as an inside joke to anime fans, it is actually fairly hilarious to see the difference between the two.
11 Rare Hunter Fight Scene
During a fight scene in the second season of the show, Rare Hunters that seek to retrieve rare cards target the group of the protagonists, and as female character Tea is being taken, friends Joey and Marik do all they can to fight off this group of scavengers. For those who crave animated fight scenes, however, would be disappointed at the American version of this scene that cuts out most of the brutality that made this fight impactful to the narrative. In the Japanese version Joey and Marik get mercilessly assaulted until they are both incapacitated, and while this may come off as brutal and slightly out of touch with the plot of the series it is actually right in tone with the seriousness of the situation and this is what makes the censorship such a shame.
10 ANY TRACE OF GUNS / SWORDS / LIFE THREATENING VIOLENCE
After examining the American version of the show compared with the Japanese one, the large difference between them is the dramatic removal of any sort of extreme violence. What is extreme violence? Well, removing the cannons from cards with guns, decreasing the realism in artwork, removing guns and swords completely from scenes in the show and even flat-out blurring out any violent card imagery in the show with a strange bright light. This includes (but is not limited to) buzz saws, fangs, scythes, tentacles (as covered), and any mention of the everlasting violence that one endures during a duel. Untrained eyes that enjoy the show might not realize the stark difference between the two, but upon further examination, one will find that almost every episode has some sort of censorship towards the weapons that resemble real ones.
9 North American Can't Handle A Religious Exodia
One of the most iconic sets of cards from the series, Exodia the Forbidden has gone through quite a facelift. Famous for being protagonist Yugi’s sacred cards that garner an instant victory when brought together at the same time during a duel. What most fans do not know, however, is that the iconic design of a circle with curly neon lights is a censor to the simple pentagram that once stood there in the background of the cards that make up “the Forbidden One." While the visual aspect of this change is minuscule, it is unfortunate that the clean and crisp design of the monster (and his attacks) had to be changed to add more lines to distinguish it from the religious symbolism that Americans can be uneasy about.
8 Statue Of Liberty Is (Almost) Destroyed
During the ending finale of season four, the protagonists of Yugi, Joey, Tristian, Tea, and Mokuba are all struggling against the evil Dartz, who is casting a spell to bring the power of the Great Leviathan to wreak havoc on an unnamed adjacent city. In the American version of the show, the city is more or less a generic interpretation of any metropolis, but in the Japanese version, things are a quite different. You see, as the Great Leviathan is about to collapse the city with a gigantic tidal wave tsunami, Yugi has the time to use his powers to shield the city from darkness and vanquish it before it can be destroyed. At the last second you see the tidal wave crash onto the French gift, it disappears slowly. It would appear as if the destruction of American landmarks was deemed too dark for impressionable children.
7 Censoring Cards (Because It's Easier?)
One very notable visual difference between the American and Japanese version of the anime is the appearance of the actual cards in the episodes. In real life, the Konami cards are bordered with a color to signify their trait (spell, trap, monster, etc.), and this holds true for the Japanese version. However, the American version attempted to simplify the layouts of the cards (apparently to simplify the need for lots of text by removing the adjacent wording that describes the effect of the series. Funny enough, this attribute makes the events of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX make more sense, as the students that are studying at the world-famous Duelist Academy must learn the effects and have them down by memory, and with some cards having over a paragraph of text, one could only imagine the difficulty in remembering the 40 cards one must possess to duel.
6 Censorship = No Continuity
Apparently, the people who were editing Yu-Gi-Oh! were tasked with censorship, but also had no problem completely ruining continuity in the episodes. And no one solitary moment can be pointed at because there is a sensible purpose in some of the censorship. Some of these mistakes simply have no rhyme or reason. Things like switching card artworks with improper ones, putting the wrong cards in people hands, removing small cuts that add exposition, and mixing card names (like putting the wrong arm of Exodia in the first episode). It almost seems like these mistakes were done on purpose to dumb the show down from the excellence that was the original version, which actually makes the success of the show in America that much more amazing.
5 Pegasus’ Reason For Taking Kaiba Corporation
As mentioned before on this list, Maximillion Pegasus was the owner and operator of Duelist Kingdom and held a tournament to lure the ire of some of the best duelists in the world. His end game remains the same in both Japanese and American versions, as he plans to entrap Seto Kaiba and take Kaiba Corp., but that is where the similarities really end. Pegasus’ love interest Cecilia died at the age of 17 to an unknown illness, and in the American version, he is keen on retrieving the rest of the millennium items to do so, while the Japanese version has him looking for just one piece of technology known as Solid Vision to bring her back. This may not seem like a large change, but it makes the character of Pegasus look much more tragic as intended as opposed to making him look like a flat-out maniacal tyrant.
4 “Season 0”
The first anime adaptation of the show for American audiences was.... something. Infamous amongst the most hardcore of Yu-Gi-Oh! fans, the first trial episode was never released. While it is not exactly ‘changed’ from the original Japanese version, this short season was simply too mature for the American audience and it would have taken so much away from the impact of this hidden gem. Most characters are reverted to their original Japanese natures, such as Yugi’s alter ego being a brutal trickster that leaves people mentally unstable or the sheer amount of mature themes like slavery, terrorism, and even sociopathic behavior from many of the antagonists which include (but is definitely not limited to) Seto Kaiba.
3 Fake Cards
Some of the unspoken rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! are shady at the very best, as there does not seem to be any rules towards counterfeit cards or even a mention as to who prints the cards in the universe. However, this kind of anti-detail stigma seems to be fairly limited to the world of the American anime as the Japanese version refers to the Exodia cards used by the Rare Hunters in episode WHAT as “fake cards” as the only possible reference in the entire series (in all regions) to counterfeit cards. This is already amazing as it is, but the notion of removing this small fact seems unnecessary to the story, and it's not like children do not know what fake is and that is what makes this so pointless.
2 Marik’s Purpose
Marik serves as an antagonist for both versions of the series, but for completely different reasons. In the American version, Marik is just a power hungry duelist that believes a prophecy must be fulfilled to appoint him as the real pharaoh of Egypt (While Yugi is the real one). However, in the Japanese version, he is actually doing a number of questionable actions for a noble cause. Marik’s family is revealed to have a curse to be guard keepers of tombs for the rest of their lives, and he simply searches to free them from this ongoing tradition to allow their freedom. Of course, how he goes about this ends up being just as questionable in his American rendition, but he has still lacked that depth he had in the original.
1 The Shadow Realm
One of the most recognizable pieces of terminology in Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom throughout the United States is the notable reference to the legendary “Shadow Realm.” But to break the hearts of those American fans that hold onto the lore of the original series, this is strictly an invention of the producers that needed a way to remove death from the series. Sure, the “Shadow Realm” sounds edgy and cool, but it is an actual representation of being dead. One could assume that it was done to prevent the impressionable American children from thinking about mortality, but in reality it was done to keep a light theme all throughout in general. While this is might not be the most controversial change between the Japanese and American versions it instilled an iconic piece of lore that is etched in the minds of American fans for the rest of their lives.