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Media Review : Anime"

Last reviewed 12.02, by Tavam Shaytar

Yu-gi... Oh?
Spoiler warnings: I haven't seen the early episodes, but have seen most of the ones up to the final duels in Pegasus's castle, and will be referring to various episodes in brief as necessary.

The Plot:
In a time long past, in the land of Egypt, there was a game so powerful, so dangerous, that the Pharaoh banned it and sealed away all knowledge of it for a millenia.

Now a rich eccentric by the name of Maximillion Pegasus has revived the game, calling it "Duel Monsters." Duelists use cards to "summon" holographic monsters and compete in a game of strategy and strength. Pegasus has created a tournament, and challenged duelists to prove their worth. The winner gets to duel Pegasus himself and, if he or she wins, will receive a million dollars, and a boon from Pegasus.

The Characters:
Enter our unlikely hero(s): Yugi Moto, Joey Wheeler, Tristan Taylor, Téa Gardner (pronounced Te-ah, not "tea"), and Bakura. These school friends set out on the duelist challenge, each for their own reasons.

Yugi duels in the hopes of regaining his grandfather's soul, which has been trapped in another dimension by Pegasus. Joey duels in the hopes of winning the prize money, to pay for his sister's operation. The others... well, Tristan and Téa seem to tag along as a cheering squad, although Téa at least does duel. Bakura's reasons are still a little murky, but he seems to be after information about the powers of his own Millennium Artifact -- a ring, engraved with a stylized Eye of Ra(1) on it. (Pegasus also has a Millennium Artifact -- an Eye of Ra that he wears either over top of, or to replace, his left eye. It has the power to capture souls and send them to the Duel Monsters dimension, turning them into cards in the "real world.")

Along the way the five of them encounter other duelists, including Mai Valentine, and Seto Kaiba. Kaiba also duels to save a loved one: his brother Mokuba, whose soul has been imprisoned in a card by Pegasus. Unfortunately, Kaiba never reaches the final round of duels. He is captured by Pegasus after winning a duel against Yugi and losing a subsequent one to Pegasus, so Yugi also vows to duel to rescue Kaiba and Mokuba.

Multiplicity? ~ Evidence
Yugi's grandfather gave him a "Millennium Puzzle," (which looks like a pyramid with the eye of Thoth(1) engraved on it hanging point-down from a cord around Yugi's neck) telling him that when he solved it, he would unleash "dark and mysterious powers". And solve it Yugi did. But instead of simply gaining the powers himself, he opened a door for another spirit -- Yami Yugi -- to join him.

Two spirits in one body.

Yami Yugi seems to be quite aware of the fact that he's sharing space with Yugi. Yugi, on the other hand, only slowly comes to realize that it's not just him becoming stronger and wiser when he invokes the power of the Millennium Puzzle. What actually happens is that Yami Yugi steps forward and takes over. His wisdom and experience enables them to win duels even in the most unlikely circumstances.

In the anime, it is quite easy to see, and hear, the striking differences between Yugi and Yami Yugi. Yami Yugi is about a foot taller, much more confident and poised, his clothing is different (he wears his jacket buttoned up, Yugi wears his hanging open), he wears boots instead of Yugi's sneakers, his eyes are a different shape, and his voice is noticeably deeper.

By the time the group reaches Pegasus's castle, Yugi's friends are beginning to notice that something "strange" is going on with Yugi. It's Téa who finally takes a moment to reflect on how Yugi "seems to become someone else" when he's dueling. Although she thinks it's a bit odd, she accepts that Yugi is the way he is, and is thankful for his friendship.

Then Seto Kaiba meets the group on the steps of Pegasus's castle, and challenges Yugi to a duel. The battle is fierce and finally comes to a point where Kaiba puts his own life on the line, stepping to the edge of the high tower on which they duel. His action forces Yugi/Yami Yugi to choose between winning the duel by attacking and possibly knocking Kaiba from the tower in the process, or not attacking and instead allowing Kaiba his turn to strike and win the duel.

Yami Yugi is ruthless, takes the calculated risk, and orders his monster to attack. To him, winning the duel is everything.

Yugi panics, not willing to risk Kaiba's life over a duel, and wrestles control back from Yami Yugi. The monster stops short, and Kaiba attacks and wins the duel.

Yugi doesn't care about the duel, or the fact that he's now lost five starchips and therefore can no longer enter the final round of duels. (Duelists have to earn ten starchips through their duels on the island in order to get into the final round of duels in the castle.) He's too busy having a mini-breakdown, realizing that there was this "other spirit" that was willing to do anything to win. And what if next time he duels, he can't control it?

His friends try various tactics to snap him out of it, but none of them really understand his internal conflict (which is all vocalized in internal monologue). Yami Yugi is silent, having returned to wherever it is he goes when he's not dueling. Finally Mai, whom Yugi had dueled earlier, comes along and tries to give Yugi five spare starchips which she had acquired along the way. He refuses to respond, or even acknowledge her, and she berates him for losing his nerve just because he's lost one duel.

Fed up with Mai's verbal abuse, Téa declares that she will duel Mai for the starchips and give them to Yugi if she wins. Téa is a very inexperienced duelist, but manages to more or less hold her own. Mai draws a card that could win the duel for her, but looking at Yugi, Téa, and their friends, she decides not to play it, and instead cedes the duel to Téa.

Yugi, who pulled himself together enough to follow the duel, tries to ask Mai about the card she didn't play. She replies cryptically, "Some cards just aren't worth playing, huh Yugi?" and walks away.

Reluctantly, Yugi takes the starchips from Téa, deciding that maybe he can duel again, because he has to rescue his grandfather, but he's going to have to be very very careful and not allow "that other spirit" to take control.

They make their way into Pegasus's castle, and after a restless night of debating whether he's doing the right thing, Yugi finally summons Yami Yugi, and heads for the dueling arena.

The four finalists are Yugi, Joey, Mai, and Bandit Keith, and the first duel is between Yugi and Mai. As Pegasus and Yugi's friends watch, Yugi stumbles his way through the duel, getting caught in Mai's traps and repeating his mistakes.

Yami Yugi asks Yugi to trust him, and let him help Yugi duel. Yugi stubbornly refuses for several turns until it becomes obvious that he is about to lose. Only then does he agree to cooperate with Yami Yugi, letting the other spirit's experience pull them through. Together, they manage to turn the tide and win the duel.

Later they figure out another tactic -- the "Mind Shuffle" (I kid you not) but that deserves a whole review in and of itself.  ^_^

Multiplicity? ~ Analysis
To ask "is Yugi multiple?" is to simplify things and distort them with language. But then, we disagree with the "is multiple" statement on the principle of the thing, because it implies (to us) ownership of everyone associated with that body. But we'll leave that aside.

By all the evidence in the anime, Yugi shares body space with another spirit. I don't know the circumstances under which that spirit came to be there (missed those episodes. must badger YTV to replay them) but for all intents and purposes, he appears to be either from another dimension or another time (or both).

One of the most interesting things is that, when they finally start communicating, Yugi and Yami Yugi are shown talking to each other face to face in an Other Space that might or might not be inside Yugi's head. Either way, they are very definitely seeing each other and carrying on a conversation in a place that is not the "real" world in which they are dueling. They don't talk out loud to each other, but the anime does show their impressions of each other as they both lay their hands on the deck of cards: the size difference is exaggerated, but it makes the point that these are two very distinct people.

So how does Yu-Gi-Oh! rate on its portrayal of multiplicity?

Two thumbs up for a positive portrayal of a relatively normal individual coping remarkably well with sharing his body with someone else. Yami Yugi is not a murderer, and is quite willing to change his ways so that Yugi doesn't freak out> and refuse to share space with him. Within a fairly short span of time, they learn to communicate and cooperate with each other, working together towards a shared goal.

Two thumbs up for Téa acknowledging and accepting both Yugis. I can't remember the exact quote, but it's something along the lines of: "whatever's going on with you, Yugi, you're both great guys." (She doesn't say this out loud, but still.)

One thumb down for the "Millennium Puzzle" aspect. It only adds to the "multiples are that way because of mystical powers, or they have mystical powers" camp. The artifact seems to allow Yugi to "summon" Yami Yugi, but doesn't allow him to control the master duelist. Still, it drags things into the unnecessary realm of the mystical.

As for Bakura and the spirit of his Millennium Artifact -- two thumbs WAAAAY down for the "evil spirit taking over" version of multiplicity. Bleh. But that's a whole other rant, since we're finally getting evidence of his issues in the most recent episodes.

Overall, though, I rather approve of the paradigm being presented through Yu-Gi-Oh. Even if the kids who watch it don't remember the details of the show (which might be a good thing in a long run) they'll still have a model for understanding the idea of two people sharing a body. And that's a good thing. If the idea is planted while their minds are still flexible enough to get around it, it's beginning a generation that has a paradigm for accepting multiplicity.

That's going to open a lot of doors for those who do share space with others. Or so we can hope.

(1) The eye may actually be the Eye of Thoth; it's hard to tell which way the lines below the eye go.

"The utchat represents the Egyptian sacred eye. The right eye, the Eye of Ra, symbolizes the Sun. The left eye, the Eye of Thoth, symbolizes the Moon. Together they represent the Eyes of Horus The Elder. The utchat, therefore, is a symbol for the ability to spiritually perceive that which is illuminated, as well as that which is hidden."
from ~

by Tavam Shaytar
~Sept. 12/02~

You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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