Perhaps you’ve heard me refer to my "little brother," Johnny. To avoid confusion I’m referring to the terrific 10 year old boy I was matched up with through the "Big Brothers Big Sisters" program.
Johnny has 3 brothers (the sibling kind) and 2 cousins. Whereas I thought all of these boys would be easy prey for indoctrination into the wonderful world of action figures it didn’t quite work out that way. Don’t get me wrong, they all think my collection is cool but there just isn’t that spark for them. Back when Johnny and I were first matched up he was playing a lot of World of Warcraft. This was well before DC Direct launched their amazing WoW line so I had to scramble to find one of the SOTA’s 2004 WoW PVC figures (the Tauren Shaman.) Again, Johnny thought it was cool but there was none of that "look at the back of the package to see what other characters are available" thing. I backed off.
What could possibly be more captivating than action figures for young boys? Besides the obvious (video games) Johnny’s brothers and cousins all play a TCG (trading card game) called Yu-Gi-Oh! It wasn’t long before they cobbled together a starter deck for yours truly. Was I in for an awakening. You see, we’re not talking about a card game like UNO. This thing is hard. Consider:
• Your deck must have a minimum of 40 cards which all fall into one of three main catagories: Monster, Spell, or Trap
• Each card (and there are a myriad of cards) has specific attributes
• During game play each turn is split up into 6 phases (Draw, Standby, Main 1, Battle, Main 2, End)
• Monster cards can be either "Summoned" or "Set" and, to be played, some require you "Tribute" another monster or two
• Trap cards can only be played after the turn they are set, whereas Spell cards can be played during your turn
• Everybody’s deck is custom made and can be built around and endless amount of themes
• There are exceptions to all the rules
• Etc ad infinitum…
Needless to say, my initial duels were a joke. I pretended to know what was going on and hoped to be annihilated quickly. It didn’t help my ego when Johnny’s 5 year old brother would walk around expounding on the particular "Effects" of his monster cards. He can’t read. Well, this will be a phase, I thought to myself. No need to actually learn this game. They’ll be on to something else soon.
Then Johnny got me a gift. His mom tried to talk him into getting me a restaurant gift certificate but he insisted on getting me a Yu-Gi-Oh! tin which contained a rare card called "Rainbow Dragon." I could no longer just blow the game off. I figured out what Rainbow Dragon could do, learned what other cards worked with Rainbow Dragon and acquired them, and slowly built my custom "Crystal Beast" deck. Somewhere in there I was hooked and now feel that the initial learning curve investment is worth it. This is a fun, challenging, addicting game. And allow me to interject here that adults should be wary of condemning the time kids spend playing Yu-Gi-Oh! in that rot-your-brain-video-game type way. Its my opinion that kids who play this game are giving their brains a serious workout. Trust me on that!
For those unfamiliar, Yu-Gi-Oh! (literally "Game King") began in 1996 as a Japanese manga created by Kazuki Takahashi that ran in the weekly Japanese manga compilation Shonen Jump. (Think Naruto, YuYu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z.) The popularity of the manga led to a few anime series beginning in 1998, the trading card game, video games, and for those growing weary reading this blog: toys!
When the anime series debuted in the U.S. in September 2001 it premiered at number 1 in its Saturday morning time slot. The actual trading card game which began shipping a few months later is the realization of the fictional game seen in the anime episodes. In Asian countries the trading cards are distributed through Konami. In other countries they are distributed through Upper Deck who manufactures under Konami’s supervision. In April 2002 Mattel began shipping toys including action figures.
Not having the slightest interest in Yu-Gi-Oh! until recently I did not pay the toy line any notice when it could be found on the pegs. So I tried my best to piece together a check list of some sort for this blog entry. Alas, I gave up. Over the few years Mattel produced toys for the brand there was at least a 6" line with basic and deluxe figures, a 2" line, and a "Build Your Own Toy Out of Pieces Embedded Like a Fossil in a Plastic Slab" line. The 6" line transitioned into a "Interchangeable Limb Magnetic 360 Joynt" line. There were a "Dragon Duel," "Duel and Destroy," and "Total Control" lines which I assume fit in with the 6" line. And, of course, there was the obligatory packaging style change to help add to the confusion.
Example of a Yu-Gi-Oh! card, screen captures from the anime series, and examples of toys. This character is"Exodia." Its kinda like a build-a-figure. If you get the main card pictured here plus his 2 arms and 2 legs all in your hand at the same time – you win the duel!
Another example of a Yu-Gi-Oh! card and its toy counterpart. I found this "3D Tablet Monser" Dragon Master Knight when I checked Toys-R-Us to see if there may be any long since discontinued Yu-Gi-Oh! toys left. It rang up for .87 cents:
I’m not sure this brand needed a toys. Granted there are tons of great characters that could have driven a well managed line. But it seems Mattel did not quite know what to do with it. For Yu-Gi-Oh! duelers, completing their decks and acquiring cards is enough collecting. Whereas common cards are easy and cheap to obtain, as you can imagine there are rare cards that are almost impossible to find or expensive to buy. For instance, a recently released card called Judgment Dragon. This is for one card people:
As for Johnny and his posse of duelers I quickly went from being the influential mentor to just one of the boys. Big surprise. Are you a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan? What kind of deck do you run? Did you collect the toys? Please post below.