The Great Canon Divide
The Great Canon Divide: YGO and Source Material
An extract from an in-progress essay
…as you can see from the diagram above this is going to be a poorly executed geographical metaphor.
The original source material of YGO is - of course the
magma manga, written by Kazuki Takahashi. Initially, Kazuki Takahashi did not plan to focus on the card game, Duel Monsters in his work. However, Duel Monsters is a cash-volcano, just sort of spewing movie exclusive cards and revenue out. This decision radically altered the direction the manga was taken in.
In the sub, this divide took place between two separate anime series, known to fandom as s0 produced by Toei Animation and also s1-5 produced by Studio Gallop and Nihon Ad Systems. Whereas s0 followed the early manga, s1-5 were more card-focused to reflect the later work.
Further dividing the sub and manga are the filler arcs, notably DOMA. Whilst Virtual World involved concepts brought up in Death-T from the manga, the anime-exclusive DOMA arc was written to give Takahashi further time to work on the Millennium World Arc (s5). In the end, the canon non-compliant DOMA was aired, and Takahashi removed most of his intended ideas for MW, leaving a number of subplots unaddressed or explored.
Nevertheless, the two slightly wonky canons of sub and manga remain a collective whole to their original audience.
However, the American Licensing Company, 4kids Entertainment (now, 4Licensing Corporation, because that doesn’t sound evil) then purchased the dubbing rights to s1-5 but not s0. Over-all, this decision was financial, but resulted in an natural gulf between the canon. Added to this, dubbing of the time also included a large amount of localization, as well as censorship (there’s a subduction joke in here somewhere) in order to soften the material for a western - and/or younger - audience.
YGO had a small problem then; the original source material is violent. This resulted in some sweeping changes to the already divided material. Examples of the changes 4kids felt it needed to make include seemingly random name localization (Yugi remains unaltered, Anzu is now Téa), odd voicing choices, and the creation of card game hell. Entire character arcs were invented and others stripped out.
The result of all this is that, whilst every fandom encounters rifts in its canon, whether due to continuity snarls, dubbing or other factors, YGO is a complete mess. There are radical differences between and within, manga, sub, and dub that are all technically canon, and as a fandom we are quite divided.
Further – the popularity of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, which is itself a parody of the dubbed material, but calls upon sub and manga when required. As an elaborate transformative piece YGOTAS commands a wide audience, and a wider canon of its own, separate from the original materials. However, are many places in the western fandom where YGOTAS canon overtakes dub, and even sub or manga canon, convoluting what is understood as canon further.
In order to begin any serious discussion of YGO as a series, not only is an understanding of this history pretty much required, but if you don’t address it at the onset, you’re just going to end up with cross-canon complaints.