Yu-Gi-Oh! The creator of Kazuki Takahashi tragically died on July 6, 2022. Although the details of his death are still being investigated, the world immediately felt the loss of his passing. From anime fans who watched Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, when they were children, for people who played various forms of card games, for people who loved the original manga from which the entire franchise was born, Kazuki Takahashi’s creation managed to affect millions of people on different media platforms. Although Yu-Gi-Oh! was ultimately one of the most successful franchises in the world, the path to introduce the card duelist to the world was not easy and challenging for its creator Kazuki Takahashi.
Takahashi was born on October 4, 1961 in Tokyo, Japan. Takahashi’s path to mangaka was neither predetermined nor obvious. While he loved to draw as a child, Takahashi never had great ambitions in his art. He wasn’t even particularly moved by the art until one day he saw kamishibai (the Japanese term for a street storyteller). While many children were attracted to the dolls and the man’s performance, Takahashi was instead attracted to the artwork on stage. Not only was he impressed with the details of the art, he spent most of the show wondering if the performer had painted it all himself. It was this event that inspired him to draw more, and as he drew more, the idea came up to use his drawings in manga form.
After graduating from high school, Takahashi immediately began participating in drawing and manga contests. His persistence paid off when one of his manga stories won a senen manga contest. Takahashi was 19 years old when he won. Although he hoped it would be a boost to his career, the reality is that for several years editors rejected many of his ideas for stories, and he found himself mostly writing vanshots to make a living. Two of his ideas — Tokio no Tsuma and Tennenshokudanji — really became series, but both series ended relatively quickly, and Takahashi considers the work he created during these years a “complete failure”.
When it came time to regroup and create something new, he decided that he really wanted to write a fighting manga. However, with so many fighting manga on the market, it was difficult for him to come up with something original. He decided that an interesting twist would be the creation of a fighting manga in which the main character did not strike. Just as quickly as the idea inspired him, the same idea imposed serious restrictions on what he could do in said series. It was then that he decided that his characters could “fight” in games, and returned to the right path.
Although this idea was rejected by the editors, Takahashi felt that he had caught on to something. Instead of creating a fighting manga about games, he created a horror manga in which game battles had deadly consequences. As soon as it was decided that horror would play the main theme, he added mystical Egyptian artifacts that evoke spirits and monsters, and Yu-Gi-Oh! finally born. The editors of Weekly Shonen Jump liked this concept and decided to publish the series. Although it was far from a breakthrough hit, it attracted the attention of the famous animation studio Toei Animation, which decided that it had the potential to become a huge hit, and pre-ordered the anime.
Takahashi was on his way to finally succeed in the industry, but the series was still far from a runaway success. Nevertheless, by an amazing irony of fate, two chapters changed the course of Yu-Gi-Oh! good luck and give Takahashi a tool to create a game manga about battles, which he always wanted to do. In two chapters of the manga, Yugi plays a card game called “Magic and Wizards” (a reference to Magic of the Gathering and Wizards of the Coast) with a bully named Kaiba, who tried to steal a rare card that his grandfather had. Using the power of the Millennium Puzzle, the dark pharaoh, who is now hiding inside Yuga, revives the card creatures as an epic battle takes place between them.
After the two chapters were finished, Takahashi planned to move on and create other games, but the readers’ reaction was instant: the children wanted to know what this card game was called and where they could get it. Sensing an opportunity, Takahashi and his editors remade the manga and did a soft reboot, focusing on Duel Monsters, the official Yu-Gi-Oh card game! manga. This really created some problems with the anime, which was struggling to find an audience, and led to the cancellation of the series, and a new anime from a new studio took its place. This is anime – Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel of monsters! – became a hit in Japan and successfully made the card game a REAL card game that can be played at school!