Yugi (left) and Dark/Yami Yugi (right)
|First appearance||Yu-Gi-Oh! Chapter 1|
|Created by||Kazuki Takahashi|
Yugi Mutou (Japanese: 武藤 遊戯 Hepburn: Mutō Yūgi), known as Yugi Muto/Yugi Moto in the English anime, is a fictional character created by Kazuki Takahashi who serves as the main character of the manga series Yu-Gi-Oh!. Yugi is introduced a friendless teenager who is solving an ancient Egyptian treasure known as the Millennium Puzzle, hoping that it will give grant its wish of forming bonds. Through this, Yugi revives an ancient spirit who goes through the alias of Dark Yugi (闇遊戯 Yami Yūgi) or Yami Yugi (as in the English anime). Across the series, Yugi forms friendships with the supporting cast and comes to have interact with Yami and learn about his secrets. Besides the manga, Yugi has also appeared in the anime adaptations, films and multiple video games.
Yugi was created to be a weak young man interested with games who becomes a hero when playing games. Takahashi mentions that through this trait, Yugi emphasizes the series' themes: friendship and enjoyment of games. Dark Yugi was created as hero who would appeal to young children due to his strong characterization.
Critical reception to Yugi has been mixed. While some writers found Dark Yugi to be too dark for the series, the development of both Yugi and his alter-ego was widely praised. His role in the movie was also met with praise, mostly Dark Side of Dimensions for featuring a more mature incarnation of the character.
Creation and development
Kazuki Takahashi had always been interested in games, claiming to have been obsessed as a kid and is still interested in them as an adult. In a game, he considered the player to become a hero. He decided to base the Yu-Gi-Oh! series around such games and used this idea as the premise; Yugi was a weak childish boy, who became a hero when he played games. With friendship being one of the major themes of Yu-Gi-Oh!, he based the names of the two major characters "Yūgi" and "Jōnouchi" on the word yūjō (友情), which means "friendship". Henshin, the ability to turn into something or someone else, is something Takahashi believed all children dreamed of. He considered Yugi's "henshin" Dark Yugi, a savvy, invincible games player, to be a big appeal to children.
As a message to his readers, Takahashi believes modern society focuses on too much on whoever is a winner and a loser. For example, the author believes the regular Yugi and Katsuya Jonouchi (known as Joey Wheeler in the English anime) to have more potential as characters since they only focus on enjoying games. On the other hand, he felt Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba to be weaker characters despite the former's heroic traits. As a result, he believes Dark Yugi to be at his best when he is being supported by the rest of the cast.
Yugi and Kaiba's relationship has been found to describe by Takahashi. While the two are rival, they are not close friends. However, he believes the most important part of their relationship was before Yugi's duel against Marik's alter-ego. Before the game begins, Kaiba passes Yugi a card that could help him in the game. This scene felt like one of the most difficult ones to write because of their the two's rivalry. The author believes none of them want to be help of each other.
In the first anime adaption of the manga, Megumi Ogata voiced the main character. Shunsuke Kazama replaced her for the following one, while Dan Green was Yugi's and Yami Yugi's single voice actor in U.S. anime episodes. Ogata recalls she chosen by the director to voice Yugi that he told her "I can feel the scent of darkness from you" which, while leaving the actress confused at, Ogata believes he meant Yugi's anti-heroic alter-ego. Green has used two different pitches when it came to Yugi's and Yami's voices. Green also said that while that he notes how Martin Billany's abridged series based on Yu-Gi-Oh! parodies his voice acting, he still did not find the humor offensive and enjoyed the acting.
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Yugi Mutou is the main protagonists of the story. During the manga's first chapter, he tries to complete the Millennium Puzzle (千年パズル Sennen Pazuru), one of the seven Millennium Items and an ancient Egyptian artifact, in hopes it will grant his wish of obtaining friends. However, he is bullied by two classmates, Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler in the English anime) and Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor), with the former stealing a piece. When another classmate named Ushio beats up the two of them, Yugi comes to the bullies' defense and gets beaten up by Ushio. This causes Jonouchi to return the stolen piece to Yugi's grandfather. Yugi completes the Millennium Puzzle which causes him to be possessed by another person. The second personality inhabiting Yugi's body, often referred to in the manga by such epithets as the Game King (遊戯王 Yūgiō, King of Games in most English translations). helps Yugi whenever he's in trouble, challenging bullies and criminals to occult judgment games called Shadow Games (闇のゲーム Yami no Gēmu) and enforces Penalty Games (罰ゲーム Batsu Gēmu) to enact justice (the default powers of a Millennium Item wielder).
After the Millennnium Puzzle's soul, Dark Yugi defeats Ushio in a game, Yugi befriends Jonouchi. Across the following chapters he also forms bonds with other characters, most notably his crush, Anzu Mazaki (Téa Gardner in the English anime), who instead develops a crush for Yugi's alter-ego, and Honda. During the story, Yugi meets a teenager named Seto Kaiba obsessed with a card game known as Duel Monsters. He takes the Blue-Eyes White Dragon card of Sugoroku Mutou (Solomon Muto in the English anime), Yugi's grandfather; Sugoroku considers the card his most precious treasure he got from a friend. After Kaiba destroys the card and psychologically tortures the grandfather, Yugi and his friends enter Kaiba's Death-T challenge to end the torture. At the end Yugi and Kaiba have a duel, in which Yugi defeats him. This results into a rivalry as Kaiba seeks to have his rematch against both Yugi and Dark Yugi.
Shortly after Kaiba's defeat, Yugi receives an invitation to the Duel Monsters tournaments held by Maximillion J. Pegasus (Pegasus J. Crawford in Japanese versions). In order to lure him out, Pegasus steals Sugoroku's soul with his Millennium Eye. Yugi and Jonouchi go to the tournament, with the latter seeking to use the prize money to use it for an operation to restore his sister's eyesight. Accompanied by Tea and Taylor, Yugi and Jonouchi defeat multiple duelists but Yugi is defeated by Kaiba; the soul of Mokuba Kaiba, Seto Kaiba's brother, had also been stolen. With the help of a former rival, Mai Kujaku (Mai Valentine in the English anime), Yugi manages to reach Pegasus' mansion. Following the tournament, Yugi and Yami are able to defeat Pegasus. While Pegasus restores the stolen souls, Yugi gives Jonouchi the prize money for the medical treatment of his sister, Shizuka Kawai (Serenity Wheeler).
Some time after Pegasus' tournament, Dark Yugi learns from a woman named Ishizu Ishtar that he was once a Pharaoh but his memory was erased during a conflict. Shortly after this, Kaiba announces his own tournament – Battle City – where every loser in the competition has to give the winner their most valuable card. A group of hunters led by Ishizu's corrupted younger brother, Marik, are set to challenge Yugi, having a vendetta against the Pharaoh. In one duel, Yugi is faced by Slifer, the Sky Dragon: one of the three Egyptian God Cards which are recognized as the three strongest cards. Yugi defeats Marik's hunter and earns Slifer. He later uses it to defeat Yami Bakura and once again to confront Kaiba in a rematch, as his rival uses the other God Card, Obelisk the Tormentor. Yugi defeats Kaiba and obtains two God Cards. In the finale, Yugi faces Marik's own darker alter-ego who has the Winged Dragon of Ra. Using a card Kaiba previously passed him, Yugi defeats Marik, obtains Ra and becomes the tournament's champion.
During the final story arc of the manga, Dark Yugi uses the three God Cards to learn of his past. He is transported to an alternate version of his life where he lived as a Pharaoh. During this time, the Pharaoh clashes against Yami Bakura multiple times while Yugi and his friends search for a way to aid him. At the end of the manga, it is revealed that his name as Pharaoh was Atem (アテム Atemu), who sealed his soul into the Puzzle along with the Great God of Evil, Zorc Necrophades. The group is finally able to defeat Zorc and his avatar, Dark Bakura, once and for all in the memory world (which reenacted the Pharaoh's past) and help Atem pass over into the afterlife.
In other media
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In Yu-Gi-Oh R, which takes place following Yugi's victory in the Battle City tournament. Yako Tenma, and adopted son of Maximillion Pegasus, decides to avenge his teacher's defeat at the hands of Yugi, believing him to be responsible for Pegasus' alleged death. Tenma kidnaps Téa Gardner, prompting Yugi and his friend Joey Wheeler to face Tenma's RA Project and the duel professors.
He is also present Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters where Yugi goes with his friends to find the missing Solomon Moto. In their journey, Yugi realizes that somehow they have been transported into the world of Capsule Monsters.
The film Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light follows a new duel between Yugi and Kaiba. However, the latter has been used by an ancient being known as Anubis who aims to kill the Pharaoh.
Yugi's next appearance is in the movie Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time where he joins the duelists Jaden Yuki and Yusei Fudo to defeat the mysterious Paradox.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions Yugi and his closest friends are in their final year of High School and are talking about what they will do in the future. They are antagonized by Kaiba who wishes to face the Pharaoh who has left to the afterlife. Nevertheless, in the final duel the Pharaoh makes a brief appearance to assist Yugi in defeating the corrupted Aigami.
The video game Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories follows the Pharaoh's daily life in Egypt until he is sealed into the Millennium Puzzle. Yugi inherits the puzzle and gathers each Millennium item which allows the Pharaoh to deal with his enemies until he keeps peace in his world.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom, Yugi, Joey, Tristan, Téa and Bakura being invited to the testing of the virtual reality game "Kingdom," created by the company SIC. When they enter the game they soon find themselves trapped within it, and they must summon the help of the game's characters and monsters in order to defeat the game's villain, Emperor Heishin, and ultimately stop the plans of the game's designer, Scott Irvine, to control the three Egyptian God cards. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links also uses Yami Yugi as a playable character.
Critical reception to Yugi and Yami has been mixed. In the book Manga: The Complete Guide, Jason Thompson noted that while Yugi and his friends often end in complicated situations during the series' first chapters, the portrayal of Yami might come across as negative due to the actions he does to the villains. Nevertheless, through later episodes, he viewed him as a more admirable "super hero". In 2013, Thompson once again noted how Yami behaved when doing "Penalty Games" on criminal or bullies to the point he was similar to Batman and Superman due to how he does not kill enemies but gives them gruesome fates. While also noting that Yugi was weak due to his inhability to deal with bullies and that his alter-ego committed revenges for their actions, Fred Ladd felt that Yugi and him became more developed as characters during the introduction of card games in the series due to their importance in the setting. Thompson agreed noting how despite Yugi wins most of his duels, Takahashi manages to produce enough drama to make the reader wonder if he would lose against Pegasus or Marik based on their apparent advantages when playing the game such as the use of one of the strongest cards, Slifer the Sky Dragon. On the other hand, Briana Lawerence from Mania Entertainment was harsher to Yugi's actions in the series as she found that Yugi was so nearly unbeatable at Duel Monsters that it was almost pointless for new duelists to challenge him.
Yugi's characterization and design in 4Kids' adaptation of the manga's second anime series was highly criticized by THEM Anime Reviews who cited the character as a stereotype. DVD Talk was confused with the way Yugi transfroms whenever he plays a game as it left the Millennium Puzzle in mystery. Dan Green has been found as one of the members from the English cast for his deliveries as Yugi alongside Eric Stuart (Kaiba). While agreeing with Mania over how ridiclous he found Yugi's victories in the anime, the Fandom Post still enjoyed the character's actions. Yami's origins and actions as a Pharaoh were widely praised by the reviewer due to the execution of card game ever since the first season as well as how he now engages Bakura. The origins of the Pharaoh and his relationship with the priest Seto, Kaiba's previous life, were also given the subject of praise. For the final duel between the two Yugi, Thompson acclaimed Takahashi's writing as through this duel, both the Pharaoh and the reader are given the message to accept death while Yugi must accept to be alone and live to become a stronger man.
Yugi's role in the movies based on the franchise has also been explored by critics. DVD Talk found Yugi's troubled situation to be Duel Monsters' champion as an annoyance due to its execution but still felt young children should be warmed of it because in one scene the character is backstabbed by a creature. While enjoyin the duel in Bonds Beyond Time between the protagonists and the villain, UK Anime Network still found that the three duelists managed to perform moves necessary to introduce their most iconic characters. While reviewing Dark Side of Dimensions, IGN praised Yugi's growth alongside his friends' as they interact in regards to their careers they have in mind, making them more mature than in the manga and anime. Nevertheless, IGN felt that although Yugi appeared to be the movie's main character, he was overshadowed by Kaiba. Anime News Network felt that emotional impact in regards to split of Yugi and the Pharaoh was still impact, the latter's cameo during the finale managed to leave a good impression in the story. The Fandom Post criticized the obsessive the relationship Kaiba has with the Pharaoh in the story to the point it would come across as romantic. Green's performance as the holographic Pharaoh was praised while the regular Yugi's rivalry with Kaiba was received positive response.
Takahashi and Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, also participated in an art exchange (with Takahashi drawing Hellboy with Yugi's hairdo, a Millennium Puzzle, and a duel disk and Mignola drawing Hellboy wearing a Millennium Puzzle and a Yugi T-shirt).
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In a game, the player becomes the hero. [...] The main character, Yugi, is a weak and childish boy who becomes a hero when he plays games. [...] As far as the manga story goes, I think all kids dream of henshin [...] if you combine the "yu" in Yugi and the "jo" in Jounouchi [...] Yujo translates to friendship in English, [...]
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