Yu-Gi-Oh! is a marketer's dream, the Total Media Package: action figures, T-shirts, lunch boxes, game cards, a television show, and now a feature movie. It has a fiercely loyal fan base built mostly from grade school and young adolescent boys, but it includes some girls and older youths.
Yu-Gi-Oh! shares a basic archetype with all successful children's literature: the triumph of the diminutive over the mighty. It's not hard to see why little boys, tyrannized by a world of older brothers and schoolyard bullies, find escape when Jack defeats the Giant, when Frodo helps destroy Sauron, or when the kids in Narnia come out victorious.
Yu-Gi-Oh!—the movie and TV show—has much in common with the Harry Potter series. Both Harry and Yugi are grade school boys with magical powers which they use for good. Each has a nemesis in a better looking, more popular older boy. Harry's imagined world is drawn from pre-Christian European myths like good and bad witches, flying broomsticks and black cats. Yugi's is a more eclectic blend of Asian and Egyptian beliefs, suffused with science fiction and transforming robots.
A surprisingly sophisticated trading card game is the basis for the franchise; the movie gives adults a good understanding of how such games are played. Each card summons up a magical spell or a monster. Each card can be trumped by another if it is well chosen. Like poker, it relies on the luck of the draw, concentration and strategy. Like chess, it requires that the player be one or two moves ahead of the competition.
The movie is based on an epic game between Yugi and his rival. The game takes place both in fantasy and in real time. As the players summon up their monsters and spells, the monsters actually appear, battling ...