A Fan Remembering the Man Behind Yu-Gi-Oh!
Officially, my first anime was the original Pokémon. That introduced me to the franchise and the idea of anime. However, it would be another anime that affirmed my lifelong passion for the medium. That anime was Yu-Gi-Oh!
I was obsessed with Yu-Gi-Oh! as a kid. I dressed up like Yami Yugi for Halloween. I watched almost every episode, played the games, and spent my allowance money on card packs. It felt like the coolest thing I’d ever seen up to that point in my life. And while I would move on to other works, Yu-Gi-Oh! has always held a special place in my heart.
Which only made it harder when I woke up on a Thursday morning and learned that Kazuki Takahashi, the mangaka who created Yu-Gi-Oh!, had passed away. He was 60 years old.
Like many fans, I mourned his passing. This man gave me a big part of my childhood and created one of the most popular franchises in the world. More than that, though, he was a man who loved games and how they brought people together.
Born on October 4th, 1961, in Tokyo, Japan as Kazuo, Takahashi had two great interests growing up: manga and games. Takahashi loved games because he considered them a chance for the players to become the hero. For a little kid who can’t do much regarding the world around them, that’s extremely appealing.
When Kazuki left high school, he knew he wanted to become a mangaka. However, there was a problem with that in the 1980s. The Shonen demographic was bursting with fighting manga, leaving little to help him stand out. As a result, success eluded him for over a decade until he got his big break with Yu-Gi-Oh!
It’s Time to Duel!
Debuting in Shonen Jump in 1996, Yu-Gi-Oh! was an example of “writing what you know” done right. Working on his love of games, Kazuki gave us Yugi, a weak and friendly boy who gained the ability to create “Shadow Games” where the winner could punish the loser. Initially, the manga would feature different games with each new arc. All of that would change, though, when Kazuki introduced a card game called Magic and Wizards. Western audiences would know it as Duel Monsters.
Takahashi meant for the card game to appear in only two chapters. However, Shueisha got so many fan letters about it that Takahashi chose to make it the main focus of the series. From that moment on, Yu-Gi-Oh!’s popularity would explode. Within two years, Toei picked it up for its anime series
Yes, there’s a Yu-Gi-Oh! made by Toei in the 90s. Unlike its successor, though, this focused on the pre-Duel Monster days and never got exported out of Japan. However, the following year, Konami agreed to make Duel Monsters into an actual card game. Thus, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game was born.
The following year, the second anime adaptation came out. This time, it exclusively focused on Duel Monsters. Once it became licensed overseas, nothing would stop Takahashi’s creation. It became an international phenomenon on par with that of Pokemon.
By the time the manga ended in 2004, Takahashi had gone from a struggling mangaka to the creator of a franchise beloved the world over. Movies, video games, and a successful card game he helped to create. Whether fans knew his name or not, many knew the name of Yu-Gi-Oh!
After Yu-Gi-Oh! came to an end, Takahashi continued to help oversee his creation as the anime and manga continued with the ongoing sequel series. In between then, Takahashi worked on a few one-shot and limited series manga. One included a two-chapter manga written as part of this collaboration between Shonen Jump and Marvel in 2019. All of that came to an end, though, with Takahashi’s passing.
Takahashi Found Dead
On July 6th, Kazuki Takahashi was reported by a passing boat to be floating a thousand feet off the coast of Okinawa. The Japanese Coast Guard found him not long afterward. He’d been dead for several days.
At the time of this posting, there’s an ongoing investigation into Takahashi’s death. He was found wearing snorkeling gear, and it was confirmed he arrived several days earlier on his own. As the authorities continue investigating, though, the world mourns Takahashi’s passing. Fans young and old, and those who worked on Yu-Gi-Oh!, have taken to social media to mourn his passing, myself included.
Thank You, King of Games
While Takahashi’s passing deeply saddens me, his legacy will last for decades. Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the most successful franchises and will likely continue for many more years. Of all his contributions to the world, though, Takahashi’s greatest is the trading card game his manga created. Played by millions worldwide and constantly added to, the game’s become a staple of pop culture. In 2009, Guinness named it the top-selling card game in the world, and Konami shows no signs of stopping it.
I never could get rid of my old Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards, even though I’ve long since moved on from the franchise. I’m glad I didn’t. Yu-Gi-Oh! was my childhood. Takahashi created Yugi, and his alter ego because he wanted them to embody the idea that when you play a game, you can be the hero you aren’t in real life. That’s a powerful concept, and it’s made the world a much better place for it. Takahashi may be gone, but fans will forever remember him as the King of Games.