Yu-Gi-Oh! Kill Count Part 1 - The Early Murders of Yami Yugi
The Beginning of an Investigation into the Many Murders of YU-GI-OH!
A few years ago, I re-read the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga by the late, great Kazuki Takahashi for the first time in several years. This was my favorite anime as a child, and the first manga that really stole my heart, and it was an amazing experience to go back and see the manga with older eyes, and realize that it really is a pretty tremendous work of art. Silly? Yes. Creative and heartfelt and gripping? Also yes. There’s a reason Yu-Gi-Oh! spawned the media empire that continues to this day – Takahashi was a great storyteller, and an incredibly talented mangaka, and that original manga is something very special.
It's also something extremely weird and dark, with a shockingly high body count – especially if your main familiarity with the story comes from the anime, which even in the original Japanese is substantially toned down. So when I re-read the manga, I had a question in the back of my head: Just how many people die in this manga, and who, among all the characters, kills the most people?
So I chronicled my journey painstakingly in a Twitter thread through several months of 2021, with photos and a running scoreboard, in what I came to call my ‘Yu-Gi-Oh! Kill Count Thread.’ With all sincerity, it is one of my favorite things I have ever created and put onto the internet. Sadly, the place I chose to put it is now run by Nazis and deep in the throes of a long, slow death spiral, and even if the world’s stupidest rich person hadn’t paid enough money to solve world hunger to buy the platform, Twitter still wouldn’t be the best place to let this project live in perpetuity, because the thread is long and complicated enough to break Twitter’s basic design.
So I’ve always wanted to go back and rescue all my original work from that thread, expanding upon it, improving the images I originally used, and presenting it in a more durable way. And that’s exactly what we’re starting today, in a journey that’s going to take us through the next 13 weeks, as we walk volume-by-volume through Yu-Gi-Oh! and count how many kills we can find. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and if you’ve never read the manga, this should be a good primer for learning not only how weird and violent the series is, but what makes it so great in the first place.
The original manga has, of course, been republished in multiple formats with differing volume counts over the years, but we are going by the original Tankobon (or ‘graphic novel’) numbering, where the series was split into 38 volumes. The English release by Viz Media was split into three separate series (Yu-Gi-Oh!, running 7 volumes, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist, running 24 volumes, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium World, running another 7). I’m just going to use the original Japanese numbering from Volumes 1 to 38, but I’ll include both the English and Japanese cover art as we go along so you can easily see which volumes line up with each other.
So without further ado, it’s time to d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-do some murder. Let’s begin.
In Volume 1, Yami Yugi murders 2 people, both by incineration. First, there is the escaped convict who threatens Anzu at the fast food burger chain, whom Yugi tricks into pouring liquor all over himself while balancing a lighter on his fist (it’s a whole thing, and it ends in the man being burned alive). Then, in a somewhat less justified piece of vigilante justice, Yugi faces down a school bully who messed up his class’s festival display of carnival games; Yugi challenges him to a game of deadly “Griddle Ice Hockey” on the Okonomiyaki grill the bully used to crush the festival display, using ice pucks with explosives mounted inside (yes, this is real), passing the puck back and forth until it explodes near the bully and incinerates him to death.
Yugi’s dark alter-ego continues racking up his kill count in Volume 2.
First, he goes after the shop owner who swindles Jonouchi out of a pair of expensive designer sneakers, creating a game wherein the man is stung by a deadly scorpion (again, proportionality is not Yugi’s strongsuit). To be fair, there is a line about the man being taken to the hospital, but for our purposes I am just going to assume he dies there, and will award 1 kill to Yami Yugi.
But we’re not done! Yami Yugi also fights a violent gang that tries to jump Jonouchi into their ranks, and rigs a taser in a puddle of water so it delivers a 200,000-volt shock to the bullies. A cursory look through the Wikipedia page for the Electric Chair tells me that prisoners over the years were routinely executed with between 2,000 to 3,000 volts of electricity, so even though we don’t know the amperage, the fact that this is literally 100 times the voltage makes me feel safe awarding 4 kills to Yami Yugi.
One more for Volume 2! This is also where we meet Shadi, who will take center stage in Volume 3. But for his first appearance here, the mysterious Egyptian arrives in Domino City and promptly murders a museum financier via a very violent shadow game illusion. The official cause of death is a heart attack, but the man appears to believe he is being devoured alive by a monster. Either way, that’s 1 kill for Shadi.
Everyone makes it out alive of Volume 3, rather miraculously. Shadi very nearly murders Yugi's entire gang of friends, but is unsuccessful. The kill count stands unchanged.
OFFICIAL YU-GI-OH! KILL COUNT AS OF VOLUME 3
Yami Yugi: 7 kills
Shadi: 1 kill
And that’s all for today! Next Week: We’ll pick up with Volume 4 and continue on through Volume 7, completing the original run of mini-arcs leading up to the beginning of Duelist Kingdom. And trust me: you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
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