My Little Over-Analysis of 'Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters' - Part 6: The Emergence of the Supporting Act
In this episode, Yugi gives Joey some potentially life-changing advice: "Think about what you're doing before you, well, do anything." Almost ends up getting across too.
So, onto the second duel of the Duelist Kingdom arc and this time, it's the supporting player's turn to step up on the platform, as Joey goes up against Mai. And, well, that leads us to another one of the show's somewhat hidden strengths. Simply put, however, simplistic as the supporting characters in the show might come across, it can catch you by surprise from time to time just how much care and focus the creators have put into them.
Granted, we don't get much of it in this particular episode, as the main purpose here is to simply let Joey get rid of his training wheels. However, it does enable us to set a nice little baseline for two of the show's more interesting character arcs in what is otherwise a pretty 'meh' (or "Nieh") entry in the series. So, lets do just that and kick off another little over-analysis of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters.
The Story Leading Up to the Duel: Joey in a Nutshell
After being delivered another one Pegasus's ever-so-helpful exposition-heavy inner monologues, the writers waste no time setting up that this is indeed Joey's very own episode. We see him proclaiming himself the next Duel Monsters Champion—accompanied with the annoyed sighs from the rest of the gang—and are then given a genuinely cute little flashback of him and his sister Serenity, thus reminding us once again that he is in this in over his head tournament to save Serenity's eyesight.
And, well, that's essentially what makes his character endearing. He might not always know what he's doing but he does know why he's doing it. Thing is, he's obviously not the brightest when it comes to thinking things through (or thinking in general), thus leaning more on his instincts and impulses. However, he is smart enough to make sure that these impulses come from a right place. That, in turn, provides him with a clear resolve while winging it through life. Like, for example, accepting a challenge from an established pro with no major experience on his own part.
The Duel: A Tiny Step Back
After slightly stepping things up in terms of strategic of complexity of the game during the previous Yugi/Weevil duel, we're once again back to the more "dueling to set stuff up" vibe of the first few episodes.
Simply put, there just isn't much exciting going on here. Joey gets it handed to him by Mai after which Atem takes over Yugi's body to remind Joey about the novel act of thinking (while also ensuring that the capital offence of an Atem-free episode would not be repeated again). After that, Joey figures out Mai's strategy of using different perfumes to guess her cards, pulls out a deus ex... I mean Time Wizard and wins the duel with his trademark Baby Dragon-Time Wizard-Thousand Dragon strategy.
In fact, the only strategic intricacy (and that's being kind) here comes via Mai focusing all her spell cards and attention to only a single set of monster cards in form of her Harpies. Even Time Wizard's 50/50 success rate effect is reduced to it seemingly working always.
The Themes and Story Within the Duel: Why do We Duel?
Now, considering this episode isn't exactly brimming with pathos, it was rather nice of Joey to go Yu-Gi-Oh! existential philosophy 101 on Mai with the following question: "Why is it that you duel?" And, well, that actually managed to set up both of their character arcs.
Now, in Joey's case, the answer is of course that he duels for his friends and loved ones, which is indeed the key for interpreting his journey throughout the show. Simply put, as touched upon above, it's a story of a guy who learns by throwing himself right into thick of things and counting on his altruistic motivations to give him the resolve to overcome any challenges this approach might create (needles to say that there are plenty).
As for Mai, her answer is that she does it for the nice things in life and the chance to not do any actual work. Now, couple it with her numerous "Tea would not approve" anti-friendship rants and we suddenly have a great starting point for one of the show's more underrated character arcs.
Simply put, here is someone, who has never really belonged. One who has had to constantly deal with people not taking her seriously, while only finding a sense of purpose after taking up dueling. And, well, while she is a strong duelist, it does feel as if that's all she can identify herself as. In other words, what we have here is quite a pit of emotional package, which the show actually does a fairly decent job of unpacking over it's run.
As a last couple of little bonus themes, it's also nice to see Yugi figuring out early on that if Joey is to get anywhere, he can't just help him out all the time, thus refusing to take Mai on himself instead of Joey. Additionally, we're also given a bit of foreshadowing to the inevitable Joey vs. Yugi duel later in the show.
The Highlight of the Duel
As silly as it was, there was something inspiring about Joey quieting his erratic mind in a way that would even make Master Yoda proud and sniffing out Mai's perfume strategy.
Today's Card Trivia
As we've already covered the likes of Time Wizard, Baby Dragon, and Harpie Lady in previous episodes, there's virtually nothing to add here, as the duel was indeed rather brisk. Well, almost.
- A Thousand Dragon: This fusion of "Baby Dragon" and "Time Wizard" is brought out through more creative means in the show, as Time Wizard simply ages the Baby Dragon. On that note, this actually symbolises Joey's rather quick journey from a novice to a relative pro pretty well (although Kaiba would probably have a good laugh about that latter part of this sentence). In real world, it's one of the first Fusion Monsters to be released for the actual trading card game and lacks a passcode for some reason.
Lore Trivia of the Day: A Little Expansion of the Universe
Not much going on in the lore department this time around. Although, it was nice seeing all these random duelists battling it out during the beginning of the episode, as it did add some dimension to the tournament as well as this card game's popularity within the show's universe.
Changes in the Dub
- In the English version, Joey runs to the cliff to declare himself, the next "Duel Monsters Champion", which is then followed by everyone sighing at his boastfulness. In Japanese version, everyone's exasperated with him, not because he's boastful, but rather, because he's taking time out to enjoy the view. Either way, both perfectly fall under the category of things that Joey would do.
- In the Japanese version, Yugi doesn't give Joey advice about choosing a weaker opponent and only reminds him to choose his playing field carefully. In other words, English Yugi is apparently a bit more Machiavellian.
- In the Japanese version, both Mai's "Cyber Shield" (Cyber Bondage) and duplicate Harpie Ladies have spikes on their breastplates. In the dub, the spikes are erased. Because, as we all know, the spikes on a breastplate are just too much for young audience's fragile minds to take (because 4Kids cares).
'Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series' Quote of the Day
Yugi [while referring towards Joey]: "He is just overly excited because this is the first episode that actually revolves around his character."Tristan: "I can't wait until I get my episode."[cricket sounds]
Ah, Tristan, you dim, lovable utterly dispensable doofus.
Keeping the Score
- Number of Major Duels in the Show: 4
- Number of Major Friendship Speeches: 1 (Show's Overall Count: 5)
- Monologues on the Heart of the Cards: 0 (Show's Overall Count: 3)
- Main Character Drawing Just the Right Card at the Last Second Trope: 1 (Show's Overall Count 3)
- Joey's Overall Victory Count: 1
- Joey's Overall Losing Count: 2
- Mai's Overall Victory Count: 0 (offscreen doesn't count)
- Mai's Overall Losing Count: 1
Sources: Yu-Gi-Oh! Wikia
Also read: My Little Over-Analysis of 'Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters' - Part 5: Our First Proper Duel
About the Creator
So, to put it simply (and slightly cheesily) I'm fascinated with life. And, well, writing about films, TV shows, video games, music, travelling, philosophy and Formula 1 among other is a fun way to explore it.
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