Yu-Gi-Oh: A Transmedia Case Study

I remember in third grade hearing about a trading card game called “Yu-Gi-Oh,” and I thought it was the strangest thing. Then everyone I knew started buying the cards, and “dueling” at recess, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. Like everyone else, I quickly became addicted to the card game, spending tons and tons of money on packs of trading cards. After awhile, I discovered that the card game was actually based off of a manga series of the same name. I had no idea what manga was, and I had very little knowledge of comics in general, so my interest had been piqued. After I read the manga, I soon discovered that there was also an anime called “Yu-Gi-Oh,” and I proceeded to watch that. With all of its adaptations and forms, one could easily label Yu-Gi-Oh as transmedia storytelling, or the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats including, but not limited to, games, books, events, cinema and television.

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“Yu-Gi-Oh” the manga series was first released in 1996, and was serialized weekly by Shonen Jump, Japan’s most popular manga producer. It featured a young boy named Yugi, and his enigmatic alter ego. In most of the manga, Yugi is seen playing various types of games, and using his alter ego to fight off bullies and other enemies. A later storyline revolved around a card game known as duel monsters, which became the source of the popular, real life card game that I played.  The manga series kickstarted the Yu-Gi-Oh craze, with an anime series, card game, and an assortment of video games to follow. “Yu-Gi-Oh” is the embodiment of transmedia in the comic world, because it has ended up on so many platforms. It is what Marvel and DC superhero comics are to America. There is even a youtube series dedicated to the anime series, mocking it for its differences from the original manga.

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Transmedia storytelling is nothing new in the world of comics. Just look at any Marvel or DC superhero. They’ve had books, video games, tv shows etc, all dedicated to them. Batman is perhaps the most obvious example of an American transmedia comic, because of all the movies, video games, and books about him. Japanese manga is no different. It has its characters and stories that span a number of platforms, and Yu-Gi-Oh is one its most famous examples. Perhaps the only other more famous example would be the Pokémon franchise. Transmedia storytelling allows a story to become franchised, making it more popular and widespread. It also allows the franchise to root itself in other countries, which explains Yu-Gi-Oh, and any other popular manga’s American fanbase.

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I argue that being transmedia gathers a richer and more diverse fanbase because of its ability to reach so many people. It can appeal to gamers by making a video game adaptation, or card game lovers by making a trading card game. You can market it by putting its name all over toys and books. The point is, everyone is being reached through the variety of platforms, and there really is something for everyone. Transmedia storytelling is vital for the success of any franchise, including one that began from a comic/manga like Yu-Gi-Oh.

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