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branchandroot: a lotus (lotus)
So I was reading around lately about Egyptian concepts of the soul, and it made a few things make, possibly, more sense.

First the cosmology and speculation. )

And now we get to the fandom applications of this.

The cosmology of Egypt did not go in for reincarnation.2 Literary adoptions, eg Yuugi-ou, tend to ignore this. But consider the concept of ka and ib and ba in comparison with the Buddhist concept of five skandha, aspects or modes of existence, which, translating loosely here, make up a particular instance of being which is neither divorced from nor identical to the previous instance. Using the former to shed light on the latter, we may have a helpful way to think about how reincarnation or rebirth are sometimes presented in anime and manga.

One of the most recent and notable examples isn't, strictly speaking, anime at all, but Avatar: The Last Airbender takes a lot of sources from Asian cosmology as well as art, and can be folded in. So consider the way different incarnations of the Avatar are presented. They do not form a single existence--each life/individuality is distinct from the next, to the point that different incarnations can meet and talk as individuals. If we discard the unitary notion of soul/self and instead look at this through the lens of multiple soul-parts, such as ib and ba, this actually makes plenty of sense.3 The "incarnations" are, as it were, ba, and remain after death/dissolution as something remarkably similar to akh (the re-unification of ba and ka after death).

I have, as yet, found no references in Buddhist (or Taoist, or Shinto) cosmology to such lingering instances; in fact, what I have found would appear rather to militate against such a thing. But clearly the idea is entrenched in popular consciousness.

Some other examples of this basic premise: Pandora hearts, Card Captor Sakura, Fullmetal Alchemist depending on how you interpret the homunculi, Inu Yasha.

1. That is to say, it was builders "really" doing the building, but they acted in the role of the king/priests, took on that iru or ba, and therefore were considered to be the king/priests for that time. This is, necessarily, speculative, but personally I agree that it makes all kinds of sense, considering the mythology.

2. No, really, they didn't. Please don't link me to crystalinks or theosophy et al. If you read reputable sources, you will find that reincarnation was attributed to Egyptians by Greek thinkers who didn't quite get the whole deal with the divergent aspects and evolution of the soul.

3. Note that I am not suggesting Egyptian and Buddhist cosmology are identical, or even that they have a direct philosophical connection. I would not be surprised if this were the case, but I do not, personally, know of any evidence of this. I'm just saying the basic notion of the soul is similar and obviously pops up in a lot of places.
branchandroot: two hands drawing each other (drawing each other)

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think the second series Yuugi-ou anime is the truest to Takahashi’s eventual intent.

Well, minus the filler arcs that roll back character development.

But reading the latter two thirds of the manga, I’m convinced that Takahashi didn’t actually know where he wanted to go for the first third. That he hadn’t yet decided exactly who or what the puzzle spirit was. It wasn’t until he hit on the card game that he really locked in and started to create a coherent meta-story. That’s the point at which the games stop being so deadly a case of instant karma, the weighing-and-testing aspect of them becomes more a matter of trial by combat, and the whole story becomes less ambiguous-horror and more typical shounen-fight.

It shows in the drawing style, too. Styles always change over time, of course, but the early manga puzzle spirit is drawn scary. He looks like he’s absolutely psychotic. Once past the crossover of Death-T, he becomes far more classically shounen-heroic.

So when the second series anime starts with the cards, reduces the early games (and the grievousness of their results), skips Death-T and re-casts Kaiba’s entry into events in the “trial by combat” pattern that the later manga established, that may actually be the truest interpretation of Takahashi’s project.

I still wish, wistfully, that they had kept Ogata Megumi as the voice of the puzzle spirit, though.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Major Spoilers in this entry.

For the next installment of my contemplations on Bakura and Ryou, I must note that, all during the second half of the Duelist Kingdom arc, they switch back and forth fast and often, with only a single bobble in continuity: the moment right after Ryou re-dons the Ring and doesn’t remember Bakura assisting the pharaoh with a distraction against the maze brothers.  After that there are only  three moments when we see Bakura manifest as himself, but there are quite a few moments when Ryou says or does things that are slightly out of character: telling the pharaoh to kill Pegasus or offering to come skulking downstairs with Honda or knowing what a shadow game is.  At the same time, the moments of Ryou’s apparent control follow very quickly on Bakura’s and Ryou does not seem to be at all confused about suddenly being down in the dungeon helping Honda rescue Mokuba. If we assume that Bakura is pretending to be Ryou more assiduously than usual, that works, but then that also suggests that it’s actually Bakura who offers his heart to guard the pharaoh against Pegasus’ mind reading, which I find dubious.

What seems more likely to me is that Bakura is allowing Ryou to stay aware and in “front”, but is watching over his shoulder close enough to switch seamlessly or to influence what Ryou is saying and thinking.  The moments when he clearly takes control are one instance of his style chicanery (in the maze), two of violence (the guard and Pegasus) and one of gloating over Shadi’s portrait. Those, it seems equally likely, Ryou is not aware for; at least he doesn’t seem to realize that Bakura has killed Pegasus and stolen the Eye.  The rest of the time, however, Bakura behaves pretty benignly toward his host, and we can, perhaps, understand why Ryou thought that it was all right to wear the Ring again.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

I’ve been going back to read the Yuugi-ou manga, now it’s all out domestically and I can see it in one go. And I find myself instantly caught up in the Problem of Ryou.

The problem, of course, being that Takahashi really didn’t put much thought into his character, being clearly more interested in Bakura.

Now, Bakura is interesting, no doubt about it.  Reading over again, it makes a good deal of sense that Bakura himself is, in a way, two people at once: Bakura and Zorc.  *pauses to roll her eyes over that name once again*  They want the same thing (the Items) but for different reasons. Bakura strikes me as the one who is insanely competitive, more than a little unbalanced, and frankly a bit of a spazz. Zorc, early on, is pretty much in the background, but as time goes on I think his influence manifests more in the moments of colder arrogance.  Bakura is arrogant, right enough, but he burns hot.  This is the person who thinks nothing of injuring the body that he is still actively inhabiting in order to make things go his way, and then cackling about it. He’s also the person who likes close games, wants to win but seems to enjoy both the edge of uncertainty and crushing his opponents’ hopes at the eleventh hour.

The best hints we get of how Ryou fits into all this come early. During that first RPG, there’s a lot of soul manipulation going on, that being the Ring’s specialty, and Ryou takes active part in that.  Indeed, he does it well enough to win, making fast moves to control his body when opportunity presents, moving by stealth or open defiance whichever will shake Bakura more, shifting himself to the Wizard, and to the dice, giving himself a fall-back.  He is presented as someone who has always loved RPGs, so I doubt this was by chance; rather, Ryou is a good strategist, good enough to win against Bakura, and determined enough to take a long chance to save his new friends.

The result of his defiance is also interesting. He insists that he will not allow Bakura to hurt his friends anymore.  And, after this incident, to the best of my recollection, Bakura doesn’t. He manipulates, as with the soul fragment in the puzzle. He puts them aside, as with the sleep spell on Yuugi’s grandfather.  But he never acts directly/terminally against them again, outside the usual scope of duels.

This suggests to me that Bakura is a good deal more influenced by Ryou than anyone suspects.  It is even possible, given what we know, that Ryou is in direct conflict with Zorc himself for influence over Bakura’s actions, which would make a nice reversal of the obvious dynamic.

And the reason all this is possible is that Takahashi neglected to actually give us any firm idea of what’s going on with Ryou.  *sighs*  Well, I suppose we fic-writers can count that as a bonus of a sort.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Canon amelioration is kind of a fic hobby of mine. When canon kills off or otherwise gets rid of a character I want to write more with, I try to find some way of bringing them back. I like to make it at least marginally plausible.

The ending of the Yuugi-ou manga makes this harder than usual. Not only is everything wrapped up, but it’s wrapped up in such a way that to change it will reverse some wonderful and necessary character development, which is anathema to me.

But I think I may have found a way. )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Unacceptable Arcs

I thought it behooved me to state why I totally ignore the existence of the Noa and Doom arcs of the anime. It is not simply because they have no basis in the manga, though that is part of the problem. No, it’s worse than that. It’s because they are so totally out of character.

The entire point of Kaiba’s duel with Isis is that he can finally start to accept what is true and right from his past in order to make a future that is good. It was a beautiful moment of realization. And anyone who thinks that Kaiba’s constant insistence that the past does not matter and he cares only for the future has nothing to do with his foster father has no idea how to read subtext. That duel points us straight toward the final duel with Pharaoh and Seto’s realization that he can’t wait for total victory to release his hate, because the hatred itself will keep him from winning. Between the two, however, we have the go round with Noa and the shade of Gozaburo whom Seto defeats. This utterly destroys the momentum between his duels with Isis and Pharaoh, making the latter a serious anti-climax. Seto has already beaten Gozaburo, so why is he still so mired in hatred for him? Augh!

I also thought it severely out of place to put Mokuba’s struggle with the question of whether Seto loves him here. This does appear in the manga, but it’s at the very start, when Kaiba is a severely messed up person. The anime takes him for the same person the manga gives us by the Battle City arc, and a big part of how he got to be that person was by already working through the things that might make Mokuba not trust him wholeheartedly.

The Doom arc is even worse, though.

First off, I really think Mai has been established as a stronger soul and a truer duelist than to be tempted by Doom’s promises of safety in power. I certainly agree with the idea that her experiences with the Fury might have left serious wounds, but she has already accepted that she is one of Yuugi-tachi’s friends. I don’t find it particularly believable that she would not go to them for help if she needed it. I find it even less believable that she would grudge Jounouchi his fame as one of the four final-finalists in Battle City.

But that’s not the worst.

The worst is what they did to Pharaoh.

We’ve already been over what can happen when he gets caught up in the duel, to the exclusion of other considerations. It happened when he fought Kaiba in Duelist Kingdom. Yuugi managed to stop him then, before they had met face-to-face, before Yuugi had gained strength and confidence of his own, before Pharaoh ever called him aibou. That Pharaoh would not only disregard but violently reject Yuugi’s reservations about the Curse of Oracle card at this point is utterly absurd.

I understand that filler episodes can be necessary. But I cannot forgive that the producers and their writers were so careless of the characters’ integrity and the momentum of the overall story in creating them.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Purely for Entertainment Purposes

OK, normally I would sooner swallow ground glass than actually put something like this on one of my web pages, but I suppose I owe it to tradition to do at least one of these in the classic mode. So, here we go.

Disengage decorum.

Engage inner fangirl.

Why Kaiba Seto is cool

Largely based off the anime, since that features only one episode of him being an unredeemable prick, instead of a whole arc as the manga does. ‘Sides, he gets better clothes in the anime.

He reads abstruse and sarcastic German philosophers in the original language.

He wears long coats that billow dramatically in the wind, even when there isn’t any. (I like them on Bakura, too, but Seto wears them more often.) That white number is simply scrumptious. Complements his coloring marvelously.

He’s the only one Pharaoh has ever mind-blasted who managed to pull himself back together.

He’s a superb hand-to-hand fighter who can trounce thugs half again his weight and age. Though, you note, he only ever starts a physical fight in order to extract someone (Anzu in the event) from a death threat.

He can use his cards like throwing knives; how cool is that?

He doesn’t flinch, even under gunfire. Can we say spine?

He can not only drive a motorcycle with panache, he can ride it into a flaming wipe-out and walk away unscathed.

He can fly absolutely anything.

Voice. Yeah.

Pairings (I can’t believe I’m actually doing this)

Seto/Jounouchi. Definite chemistry, particularly given my personal favorite theory that Jounouchi actually admires Seto’s skill and Seto is actually entertained by Jounouchi’s liveliness. My personal favorite suggestive moment: on Battle Ship when Jounouchi is pounding on Seto’s door, it opens, and Jounouchi 1) nearly pounds on Seto 2) checks abruptly and 3) nearly falls into Seto’s chest. It’s cute, it’s funny, and this pair certainly follows the classic formula that any two people who fight like cats and dogs actually like each other a great deal. (Usagi and Rei, Taichi and Yamato, Ranma and Akane, etc.)

Pharaoh/Seto. Um. Um. Well, chemistry, yeah, but. Um. These two are exactly the types to consider top and bottom in the most traditional dominant/submissive manner. And I just can’t see either of them submitting to the other under any circumstances. Not even duress; actually, particularly not duress. The only reason I’ve notated them in this particular order is that it’s especially unbelievable that the one who wins all the duels would agree to take bottom. I suppose I could see Pharaoh as psychological top, but even that’s a stretch. Though the one I think could really see psychologically topping Seto is Yuugi; I doubt Seto has any kind of defenses against that kind of sincerity.

Pharaoh/Yuugi. Completely ignoring the difficulties implicit in any physical consummation of this particular pairing. Pharaoh does indicate during the Battle Ship duels that he is bound to protect Yuugi; protection is one of the classic romantic modes in anime (eg Tamahome and Miaka). There are several suggestive interludes, all at night in a bedroom featuring soul-baring conversations with Yuugi half undressed or in ‘jammies. These tend to inspire in me an urge to yell at the screen “Will you just kiss him already!”. Actually, now I think about it, Shadi also looks to be a spirit, and he can become solid and handle material objects as well as he can dissolve into air and through walls. Maybe he could teach Pharaoh how it’s done.

Jounouchi/Yuugi. All together now, aaawwwwww. It is just the cutest thought, and after all Yuugi does tell Jounouchi he loves him (dai suki da). To be sure, it’s rather in extremis, since Yuugi is about to be blasted, dragged into the sea and drowned, but still.


And, while I’m speaking on this subject, can I just take a moment to tell people to knock off using aishiteru so damn freely? That is not what a teenager, or even most adults, would say when first confessing to love someone. Repeat after me: reticence, reserve, restraint. If you insist on using the Japanese language, have the goodness to use it properly. Usagi can use aishiteru to Mamoru because a) she is gracelessly frank and unrestrained and b) they are destined lovers whose souls have found one another again after thousands of years of searching and they’re talking about getting married. Item A, here, is at least as much a factor as item B. For a lovely example of just how impassioned a declaration the simple word suki can be, watch the Cinderella episode of Card Captor Sakura; Touya’s classmate gives us a nice sunset scene, and also a fine example of how a High Schooler would deliver and take a rejection. Watch. Learn. Get it right next time.


Mai/Anzu. This shows more in the manga, but Mai behaves very solicitously and protectively toward Anzu (and Shizuka, actually). When things get intense she tends to draw Anzu into a sheltering hug. Rationally, of course, I would say Mai is being maternal or big-sisterly. Since rationality is rarely a feature of these exercises, however, I will take leave to suggest that Mai relates better to women than to men and that, while she will banter with the boys, she shows actual tenderness to the girls. …I’m sorry, but that’s as irrational as I can bring myself to be.

Pharaoh and Anzu. Gee, d’you think?

Mai and Jounouchi. Ditto. With the caveat that she’s seven years older than he is and I have a hard time believing she would take him seriously as a real relationship prospect.

Otogi/Honda. *stretch stretch* Sorry, just can’t make that one. No, not even with the sleeping-tangled-up scene. They’re too obviously stuck on Shizuka.

Bakura/Ryou. Two possible routes here. One, really creepy, amply suggested by the first manga scene in which Bakura talks to his host. “I feel good [being] in you”? Yeah. Creepy and unpleasant and, basically, mindrape. Squick, squick, squick. Two, there’s the somewhat nicer possibility suggested by Bakura protecting his host during his Battle Ship duel with Pharaoh. If we posit that Bakura is responding to the bond between he and his host produced by the ring, rather than pure expedience, we have the basis for an actual (possible) relationship. And it would be nice to have some explanation for why Ryou looks so happy and excited at finding the Ring again on Battle Ship (manga).

Malik/Yami Malik. You are kidding me, right?

OK, my inner fangirl is now satisfied and can sigh dreamily while everyone else gets on with the serious analysis.

Re-engage decorum.

Please, do not, under any circumstances, ask me to expand on this particular page. I will expire of acute embarrassment.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Bent Cards

I said I wasn’t going to address the card game on this page. OK, so I lied. A few cards caught my attention.

Most of the cards are nice and straightforward. This kind of dragon, that kind of warrior, etc. A few, though, particularly the ones that come from various mythologies, are peculiar.

The minor peculiarities I just kind of noted in passing. For example, in the anime, Rishid plays a card named Apophis which was supposed to act as a temple guardian. Apophis is the name of the serpent Re does battle with every mid-morning, and a representative of chaos. Mild peculiarity.

Two, however, really struck me as odd.

Dian Keto

The card shows a plump and well-endowed female clasping an ankh. Now, Dian Cecht (the source for this card) is indeed the healer and physician of the Celtic gods. He’s also male, and the ankh does not appear anywhere in Celtic symbolism. By a truly ironic twist of fate, the English version changed this card to a fully clothed male, sans ankh. Here’s a side-by-side comparison. I do not for a moment imagine that this was for the sake of mythological exactitude.

Maha Vairo

This card first caught my attention purely because I saw it rendered into English as Mother Willow, and when I went to check that did not seem to be the name’s origin in Japanese. In fact, I couldn’t find those words in Japanese at all. Nor could I really think of a likely English phrase that this might be a transliteration of, since Mother Willow doesn’t quite fit. So I got curious and did a little brainstorming and a little shot-in-the-dark googling. Maha was the easiest to find; it’s Hindi for great, rich, abundant. A lot like tai. Well, that pointed me in the direction of the Hindu gods, but I couldn’t find any that seemed to incorporate vairo. When I searched the two words together, leaving out the YGO results, I got three passing references to a Buddhist divinity/saint type called Maha-vairo-cana. Searching vairocana got me two very different results. First was a handful of name-meaning sites that said vairocana is a feminine Hindi name that means “king of demons”. Well, OK, all the card sites seem to agree that Maha Vairo is a female card. The other result was a huge slew of sites about a (male, of course) buddha named Vairocana, all of which indicated that the name meant “coming from the sun”.

Neither set of sites gave any etymology for those meanings. After extensive struggles with the online Hindi-English dictionaries available, I concluded that cana can mean “king” and that, therefore, vairo probably means “demon” in someone’s dictionary even if I can’t find it. Etymologically, that leaves us with a light spell caster named Great Demon, which was just weird. So I turned to the visuals.

Maha Vairo does sit in a loose variation of a lotus. Those blade-wing-thingies behind her head do bear some resemblance to the frame one often sees around Buddhist figures. The beads around her neck and the bindi on her forehead are right on. Vairocana is one of five figures associated with elements (earth, air, water, fire, void in this cosmology), and his association is with the sky (air) and the sun. That fits with Maha Vairo being a light spell caster Of course, Vairocana is generally indicated, iconographically, with a prayer wheel, which I can’t find on the card anywhere… unless it’s that red thing in her left hand which seems doubtful.

The balance seems to indicate that buddha Vairocana is the source of Maha Vairo, which gives us another card that has been gender-flipped.

All this struck me as worth scribbling down, which is more or less what makes me an acafan.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Here are the results of my research on just how much actual content this show took from Egyptian cosmology and history. Since this is a long page, see the internal menu below for quicker navigation.


Here are some of the high points of Ancient Egyptian cosmology, for those who are interested. My main source for religion is Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods, by Dimitri Meeks and Christine Favard-Meeks, translated from French by G.M. Goshgarian, a delightful book that I highly recommend. Not nearly as distressingly Christian-centric as the work of the late Wallis Budge (who did the best he could with the worldview he grew up in, but still).

The first thing to keep in mind when trying to figure this system out is that identity was an aspect of function. What you do is who you are and vice versa. This basic law means that the identity of an actor can change depending on the action. Thus, when Isis needed to kick enemy butt, she became Sakhmet, because that’s what Sakhmet does. It was still Isis’ motivation and choice, but the identity was Sakhmet’s. So, too, Pharaoh performs Horus’ function, therefore Pharaoh is Horus. This is why the only people involved in building a temple are the king and the gods; that various priests played their parts was a mere technicality. The priests acted as the king and gods, therefore that’s who they were. In my opinion this also goes some toward explaining why it was so relatively easy for a woman to declare herself Pharaoh (male and god). It wasn’t a legal fiction, because there’s no such thing in this system. If it is legal, then it is a fact.

What this also allows for is a fantastic degree of integration. The best example is probably the sun god(s). Every possible identity (and there were a lot) is simultaneously true because each identity describes a different part of the sun’s function. Thus, by the New Kingdom period, Khepri is the sun’s identity at rising, Re at his height, and Atum at setting. Different function, different identity, all the sun.

On with the cosmological history, then.

The uncreated world consisted of the Primeval Ocean, eventually known as Nun or “nonbeing”, and the creator-god (variously named Re, Ptah, Khnum, Neith, Atum and Amun, to cite a few). Life awoke within the creator in the form of Shu, god of air (air=breath=life). The creator communicated this to the Ocean, who replied “Inhale your daughter Maat, and raise her to your nostril so that your heart may live. May they not be far from you, your daughter Maat and your son Shu, whose name is Life” (Adriaan De Buck, The Egyptian Coffin Texts, vol 2, 33-34, qtd in Meeks 14). Maat, the embodiment of order, truth, the norm by which order and chaos are measured, is quite reasonably the creation that followed immediately upon life. We might think of her as the rhythm of the creator’s heartbeat and breathing.

Quickly upon these events followed the creation of a few snakes, and the waters which are not Nun embodied by Tefnut, the sky embodied by Nut, and the earth embodied by Geb who are, at the same time, offspring of Shu and of the creator. Now the chronology starts to get a bit fuzzy. A lot more gods, and humans too, got created one way and another; the only one we particularly need to note is Thoth who is most commonly said to have come forth from Seth’s skull or “the heart of the creator, in a moment of bitterness” (78). He was Vizier to the creator, wrote down and transmitted his decrees, looked after everyone’s offerings and particularly ruled/embodied time and the moon.

At some point after Geb and Nut were separated, but before the creator left the world for the heavens (at which point, I guess they were more separated), Geb and Nut snuck around and got Nut pregnant with children who were not supposed to be born. Due to some jiggery-pokery that Thoth performed with time, they were anyway. These were the elder Horus, Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Seth.

It is worth noting that all this creation takes place in the context of a large body of the uncreated. Being uncreated, these forces could not be destroyed, thus the constant struggle between order and chaos that forms the backdrop for all this god-action. The succession of kings among the gods follows a pattern of rule-revolt-reorder-switch that reflects the recurring encroachment and repulsion of chaos.

Now, then, the creator ruled for a while. There was a revolt among the gods, for reasons undocumented, which the elder Horus or possibly Shu (depending on whether we’re talking about the creator as Re or as Atum) put down. Shu succeeded to the throne and became king of the gods. His rule followed the same pattern, and Geb succeeded him. Likewise Osiris. Now we get real trouble.

Seth, being both jealous of Osiris and quite… forthright, killed Osiris, cut up his body and threw the pieces into the Nile. Isis retrieved them, mummified Osiris and with some assistance, revived him long enough to conceive a child: Horus. At this point, Osiris took over rule of the underworld, Seth took over as king of the South, and Isis fled with Horus to hide in the Delta until her son was old enough to challenge his uncle. Note that Horus did inherit the throne of the North.

The grown up Horus took Seth to court, appealing for justice to the creator. Here the process hit some snags, since the creator favored Seth who was a strong and proven warrior and had defended him in the past. Absolutely everyone else, however, agreed that the just thing was for Horus to inherit the whole of his father’s realm, both North and South. After extended stalling and stratagems on both sides, Osiris finally threatened to send his messengers to the creator’s court to terminally sort out who’s just and who’s not. This brought the creator around and Seth lost the case in a big way. Horus inherited.

The underworld, by the way, was not precisely paradisiacal. In fact, it was remarkably similar to daily life among the living in both work and play. “The denizens of the next world had to give up their breath and the heat of their bodies upon arriving there, for these things were the marks of earthly life; the sun warmed them up again when he passed by them [in his nightly journey], restoring them to life for the briefest of instants” (87). You can see, perhaps, why the dead endeavored to move not only their ba but also their bodies to the heavens instead. Osiris wasn’t real keen on that, though.

At any rate, now that the gods were finally sorted out, humans rebelled. Although Sakhmet’s deadly intervention eliminated not only the rebels but a generous portion of the rest of humanity, this was the last straw. The creator told Nut to lift him on her back into the heavens. He took all the gods with him, and the throne was taken over by humans.

This is the start of the world as it was known to humans, in which the sun passed through the heavens and underworld every day and night and humans were responsible for carrying on the actions, and thus identity, of the gods.


Characters and Gods

Let’s start with things we have solid information for, and extrapolate from there.

According to an interview with US Shonen Jump (no longer extant on the web, as best I can tell, though Alecto of Yami no Kokoro used to have a copy up), Takahashi really did take Seto’s name from Seth. To be named after a god was not especially unusual, and there was, in fact, a Pharaoh of the Thirteenth Dynasty who was named Seth. I suspect that the main aspect Takahashi wanted to draw out here was the rivalry between Seth and Horus to reflect the rivalry between Seto and our Pharaoh. Possibly he also wanted to draw on the conflict between Seth and Osiris, but that was awfully… um… short-lived. The funny part is that, in character, Seth and Seto are pretty darn opposite. Ok, they’re both powerful warriors. But Seth was distinctly oversexed, chasing after both men and women as long as they were cute. Seto is made of ice. Seth was something less than clever, tending to lose wagers and appeals alike because more cunning gods out-strategized or just out-cheated their somewhat bullheaded associate. Seto is brilliant. The juxtaposition is just a bit odd. Seth changed over time, of course, becoming increasingly reviled as exile, intruder, troublemaker, with his previous virtues of strength, generosity and protectiveness passed along to newly assimilated arrivals. In that way, Seto actually reverses the process, at least in his present-time life. Perhaps Takahashi has a soft spot for Seth.

The goddess Isis was a powerful magician and a wise counselor, acting as the power behind the throne to Horus. Many of his powers as magician and healer were inherited from his mother. This fits fairly well with Isis Ishtar, who is the custodian of considerable magic and knowledge in the form of the Millennium Items and various engravings. She also passes on a main source of her power, the Tauk, to Pharaoh (who is, you recall, the avatar of Horus). The manner in which she maneuvers the various principals in the Millennium drama is very Isis-esque.

Eye color, among the gods, is significant. Horus’ eyes are blue, like the sky. “The sun’s eyes, when he was shining, were of electrum. Seth’s black eyes indicated his connection with darkness, whereas Atum’s green eyes were reminders that he had originally been a serpent. Red eyes, eyes of coal glowing in the night, were characteristic of feline or predatory gods; they underscored these gods’ dangerous, aggressive character” (57-8). Color coding in manga is a bit different, of course, but I would say that the significance of red eyes still stands (not so, Pharaoh?).


Concepts and Symbols

Netjer. This term actually has a lot in common with the Japanese kami. It’s translated into English as “god”, but “netjer designated any entity which, because it transcended ordinary human reality, received a cult and became the object of ritual” (37). The term encompasses gods proper, the king, and the dead. Thus, kami no cards actually fit pretty neatly into an Egyptian framework.

Ba. The ba corresponds loosely to the soul, but it is not necessarily associated with the personality. Invariably depicted as a winged human form, the ba is often called the “bird-soul”, the immaterial part of a human that can fly and therefore attain the heavens and exist with (become) the gods. Simon’s explanation that the ba is the innermost soul is fairly accurate, but I have found no indication that ka was considered to rise from the ba.

Ka. Most simply, ka is vital energy. It is because the gods posses a superabundance of ka that their speech, tears and chopped-off body parts take on an existence of their own once separated from the god. “The totality of creation accordingly constituted the sum of the creator-god’s vital force….gods could possess a variable number of ka, corresponding to the number of specific forms their creative power took” (71). We can see why Takahashi adopted ka as the term for a human’s spiritual projection, though in Egypt it was generally depicted as having the same shape as the body of the human in question. For the ka to be extracted would most likely kill a person, though zombie-hood is a good second guess going on the theory that the ka is creative force. It would have been more accurate to also use ka as the term for his spiritual-energy-gauge, but I suppose one can’t have everything. In short, the ka and the ba were mapped onto Takahashi’s own ideas for the workings of humans’ immaterial parts with perfectly allowable poetic license, if not perfect historical accuracy (which is pretty darned impossible at this date, anyway).

Kheperu and Iru. The kheperu are the projections of a god’s being, potentially infinite individual forms which the god in question can assume. The true or total form of a god is coincident with her/his true being, and thus not describable or apprehensible to mortals (we’ll get to why gods didn’t want their fellows to know their true being in the next bit). A kheperu corresponds to a state of being or a distinguishing action of the god in question; it is a potential. If the god chooses to enter the state or perform the act, this “inscribe[d] the kheperu in visible reality. This projection, called the iru, was a perceptible, intelligible, manifestation of the god, accentuated, as a rule, by various material attributes” (54). The paintings on temple/tomb walls, for example, are paintings of the various gods’ iru. It is these iru that could be taken on by another god, should they need to perform the action characterized by it. The partial nature of an iru helps explain why gods could incarnate themselves in so many different animals: any god who had an affinity with that animal’s nature could take on its form. Thus, Seth variously appears as a black pig, a crocodile and a donkey, despite the fact that Sobek was far more likely to be identified as the crocodile-god and Nut is also strongly identified with a sow. Though I have no idea whether Takahashi envisioned it this way, we might consider the god cards to be iru of Osiris and Ra. (What to do with Obelisk, I’m not sure. An obelisk is a tall, square pillar with a pointed, gold-plated top to catch and magnify the sun’s rays; don’t ask me how it got to be a god.)

Heka. This is often translated as magic, but it is far more accurate to call it self-knowledge. “Heka was what resulted from giving form to all the energies (ka) one absorbed” (96). To manifest, in knowable form, all one’s vital and creative energy results in total knowledge of one’s self. The implication of the texts Meeks cites is that powerful enough self-knowledge could prevent enemies from imposing any change of state one one, and equally ensure that any action one took would be so full of surety that it would invariably succeed. This is heka. The true name of a god was part of this. Knowing that name enabled the one who knew it to take on the powers that the name described and to do anything he or she pleased to the name’s owner. Isis picked up a fair bit of power after she tricked Re into telling her his true name, for instance. Heka is portrayed quite accurately in the manga. It’s what Mahaado is supposed to be very strong in, and I would hazard a guess that Bakura is too. Despite being a bit mad, he seems to have a high degree of self-awareness. The seat of heka is the gut.

Sia and Rekh. One of the best pop-culture definitions I can offer for sia is grokking. Only moreso. Sia is an intuitive recognition; “not to have sia of something (or someone) was thus not a matter of not knowing it, but rather of not being able, or of no longer being able, to recognize or identify it” (96). Rekh has more to do with definition, the practice of logic; it is a thing of language, which sia is not. The seat of both these things is the heart. Thus, the practice of preserving heart and guts in canopic jars during mummification; they contained important things.

Item of Interest: the udjat-eye on the Puzzle is the left eye, that is the lunar eye. This alludes to night, the time of darkness, and also to Thoth in his aspect as the moon. Thoth is the keeper of both sia and rekh, and his time is the time of both perception and discovery. The presence of the lunar eye on the Puzzle rather indicates that it is not the province of the uniformly ordered and sacred (Re) nor yet of raw power (Sakhmet, who embodies the solar eye), but rather of the balance and unification of disparate elements (Thoth).

Million. As Meeks says, “The creator-god was commonly called ‘the one become million.’ … million being, in Egyptian, the usual expression for what is infinite in number” (33). So, perhaps the Items were supposed to protect Egypt for an infinite number of years, or have infinite power.

Seven. A whole bunch of things came in sevens. Seven creative words spoken to begin the ordered world; seven messengers/guards for Osiris; seven arrows for Sakhmet to shoot cosmic enemies; seven gates on the dead’s journey to reach Osiris’ kingdom. You can see why seven is an easy number of Items for there to be.


The Real Thing

Decent Egyptian history is a bit easier to come by, but by the same token often exhaustive to read. I have tried to find good web-sources for this section, as they’re often syntheses and a bit more accessible than the original scholarly sources. Anyone wishing to explore could reasonably start at Minnesota State University’s Egyptian Culture Exhibit. The Carnegie Museum online exhibit on Egyptian Life also has some useful tidbits. Let us, however, concentrate on the Eighteenth Dynasty, the first dynasty of the New Kingdom Period.

First off, we should note that, while games were indeed quite prevalent among all classes in Egypt, and, while some such as Senet did acquire religio-magical significance, a game played by summoning spirits from tablets is the invention of Takahashi Kazuki. Give him credit for it.

The Eighteenth Dynasty was founded by the man who unified his people sufficiently, after a rather chaotic period, to drive the Hyksos (Asiatic invaders) off. This matches fairly well with the circumstances under which Akunamukanon was supposed to have allowed Akunadin to make the Millennium Items–that is, barbarians pounding on the gates. Historically, however, the invaders were driven off by force of arms. Amhose liked his army; his army liked him.

The capital, in this period, moved to Thebes (Luxor) in Upper Egypt. Takahashi seems to have his geography straight. The Valley of the Kings is, indeed, beyond this city, Westward toward the desert. Since the only village to have been excavated in this vicinity is Dier el-Madina, the village of the royal tomb workers, I assume that Kuru Eruna is based on that, though there are no historical indications that the denizens of Dier el-Madina ever turned to grave robbing. That said, Kuru Eruna’s hypothetical organization is quite traditional, it having been common for a village to comprise a group of related families who all worked in a single profession. If that profession was, by and large, farming, the inheritance of profession held equally true for the trades. I suppose there’s nothing to say tomb robbers couldn’t work along the same lines, though a village strikes me as a bit too high-profile for prudence.

There was never a Pharaoh whose name (any name) was Akunamukanon. For a good, annotated names-dates list, Tour Egypt is actually a pretty well-documented site. Not terribly sophisticated, but a nice, solid starting place. It is worth noting that scholars today use birth names to identify kings rather than reign names. For some speculations on what roots Takahashi may have had in mind when he came up with this name (or Akunadin, for that matter), see this side page. I will note here that the name is written in katakana, implying that it comes from a language other than Japanese, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to; it is certainly not Egyptian.

There was, in fact, a Pharaoh who was sufficiently unpopular that those who came after him attempted to wipe out record of him, but he bears no resemblance to Yuugi’s tenant. Amenhotep III, his father, had no problems with invaders or rebels of any kind. Akhenaten himself was a religious zealot who attempted to unilaterally convert Egypt to monotheism under the sun as Aten. It didn’t work very well. He was not, however, successfully obliterated. For a reasonable account of this figure see the Akhet-Aten Home Page. Nevertheless, this is probably where Takahashi got the idea of a king’s name being effaced from history. The similarity between Atemu and Aten supports the idea that he had this pharaoh in mind when he came up with our Pharaoh.

That the king should be served by a Vizier, such as Simon, is quite accurate, though the Eighteenth Dynasty saw this position divided with a Vizier each for Upper and Lower Egypt. What is slightly less usual is for the Vizier to have previously been a priest, as Simon appears to have been (and chosen holder of the Key, to boot). Taking a Vizier from the military ranks seems to have been more common. This was reasonable, given that the military was the only institution that did not operate according to birth-class, and thus the only place where a talented commoner could rise. Ability seems to have been at least one guiding rule for the military. Priests were either born to their jobs or appointed by the king. What is really, extremely peculiar is his name. Simon is a Hebrew name, and the Hebrews were not in good odor at all in the New Kingdom. For one to be Vizier would be unheard of; for one to be a priest, utterly unthinkable. (From both sides.)

It is far more reasonable for the king’s brother to have been appointed a priest, especially priest of the “Temple of Tablets”, which (had it actually existed) would have been both apart from the normal run of temples and also particularly in need of a loyal administrator. That Seto should be unaware that Akunadin is his father, or that the Pharaoh should be unaware they are his cousin and uncle, is, of course, absolutely absurd, but such are the requirements of suitably melodramatic plots.

The priestly Item holders would all have been apart from the normal duties of active priests, considering that those were both daily and extensive, and would not have left time for playing around with tablets. Though a recent rotation tending to the gods inside a temple could explain why Shadi is shaved bald, that having been part of various sacral purifications.

Random Item: The xenophobia displayed by the men who mob Kisara is an accurate reflection of the tone of the New Kingdom. They had, after all, just finished a nasty war to expel conquering foreigners. It is actually priest Seto’s little homily of tolerance that is historically unsupported.

Interesting Tidbits: The gold mined in Egypt is red (like copper, only it doesn’t tarnish). The title Pharaoh is the Hebrew pronunciation of per aa, or Great House; this was not actually a common title for the king until rather late in the New Kingdom period. The Children of Nut were associated with particular stars: Horus with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn depending on the aspect; Venus with Re and Osiris, the evening star being Re dying into Osiris and the morning star being Osiris reborn into Re; Orion with the dead Osiris; Isis with Sirius, herald of the flood-season; Seth with Mercury but more with the Great Bear, providentially nailed to one spot by the North Star and thus unable to get into further mischief (Meeks, 118).

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First, a few pet peeves, just to get them off my chest. Feel free to skip these if linguistic purism irritates you.

Duel: a fight between two individuals, usually somewhat formalized and over matters of honor. Dual: being in two parts. While there is some ironic suitability to mistaking the latter for the former in this case, that makes it no less a mistake.


Yami and hikari (dark and light). These are never used as if they were proper nouns, nor as a categorical referent (a yami or his hikari). Yami is used in conjunctions: yami no game, yami no sekai (world), yami no seii (power), yami no jinkaku (personality, character), yami no kokoro (heart/soul/mind), yami no duelist. Those last three were used to refer to the Fury and Bakura, surprise, surprise. In the manga it is occasionally used in conjunction with a name to indicate a tenant (Yami Yuugi or Bakura), though never by the omote. Hikari, to the best of my knowledge, is never used anywhere to indicate an omote. The phrase yami to hikari (dark and light) is used in two places anime-wise: the first introductory bit during the first season, and about the masked partners toward the end of Battle City. Using these in fic is one thing, but tossing them around as if they were canon to the original series is something else. The fact that the US producers decided to use Yami as if it were Pharaoh’s name didn’t help, I admit. That just makes it more important to keep one’s facts straight.

Yugi and Yuugi. Yugi is a Japanese name, but it is not a word (though those who have only had contact with the dub may be forgiven for thinking it is; they are sadly misled by producers who should really know better by now). Yuugi, on the other hand, besides being a name means game and (by another spelling) friendship. This is what Takahashi named his character. The long vowel matters. It always irritates me when people say that it’s “correct” to romanize Japanese without indicating long vowels. If you want to write it with a single “u”, you need to use the appropriate diacritical (either a macron or a circumflex) over it. Early (and phonetically unenlightened) romanization systems did attempt to make do with diacritcal-less single vowels. Some common spellings are still holdovers from this system (Tokyo instead of Toukyou, for instance). There is a reason that system was replaced: it leads to serious confusion. The current systems still lead to serious confusion, but at least there’s less of it. I don’t care if you use “oo” or “ou” or “oh” or “ô”, but use one of them! It’s the difference between Yuugi o (Yuugi is the object of this sentence) and Yuugi-ou (king of games). O-ji-sama is a high-class way of saying “Uncle”; ou-ji-sama means “Prince”; o-jii-sama is a high-class way of saying “Grandfather”. Do I need to go on?

The way the characters talk about each other says a lot about how they relate. Lets take a look at some of the terms.

Aibou (partner). This one pops up a lot, notably as the term Pharaoh uses for Yuugi. In this case, the circumstances add something to it. The first time he uses it is toward the end of Duelist Kingdom after Yuugi tells his friends that it’s his other self that always duels, not him, and after he has finally made Pharaoh hear him and insisted on helping out in the duels. Thus, for Pharaoh to call Yuugi “partner” says that he is not, in fact, simply the useless vessel but is strong enough to take a significant part in the struggles he/they get into.

Omote (surface, exterior, head of a coin). In the anime, at least, I believe the Fury is the first to bring in this useful term, which distinguishes between an original personality and a later addition, whether from an item or from the original’s own heart.

Shujinkaku (primary personality). This is what the Fury calls Malik to his face. Well, actually shujinkaku-sama, since the Fury likes to pile honorifics on people he’s mocking. I think the most extreme example is o-chichiue-sama to his father right before killing him.

Utsuwa (vessel, container, bowl). Malik also uses this one for Yuugi, before Yuugi thwarts him sufficiently to become an actual person in his eyes.

Yadonushi (host to a parasite, also landlord–funny, I would have said that was the tenant…). This is a term Bakura uses for Bakura-kun, particularly when Bakura is talking to Malik about how they could use his host to catch Yuugi’s friends. If you break this into the two main terms, yado is the word for an inn or shelter, and a part of the word for pregnant. Nushi usually means owner. Appearing alone it has some extra connotations (owner/master/lover/god), having to do with possession in the divine sense. For this reason I found it curious that, in the manga, both Pharaoh and Bakura use the term nushi alone to describe Bakura-kun and Malik, respectively (Battle City finals). The double edge of the term nushi here is apparent if we translate it as “possessor”. Bakura also uses it when he first speaks to Bakura-kun, but it has a rather sardonic tone at that point considering that Bakura is in the process of possessing Bakura-kun. What it does, though, is emphasize the link between an Item-bound spirit and the Item. The manga, in particular, implies that when the Item chooses an owner that imposes some bonds or obligations on the spirit holed up in the Item.

Make inu (defeated or loser dog, stray dog) -> zako (small fish) -> bonkotsu duelist (ordinary or average duelist). Timelapse insults from Kaiba to Jounouchi. It’s the progression that interests me here. The first is vicious in a blunt sort of way, though also unfortunately accurate considering that Kaiba mops the floor with Jounouchi the first time they duel. The next one is disdainful, but not quite so abysmally contemptuous. That last one is downright evil, though in a far different way than the first. For Kaiba to call Jounouchi an average duelist could be construed as a backhanded compliment (ignoring the tone of voice) for someone who was a rank beginner not very long ago. Kaiba’s expression, however, (Evil Little Smile tm) makes it perfectly clear that he wants to goad Jounouchi. His choice of insult indicates that he knows Jounouchi aspires to be a really good duelist and is taunting him that he has fallen short of his goal. Combined with the Evil Little Smile when Kaiba agrees (if only temporarily) to duel Jounouchi in Battle City, the third-stage insult inclines me to think that Jounouchi has started to actually amuse Kaiba. I suppose it’s even possible that he’s goading Jounouchi in order to make him progress far enough to be a real challenge. While I would never invite Kaiba to my school as a motivational speaker, it’s true that his insults seem to get Jounouchi up and running faster than anyone but Shizuka’s or Yuugi’s encouragement.



The words that a given character commonly uses also make useful barometers.

Chikara (force, strength, power, authority, ability). Kaiba’s favorite, the word that encompasses his life philosophy, it’s perfect for the person who’s reading Nietzsche the very first time we see him.

Yuujou (friendship, fellowship) and nakama (company, fellow, comrade, circle, partner). Yuujou is the word that our core (Yuugi, Anzu, Jounouchi and Honda) tend to use about each other. Nakama is the word that those outside the inner circle tend to use about them (Mai and Malik, for instance). I suspect that the day Mai uses yuujou will be the day she actually accepts a date from Jounouchi instead of a duel.

Pronouns are good tab-keepers, as always.

Mou hitori no boku/ore. This is the way that Yuugi and Pharaoh, respectively, refer to each other for a long time. OtherSelf in modest and proud flavors.

Bakura-kun and Bakura’s version is a bit more extreme. Bakura-kun, polite boy that he is, uses boku/kimi for I/you, while Bakura, arrogant bastard that he is, tends to ore-sama and kisama.

Malik, though no less psychotic than Bakura, uses boku/kimi. Here I take it partly as a class indicator, much the same as Isis’ use of watakushi, and partly as a way to point up the difference between Malik and the Fury. Though I noticed once or twice he used kisama to Bakura; casual manners between plotters, perhaps. Of course, the Fury uses ore/kisama.

I did find it interesting that at the very start, before we have duels happening every other second, Kaiba uses boku/kimi. As soon as he sees someone as a duelist he switches to ore/kisama, which means that’s what we hear him using all the rest of the series. One doesn’t need to have two spirits to have two distinct modes of dealing with the world, which goes a little toward explaining why it takes everyone so long to notice the Pharaoh. Anzu actually thinks something similar about Mai in the manga, that the face of the duelist is different from the normal person…for all of them.

And I have to say, I find it entertaining that everyone except Jounouchi calls Mai by Mai-nee-chan (manga).

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The degree to which co-habiting or divided souls are aware of each other is a puzzle that caught my attention. Let’s start with the easy pair.

Mou Hitori No…

The anime appears to follow the manga, to a certain extent. The manga gives us a nice lot of detail. The anime… well there are some conflicting indicators.

Mangawise, Yuugi notices almost immediately that he’s losing time, that there are gaps in his memory of events. It takes him a while to put the pieces together, but he’s a bright lad and figures out pretty quickly that he has a seriously ruthless tenant living in, based on the aftermath he does witness. What fascinated me was that, when Issue 34 rolls around and Yuugi actually tells Jounouchi and Anzu about his other self, he doesn’t say he’s scared because of how dangerous his other self is. Instead, he says he’s scared that his newfound friends won’t want anything to do with him if they find out. His other self’s dangerousness is certainly a subtext, given the things we’ve seen Pharaoh do by this point, but it’s Jounouchi and Anzu’s reassurance that they’ll always be with Yuugi that seems to banish all his fear, both for and of his tenant. This is the first time we see Yuugi deliberately call on his other self.

In the anime, on the other hand, we don’t know for sure until well into Duelist Kingdom that Yuugi is aware of his tenant. One moment that inclines me to think he might be is in Episode Three. Yuugi stands on the roof at sunset looking determined, and we see Pharaoh’s face overlaid on the scene. It’s a bit hard to tell, but it sounds like Pharaoh’s voice speaking their determination to get Yuugi’s jii-chan back. They seem close enough to “brush” each other then. At their first face-to-face meeting Yuugi says he has tried to make Pharaoh hear him before, so at some point previous he became aware of his tenant.

In both anime and manga, the first face-to-face meeting comes at the end of Duelist Kingdom. In both events, it cements a powerful bond between the two. From this point we start to see Yuugi and Pharaoh becoming visibly present to each other, and presumably gaining access to all of their experiences no matter who is emergent. (Though not automatically, since Pharaoh has to tell Yuugi about why Jounouchi wanted him to hold the Red Eyes.) It’s what I personally term The Partner Point. Manga-wise, the game for the Puzzle takes place soon after, against Otogi Ryuuji. Yuugi wins it on his own, playing for the return of his other self. Definitely a major developmental leap. I did note that it’s actually Otogi who insists that Yuugi must have significant strength of his own as a gamer to have been able to solve the Puzzle. I rather wondered what to make of this in conjunction with Bakura’s comment that Yuugi was chosen as the Puzzle’s owner three thousand years ago (Issue 141). I also noted that Yuugi didn’t seem to really take that insistence to heart until the game to reclaim Jounouchi from Malik, when he demands to fight to the end and prove his own strength.



We kind of have to go by the manga to say anything useful about Bakura-kun and Bakura, because the anime gives us exceptionally little material to work with.

At the very first, the part we don’t actually see, Bakura seems to be amusing himself by trapping the souls of Bakura-kun’s friends in the Monster World game. From what he says later this was preparatory to locking Bakura-kun himself in there too, presumably so Bakura can take over his body full time though this is never stated. The sight of the Puzzle galvanizes Bakura to more overt action, and at this point he actually speaks to his host. So Bakura-kun is aware of Bakura from the first moment Bakura moves to possess his body. Bakura does not, it appears, allow Bakura-kun to become aware of what’s happening while Bakura is emergent. In fact, even at those moments when Bakura is close to the surface but not taking over, hovering we might say, Bakura-kun looks pretty zoned out. (See Issue 285 for a good example of this.)

This could be because the one time Bakura lets Bakura-kun’s awareness out (Monster World), Bakura-kun defies him. Successfully, too. I don’t think it’s surprising that, after that, Bakura would take greater care to keep Bakura-kun unaware of things he might object to and try to interfere with. The few exceptions, when he uses Bakura-kun as bait, are very brief, and Bakura goes back on the most dramatic, offering himself as a shield for Bakura-kun’s psyche. So, perhaps there’s a second level, as Pharaoh speculates after the incident during the Battle City finals, and Bakura finds himself bound to his Item’s holder and impelled to protect him. The easiest way to deal with that would certainly be to send Bakura-kun to sleep during any hurly-burly that ensues.

In his interview with US Shonen Jump, Takahashi was asked to describe Bakura-kun’s character. He responded that Bakura-kun is possessed by Bakura and proceeded to characterize him. I took this to mean that Bakura-kun doesn’t have much character in the author’s eyes. Poor thing. We can, however, speculate based on what behavior we do see. He’s almost got to have a phenomenal degree of mental resilience and flexibility, given how often he “wakes up” and has to immediately assess and respond to whatever situation he finds himself in. He’s also a sharp strategist in his own right, witness his evaluations of the duelists during Duelist Kingdom. Judging by the way he picks up on something being wrong when Yuugi gets separated from the Puzzle during his game with Otogi, Bakura-kun also seems to have some sensitivity to the Items and their magic. He does not, however, seem to share Bakura’s extensive knowledge of the past and how it ‘s connected to the present. He deals with the knowledge that a malevolent spirit is waltzing around in his body with remarkable equanimity. The top reasons that immediately suggest themselves to me for this are 1) he is freaked out and Takahashi doesn’t care enough about this character to show him freaking 2) he has responded to his untenable circumstances with utter fatalism as the only alternative to raving insanity 3) he actually approves, possibly not consciously, of Bakura’s nature, having become tired of being so nice all the time.

The anime confuses things mightily by allowing Bakura to look like Bakura-kun, but most of the same points hold true there. The only time the manga comes close to that kind of elision is at the start of the Battle City finals, when Bakura-kun is chatting with everyone at the stadium. Yuugi suspects that Bakura-kun is being pretty tightly controlled by the Ring, seeing as he denies the slash on his arm hurts at all and playfully insists that how he got six map cards so fast is a secret.



The Fury is not, of course, a tenant who comes out of an Item, but his evolution is worth a few words, too. And, once again, almost all the juicy detail comes from the manga.

The Fury’s advent accompanies Malik’s experience of his family’s “ritual”, a really nasty looking scarification. Makes perfect sense to me. As soon as the Fury shows up, though, he’s suppressed again. Malik, just post-ritual, asks Rishid who he should hate, the primary choices presumably being his father for doing this or Rishid for not stopping it. This is the first moment we see that tell-tale distortion. Rishid, however, reveals that he has carved what I presume are a copy of the writing on Malik’s back on the side of his face. Ouch.

Precisely how this suppresses the Fury is not explicated for us. Isis implies that this proof of loyalty keeps Malik from going over the edge. It looks like something a bit deeper, to me, though. Rishid thinks at one point that this was when he became Malik’s shadow, and the Fury uses the same terms when he says that he couldn’t emerge while the other shadow was in the way. There seems to have been some sort of three-way identification established by Rishid taking on those scars, wherein he became a part of Malik and took up the space that might otherwise be filled by the Fury. While he is conscious, the Fury is sealed.

Thus, when Malik makes his little excursion outside and his father finds out and beats Rishid to the edge of death, the Fury is able to emerge and give his father exactly what he deserves. I liked the manga much better, here; knowing that o-chichiue-sama got skinned gave me a nice warm fuzzy feeling. I really don’t know why Malik feels bad over that.

Of course, the Fury is a bit over the top. His assertion, during his duel with Bakura and Malik, that he might actually be the primary personality because the Rod accepted him first did catch my attention. He acknowledges that he is the hate, pain, sorrow and darkness of Malik’s heart. He just doesn’t think that gives his originator any particular right to exist.

This is *not* standard for multiples, which is what leads me to suggest that the Rod has something to do with the Fury turning out the way he does.

So it looks like everyone except Malik knows about the Fury before the go round aboard the Battle Ship. It’s clear that Rishid knows perfectly well what will happen if he succumbs to the shock of Ra’s strike, as his last conscious request is for Jounouchi and Pharaoh to save Malik from the one who is emerging.

Fascinating note: the priests who held the Items in Ancient Egypt are referred to by priest Seto as the shadows of the Pharaoh, when he’s debating with Akunadin over the ethics of a ka hunt. He feels that the Item holders are the ones who exist to do the things Pharaoh cannot openly do. This implies that, before the Eye overcomes Akunadin enough to make him push his son toward rebellion, Seto thought of himself rather the same way Rishid thinks of himself. …Not as deferential, to be sure, but as the hand of his ruler to do what is necessary.

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Welcome to my pages reflecting on Yuugi-ou, known as Yu-Gi-Oh! in it’s US incarnation. Step right in, watch your head.

Advisories: These pages are based exclusively on the Japanese anime and manga (bar the first series) NOT THE GAME. If you want info on the English version, head for the links at the bottom of the page. Likewise, if you want info on the card game. There are, of course, spoilers, so if you actually like cliff-hangers take a hike until you’ve finished reading/watching. All puns and double entendres are intended.

Note on Names

The dub has much to answer for. A number of names were vague or non-existent for a specific plot purpose before the US producers got to them. Since my nomenclature differs from the standard dub-influenced set, I hereby provide this handy key.

Mutou Yuugi, Yuugi: the little, cute one with the funky hair.

Pharaoh: the still fairly short one with the funky, more spiky hair and rather more dangerous eyes. Given that no one ever uses his name all through the manga, I refer to him mostly by this title rather than by Atem.

Bakura Ryou, Bakura-kun: the pretty, gentle looking one with platinum hair and brown eyes.

Bakura, Touzoku-ou: the frequently crazed and occasionally sexy looking one with platinum hair and brown eyes. Not gentle at all.

Ishtar Malik, Malik: the pretty, if rather vicious, pale blond with the carvings on his back.

the Fury: the really disturbing pale blond one that tends to distort.

tenant: my term for an indwelling soul who is not part of the original (eg Pharaoh and Bakura are tenants, the Fury isn’t).

Rationale is as follows. Yuugi and Pharaoh are pretty self-explanatory, since a lot of the series involves the search for Pharaoh’s memory and identity. The fact that no one remembers his name is kind of central. Bakura-kun and Bakura are fuzzier. All Bakura Ryou’s friends call him Bakura-kun; in fact, his tenant calls him Bakura. In the world of memory Touzoku-ou introduces himself as Bakura. Again, it’s fairly clear that he and Bakura-kun are two separate souls, though just whose soul Bakura’s is seems to be in a bit of doubt, manga-wise. Anime-wise, Bakura also consistently denies that he is Bakura (whenever friends are a bit slow to catch the switch), though he does not provide any other name. If we have to rationalize, I suppose his repeated “Bakura ja nai” could simply be his denial that he is any part of his host. In Malik’s case, though, the really disturbing one is, in fact, himself–just a really insane part of himself who seems to have gained a high degree of separation. Personally, I speculate that the Fury gained such extreme definition through contact with the Rod, given that all the Items seem to encourage evil in their holders (manga-wise). And, yes, I know the Classical Furies were women, but it’s an appropriate handle. No character ever calls him anything but Malik, which is well enough since he is… but, analytically, some distinguishing referent is called for once he and primary Malik start working at cross purposes. Which is almost immediately, now I think about it.


Bushido for the new millennium

I named this page for the striking similarities between the traditions of the feudal warrior class and the concept of the “true duelist”.

A true duelist relies on her/his own strength. Mai and Jounouchi make this point most strongly. In the anime, when Yuugi is practically comatose with fear of his other self and the corollary fear that he will not be able to duel without his other self’s strength, Mai snaps him out of it. Anzu does her part, of course, but Mai’s insistence that the only thing a duelist brings to a duel, the only thing she relies on there, is her own strength–that is what drives Yuugi to accept the star chips and turn back to the fight. Both anime and manga feature Jounouchi’s awakening to this part of the code after Pharaoh wins back the Red Eyes at the start of Battle City. Jounouchi insists that he can’t accept the card back that easily, that he has to be worthy of it in his own eyes and those of the card itself (which is more or less the same thing). Distinct shades of swordsmanship, here, especially the idea that the sword has a soul. (Possibly one’s own soul, depending on the philosophy.) I would say that Bakura’s rejection of Malik’s ploy to prevent Yuugi from unleashing Osiris during their Battle Ship duel is another expression of this idea. Bakura knows perfectly well that he’ll lose, and insists on losing on his own terms rather than win on another’s.

A true duelist fights for those things precious to her/him. The anime, in particular, emphasizes Kaiba’s conclusion that the reason Yuugi could defeat him in their first duel was not that his technique surpassed Kaiba’s but that his motive was stronger. Yuugi fought to preserve something of huge importance to him, not simply for his pride. Similarly, both manga and anime make Yuugi, not Pharaoh, the one who can recall Jounouchi from Malik’s mind control. The heart of a duelist, the pride of a duelist, these can recall Jounouchi for a moment or two, but what breaks him loose for good is the sight of Yuugi about to deliberately lose and sacrifice his life for his friend. This takes the idea of fighting for an end beyond oneself to a level that transcends the actual duel. Yuugi makes the last move against himself in order to win.

*momentary pause while the author chases away the shade of Obi-wan Kenobi with a broom*

This, I think, is why Pharaoh muses that the day is coming when Yuugi will surpass him. The game is everything to Pharaoh, much as it is to Kaiba; it would not have occurred to him to do what Yuugi did. Huge motif in every popular anime I have ever analyzed: the loving heart can accomplish things that the strongest warrior’s spirit cannot. This is not, of course, to say that pride isn’t hugely important to the code, here.

A true duelist fights for the purity of the game itself. Otogi Ryuuji and the dice game in the manga are a good example of this. Similarly, Jounouchi’s duel with Pharaoh in the Duelist Kingdom finals. And, of course, Kaiba during the entire Battle City arc. Manga Otogi, while willing to fight Yuugi for his father’s revenge, draws the line at breaking the sanctity of the game. When his father smashes the Puzzle Otogi helps Yuugi gather the pieces and orders his father rather sharply not to interfere. When Jounouchi and Pharaoh duel in Duelist Kingdom (anime) Anzu is afraid they have left their friendship behind to attack each other all out. It’s Honda and Bakura-kun (maybe) who insist that they would not be true friends if they held back. That would indicate contempt for the opponent’s ability, therefore a true duelist would not wish an opponent to hold back, so a true friend wouldn’t.

At that point in the manga, a different theme appears. We see, later on, examples of the winner carrying responsibility for the loser’s honor–that is, you don’t want the one you lost to to lose to anyone else. This scene in the manga shows that this responsibility can also be given and recieved without a fight. Pegasus notes that Jounouchi entrusts his stake in the final duel to Pharaoh.

It’s Seto I think embodies the warrior ideal most purely, which is not unusual for the Primary Rival in shounen anime these days. He gets all bright-eyed and smiley (for him) at the prospect of a good fight. His obsession with Pharaoh during Battle City reflects an intense desire to find someone who can truly test his limits. And, while he’s a bit shocked that he actually loses in the end, as they’re all leaving an exploding Alcatraz and he brings his jet alongside the Battle Ship, he offers Pharaoh a remarkably un-bitter smile and salute in parting (manga).


Further Reading

So, there we go. For my speculations on how aware of their others Yuugi and Bakura are, follow the Awareness link; for a bunch of linguistic details, check under Language; for the fruits of my research into actual Egyptian mythology/history, look under Egypt. There are three “hidden links”, as well, should you feel like looking around for them. Not very hidden, to be sure, but not as obvious as the one’s I just listed. They go to random ramblings that didn’t fit elsewhere.

If you want to bail, links are below. If you want to respond, my email link is below that. I enjoy feedback. I enjoy discussion and debate. I do not enjoy pissiness from people who wouldn’t recognize an analytical hypothesis if it bit them in the ass.


Yami no Kokoro is a good general site for the series. It has a bit of just about everything, except the card game.

If you want the card game, one of the best sites is Pojo’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Site, which will tell you all about the cards. Very useful reference site, with a nice lot of writers working on columns and essays.

Edo’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Page focuses on the cards, but also has very good summaries of the manga.

If you want actual translations, check either Jenniyah’s page or Yu-Gi-Oh! Animation by Janime. A very few high quality translations can be found at Theria.net.

Alternatively, of course, you could just go to the Shonen Jump site in English and buy legally. Viz actually does a pretty good job with text translations, so it’s probably worth it.

Kokoro no Naka has all sorts of media, as well as excerpts from the manga.

Checkmate focuses on Kaiba Seto, but has superb and well-researched tidbits about everyone else too. Definitely the best discursive site out there.

Papyrus-A Yugioh Fansite has some neat tidbits, good art and fic, and hosts Tuulikki’s name meanings list.

Kyokou Geemu, slowly rebuilding itself after a move and major refit, is a good place to start looking for fanworks. Their forums are also worth a look through, and I don’t say that often.

February 2017

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