4Kids Entertainment, the company that packaged Pokemon for the U.S. market (see 'Pokemon Packager Adds Three New Anime') has licensed Yu-Gi-Oh, the anime series/collectible card game that trumped Pokemon in Japan. The story of a shy, young boy who defeats rivals through gaming, Yu-Gi-Oh is based on the manga by Kazuki Takahashi originally serialized in Shonen Jump. A 27-episode television series and an accompanying collectible card game were hugely popular in Japan in 1998. At this time little is known about 4Kids plans to exploit Yu-Gi-Oh in the U.S. Key elements include the CCG license and an agreement to broadcast the English version of the anime series on U.S. television.
Already anime fans have a petition on the web begging 4Kids to put out an uncut version of the series on video with English subtitles and the original Japanese soundtrack. Based on the fairly extensive amount of tampering that 4Kids did with the Japanese Pokemon series, it appears unlikely that the packager will heed the fans' call to keep their hands off Yu-Gi-Oh, though rise of the DVD market at least provides some hope that the original Japanese series might eventually become available in this country in its entirety.
Here in the U.S. the kind of blatant product-plugging that characterizes the Yu-Gi-Oh anime and its related CCG is reserved for major motion pictures. Since Yu-Gi-Oh is about gaming the link to the CCG is more obvious than with Pokemon, and American television has many more restrictions in dealing with marketing to kids than does Japanese TV. Many questions surround Yu-Gi-Oh. Will the game catch on here, with so many other collectible card games already crowding the marketplace including Magic, Pokemon, DBZ, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors, just to mention a few? Based on its extraordinary performance in Japan, Yu-Gi-Oh has considerable potential, but its success in the U.S is hardly assured. 4Kids' first task will be getting the anime series a good time slot on American television. Stay tuned for more details.