Fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise only familiar with the various anime series need to check out the spin-off manga that completely change the series. Surprisingly, these manga are not original stories, although Yu-Gi-Oh! does have a more recent modern manga fitting that description. Instead, these manga are more akin to a re-imagening of the animes themselves.
This may be surprising to some fans given that the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga is very similar to the first anime although there are some differences. Of course the series most fans know and love cut out the dark beginnings of the manga (although much of that content was animated in another series fans call “Season 0”), but besides this, the manga is almost completely adapted. The anime did have filler arcs like the Virtual World and Waking the Dragons storylines, but this didn’t make the show into something completely different from the manga. This would quickly prove to be a surprising exception instead of a rule as new anime and manga in the franchise would be released.
After the initial Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, each spinoff show would be an original story instead of being based on a manga. Still, manga for each of these spin-offs were also released, featuring many of the same characters from the shows. However, besides the characters and the setting, the anime and manga were completely different for each of the series. The manga would feature new cards, new enemies, and new backstories for the characters which would change the story entirely. Sometimes this could even manifest in some truly bizarre changes such as the Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc V manga having a Back to the Future style twist.
These changes can make the manga surreal to read for fans of the anime they are based on. However, surreal does not necessarily mean bad, as these stories could be viewed almost as the continued adventures of the characters from the anime in an alternate universe. In addition, seeing the characters play with different cards can give fans a glimpse of how different the games would have been in the anime if some of the most iconic cards in the franchise were tweaked slightly. This makes these manga somewhat similar to Marvel’s What If…? series of comics in the best way.
These spinoff manga are generally much less talked about than the anime series that spawned them, which is a shame given they are a lot of fun to read for a fan of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise as a whole. They may not generally match up to the quality of the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, but few series do. Thus Yu-Gi-Oh! fans who have only seen the various anime need to check out the various manga in the franchise as well, as they will likely be pleasantly surprised with these alternate takes on the characters and cards.