by Deborah Krieger
The conceit of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged) is simple, but effective: Since 2006, YouTube user LittleKuriboh condenses one or more episodes of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters series into videos of between four to fourteen minutes that parody the content of the original show. Rewriting the dialogue to include jokes, pop culture references, and moments of fourth-wall breaking, LittleKuriboh substitutes his own voice as the audio of his videos, where he plays nearly all of the characters, using vocal mannerisms that roughly approximate the voices of the Duel Monsters English dub.
In the decade since its inception, Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged has become an internet culture touchstone. Some of its YouTube videos reach millions of views, its Facebook page sits at nearly 1 million likes, and the series has developed an extensive fandom surrounding “fanon,” the canon within LittleKuriboh’s fan creation.
The fandom and antifandom aspects and practices surrounding Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged are the focus of this essay. Namely, there are several ways that LittleKuriboh and Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged mediate fan interaction, both within the canon of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged episodes as well as behind the scenes. Additionally, LittleKuriboh has developed varying relationships with fans and antifans of his series, as well as imitators of his form. The fandom aspect of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged is significant because while LittleKuriboh’s series not only parodies the plot elements of the source material, it also has created its own internal series canon as a text in its own right that is consistently referenced and remediated in subsequent episodes. Classic lines such as “screw the rules, I have money,” delivered by Seto Kaiba in the show’s first episode, have become memes in the show and in the larger internet culture. LittleKuriboh has scripted later dialogue for Kaiba that riffs off the original quote, such as “screw the money, I have rules” (Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Movie, 2008) and “screw the rules, I have green hair,” (“… In America,” 2006), a reference to the character’s green hair in an earlier version of the anime. “Screw the [x], I have [y],” is to this day a popular meme and commonly referenced trope.
Though no longer released on a weekly basis, Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged has reached 74 episodes spanning four seasons of the original five-season run of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, and shows no signs of stopping. LittleKuriboh has also released two abridged movies (based on Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light from 2004 and Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time from 2010) and countless supplementary videos, including “Let’s Play” videos starring Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged characters and Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged characters advocating for charity.
While the series is certainly well-known in the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom, it is not universally loved by Yu-Gi-Oh! fans. The contentious relationships between and within the Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged and Duel Monsters fandoms have several incarnations: fans of Duel Monsters who resent the parodying and irreverent (and often offensive) content and interpretations of their beloved characters; fans of both series (a category in which I include myself); fans of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged who categorically hate the other fans of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged for their perceived annoying behavior ; fans of Duel Monsters who dislike the fact that elements from Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged have become Duel Monsters accepted fanon and fandom practices, and so on. With the use of memes originating from Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged becoming commonplace in online spaces, it has become increasingly difficult for antifans to avoid some sort of contact with Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged. Indeed, Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged has become so popular that voice actors of the original Yu-Gi-Oh dub have referenced various catch-phrases and lines from their abridged counterparts. For example, Wayne Grayson, the dub voice of Joey Wheeler quoted “Brooklyn rage,” at Youmacon 2008 , and took part in a panel with LittleKuriboh at Youmacon 2009, where both actors performed their versions of the character in conversation with one another.
As the series’ popularity has grown, so has the form of the anime abridged series: nearly every well-known anime has been made into an abridged series.  Some are more prominent and successful than others, such as Naruto the Abridged Series  (created by YouTube users MasakoX and Vegeta3986) and Dragon Ball Z Abridged (created by Team Four Star, which includes YouTube users Lanipator, Takahata101, KaiserNeko, and MasakoX). At a certain point in time, it seemed as though every anime fan with a computer microphone, an ability to download footage, and time on their hands was making an abridged series, though none have reached the level of cultural saturation and establishment of LittleKuriboh’s original work.
Fanon and Thiefshipping
One of the more prominent ways the Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged canon has made itself at home within Duel Monsters fandom is with regards to the pairing of “Thiefshipping,”or the pairing of male villains Marik Ishtar and Yami Bakura. While the original Duel Monsters English dub has little focus on romance, and skirts all potentially slash ships (or gay or lesbian relationships) as a rule, LittleKuriboh has largely created (or merely revitalized) the fanbase for this pairing, both within Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged episodes proper and in the context of side videos.
For example, in the side series “Marik Plays Bloodlines,” begun in 2011, Marik plays “Vampire: The Masquerade” in the popular YouTube “Let’s Play” format. Over the course of this series, Yami Bakura, who is also present, makes increasingly obvious sexual advances towards the oblivious Marik, providing endless shipping fodder for fans of this couple. While Marik and Yami Bakura are not at all concerned with romance or sexuality in the original series, LittleKuriboh has reinvented Marik as naive, juvenile, and obsessed with his own sex appeal (an easy interpretation, given the character’s costume) and Yami Bakura as flamboyantly gay, with his attentions focused on Marik. Not only has Thiefshipping in the Duel Monsters canon become popular, with over 1,400 fanfics in the Fanfiction.net archive, but the fanon version of Thiefshipping , using the abridged characterizations created by LittleKuriboh, has also become a popular pairing in its own right.
The pairing of “Puzzleshipping,” or Yami Yugi and Yugi Moto, has also been teased and expanded within the text of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged. For example, the 2015 episode “Puzzled Shipping,”  a clear reference to this ship name, features Yami Yugi and Yugi pulling a sword out of a block of ice, with the sounds of their efforts clearly meant to reference sexual activity. 
“It’s not as good as it used to be”
With many ongoing series across media there is often the perception that the work is decreasing in quality, and Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged is no exception. Fan discussions reveal that some viewers of the show have found its humor obnoxious or less enjoyable than before. Indeed, a short comment thread on the “Headscratchers” TVTropes subpage for Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged contains the following comment:
“Am I the only one who thinks LK’s [LittleKuriboh’s] Marik schtick is getting rather old? I used to enjoy it, but pretty much every line out of his mouth now is either how he’s a poorly closeted homosexual, or how sexy he/his outfit looks.”
In a comment thread on GameFaqs.com, a user asking for abridged series recommendations in 2013-2014 is told to watch Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, “although lately it’s not as good as it used to be.” A comment thread on Pojo.biz regarding episode 33 (“Harpoonshipping,” 2009) contains a litany of complaints, including “that was probably one of the worst abridged episodes I have ever seen,” “he made an episode around his own OLD joke. TAS used to be awesome because it made fun of the series. Now he’s… out of material and trying to make fun of himself and taking it too far,” and “it’s a pity that entertainment becomes crap over time, and this is like the 60th episode. How will he handle the remaining 180 is beyond me.” A 2016 Reddit thread comparing various abridged series contains the following illuminating comment: “I don’t enjoy it because it encourages blinding nostalgia. […] Also, the jokes are really rather lame, and the only good jokes are now obnoxious memes for thirteen year olds,”  highlighting the divide between fans of the original and of the abridged series in stark contrast.
Fans as Obstacles, Fans as Friends
LittleKuriboh’s behavior with regards not only to fans and antifans, but also towards creators of subsequent abridged series, has gradually shifted over the course of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged’s existence. Earlier Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged episodes and content tended to mock the fanbase, with thinly veiled shots taken at those who have flagged his videos on YouTube, leading them to be taken down. In episode 24 (“Egyptian Exhibition Expo 2007,” 2007), Seto Kaiba claims to be busy flagging YouTube videos “to compensate for the fact that [he has] an extremely small penis.” 
In episode 48 (“Penguin Ex Machina,” 2010), Téa Gardner weathers an attack by strange monsters referred to as “internet trolls;” she expresses apprehension and worries that “they’re going to flame me to death.”  LittleKuriboh also expresses his frustration with fans’ insatiable demand for new episodes in a side series of videos by choosing to have several of the monster creatures that appear needlessly scream “where’s the new episode?” in an annoying, endless fashion. 
Most significantly, LittleKuriboh created a side video in 2008 to address his perception of his imitators called “Dan Green Presents Abridging 101,” where he brandishes a Yami Yugi plush toy and sardonically lays out a codified set of steps for fans to make their own abridged series. Using the hypothetical example of a Neon Genesis Evangelion abridged series, LittleKuriboh suggests that plagiarism, using computer programs to create different voices, and substituting musical cues for writing jokes will bring aspiring abridgers success, as well as “get[ting] lazy” and taking absurd amounts of time between making videos, which serves as both a moment of self-critique and a call-out to the fans for having unrealistic expectations. Much of the sarcasm in this video has gone over the heads of fans, however: several of the comments on the YouTube video reference how the commenter found LittleKuriboh’s advice helpful in creating their own work.
In another side video, a 2009 song parody of Eminem’s “Without Me,” titled “Without Yugi,” LittleKuriboh raps about the inception and early years of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged in the voice of Yugi, concluding a verse with the following:
And while he’s not the first one to fandub Yugi
He is the first one that’s not a newbie
To make the show seem kinda funny
Though it doesn’t make him any money
(HEY!) There’s a concept that’s broke!
Twenty million other users steal his jokes
But no matter how many imitate LK
It won’t change the fact that he’s here to stay 
In more recent years and in more recent content, however, LittleKuriboh takes a more playful and even welcoming attitude towards fellow abridgers and a more apathetic one towards his critics. LittleKuriboh has now done guest voices on Dragon Ball Z Abridged and become a permanent member of the collective that makes the show , invited fellow abridgers to do voices on Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged beginning with episode 47 (“Beyond the Fourth Wall,” 2010) , and also created Naruto: The Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show , a parody of Naruto the Abridged Series, itself one of the older abridged series on YouTube. The Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show, begun in 2009, now has nine episodes and an abridged movie based on the Naruto feature film, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (released in English in 2007). 
LittleKuriboh seems to have warmed to the idea that there is now, for better or for worse, a bona fide YouTube abridged series community, whose celebrities include LittleKuriboh and the members of Team Four Star. Rather than highlighting trolls or particularly strong fan reactions, LittleKuriboh’s meta-humor has of late become more self-deprecating, acknowledging fan complaints in a less combative way. A dialogue exchange in episode 67 (“Toon Pangs,” 2016) provides a good example:
Tristan: I can’t believe we’re in London! The Tower Bridge sure is pretty!
Téa: Tristan, you know full well that’s the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tristan: Don’t be ridiculous. Magneto killed that bridge in X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
Joey: Yeah, Téa. Too soon.
Yugi: Eh, that bridge is overrated. It takes too long to get anywhere. And it’s not even that funny.
Yami: As Pharaoh, I created the original bridge. It was terrible and barely worked. But it was the only one around, so everyone loved it. 
Additionally, a 2012 tweet from LittleKuriboh cannily addresses the endless fan refrain about the perceived decrease in quality of his series: “I want to make ‘Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged has sucked since…’ into a thing now.” 
LittleKuriboh has used the same concept of substituting dialogue about “bridges” for discussing the state of abridged series as a whole in his Naruto the Abridged Series parody. In episode five of this series (“MILKSHAKE NO JUTSU~!” 2010), the characters Naruto and “Joekage” (based on the Hokage from Naruto proper) discuss the creation and spread of the abridged series as a medium in the following exchange, using Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, Naruto the Abridged Series, and Dragon Ball Z Abridged as lightly disguised examples:
Joekage: Personally I don’t see what’s so important about a bridge. I mean, come on. First one guy [LittleKuriboh] makes a bridge [Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged]. And everybody uses it, they’re like, “Ooh, look, a bridge. That’s new.” So, like, these other two guys [MasakoX and Vegeta3986] make another bridge [Naruto the Abridged Series]. And it’s kinda like the first one, but people use it anyway because the first guy is like “Oh, their bridge is pretty cool too, check it out.” And then these three other guys [Team Four Star] are like, “Oh, we’re going to make the best bridge ever [Dragon Ball Z Abridged], we’re going to combine our talents and be like, ‘Oh, look at our bridge, it’s totally amazing, ooh.’” and it’s like, it turns out really good, and it’s the best out of all the other bridges. Everybody subscribes to it.
Naruto: Subscribes to it?!
Joekage: I mean er… Everybody crosses it. Because it’s a bridge. Yeah. And before you know it everybody and their mother is making a bridge! So there’s a bridge. Everywhere… Nobody even knows why they’re making a bridge anymore. They just want people to cross it. They don’t care where they’re going. The first guy is like, “I’m going to go to conventions to promote my bridge!” It’s like, it’s just a bridge. It’s not a big deal. Get over it. 
In a conversation with LittleKuriboh conducted over Facebook in April 2016, I roughly confirmed that the “three other guys” mentioned in Joekage’s speech refers to Team FourStar; in his own words, LittleKuriboh replied to my question by saying “probably,” remarking that he made the video a long time ago. Additionally, in an interview I conducted with LittleKuriboh in 2013, he refers to Team FourStar as “good friends.” Thus, in the years since he made the “Dan Green Presents Abridging 101” video, we can conclude that LittleKuriboh’s relationship to his admirers and fellow users of the abridged series medium has gotten much more positive.
Beyond Children’s Card Games
While LittleKuriboh has stayed out of using his series to address larger geopolitical or societal issues, a noteworthy exception was made on November 10th, 2016, in the wake of the presidential election. In a video simply titled “processing” , LittleKuriboh takes a snippet from a particularly tragic scene in the source material where Yugi loses his soul in a duel. In the original sequence, Yugi’s alter ego Yami has become despondent after Yugi’s soul is lost, and only manages to snap out of his misery when Joey grabs him forcefully and yells at him. LittleKuriboh maintains the spirit of the original text while substituting his own dialogue that on one level addresses the aftermath of the duel but is also clearly meant to be a rallying cry to his viewer base begging them not to lose hope in the wake of the election.
Yami: No matter how much you all hoped, no matter how much you believed, none of it was enough. I wasn’t enough. I have failed, and all hope is lost. We should all just give up. I should just—
Joey: (grabbing Yami by the collar and throwing him to the ground) Snap out of it, Yug! […] It’d be real easy to give up right now, to turn on each other and ourselves and just throw in the towel, but the truth is sometimes the person you want to win doesn’t win. And it makes you confused, angry, full of feelings that have been amplified ‘cos it feels like the loss to end all losses. But win or lose, this is not the end. We can’t give in to despair. We can’t look at this and say “well, it’s time to cry and hate and lash out and give up.” We have to be true to what we always fought for: love, unity, honor. None of those things have been destroyed, so we gotta hold to that. We have to take a breath, congratulate the other guy, and accept every loss and victory from now on with grace, no matter what fear might tell us. It’s too soon to know how things will play out, but we can’t just lose hope in ourselves or each other. So stand up. Stand beside me and everyone else who ever loved you, because we do. We love you, and we keep walking forward together.
In a bizarre and unexpected twist, the comments on the video are full of similarly worded sentiments, with fewer trolls present than expected. 
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has demonstrated over ten years a constantly changing relationship with not only the original source material and the fans and antifans of the project, but also with countless YouTube users and potential abridgers hungry for internet fame. LittleKuriboh’s creation has not only begun a genre in and of itself, but its ten-year existence allows for many opportunities to observe and remark upon the changes that have arisen between content creators and fans; these changes have since spilled over into more established forms of media such as feature films and broadcast television, and promise to continually restructure the paradigm of how consumers and creators engage with one another.
Deborah Krieger is an arts and culture writer who can’t believe she got to write about Yu-Gi-Oh! in multiple academic settings. She can be found at @DebOnTheArts on both Twitter and Instagram, and runs her own blog at i-on-the-arts.com.