5 ways the Pokemon anime was better than Yu-Gi-Oh! (and 5 times the opposite was true)
Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have been compared for over two decades, as both series have several animes, cards, and games to their names. They practically defined the late 90s to the early 2000s, with both series still being relevant today. There are many similarities between them, but there are also plenty of note differences.
It's worth mentioning that this article collectively refers to every Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh anime. So it won't just be the first season of both shows being compared to one another. Both shows were fun to watch back in the day, so this article isn't necessarily about one show being objectively better than the other.
These are times when Pokemon anime was better than Yu-Gi-Oh!
5) More memorable theme songs
Both anime shows have some good theme songs, but the Pokemon seasons have an arguably more memorable selection of tunes. It also helps that their songs tend to be more musically diverse. The first theme song is unquestionably the most iconic one, which can also be seen based on its views on YouTube.
The first season's song (shown in the above video) has over 68M views. By comparison, Yu-Gi-Oh's first theme song only has approximately 10% of that, with 6.3M views.
4) Easier to follow
Pokemon has a more straightforward plot that generally revolves around Ash Ketchum collecting badges, collecting some new Pokemon, and traveling through a region. A few differences are added from time to time (like May and Dawn being into contests), but the overall premise is easy for anybody to understand.
The game series that the anime seasons are based on are also exceptionally easy to understand. New mechanics like Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves still follow the same core gameplay that doesn't take long to understand.
The Yu-Gi-Oh anime introduced several new summoning features that can confuse Yugi Boomers (Pendulum Summoning is a good example). Fans of the card game can easily understand it, but older players would have a more difficult time following the newer shows.
There are also several alternate timelines in Yu-Gi-Oh, which isn't a problem Pokemon has.
3) More recognizable characters
One of the main draws for anime based on pre-established media is seeing familiar characters. Most people should be able to recognize characters like Pikachu and Charizard, and the later seasons aren't a slouch in this regard, either.
There are way more Yu-Gi-Oh cards than there are Pokemon. While one can appreciate seeing somebody like Dark Magician Girl or Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the Pokemon series is objectively more famous by several metrics.
After all, it is the most profitable media franchise in the world.
2) A sense of adventure
Say what you want about Ash and company, but the show they're on does a good job exploring various new regions. They travel through:
- Spooky woods
- And various other biomes
There's hardly a plot, but there doesn't need to be. Sometimes the childish sense of wonder of finding new Pokemon and exploring new lands is entertaining enough.
1) More episodes to watch
This anime has been around since 1997, and it regularly has episodes every year. There are over 1100 episodes and 25 movies to watch. Thus, fans of the show have no shortage of content to get. Those numbers don't include spin-off shows, which only help give viewers more to watch.
Yu-Gi-Oh has fewer episodes and far fewer movies than Pokemon. Quantity isn't always better than quality, but it's not a meaningless trait for anybody who enjoys both shows roughly around the same. Quantity matters.
Times the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime was better than Pokemon
5) There are more layers to how characters can end a duel
Yu-Gi-Oh is a naturally more complex game than Pokemon. However, that complexity can also make it more enjoyable to watch. Viewers can see how many life points a character has and can often see what's in their hand. Those are essential resources.
There is no HP bar, PP, or levels in the latter show, which can lead to some fights suddenly ending without much explanation. It can be especially jarring when something faints to a pathetically weak move in the game without any chip damage.
4) Less childish moments
Dark moments rarely happen in the Pokemon series. It's great when it does happen, like Stoutland dying in the Sun & Moon anime. However, the show is primarily lighthearted and childish (and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that).
Some anime fans might prefer something a little darker. Take the Shadow Realm, for example. It was created in the 4Kids Dub to avoid talking about characters dying. Later versions of Yu-Gi-Oh aren't as dark, so it's something that's most relevant to the first few seasons.
The Pokemon manga has several dark moments, but it follows an entirely different story than the anime.
3) More protagonists throughout the years
One of the most significant advantages of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime series is multiple protagonists with different personalities and goals. Noteworthy examples include:
- Yugi Muto
- Jaden Yuki
- Yusei Fudo
- Yuma Tsukumo
- Yuya Sakaki
By comparison, Pokemon primarily revolved around Ash Ketchum. There have been a few spin-offs like Origins and Generations, but Ash is by far and away from the most seen protagonist. A character like Yugi has an entirely different background than somebody like Jaden, which helps make each anime iteration feel fresh.
2) More stories to tell
Because there tend to be more protagonists in the Yu-Gi-Oh anime than in the Pokemon anime, the former show tends to have more stories to tell. It can be harder to follow at times for a casual fan, but it's generally more complex than Ash following a formulaic storyline for nearly two decades.
A good example would be Millennium Puzzles. They played a crucial role in the early Yu-Gi-Oh anime but were nonfactors in the later shows. That's not necessarily bad, as the anime doesn't have to recycle as much content. It is a series that's had several shows for nearly two decades.
1) The main characters win when it matters
One of Ash's biggest criticisms is that he's a choke artist who almost always loses on the big stage, even when he shouldn't. Whether he's against a trainer with a Darkrai and Latios or has a Greninja lose to a Charizard, there always seems to be something against him for some illogical reason. He did win the Manalo Conference, but it's still not a good win/loss record.
Yu-Gi-Oh protagonists almost always win when it matters, even when it seems like their opponent is choking. Some people don't want to root for losers, so it's a reason why some people find these protagonists cooler than Ash.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.