Table of Contents
- Duel Monsters in Egypt
- The Duel Monster Spirit World Appears
- The nature of Spirits and Ka and where they come from
- Manifesting in the World
- Not All Duel Monsters are necessarily Spirits
- What in the blue blazes is Kaibaman?
- The Future of Spirits
In the Yugioh anime, the game of Duel Monsters is based on the ancient Games of Darkness, or Shadow Games. When Pegasus made Duel Monsters, the game revived all of that dark magic and seeped the cards in it. Since then, throughout the early iterations of the franchise, the concept was further expanded upon. Primarily, with the idea of the monsters being alive in the cards and able to manifest in the real world as Spirits.
This piece aims to go over a brief history of Duel Monster Spirits, primarily in the original series and Yugioh GX, also touching on subsequent shows a little. From half way through 5Ds onwards, the anime tends to swap the ancient magic for science fiction type stories. However, that secret underside of the card game remains an important factor.
I also aim to speculate and bring up questions about some matters regarding Duel Spirits. They don’t give all of the information on the exact nature of them in the shows. Therefore, I will try to come towards some conclusions on my own. The line between theorizing and head-canon may be blurred as I try to figure out how some of this works. I’m also going to bring up the biggest question I have regarding Monster Spirits – what the heck is Kaibaman?
Duel Monsters in Egypt
Let’s start with the initial introduction of Duel Monsters in Ancient Egypt, from both the original anime and manga, before going into other aspects of the franchise. Taking from Egyptian mythology and tweaking it, Monsters were formed from a person’s Ka within their soul. The Ka would be brought out from a person’s body and manifest as a Monster. Criminals would often have their fiendish Ka removed from them and sealed in large stone tablets. These are, of course, reminiscent of Yugioh cards.
The royal court would make use of their own Ka or the various Ka they had captured from people. These could be used in battles, called Diaha. It was also possible for a person to merge their own life, their Ba, with the Ka to create new beings. The prime example would be “Dark Magician,” made from Mahad combining with his Ka, Illusion Magician. In the case of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, it wasn’t merely Kisara’s Ka, but made from her own life energy; her Ba, without merging.
The Original Story
So with this initial explanation of the Shadows Games in Ancient Egypt, Monsters came from Ka. People beholden to the original manga canon will simply accept that this is the explanation of Duel Monsters and leave it at that. Anything else they treat as extra.
The Yugioh GX manga goes a little further with this concept, with a few Duel Monster Spirits following on from this version of it. The villain “Tragoedia” could be explained as a particular dangerous Ka. “Winged Kuriboh” in the manga absorbs the sins of those judged and weighed against the Feather of Ma’at; more use of Egyptian mythology, albeit altered to fit Yugioh. While they explained Kuriboh’s purpose, they don’t say where it actually came from. I imagine some relation to the Millennium Scales and that whole process.
The Duel Monster Spirit World Appears
The anime version of the original Duel Monsters story added brand new content to the story. Many see this arc as just filler, but it’s important here. This new information could be treated as the basis of all the subsequent material’s use of Monster Spirits in GX onwards.
The DOMA arc, or Waking the Dragons in the dub, introduced the concept of there being another dimension, a realm where Duel Monsters live. This also dates back at least ten thousand years, predating the Ancient Egyptian stuff.
We see “Dark Magician Girl” show up in this arc, as well as her spirit showing up in a GX episode later on. We know she was created from the Ba and Ka of Mana, from Ancient Egypt, but I guess she doesn’t stick around the afterlife and goes off doing her own thing. This is potentially the first connection between what happens in the Spirit Worlds and the Egypt stuff. The Monsters created from Ka can show up there. Unless it’s a different girl entirely?
We later also get a “Dark Sage” Spirit in 5Ds, adding some confusion. Isn’t “Dark Sage” supposed to just be an aged up “Dark Magician”? This time, it’s a guy called Torunka, therefore it looks like we can have more than one with different origins.
The DOMA arc continues to reveal the real first contact with the Spirit World in this continuity, relating to Atlantis millenia ago. We get the whole Orichalchos stuff, revealing that there is a lot more to Duel Monsters than just Ancient Egypt. 5Ds having the whole Nazca Line Quechan backstory adds to the power hidden within this game being much more general than just Egypt.
The nature of Spirits and Ka and where they come from
This leads back to the Ka and trying to reconcile with this explanation in the anime continuity. Are the Ka born from a person’s soul and part of them? Kisara’s “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” story would imply it’s part of her. Or are the Kas already beings from another world and manifesting themselves onto a person? Maybe they cling onto a person.
The clinging onto a person would gel with the whole Spirit Partner concept that GX and 5Ds uses. The spirits that join characters like Judai, Johan, Manjome and later Ruka are considered their partners, not their Ka. Or are some of them actually their Ka? These Spirits already existed years before the birth of these people though, like Ruka’s “Ancient Fairy Dragon” or Johan’s “Rainbow Dragon”.
How could they be generated from a person’s own soul if they already existed? “Yubel” couldn’t have been a Ka at least, as they weren’t part of Judai’s soul until “Super Polymerization” combined their souls together. The souls having to be combined implies they weren’t one before that occurred.
Are Partners Ka?
The answer could be either that the Spirit Partners are just not related to the Ka thing. Or it could be that the Spirit makes a connection with the person and creates a bond with them, becoming their Ka retroactively. So perhaps it’s just a mixture of people getting Kas that way and some people able to generate new ones from their own soul, from the use of Millennium Item or something along the lines of that.
Do most people still have Ka in the present day, even? Maybe they don’t anymore. Or maybe they do, and it just doesn’t really matter because they haven’t been summoned.
Also, a lot of card artwork in the game like “Gagagigo” show that Monsters in these worlds have their own back-story separate from the human world. So it’s likely many Spirits can manifest their own way, without a human required.
Manifesting in the World
Besides Solid Vision, Monster Spirits don’t seem to be able to appear in physical bodies in the real world. There are times in GX where “Jinzo” and “Alice in Despairland” are able to manifest, but they tend to be rare situations under specific circumstances. Circumstances that are really interesting though, as they pose the question of how manifesting works.
The GX manga had the “Winged Kuriboh” Spirit initially seen by Koyo Hibiki. Then he passed the card to Judai, who could then see it too. Could the ability to be seen by a Spirit be passed along to different people who obtain the card? Is it just the person with the ability or is it sometimes the card itself that decides who sees its Spirit?
So generally, they appear as Spirits that only certain people can see. Usually it’s because the person is some special “chosen Duelist.” They don’t go into too much detail as to why Manjome is one of those people. Though we get Ojama fun in the anime. Also the cool “Light and Darkness Dragon” stuff in the manga, so it’s fine. Most of this is in GX, but we get Ruka in 5Ds with her Kuribon and other Spirit friends.
When the Spirits manifest, where are they manifesting from? Are they still chilling in the Spirit World and astral projecting themselves over? I imagine Ruka’s friends would be doing that as they have homes there. Others may just be sleeping in the deck and hanging out with their Partner the whole time, something I reckon the Crystal Beasts are doing. Other cases, it’s hard to tell, like with the Neo-Spacians. They have Neo-Space but they are available to manifest for Judai whenever.
Either way, under usual circumstances, the Duel Monsters are intangible in the human world. To meet them physically, you would have to go to their world, like the GX cast in Season 3. There, they met lots of physical Duel Monsters, like the Dark World denizens. I speculate that if you physically picked up a Duel Monster and took them back with you through the a portal back home, maybe they’d remain physical as it would be actually traveling and not just manifesting.
This season also introduced the concept of there being multiple different Spirit Worlds. You could traverse through large doors to go between them. This was great for adding to the lore and having different locations, opening up a lot of concepts for later.
GX had a lot of lore with Spirits we can infer things from. Including the possibility of capturing them, with a bad guy who did that with special nets. We also saw that multiple copies of the same card could still manifest the same spirit. When Judai was dueling the prototype Ra card and connected with Ra, it was likely the same Ra as in the other copy of it. After all, there’s only one Ra. Alternatively, in the original, the Arkana “Dark Magician” was probably a different guy to Yugi’s one, so this isn’t always the case.
Not All Duel Monsters are necessarily Spirits
We’ve seen that Duel Monster Spirits exist in many cards. All sorts of cards contain some sort of hidden magic within them that is attached to the card representing it, such as the God Cards, “Rainbow Dragon”, “Winged Kuriboh”, and the Signer Dragons. It can be inferred that most of the fantasy-based cards are connected to the magical nature of the Shadow Games. Even something like “Battle Ox” was a Ka.
We know Pegasus got a lot of this stuff from the stone tablets, like the aforementioned God Cards. We know other cards just kind of manifested themselves into existence, whether through appearing out of thin air like “Majestic Dragon” or the Legendary Dragons. Some would appear through fate working through the card illustrators, who weren’t necessary copying a tablet.
Something like “Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon” in the Pyramid of Light movie had some sort of special power with it, able to destroy the titular Pyramid. However, it didn’t seem to be based in ancient things and was just a new original card. Perhaps then, as an upgrade of the existing Blue-Eyes, the regular Blue-Eyes spirit was simply manifesting, but upgraded by the card (not that Shining is much of an upgrade). This means it’s not just that the spirits interact with the cards, but that the cards could potentially interact with the spirits too, giving them power.
One thing to bring up is Supreme King ZARC from Arc V. That was a guy who was not originally a Duel Monster. They don’t explain it very well though. It brings up a new set of questions.
The non-magical ones
Pegasus wasn’t going to be limited to just the stuff he could get from all those Ka tablets though, was he? A lot of stuff was original content. The Toon Monsters were like this, based on his love for other content. Maybe Toon versions of “Blue-Eyes” would still project the Spirit somewhat, but then something like “Toon Alligator” had no counterpart.
Another thing, would be the vast majority of Machine-Type Monsters. I don’t think “Pendulum Machine” was made in Ancient Egypt or Atlantis. At least, as far as we know. A lot of the more modern archetypes from outside of the show could potentially be explained as this too. Maybe other unrelated anime archetypes too; not all have to be based on real otherworldly entities. Another situation were the Cyberse monsters from Vrains, that have their own origins explained with Artificial Intelligence. The point is that not every Duel Monster card is based on a Ka or Spirit that is associating with it.
We’ve gone over a lot about Duel Monster Spirits. All of this leads up to one very important question that this piece has been leading towards.
What in the blue blazes is Kaibaman?
In Yugioh GX, Judai travels to a place where a number of Duel Monster Spirits reside. There, he duels against Kaibaman. Based on everything we’ve discussed so far, this brings up some questions. Surely, this guy was not an existing Duel Monster from ancient times? Seto Kaiba, with his massive ego, must have had this card made based on him. Maybe to go with some sort of Kaibaland promotion?
So then how it something like this a Duel Spirit? The question this raises is about the original not-already-a-Spirit cards I mentioned before. Does their creation lead to new Duel Monsters being born? Does the very act of publishing a card into a card game cursed with dark magic cause that being to come into existence? That changes the whole dynamic on its head. It would mean it’s just not beings manifesting themselves through the card game, but makes it a more cyclical thing where the game begets even more Spirits. Did Kaiba create new life? What have we wrought upon this world?!
Or maybe some other Duel Monster spirit was really into cosplay and decided to base themselves off of that card and fill that role. Maybe there’s a bunch of non-descript Spirits that exist who decide to take on card roles when cards are made in order to connect with the game in ways they couldn’t until that point? Or maybe an already existing “Kaibaman” simply influenced fate to cause their creation? I previously mentioned that could have potentially happened before. “Kaibaman” also had a Blue-Eyes in his deck, a card that people couldn’t get, but Duel Spirits making their own copies of cards isn’t unheard of.
Neo-Space and Card Creation
The spirit of “Kaibaman” also seemed to be in some sort of leadership position among some Spirits, so it must have existed for a decent amount of time to get that. Although, they probably managed that position fairly quickly, considering who their personality was based on.
However, it seems likely that this Monster was essentially made by Seto Kaiba. For the most likely explanation for “Kaibaman”, we should look to another situation also from Yugioh GX – The Neo-Spacians. These Monsters were created by Judai Yuki when he was a kid and sent into space by Kaiba. They ultimately transformed into proper cards and had their own realm – Neo Space.
If the Duel Monster Spirits of the Neo-Spacians didn’t already exist and came into being because of the power Judai had, then it’s possible this could happen with others. Seto Kaiba was a person who not only had connections with magical stuff, but he also had sheer force of will. This force of will let him summon “Obelisk the Tormentor” out of nowhere during the Dark Side of Dimensions movie. Perhaps this strong will was enough to bring a Duel Monster Spirit into existence. Kaiba’s power to do that must have been greater than even he knew.
The Future of Spirits
The concept of Duel Monster Spirits is one that has more questions than answers. While the anime and manga have shown us a lot of interest information, there’s still a lot they haven’t told us. Thus, we have to try to extrapolate and infer answers, which can lead to a lot of speculation. People may come to different conclusions to each other when thinking about it. Not everybody’s head-canon is going to match. With so much information, including contradictory stuff to reconcile, any analysis is going to take a lot of that.
The concept is ripe for further exploration and there’s a lot we wish that the writers for Yugioh would clarify. Recent shows haven’t delved too much into this stuff, so I do wish it would start coming back. To go back to the magical roots. Until then, we have to figure it out on our own. Like for instance, how does the Light of Destruction fit into it? Some sort of alien entity, does it count as a Spirit? Then you have big bad guys like Zorc, Nightshroud or Don Thousand and how they fit into the lore.
We went over three steps, essentially. First, go over the information about Duel Monster Spirits that we know. Second, try to come up with inferences and conclusions of our own based upon that. Third, apply that to try to explain how “Kaibaman” came to be.
Hopefully, all this over-thinking of this fun concept has given some of the answers needed. Especially when trying to fit “Kaibaman” with the ancient magical lore, something that seems a bit wonky. When the duel happened, the writers likely didn’t care to explain how it was possible, just that they wanted Judai to duel this Spirit. That leaves the ‘Marvel No-Prize’ style explanations to very invested fans like us. I hope this has been helpful to those who were wondering the same things about the Yugioh lore that I have been. Thanks for reading!