Twenty years ago this past week - at 2 PM on Saturday, August 17, 2002 - the first ever episode of Ni-Ki-Oh! aired. The series combined documentary and fictional scripted and retroscripted content, as we followed a boy named Niki participating in a real local Duel Monsters card tournament, where most other participants had also taken on personae inspired by characters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. Beginning with this tournament, for a time, Ni-Ki-Oh! was a way of life for all involved.
Ni-Ki-Oh! ran for over 2 seasons from 2002-2004, oscillating between being a parody of Yu-Gi-Oh! and forging its own path. With the first season's airing, the world only began to see the height of the Ni-Ki-Oh! craze, with the appearance of various spinoffs, promotional TV spots, brands allegedly "sponsoring" the show, music videos, and people clamoring for a chance at a guest appearance.
Ni-Ki-Oh! entered hiatus during the middle of the 3rd season and never returned, despite never being officially cancelled, suffering from principal scheduling conflicts, as well as problems in post-production. In all, 22 episodes aired in special screenings, although photography for 28 was nearly completed, with 7 more having been scripted -- well short of the 98 episodes that had been outlined. 4 specials aired in various venues, and countless other features and featurettes, such as cast interviews and vanity Duel Monsters cards, were made available through Ni-Ki-Oh! DVDs.
Over the years, many episodes have received multiple versions. Most notorious of these versions was of the first season, whose VHS master was lost, leading to completely different edits for the aptly named DVD release of Ni-Ki-Oh! The Lost Episodes in 2004. The original season was presumed lost until it was rediscovered again in 2022.
In celebration of Ni-Ki-Oh!'s 20th birthday, we will be releasing high-definition anniversary remasters of the beloved series Saturdays after 2 PM. Famously, series cast member Joseph Justus joked in an interview that Ni-Ki-Oh! had "like no special effects." For the anniversary editions, all episodes have been re-edited as they were first imagined -- no longer constrained by budgetary or technological limitations -- using AI, improved sound design, and modern visual effects. But when appropriate, we will also be releasing remasters of the previous edits as well, for a comparison of how the series has evolved over time.
Today, we unveil the 20th anniversary edition of season 1 episode 1, entitled "No One to Duel." Creators frequently described that this episode was shot as an equipment test for a then days-old 8mm video camera, and that the show was only conceived for series after the fact. As such, this episode contains sequences using a variety of in-camera effects, as well as long durations of out-of-focus footage.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not pay respect to the creator of the Yu-Gi-Oh! story, Kazuki Takahashi, who sadly passed away this summer at the age of 60. His work was our inspiration, and he will always hold a special place in our hearts.
TV-14: MVSeizure warning! This program contains flashing lights.