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Ryou Bakura (獏良 了 Bakura Ryō?) is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the manga and anime series Yu-Gi-Oh!. In the English Duel Monsters anime, he is known as simply Bakura, and in the English Yu-Gi-Oh! The Eternal Duelist Soul video game, Bakura's name is given in the traditional Japanese order and is rendered Bakura Ryo.
Introduced as a new exchange student early on in the series, Bakura quickly befriends Yugi Muto and his friends and remains their friend for much of the series. However, Bakura possesses the Millennium Ring, an ancient Egyptian artifact that, unbeknownst to Bakura, houses an evil spirit that plots to steal Yugi's Millennium Puzzle. He is a secondary antagonist working behind the scenes in early seasons, before moving to the forefront as the main and final antagonist during the Memory World arc. Eventually, Bakura's good side is almost entirely suppressed and he is continuously controlled by the spirit, except in rare moments where he is separated from the Ring or able to overpower the spirit.
Bakura's character design was overseen by Kazuki Takahashi. In the Duelist Kingdom arc he wears a white wool jumper and green undershirt. His usual outfit in following seasons consists of a blue opened shirt over a blue and white horizontally striped t-shirt with matching pants. His white hair trails half way down his back and becomes more erratic as Dark Bakura. In the final story arc of the series, Dark Bakura wears blue jeans and a blue and white striped shirt underneath a long black trenchcoat. In the Memory World, Thief Bakura wears a long red robe with white trimmings, a navy blue kilt and golden anklets and armlets. His chest is bare and muscular, and he possesses a pale triple scar under his right eye.
Bakura is extremely polite, and uses honorifics in his speech almost all the time; in the 4Kids English-language dub of the series, he speaks with a British accent to represent this (conversely, the Singaporean English anime gives him a Western/Southern US accent). By contrast, Dark Bakura speaks with no honorifics and refers to himself as "ore-sama" in the Japanese anime, a boastful and prideful way of saying "I". While the English dubbed Bakura retains his host's accent, his voice is deeper and his speech patterns are still more casual than his good counterpart. In all incarnations, Dark Bakura is able to mimic his host's voice and speech patterns to avoid detection when possessing him so Yugi and the others think think they are talking to the good Bakura (Ryou). In the season when Dark Bakura and Dark Yugi (Yami) go to their past, Thief Bakura uses Ryou's voice once when the priestes are trying to lock the bad Bakura away.
While on a trip in Egypt, Bakura's father, the curator of the Domino City Museum, purchased an ornamental ring from a street peddler, which he gave to his son because - according to the animated series - it was connected with the Duel Monsters card game, which Bakura was fond of. In truth, this unassuming object was the Millennium Ring, one of the seven mystically-empowered Millennium Items. Contained within the Millennium Ring was an evil spirit, which took possession of Bakura, and came to be known as Yami Bakura ("Dark Bakura," in English). Unlike the similar relationship between Yugi Mutou and the spirit of his Millennium Puzzle, the spirit of the ring is a malignant entity, and completely suppresses Bakura's soul when it takes over his body.
Beyond these facts, however, the actual identity of the Spirit of the Ring is fraught with complication. Writings about the series would often state that the spirit within the ring was that of a tomb robber from ancient Egypt (who would later be named "Thief King Bakura", detailed below) and Yami Bakura delivered several remarks that corroborated the claim, without explicitly identifying himself. Conversely, however, during the manga version of the final story arc of the series, Dark Bakura explicitly identifies himself as a fragment of the soul of the Dark God, Zorc Necrophades... and yet, within the same story, also refers to the thief's soul existing within the Millennium Ring. Although not discussed in detail in the anime (where the reference to the thief's soul is not made, and Yami Bakura is identified only as Zorc), the manga establishes that Zorc is capable of possessing other beings, and that eventually, his soul becomes "as one" with those of these victims (specifically, this was described as happening to the High Priest Ahkenaden), so from this, it may be presumed that the Spirit of the Ring is the soul of Thief King Bakura, subsumed by that of Zorc Necrophades.
Thief King Bakura
Bakura, the King of Thieves, was the sole survivor of the slaughter of the village of Kul Elna perpetrated by Ahkenaden, as part of the ritual to forge the Millennium Items. Seeking revenge on the son of the pharaoh who had ordered this act, Bakura stole the Millennium Ring from the priest Mahado, and was consumed by a portion of the soul of Zorc Necrophades, which the demon had been sealed in the Ring at the moment of its creation. At the urging of Zorc, Bakura (with the help of Ahkenaden, into whose body he transferred another portion of Zorc's soul using the ring) succeeded in stealing all the Millennium Items and resurrecting Zorc.
The ultimate fate of the Thief King was never revealed. When Yugi and his friends witnessed these past events re-told as an interactive RPG-style Shadow Game, the thief's body was shown to turn to sand, but this was a metaphorical representation of Yami Bakura removing his "playing piece" from the "board" after it had served its purpose in the story, and not what truly happened to him. In the anime, Yami Bakura brought the Thief King back briefly in order to occupy the forces of good and stall for time leading up to the moment of Zorc's resurrection, finally sacrificing him to bring Zorc back to life.
Fictional character biography
Bakura debuts in volume six of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. A new transfer student to Domino High School, Bakura quickly acquires an array of romantic admirers, and befriends Yugi Mutou, Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler in the English anime), Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor) and Anzu Mazaki (Téa Gardner) and invites them to join him in playing his favourite game, the RPG "Monster World" (a parody of Dungeons and Dragons). He cautions them, however, that everyone who has ever played him has fallen into coma; this is the reason that he has been continuously transferring schools.
Upon touching Yugi's Millennium Puzzle, Bakura feels a sharp pain in his chest. Later that night, as he is writing to his younger sister, Amane (who died in a car accident), a voice in his head announced that he is its new host, and Bakura opens his shirt to find the sharp points of the Ring sticking into his skin. The voice is that of the evil spirit of the ring, who has taken control of Bakura to acquire the Millennium Puzzle for himself. The magics of the ring have been responsible for sealing the souls of Bakura's former game-players into the lead miniatures used for the RPG, hence their falling into comas, and "Dark Bakura" does the same to P.E. teacher, Mr. Karita (who earlier had bullied Bakura over his effeminate looks and long hair).
Subsequently, he sets up the game for Yugi and his friends to play, and seals each of their souls into miniatures, thinking that he will be able to take the Millennium Puzzle without interference. What he has failed to count upon, however, is "Dark Yugi" - the ancient spirit within the puzzle enters Yugi's soulless body, and challenges Bakura to a game of Monster World, with the kids' souls at stake. In the midst of the game, the true Bakura's personality partially emerges, taking control of his body's left hand and causing Dark Bakura to fumble several critical dice rolls. Enraged, Dark Bakura impales this hand on a tower spike, made of durable polyresin on the game board, but Bakura transferred his soul into a pair of dice, which he then destroyed, killing himself and costing Dark Bakura the game when he could no longer roll the die. Dark Yugi banishes Dark Bakura in a penalty game, and Bakura's Monster World avatar, "White Mage Bakura" or "White Wizard Bakura," uses his powers to bring the real Bakura back to life. When doing this, Dark Bakura is also placed back together with him.
This storyline was adapted into Toei Animation's Yu-Gi-Oh! anime with some changes. Here, Bakura had already been attending Dominio High School for some time before playing Yugi and his friends, and Miho Nosaka was also present for the Monster World game, having her soul sealed in a miniature as well. In Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, there is a similar battle to this, albeit played in a game of Duel Monsters.
Dark Bakura re-emerged when Yugi and his friends were participating in the Duelist Kingdom tournament on the private island of Duel Monsters creator Maximillion Pegasus (or Pegasus J. Crawford in the Japanese), himself holder of another Millennium Item, the Millennium Eye. This made him a target for the evil spirit, who schemed to take the eye for himself.
This story arc was copied over into the second Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, by Studio Gallop and NAS, but as it was independent of the previous series by Toei, it was necessary to re-introduce Bakura into the series in a different way. In this series, compelled by his Millennium Ring to do so, Bakura stowed away on the boat heading for the Duelist Kingdom, where he eventually met with Yugi and his friends. The series proceeded to re-imagine the Monster World encounter from the manga as a game of Duel Monsters, in which Dark Bakura sealed the souls of Yugi and his friends into cards, rather than miniatures. Again, Dark Yugi emerged and played Dark Bakura in the game, winning through the intervention of the true Bakura and banishing the evil spirit.
At the conclusion of the story arc in both the manga and the anime, Pegasus lost the final duel of the championship to Yugi. Dark Bakura then confronted him and challenged him to a Shadow Game. Pegasus, already weakened from his duel with Yugi, lost the game, and Bakura tore the Millennium Eye from its socket and took it for his own.
Shortly before the beginning of Seto Kaiba's "Battle City" Duel Monsters tournament, Bakura - now completely overtaken by the Spirit of the Ring - was present when Yugi's Millennium Puzzle was shattered (in the manga, by Ryuji Otogi's father; in the anime, by a possessed Bandit Keith). Dark Bakura stealthily snatched a piece of the puzzle, and used the power of the Millennium Ring to seal a portion of his soul within it before returning it to Yugi, thus ensuring that he would have a foothold within the puzzle, the realm of the pharaoh.
Once the tournament had begun, Bakura's Millennium Ring led him to Ishizu Ishtar, holder of the Millennium Necklace, from whom he learned of the prophecy that foretold of a great duel between Yugi and Kaiba. Subsequently, Bakura's Ring brought him into the presence of Ishizu's brother, Marik Ishtar, holder of the Millennium Rod. Rather than battle Bakura, Marik made him a deal - if Bakura helped him obtain all three of the Egyptian God Cards, Marik would relinquish the Millennium Rod to him. Bakura accepted, and procured a Duel Disk and the necessary number of Locator Cards by defeating Bonz, the zombie duelist, thereby allowing him to participate in the quarter-finals of the Battle City tournament aboard KaibaCraft-1. Bakura dueled Yugi in the first match of the finals, and it finally became apparent to all involved that Bakura was under the control of the Spirit of the Ring. Yugi was poised to win the duel, but Marik attempted to stay his hand by instructing the Spirit of the Ring to relinquish control of Bakura's body, thereby making Yugi hold back his attack for fear of injuring his friend. The Spirit, however, could not risk the death of his host, and took control of Bakura once more, allowing Yugi to deliver his finishing move safely and win the duel. The Millennium Ring was removed from Bakura's unconscious body by Anzu, under the control of Marik.
As the quarter-finals proceeded, Marik's dissassociative identity disorder erupted and the dark half of his mind took control of his body while his "good" half took refuge in the mind of his puppet, Anzu. Marik petitioned the Spirit of the Ring for help, and both he and the Spirit possessed Bakura's body for a duel against "Dark Marik," with Marik's body as the prize. The pair ultimately lost the duel, and although the Spirit of the Ring was banished, he continued to exist through the fragment of his soul that he had placed within the Millennium Puzzle. However, in the anime, after Yugi defeats Marik, a brief montage of all the souls Marik had banished is seen, with the souls escaping the shadow realm, including Dark Bakura, who snickers a mocking "thank you" to Yugi.
Neither Bakura makes another notable appearance until the beginning of the last arc of the manga (episode 199 of the anime), which reintroduces Bakura as a major character. In the anime, his reemergence into the main storyline is preceded by a brief sequence showing host Bakura being lured by a mysterious voice to an abandoned church, where he is repossessed by the malicious spirit of the Millennium Ring. There is no such scene in the manga series.
Dark Bakura gives Yugi the Millennium Eye and promises to help him reawaken the Pharaoh's memories. However, he sets a trap in the museum so that when Dark Yugi holds the Egyptian God Cards in front of the tablet and reawakens his memories, his soul is transported to a table with a tabletop RPG powered by the memories set on top. In the manga, this table is in a secret room inside the museum, while in the anime it is floating in a dark void. Dark Yugi and Dark Bakura must play the The Dark RPGS (often abbreviated to TRPG) in order to determine which soul of the Millennium Puzzle, the Pharaoh or Zorc Necrophades, is resurrected (in the manga, the soul in the Puzzle is Akhenaden's, controlled by a part of Zorc's soul that is sealed within it, who along with Dark Bakura wishes to resurrect the full soul of Zorc.)
In the TRPG, Dark Bakura controls Thief King Bakura, while Dark Yugi controls the Pharaoh. Both serve as the player characters of the RPG, while the true Dark Yugi and Dark Bakura being the players. When Thief King Bakura seals his soul inside Akhenaden's Millennium Eye, Dark Bakura takes control of Akhenaden as well (in the manga, the soul of Akhenaden, who inhabits his own deceased corpse that Bakura set up in the room, takes control of while Dark Bakura serves as the player.) When Thief King Bakura is no longer needed, he is discarded from the game.
In the manga, Zorc is brought to Earth when Akhenaden places the seven Millennium Items in the tablet and Dark Bakura's controlled character is switched to Zorc, with Akhenaden's soul remaining in control of his past life. In the anime, Zorc can not be granted physical form when the Millennium Items are inserted into the tablet. Dark Bakura uses power from Seto Kaiba's soul to revive Thief King Bakura, who sacrifices his soul to give Zorc physical form.
All the while, Yugi and his friends serve as non-player characters in the TRPG (along with the members of the Pharaoh's court), attempting to recover the Pharaoh's lost name. A part of Dark Bakura's soul shadows them throughout their journey. Eventually he shows himself to them and reveals that, like Akhenaden, he too is a part of Zorc through inheriting a portion of Zorc's soul. He attempts to destroy them in a duel, but the Pharaoh's apparent death causes the TRPG to temporarily stop, transporting Yugi and his friends away. When they later enter the Pharaoh's tomb another part of Dark Bakura's soul is waiting for them. Yugi duels and defeats him, wiping him out for good. (The only part of this scene which was retained in the anime is Yugi and Bakura's duel. Instead, Thief King Bakura seals Dark Bakura's other half into Honda's body, allowing Dark Bakura to possess him until the group enters the Pharaoh's tomb.)
In the anime, Dark Bakura reveals to Dark Yugi that he is, in fact, Zorc and the two of them are transported into the RPG itself, inhabiting their respective bodies (this never occurs in the manga). Yugi and his friends arrive and are able to reveal the Pharaoh's true name: Atem. Atem is then able to use the power of his name to summon Horakhti to vanquish Zorc and Dark Bakura once and for all. Atem had used his name as part of the process to seal Zorc in the first place, at the cost of his own and Zorc's memories. Zorc/Dark Bakura eventually recovered his memories, but Atem was unable to until hearing his true name.
Bakura uses an Occult Deck for the initial part of the show, using monsters that reflect his views on the supernatural. A great deal of his cards cause disruption, or breaking his opponent's strategies through various cards, which range from White Magical Hat to Morphing Jar. His favorite card is Change of Heart, a Spell Card that has the ability to take control of one of his opponent's monster for one turn.
During the Battle City arc, he uses a new deck constructed by Dark Bakura, focusing on the darker side of the occult by making extensive use of Zombies (Undead) and Fiends (Demons), some of which are based around mythological figures such as the Greek Death god Hades and The Headless Horseman, as well as monsters revolving around controversial occult issues such as death and necromancy. The signature card of this deck is Dark Necrofear, a powerful fiend monster. Once destroyed, Bakura can play Dark Sanctuary, a card that lets him have a ghost possess one monster each turn, draining his opponent's Life Points of half that monster's ATK points and refilling his own Life Points by the same amount. This is used to stall while Bakura activates Destiny Board (Ouija Board in the Japanese anime), a card which spells the message "FINAL" (DEATH in the Japanese anime) over five turns, letting Bakura claim an instant victory. These two cards were successful in pushing Yugi into a corner during their duel, until Yugi's Slifer the Sky Dragon was revealed to be immune to Dark Sanctuary and was able to attack.
When he confronts Seto Kaiba in order to gain the power of his Blue-Eyes White Dragon for his own purposes, Bakura plays a deck centering around Diabound, the Ka of his ancient self. By using Spirit Illusion, Bakura is able to weaken opposing monsters and destroy them with Diabound while protecting it from counterattack with Spirit Shield. Bakura also plays a number of tablet cards referencing the original monster spirits that were summoned from stone blocks.
In his final duel of the series, Bakura plays an Undead Lock deck against Yugi Mutou, which focuses upon winning the duel by having one's opponent running out of cards. He eventually uses The Cursed Twin Dolls to call all monsters that would normally be sent to the Graveyard to his field as "phantoms", and in tandem with Counterbalance, the two are required to discard cards from their decks equal to the number of monsters on the field. (Bakura however is not affected by this due to the effect of Cursed Twin Doll, which prevents the player was utilizing their Graveyard in any way) Bakura further supplements this with Necro monsters that summon multiple copies of themselves for both defense and to add to the cards discarded by Counterbalance.
- Kazuki Takahashi (2002). Yu-Gi-Oh! Characters Guide Book - The Gospel of Truth (遊戯王キャラクターズガイドブック―真理の福音―). Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-873363-0