31 FAVORITE YU-GI-OH ZOMBIES
I've really neglected Yu-Gi-Oh, haven't I? I last touched on it three Halloweens ago when I reviewed the Worms, which are awesome, but barely a drop in the bucket of how many weird and wacky creatures sort of populate Yu-Gi-Oh's world. I say "sort of" because, as most of us know, the card game itself is still just a card game in its own manga and anime, leaving the game's actual, internal fantasy setting almost totally unexplored.
Well, whatever. Konami may not be interested in bringing them to life any time soon, but we can still appreciate some zany creature designs ourselves, so today, we'll do what we probably should have done in the first place and explore the "zombie" creature type:
PUMPKING THE KING OF GHOSTSWe'll start with one of the oldest and most famous zombies in the game, and one of the first Yu-Gi-Oh monsters I ever saw myself. Surprisingly, there aren't a whole lot of ghost-based Yu-Gi-Oh creatures, but those that do exist are categorized as "zombies" along with vampires, mummies and undead of every variety, all of whom supposedly fall under this giant Jack O' Lantern's domain. Of course a big pumpkin is the king of ghosts! What else could it ever be!?
Pumpking's design is quite simple, but diverges from the majority of generic pumpkin monsters by having multiple vine tentacles and a single, spooky eyeball rather than the usual carved eye-holes. Even without the crown, I feel like this big-mouthed cyclops would already have a kingly vibe.
PYRAMID TURTLEFor our second zombie, we'll go with one of the first Yu-Gi-Oh cards to strike me as really weird. I was barely familiar with the game when I saw this giant, grumpy Egyptian tortoise, which wasn't in itself all that bizarre until I noticed it was also a "zombie," so it's a giant, grumpy, dead Egyptian tortoise. Even this isn't as weird as innumerable other monsters in the game.
We won't be delving too much into card mechanics, but when Pyramid Turtle is destroyed, you can instantly play any other zombie card with 2000 defense or less directly from your deck, I guess implying that this giant turtle's pyramid shell really functions as the tomb of some other undead being.
SEA MONSTER OF THESEUSIf you're not familiar with the "Ship of Theseus," it's a philosophical problem that asks if the ship of the mythical hero Theseus can still be considered the same ship once every one of its components have been replaced at different times.
So, I guess this giant, death metal skull squid has had every part of its body swapped out for part of some other giant, death metal skull squid over the course of its undeath?
SHADOW GHOULThis was another of the first monsters I ever saw, and I even have a plastic figurine somewhere of both Shadow Ghoul and Pumpking. Why did they ever stop making little figures of Yu-Gi-Oh monsters? I'd have loved some plastic Worms!
There's no explanation for what a "Shadow Ghoul" is, exactly, but it's pretty gnarly, in both the figurative "wicked cool" sense and the literal "rotten tree branch" sense. In addition to its four legs, scraggly hair and multiple red eyes, the figure and rare anime appearances also give it a long, thin neck for extra creep factor.
And if the red orbs on its head are eyes, then I have to assume the ones on its limbs and body are also eyes.
VENDREAD REVENANTSThere are a couple of other "Vendread" zombie cards, but none as cool as the "revenants," which seem to be a homage to the various mutant zombie types in games such as Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead. My favorite here, perhaps predictably, is the lady with the crooked head and gigantic hands. I am always a sucker for the crooked head and the one covered-over eye.
BEAST OF THE PHARAOHEven counting those last guys, this is the first zombie here that I find really creepy. A huge, human-like mask on a big bison-like animal would be an unsettling enough visual even if without the serene blue eyes, the fact that it's a living corpse, or the fact that a complete bison-like animal head might not even fit under that mask.
BLUE EYED SILVER ZOMBIEFrom completely creepy to completely campy, this zombie is apparently just a skull, wings, hands and one huge eyeball, but what really brings it all together is the eye patch over one of its sockets. What's that even for?!
GHOUL WITH AN APPETITEI feel like this was possibly meant to be one of those "hungry ghosts" from Buddhism, but maybe not. It'd certainly work as an interpretation of one, so starved that it presumably shovels food straight into its nasty, stitched-up stomach wound, or maybe that's where everything it eats falls back out, hence the appetite.
KOA'KI MEIRU GHOULUNGULATEKoa'ki Meiru or basically "core chimeras" are a whole series of various creature cards with various creature types, and for their zombie, they went with a design I want to say was intended as a catoblepas. It certainly has both the rancid breath and the cumbersome, heavy head.
RYU KOKKIThis impressive bony demon reeks of outside cameo appearance, and I was completely right: he's actually the final boss from Getsu Fuuma Den, a Konami action game on the original NES. I have to say, however, that I like his original proportions a little better. He was weirder, less humanoid, and his limbs noodlier. I like the idea of having noodly limbs made of human skulls.
TEMPLE OF SKULLSSurprisingly, a zombie that is also a building doesn't get any special card mechanics, but it does get an actual description: "a mysterious temple of skulls and bones that pulls in unsuspecting enemies." Cool enough, but I'm still hung up on this being both a "temple of skulls" and an undead creature. Why isn't that a more popular concept?!
GOBLIN ZOMBIEEverything about this design is cool as hell. The head is more like some bizarre, thorny trilobite than anything I'd expect from a "goblin zombie," and I wish we could get a real look at whatever this "goblin" may have looked like with flesh on it.
GRAVEYARD AND THE HAND OF INVITATIONThis is another one oddly lacking any special mechanics, considering it's an entire graveyard as a zombie card. How about that charmingly awkward English name, though? The original Japanese name is more like "Beckoning Graveyard," which has to be two of the scariest words I've ever heard put together. Beckoning Graveyard should have been the name of a goth band. An EXTREMELY goth band.
THREE LEGGED ZOMBIESeriously, who's naming these things? If I asked for a three legged zombie and I got two one-legged zombies, I'd ask for my money back. Not in front of these zombies, of course, who are clearly doing their absolute best and maintaining a beautiful friendship in the process, if not more.
I'm not the only one who thought so, either, because this is the artwork for a later card simply called "uni-zombie:"
WOOD REMAINSThis is a pretty fascinating design, its "body" and "legs" formed from what almost looks like long hair, but we can see it's actually a bunch of creepy, woody plant tissue! A card description only reads "a living corpse of wood brought to life by the power of darkness." I'm not sure exactly what a "corpse of wood" means. Was this once a person? A tree? Both? Did somebody just carve a skull out of some wood and bring it to life?
GERNIAThis card was originally called "Ghelnia Ghoul" in Japanese, so perhaps its vague resemblance to the Shadow Ghoul isn't a coincidence. I really like this idea that "ghouls" are bony, fleshy, almost bug-like monstrosities. It's not unlike the goblin zombie, either.
VAMPIRE DRAGONI mentioned that vampires are part of the "zombie" type in Yu-Gi-Oh, and they include a whole family of vampire characters whose fashion sense seems to allude to the vampire dragon, both in color scheme and in the presence of dragonlike talons incorporated into their clothing. What's especially interesting about this is that the vampire dragon not only came first by a couple of years, but was designed by the winner of a 2010 fan contest. I guess the creators developed a real soft spot for this charmingly goofy, bloodsucking cyclops-lizard.
KASHASurprisingly few zombie cards are based on youkai, so it's nice to see at least one. The Kasha is a youkai usually taking the form of a chariot with flaming wheels, and includes a giant oni-like face on the front in most depictions. Always willing to go the more ridiculous route, Yu Gi Oh adds muscly demon arms on top to hold its headlamps.
THE LADY IN WIGHTNothing's too strange, amusing or even really all that terribly imaginative about this one, but sometimes you just can't beat a kickass lady skeleton with a spiderweb collar. What's more, the Lady in Wight is actually the head of a whole family of skeletons, including a wight princess and wight prince.
PLAGUESPREADER ZOMBIEObviously the creation of some mad scientist or biological weapons lab, I love how the menacing size and proportions of this beast contrast with a terrifyingly sad, pained expression that tugs at your heartstrings. I also like the fact that it has what appears to be a pangolin tail.
PAIN PAINTERIn case you felt too bad for the plaguespreader zombie, this one is basically a weaker version of the same card, but enjoys a relatively peaceful career as whatever a pain painter is. While some degree of pain is most likely involved, it probably beats spreading plague.
PHANTOM GHOSTThe name here should be too redundant to mean anything, but when I look at this ridiculous Halloween ghost hydra, I can fully accept that this is what something called a "phantom ghost" could look like.
NECROMANNEQUINI'm going to cheat here with a monster that doesn't even have a card, but appeared as a card in the anime, because apparently the anime just makes them up as it goes along sometimes. It's a pretty cool design in any case, a terrifying hodgepodge of mannequin parts with no eyes, no semblance of a human body plan and one arm hilariously sticking out of one of its two mouths. It's kind of reminiscent of that thing from the second Silent Hill movie, which was kind of the only cool thing in that entire movie, and I rather wonder if this was consciously ripped off from it.
SYNCHRON KEEPERThis is another anime-exclusive, apparently, which is too bad, because I'm really liking this gaunt green ghoul with the human equivalent to a pelican's mouth. That's pretty damn frightening. Let me also mention here how much I love skeletons with just a thin, taught layer of skin more than either completely bare skeletons or fleshier undead.
MECH MOLE ZOMBIEWe've seen some ridiculous things here, but this is really ridiculous. Is this part of a series? Are there other "mech animals" that give context to this tokusatsu-looking cybernetic mole?
I wouldn't bat an eye at this one-off cyborg animal-man if not for the fact that it's a zombie card. It apparently just wasn't enough that it was a moleman with metal claws; it had to have also died once.
ZOMBOWOWI don't have anything to day about this one, I just like its googly eyes.
THE KICK MANLike the Mech Mole, this is another card weird enough that it just has to have some sort of further explanation, somewhere, but it does not. The Kick Man is simply The Kick Man. He kicks things, he has "I <3 KICK" tattooed on his purple, conical forehead, and having expired at some point in the past, he has returned from the grave to continue his life's work.
I guess you could say he's...still kicking.
HUMPTY GRUMPTYAgain, no explanation...just a horrible, egg-shaped devil with a giant, saw-toothed man-face.
NECROFACEI'm going to say that this throbbing tumor hatching from a doll head is without a doubt the second most terrifying zombie in Yu-Gi-Oh for design alone, but its abilities aren't too comforting either. When the Necroface is summoned, all "banished" cards (removed from gameplay by other card effects) are returned to the player's deck, and Necroface grows in power for every single one. I'd love to see what it looks like when it gets really massive, just a big ol' mountain of undead cancer with whatever's left of a porcelain baby head on top.
When Necroface dies, every player banishes the top five cards of their deck, so it's possible for Necroface, especially a loop of multiple Necrofaces, to run your opponent completely out of cards and end the game.
I did say that Necroface was still only the second most terrifying Zombie card. This is the first:
IL BLUDWHAT. ARE. WE. LOOKING AT. The Japanese name offers only a modicum of insight by referring to this being as "Hell's Gatekeeper Ill Blood," while its card ability allows you to play a zombie card from your hand or even from another player's graveyard at no special cost, except the fact that you'll lose them again as soon as Il Blud dies.
So, I guess all we know is that Il Blud itself is a gateway to the afterlife, unleashing a steady stream of zombies, vampires and ghosts when he unzips his stripey onesie.
And that artwork. The sheer cartoon wackiness of Il Blud's body contrasting the hyper-detailed face straining to escape, topped off with the red-eyed, scraggly-haired shadow of Il Blud's own unseen face. This card is a masterpiece of surrealist horror. Give me this image in a needlessly massive poster. Let me make this artwork an entire wall of my home, or maybe a ceiling, so I can fall asleep every night staring Il Blud in his faces.
Normally, I would end on the scariest, freakiest and most outrageous of our Halloween monsters, but there's only one truly perfect bookend for a list of Yu-Gi-Oh zombies, and it doesn't need a lick of explanation:
PUMPRINCESS, THE PRINCESS OF GHOSTS