Natalie is a Japanese online entertainment news site, so this is an official interview.
PART 1: GENERAL
• Mr. Hikokubo graduated from the games related studies of an anime vocational school, and started his work on Arcade Games, involved in development, planning and direction of said games.
He then drifted into more freelance work, involved in the development of various games, was hired for Yu-Gi-Oh!, and for a time he was involved in developing various Ninjutsu for the NARUTO animated series.
• Hikokubo is a fan of Magic the Gathering.
• He was approached by the Official Card Game’s producer during roughtly the winter of 1999.
• Hikokubo was in charge of Duel Setting for the original series (Duel Monsters), and explains at the time, the card game in the original comic book and the Official Card Game had somewhat different rules. Basically his job was to reconstruct the Duels from the Comic Book in a matter that would make it more in line with that of the rules of the Official Card Game. Basically if he a scene wouldn’t work with the Official Card Game, Hikokubo was to edit the Duel’s script to patch in cards to make it work.
He explains in arcs like the Virtual World Arc he’d have to think of cards and effects for those Duels but at the time he was mostly in charge of translating the Duels of the comic to those of the TV show.
• Hikokubo was involved in GX later in the pre-production stages, and suggested that for GX, they should focus on using Fusion Summons for the GX Era. He explains Polymerization and Fusion Summoning were rarely used during DM’s era, and he felt it was an underutilized but interesting mechanic unique to Yu-Gi-Oh! Takahashi Kazuki-sensei was extremely enthused by the idea.
• Hikokubo explains GX having Fusion Summons wasn’t a Konami demand, it was all him and the staff. The cards and stories were developed by the anime’s production team, and KONAMI’s Official Card Game staff would consider cards based on the TV show.
• He does confirm there’s a back-and-forth between him and KONAMI staff, that he’ll use cards suggested and requested by Konami as needed, and over the years, the position has had more back-and-forth input between the two parties.
• Hikokubo explains during GX, when designing characters for each week, the Director and Screenwriters would meet with him to hammer out the basic idea of the Deck the character would use. These sort of meetings aren’t done anymore, instead he’ll suggest cards and Duels for the Director, Screenwriters and KONAMI’s staff, and he’ll adjust cards and Duels as needed if they lack a certain pizazz.
• Hikokubo explains Duel Composition is basically a coordinator job for the various parties, but doesn’t think his job requires any particular skill set. He admits there’s people who probably more intimiate with how Yu-Gi-Oh! works under the engine hood, people better with planning and better writers, but he thinks he’s pretty good at the job, and his ‘wide but shallow sea of interests’ allows him to be interested in Sci-Fi, Cutesy/Adorable, and Playful ideas and cards.
• Because of his wide variety of interests and information, he’s able to respond to he consultations of the staff for each party involved, such as KONAMI and the Screenwriters, as well as make suggestions and proposals.
• Hikokubo explains his favorite part of his job is getting LP to a certain threshold, constructing the flow of Duels, or just finding that way to ensure a Duel hits 0 LP. He also enjoys having to think about card names, and gets excited when the name doesn’t clash with names in other copyrighted media to ensure legal compliance.
(An Example of this Nash with Silent Honors ARK with its name emulating Nash who started as Shark.)
• He explains composing a character’s Deck, for him, often starts with the Ace and he builds it downwards from there.
• He also loves seeing stuff he works on appreciated by children, and was a huge fan of kids emulating the Manjoume! Thunder! chant (Chazz It Up!) during the time GX aired.
PART 2: THOUGHTS ON DUELS HE RECALLS WRITING
Episode 131 of Duel Monsters
• Hikokubo explains the original clash between Slifer and Obelisk was much shorter in the comic, and he met with Yoshida Shin who was overseeing the screenwriting for the Duel, and explains Mr. Yoshida wanted the clash between Obelisk and Slifer to be longer and have more pizazz, but he also had to make sure the extended class segued into the second half of the Duel naturally.
So he found himself having to keep track of the size of Yugi’s hand for Slifer to ensure nothing went too far off the rails, but he also had to make sure the Egyptian Gods lasted somewhat and didn’t get destroyed to easily. He considers it one of his harder jobs but one he was thrilled with in the end.
It had a lot of Anime Original components but the result was a popular one, and he and Mr. Yoshida basically fist pumped at the results working out as well as it did.
Episode 140 of GX
• The second Duel that he brings up is Jim Cook vs Supreme King Judai. He was very passionate about making Super Polymerization, and throughout GX, he wanted to express the idea of how cool Polymerization was as a card. And that he viewed Super Polymerization as the culmination and climax of this concept.
• He and the interviewer from Natalie ponder and note that yes, cards like Fossil Fusion and Power Bond were made to widen the range of ways you could Fusion Summon a monster.
• Jim’s Fossil Deck was used vs. Supreme King Judai with the idea of ‘excavating and unearthing Judai’s heart’.
• He likes it when names and card effects match the thoughts and actions of the Duelists, and he’ll sometimes have to polish up the Duel to make it work more symbolically, and he and the screenwriters try to avoid Duels being too one sided so that when a losing character says a passionate or bullish line, it sounds unnatural. So they try to make it have a flow of drama.
Episode 33 of 5D’s
• The basic idea of Infernity was Hikokubo’s proposal.
• Infernity’s “Handless Combo”, which allows super strong abilities when there are no cards in the hand, was inspired by the fact the original Y-Gi-Oh! allowed quirky ways of playin, such as Deck Destruction, or Special Win Conditions.
• Infernity was designed to fit the idea of a cool character who was the leader of Yusei, Jack or Crow’s team. And he wanted the character to have a particularly nasty and deadly combo. And he thinks the idea of being able to have a firm game state with 0 cards is one you wouldn’t normally think of.
• Miracle Locus being such a counterintuitive usage was a part of this whole aesthetic.
PART 3: VRAINS
• Hikokubo viewed ARC-V as a particularly difficult show to do due to dealing with Pendulum Monsters and Pendulum Scales, but he viewed VRAINS as rather particularly difficult.
• A good example is the way Soulburner’s Salamangreat Deck uses monsters to resummon monsters, so he often found it particularly difficult to write Soulburner’s Deck in Duels that put him losing positions or have him loss.
• He found Extra Link especially troublesome to do and make it work for the drama, when Mr. Yoshida requested it be used at certain parts of the story.
• He likes building difficult and absurd combos, despite the difficulty that might ensue from constructing them
• He notes THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS was pretty complicated to the special rule set used in the movie, but Director Kuwabara tried to help make it easy to visually understand what was happening, such as monsters getting stronger.
PART 4: RUSH DUEL
• Since 2020, Mr. Hikokubo has been in charge of the Duel Composition for Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS, which uses Rush Duel, which has a differing set of rules from the official card game.
• A big goal with SEVENS onward was to more coherently synchronize that the cards as they are presented in the show match the cards you can buy in real life, which had been a goal since Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, but it was only with SEVENS onward that they were able to make this a consistent reality.
• Hikokubo does like that with the two more recent entries, he’s been able to create a lot more comical, playful and whacky cards like he used to do during Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL
• Hikokubo thinks the big appeal of Yu-Gi-Oh! is the ability to reproduce the Duels from the TV shows using the card, something you can’t exactly do with the toys and figures from mecha anime as much.