When Aichi has his most valued card stolen, he find himself finally drawn into the world of competitive card matches to get it back.
What They Say:
Episode 1 - 'Vanguard of Destiny!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Trading Card Games and anime go together fairly well as we've seen two of the biggest names in US known anime series utilize that with Pokemon and YuGiOh. Cardfight!! Vanguard is the latest to arrive, this one with some strong mangaka influences to it, and it's arriving a good month or so I believe before the game itself is even available in Japan. That, of course, highlights it as one very openly honest advertising campaign and commercial. Be that as it may though, there are many shows that are little more than commercials for toys over the years that were completely awesome so it's easy to go into this with something of an open mind, even if the entire TCG field is something that I never got into with any amount of seriousness or even with a casual nature.
The series focuses on middle school age kids who, along with all other ages of kids, play the Vanguard card game pretty regularly and there's even a teacher that uses it in the first episode to highlight history lessons which is rather amusing. Youthful imagination is definitely big here at times as one of the students envisions the big player in the game, Blaster Blade, fighting in the Sengoku period against classic warriors. The amount of card talk and display in class is equally amusing as you see kids opening packs between books and daydreaming about adventures and the like. Having seen that myself in school in a different form years ago, it brings back memories to be sure.
The focus is mostly on the character of Aichi, a somewhat shy and timid young man who loves the cards and the very rare and powerful Blaster Blade card he has. Adachi's love of the cards and the game doesn't extend to the card fights themselves though as he's never engaged in one. What gets him involved though is when a bully of a student sees what he has and takes it from him openly so he can go against the current king of the game at the Card Capital shop. The event brings Adachi together with Kai as the card was lost to him in a game and Aichi wants it back. Aichi may never have played a match, but he's built what looks to be an impressive deck and Kai is always up for a challenge, and even if it's not outwardly visible, there's a sense of honor about this one as he knows the card was stolen yet wants to hold onto it because it may be what he's looking for.
A good part of the show goes into explanation mode of how to play as Kai provides a bit of a teaching game to Aichi over it and we get to see how the cards work with a fight with combinations and moves as visualized through a fight scene on the planet Cray where it all occurs. The back and forth nature of it as we see the players transitioning to their warriors on the field is nicely done but it's all so very obvious exactly what it's playing out as because it is such a teaching moment. Hopefully as the show progresses, it can move past this kind of aspect and have them slap down the cards and get to the fight itself. What we get here is a lot of adrenaline style music and cards moving across the screen and a few flashes of animation, or stills moving in different directions briefly, that shows what happens. It's the kind of style that shows some real caution in using the budget and too strong of a focus on the rules of play itself.
Cardfight!! Vanguard is everything you'd expect from a show based on a TCG. There's some basic characters, a few hints of something bigger at work here and a whole lot of teaching going on with how to play that's made all the more 'intense' by the music and emoting of the players. Or over-emoting, which is a staple of many enthusiastic TCG players. Some shows can work the concept well as I still have fond memories of Dragon Drive for example, but here it's more in line with other TCG shows where the game itself is a huge focus and it's more like a lesson than entertainment. It's easy to envision a lot of kids jotting down notes and getting their game plan on for playing it when they get their decks based on this. But as a show itself that engages and entertains, it's going to have to work to get there. It has potential based on how it can utilize the fight scenes, but this episode doesn't follow through in a good way on that.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70KaiBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TKai-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.