Plot: Aichi’s sister, Emi, has been noticing changes in her brother lately. He’s getting up earlier and coming home from school later. One day, she decides to investigate by following him after school. She first believes that Aichi is getting beaten up regularly by two thug-ish looking guys from his school, but she soon realizes that he’s been playing the card game, Vanguard, with them every afternoon.
Emi secretly watches her brother play a game in Card Capital and realizes that playing this game has made him stand a little taller and be a bit more outgoing. He’s very noticeably happy and excited when he’s playing the game, and Emi is happy for Aichi to have found something that he truly enjoys. She reveals what she’s been doing and cheers him on as he starts up another match.
Breakdown: Something I keep praising about this show is how much I love the laid back atmosphere. So many shounen shows love to shove major drama and world-saving stakes down your throat that sometimes you just want to enjoy the game for what it is. After the first handful of episodes in Yu-Gi-Oh, how long was it before the main characters had a friendly match together with nothing on the line again? How many episodes of Beyblade do they go, at maximum, without some startling revelation or dramatic showdown?
Hearing this might make you think the obvious: “Well, without that stuff, the show would be boring.” Vanguard shows that losing that stuff does not a boring show make.
This episode starts off very filler-y. We’re introduced to Aichi’s little sister, Emi, who is one of most tolerable and likable little sister characters I’ve seen in anime in a while. A good chunk of the episode is her having delusions that Aichi is about to get beat up by Morikawa and Izaki. However, even the filler-y aspect 1) is not filler-y because it technically has a point and 2) is pretty funny.
When she finally gets to the card shop, it’s a bit surreal. The main focus is really not too heavy on the match itself. It’s equal parts Emi’s reactions to watching her brother and the match.
Keep that in mind – she’s watching her brother play, not so much watching the match. She doesn’t really understand what’s going on anyway, but she’s far more interested in Aichi’s change in demeanor when he’s playing.
The scenes in which she’s analyzing Aichi’s behavior were a great breath of fresh air. I feel like nearly any other show’s little sister character (Outside of Shizuka from Yu-Gi-Oh, but she’s older than Emi) would probably mock her brother, either internally or otherwise, for being so invested in a card game. But what does Emi do? She’s glad that her brother has found something that makes him involved, happy and a little more confident. She even actively starts cheering him on.
In this simple little episode, in which a character I’ve never seen before comes to a revelation I never knew mattered, I felt more emotional response than I have in a long time of watching shounen gaming anime. I am endlessly impressed by how much I’m enjoying this show. I really hope this series keeps its momentum, because I’d hate to have to deal with the same shounen schlock from a really good show.
Speaking of Yu-Gi-Oh, this episode reminded me a bit of a plotline in Yu-Gi-Oh. Well, a very small plotline. In the earlier episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh, Jounouchi is chastised by Yugi for having a deck filled with monsters and absolutely no trap or magic cards to his name. Like many novices, Jounouchi thought card games were all about power and that having cards for support or strategy were pointless.
Here, Morikawa has that same issue. While he’s doing a little better than Jounouchi used to do in his rookie days, Morikawa has loaded his deck with Grade 3 monsters, which can’t be summoned unless they’re built upon Grades 0-2 monsters. This also means he has practically no drive triggers or lower level monsters for support or defense. Like Shin notes, his deck is riddled with balance issues. When we watch him fight Aichi, his balance issues are highlighted while simultaneously showing the audience that one of the reasons why Aichi’s deck is so good is because his deck is extremely well balanced.
This episode really brought to light how great the dubbing is. It’s nothing astounding or anything, but everyone sounds and acts like a real person. Morikawa, voiced by Lucas Gilbertson, did particularly well in this episode. The writing is also much better than your average shounen gaming anime fare. I was laughing out loud at several lines. TMS did a great job with this series.
The only thing that bothered me was, every time Emi (age 12) was noticed by other students of Aichi’s age (15), they all kept assuming she was either waiting for a boy from the Junior High or that she’s Aichi’s girlfriend. Was a little weird is all, especially considering Morikawa and Izaki made this assumption after she said that Aichi was coming home late. Why doesn’t anyone jump to ‘little sister’?
Next time, Aichi vs. Misaki! Whoo girls can play card games!
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