Plot: Preparing for a tournament, Morikawa and Izaki take Aichi to some card shops out in the city. They get lost, but find a mysterious card shop called PSY. It’s completely empty and filled with holograms. While there, an employee introduces them to a Vanguard Fight Stage that presents Vanguard battles in hologram form. Morikawa is unable to turn the stage on, but Aichi is, prompting him to get challenged by another employee named Kourin.
She has a similar deck to Aichi’s, but is obviously on a different level than him. She’s initially unimpressed by his skills, but eventually becomes enthralled in the match due to Aichi’s enjoyment and determination to never give up.
Breakdown: I knew this was coming. I mentioned earlier in the series that I liked how the visual presentations of the battles were imaginary, much like how any person in real life would visualize a TCG match while playing. I used to do it all the time when playing Yu-Gi-Oh, and it resonated with me when I saw it in Vanguard.
However, there’s only so much excitement you can get from imaginary battles in a TV show. I knew from the OP that we’d eventually get to hologram battles, and it worried me a bit.
One of the things that always nagged me about Yu-Gi-Oh was how ridiculously real the holograms were. They could be stood on, create realistic attacks, cause pain, push you down and even knock you out. I was worried that when holographic battles were introduced here, it’d be the same ridiculousness. Luckily, Vanguard surprised me again, because it’s the more realistic route of just having a holographic battlefield with little monsters fighting on it. The players loom over the battlefield like gods – it’s pretty cool.
Being fair, they do eventually impose Aichi and Kourin in the monsters, and the monsters even kinda interact with each other, but I don’t think that’s being reflected in the real holograms. I think Aichi’s imposing his imagination onto the scene again.
An iffy aspect of this episode that concerns me is they’re seemingly lampshading an ‘Aichi is special’ plotline. Morikawa was unable to activate the stage, but Aichi was able to activate it with a touch, which impressed the employees. Time will tell what’s going on there.
On the topic of the actual battle, it was pretty intense, which is something I usually don’t expect from matches involving similar decks. Those episodes are usually a little boring because they spend a good chunk of the match playing the same cards at the same time just to highlight ‘HEY WE HAVE THE SAME CARDS IN OUR DECKS!’ Fortunately, they only do this for a couple of cards in this match. Otherwise, it exemplifies how you can have similar deck structures while also being drastically different.
Kourin is pretty alright as a character. She’s a little annoying in how she initially writes off Aichi since he’s a rookie (Izaki notes that Aichi’s been playing for a few weeks now), but she soon shows that she respects Aichi simply for his determination to continue on, even when there’s no way to win, and his desire to keep learning.
Yes, again, this is another episode where Aichi loses the match and takes the battle as a learning experience. I have been enjoying his uniqueness as a shounen gaming protagonist that constantly loses. It’s a very realistic take on this seeing as how he really has only been playing for a few weeks. It’s much better than dealing with the ‘miracle rookie’ trope. They even had a ‘heart of the cards’-esque moment, and it flatout didn’t work.
I also love how Aichi still has such strong resolve to keep fighting and battling even when he can’t seem to win against anyone but Morikawa. He keeps getting knocked down and getting right back up again with a smile on his face, happy for the battles he’s fought and what he’s learned.
I’d like to see him win again sometime soon. I connect with Aichi so much and like him so much as a character that, even though he doesn’t mind losing, I keep getting sad that he doesn’t win. I’m not asking him to knock down a champ, just throw him a bone not in the shape of Morikawa.
Speaking of Morikawa, while he still gets on my nerves a lot, especially considering he keeps rooting against Aichi (this time because he has a crush on Kourin) He had me laughing at the end because of his desire to be defeated by her. His dialogue is so inappropriate and hilarious. Another nod to the voice actors here, because they’re doing a great job.
Next time, Kai’s back! And he’s battling Kamui!