SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 9: The Shop Tournament Begins!

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7/10 of these characters will be ousted off-screen. 9/10 have no character whatsoever.

Plot: The Card Capital Shop Tournament is underway, and Aichi finds himself much more nervous than he anticipated. His first match is against Izaki, and he’s a complete mess. Can Aichi pull it together, or will he be axed from the tournament in the first round?

Breakdown: I continue to be impressed by this show’s sense of realism in regards to situations involving becoming invested in a game or sport. Aichi is incredibly excited about the tournament, but is quickly succumbing to nervousness and self-doubt when he realizes that a good deal of people will be watching him partake in his first tournament. He’s even more distressed when he believes that no other competitors are seemingly nervous.

He fumbles through even the simplest of game mechanics and soon starts faltering in his match. I’m no card game tourney master, but I have been in a couple of little local rinky dink Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments back in the day – when gumballs were a nickel and you had to walk 70 miles to school in the rain, snow, sleet and dinosaurs.

As someone who is incredibly socially anxious, I know this feeling hits you like taser dart. Like Izaki states, being that nervous drains you of the enjoyment of the game and leaves you wondering why you’re even playing. It’s a game – it’s meant to be enjoyed. However, stage fright and the pressure of winning in succession can weigh on you either way. It’s only when you focus purely on having fun and learning from each success and failure that you can truly relax.

Izaki seems to be doing much better than he is, but when Aichi starts to make moves that are slightly better, Izaki starts making mistakes as well. Aichi realizes that, despite how he looked on the outside, Izaki is just as nervous as he is, and he should just relax and enjoy his favorite game with his friends.

To his credit, Izaki is a much better fighter than Morikawa. He is very skilled and thinks analytically, which is in contrast to Morikawa’s brute rush ‘strategy.’ Of course, you’re nearly certain that Aichi will win his match before he even knows who he’s battling. While I won’t predict he’ll win the tournament (he’d most certainly have to beat Kai for that, and I’m not sure I’d believe he could pull that off) he’d had to at least get through the first round.

Watching his match was simultaneously awkward because of how many rookie mistakes he was making and exciting because Izaki put a lot of passion into his moves at the end, matching Aichi’s. My favorite part wasn’t even in the battle itself – it was in Aichi smiling gently as he watched Izaki playing his cards once he finally relaxed. He was enjoying watching someone else have fun with the game with him. It was really sweet.

Another realistic aspect is the tournament itself. Shounen gaming anime, like Yu-Gi-Oh and Beyblade, for example, tend to jump right into these massive televised tournaments without letting their characters chill with some local ones, like any normal person would. This is a small shop tournament. There’s a very reasonable amount of people attending, the people attending react like real people, the tournament board is a poster, the roster names are covered with stickers and the winners are indicated by a red marker.

Not to mention that Shin is also inept at holding this thing. He needs to resort to bribing his ‘Assisticat’ with treats to unveil the roster, and he lets Morikawa and Kamui grab his mic and let them play their egos. It’s extremely charming and, to a degree, nostalgic.

Because this is a normal tournament and not a ‘would take a million years in real life’ shounen gaming anime tournament that does everything one match at a time, this match is happening alongside Morikawa’s match with Misaki.

I have no clue why Misaki is partaking in this tournament. Didn’t she just have her first Vanguard fight a few episodes ago? I know she has fun with the game, but she even implied herself that learning about the game was moreso for her job and not anything else. I’m glad she is here because she’s the only prominent female player who’s a regular character, but it doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe they need to elaborate a little more on this.

As you can guess, Morikawa goes into this acting like a hotshot asswad and promptly loses because he never learns. We only see a short blip of his match with Misaki, and it’s of him celebrating getting a Grade 3 on a draw then lamenting that he can’t summon it because he doesn’t have any Grade 2s. If he’s still having balance issues this severe after being fully aware of them for at least a month, I’m not sure I have much hope he’ll ever become anything worthwhile as a player in the near future.

Aichi internally commends her on her ability to always stay cool and calm, until he realizes that she too was nervous. I’m going to chalk this up to stage fright because being nervous battling Morikawa must be like being nervous while beating a rug. The worst that will happen is you’ll inhale some dust.

There is some stuff I’m getting annoyed by, though – Aichi’s obsession with Kai being the forefront again. He gets all excited when he sees Kai’s name in Block D, then he gets depressed when he realizes he’s in Block A, meaning his only chance to face him will be in the finals. He is so preoccupied thinking about being so far away from Kai in the roster that he doesn’t even bother reading the name of his opponent until he’s stared at Kai for a while. Then, once his match is over, he instantly thinks to getting to the finals so he can face Kai – because no one else has any chance I suppose?

Kamui is also in this tournament, but the rest are no-names so far – which means they’re probably just filler characters to get the tournament going off-screen. The only one they’re putting any sort of focus on is some guy wearing a visor and a samurai helmet. His only identifying feature is a blond goatee, but since we don’t know any characters who have such a feature so far, this means nothing to us.

I did like this exchange upon first seeing him, though.

Kamui’s Friend #1: “What’s up with that guy?”

Friend #2: “Yeah, and what’s with the costume.”

Uh, I think the ‘What’s up with that guy?’ was covering the costume part, sweetie.

Rating: 9/10

Next time, Aichi fights the samur – ninja guy in round two!

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