SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 11

SSBS CFV EP 11

Plot: Aichi’s match with Ninja Master M concludes, and he’s moves on into the semi-finals. Kamui and Misaki also win their matches and move on. It’s time to draw lots for the semi-finals!….After lunch!

Aichi is matched with Kamui and Misaki and Kai get paired up. Who will get to the finals?

Breakdown: Ladies and gentlemen….our first truly disappointing episode.

I mentioned in episode ten that time management seemed to be an issue and that the battle with Ninja Master M didn’t need to be a cliffhanger. This episode truly exemplifies that point. The match against Ninja Master M only takes one more turn, as predicted, yet it takes up the entire first half of this episode – in spite of the fact that the next episode preview and title spoil the whole thing. It was a great final turn, but it was drawn out for no real reason.

We see a few minutes of Misaki completely destroying some sniveling 30-something woman, which was nice to see as a preview of how much she’s improved in the few weeks she’s been actively playing.

And that’s it. The rest of the episode is a lunch break where 90% of the scenes are Kamui drooling over Emi and fantasizing about the two of them eating lunch together. It was a little funny for a short while but got old real quick. They obviously just didn’t want to put any of the actual semi-finals into this episode, so they had to dump in some filler until we got to the last few minutes where they at least draw their lots.

I would’ve preferred if they at least spent the final half on Misaki’s match.

Some other things were that Kai’s assessment of the tournament so far was that everyone was weak and not worth playing against….Dude, it’s a small-town rinky dink shop tournament. Why would you ever think you’d find a pro or the like here? Get your head out of your ass.

We also got a painfully unfunny return of Kamui’s running ‘joke’ where he gets common sayings wrong. This one doesn’t even make sense. He’s last to pick his lot, so he says ‘Saving the best for blasts, huh?’ What the hell does that even mean? The point behind the saying is IN the saying for God’s sake. There’s no way he knew it’d be appropriate to say that unless he knew the saying was ‘Saving the best for LAST’

But that’s not all. Izaki, Morikawa and Taishi have to spend about 30 seconds explaining why what he said was wrong. Thanks. We. Got. It.

Let’s not stop there. Let’s have him do another in the next episode preview. He tells Aichi to fight it out ‘bears and bears’ and Aichi, of course, has to correct him to ‘fair and square.’ Again, why the hell does he believe that saying is correct? Is he suggesting Aichi and him fight so fiercely that they maul each other?

In regards to short moments, Misaki got a pretty funny one where she yells ‘Bite me!’ to Taishi when he calls her cute for blushing as her name is listed off.

This episode is the first one I’ve seen so far where there just weren’t a lot of shining good moments to direct attention away from the problems.

Rating: 6/10

Next episode, it’s Kamui vs. Aichi, and we might get a glimpse of the match between Misaki and Kai.

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SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 10

SSBS CFV EP10

Plot: The next round of the Card Capital tournament is underway. While Kai battles the three-time CC tournament champion, Aichi is paired up with Ninja Master M, whom they quickly determine is Aichi’s teacher, Mr. Mark, in disguise. As Ninja Master M, he immerses himself very deeply into the role of a (stereotypical) ninja. He tries to hide as a part of the wall with a cloth, tries to make quick getaways with (indoor-safe) smoke bombs and even injects ninja-esque vernacular into his cardfights.

Aichi is thrown by Ninja Master M’s behavior, but quickly realizes that he’s no joke when it comes to Vanguard. Utilizing a strategy in which Aichi is forced to keep discarding cards from his hand, Ninja Master M gets Aichi into a corner quickly. Will Aichi have to concede defeat?

Breakdown: I am a tiny bit mixed on this episode.

On one hand, Ninja Master M (He’s wearing a samurai helmet. This is bugging me.), despite me just barely remembering Mr. Mark in the slightest (was he only in episode one? Hm.) is an entertaining character. I smiled several times at his scenes, and his pathetic ninja shenanigans remind me a lot of Agiri from Kill Me Baby, only he plays it straight.

On the other hand, Morikawa kinda ruins his whole shtick. Morikawa, for some strange reason, believes Ninja Master M is the real deal and marvels in everything he does. Even when he’s in the middle of a cardfight and is claiming he’s doing ninja things that are obviously not happening, this dolt believes every word (IE, he claims riding a grade one on top of a zero is a ‘ninja replacement’ technique and Morikawa just eats it up.) Keep in mind, all of the visuals for these moves are entirely in Aichi’s head. All Morikawa is seeing is NMM playing a card and saying something.

Also, it seems like they’re both mocking and celebrating cosplay here? Maybe I’m looking too far into this, but NMM’s first opponent claims he lost because he was so distracted by his outfit and mannerisms. Then he tells him he wishes his parents had never let him out the basement and calls him a freak of nature.

Granted, yes, this is a little kid talking, but an adult wrote it, and, still, ouch.

However, despite everyone rolling their eyes at NMM, no one else is really making fun of him. Aichi quickly takes NMM seriously in their match, too. There’s no disrespect on his end – it just took him a minute to get used to his strange behavior and dress. Does that mean they’re really saying they respect cosplay or is this not even a factor?

On one hand, it was nice to see a fiercer and more amped up Aichi.

On the other hand, I am still annoyed by his obsessed focus on battling Kai. He even gets distracted away from his match with NMM, in the middle of an attack no less, because Kai just finished his match, which he obviously won. He’s dead set on just getting through his matches to get to Kai. It’s very rude to skew your attention away in the middle of a match like that. Have some TCG courtesy, Aichi.

This is also our first cliffhanger episode! Oooooooooh…..it was a very unwarranted two-parter. It ends on what has to be Aichi’s last turn and he’s fighting someone he’s obviously going to win against.

Not to mention……

Cardfight!! Vanguard, can we have a little talk? I was a little perturbed by your use of a cliffhanger here, but I understand that you’re new at this stuff and it wasn’t completely awful, so it’s cool. Just try to manage your time a little better.

I won’t, however, overlook the grievous sin you have committed. When you have a cliffhanger to a game in a gaming anime, you never ever spoil the ending in the next episode preview. Yet, not only do you show Shin doing the ‘Winner’ gesture to Aichi’s side of the table, not only do you show NMM’s monsters getting successfully attacked when NMM has little damage to spare….you named the goddamn episode….’The Ninja Fighter Withdraws’ Oh, well, thanks, Vanguard. I literally have no reason to watch the next episode now. THANKS A BUNDLE.

Why do so many shows do this? Not just gaming anime, but just anime in general. I get that you want to show good stuff to get people to watch, but spoiling the whole episode just gives me little reason to watch. If his match with NMM doesn’t even take up the full episode, why not focus the title and preview on whatever is taking up the second half?

Come on, guys. I can’t do your jobs for you.

Rating: 7.5/10

Next episode—Errr….I guess I already told you……..Uhhhhhh……

smoke bomb archer

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 9

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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 Yugioh 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 Yugioh 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 three on a draw then lamenting that he can’t summon it because he doesn’t have any grade twos. 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.

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

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 8

SSBS CFV EP8

Plot: The Card Capital Tournament is coming soon, and Aichi struggles with the decision to enter or not. He feels as though his shouldn’t until he learns Kai is entering. Eager to face him again, Aichi tries to take the last spot, only to have another player named Kishida muscle in at the last second. In order to settle the dispute, Shin suggests having a Cardfight for the final spot. Can Aichi utilize everything he’s learned so far to earn the final spot, or will he spend his first tournament watching from the sidelines?

Breakdown: Have you ever wanted to fuse Weevil Underwood and Pegasus together? No? Well, too bad, because that’s essentially Kishida in a nutshell.

He uses a bug-based deck, he tries to act smarter than he is, he has glasses, long, flowy silver hair and a posh accent that you’re most certain is fake.

But enough about Maxivil Pegawood, we got a tournament to prep for!

This show does a great job at handling TCG plotlines in a manner that’s both exciting yet realistic at the same time. Morikawa, thinking he’s hot shit, is eager to enter and claim his crown. Aichi, however, is uncertain, which is understandable given his personality and experience so far. I’d say he’s at a month or so of experience at this point.

Even when he gets to the card shop, he finds that plenty of other customers have similar doubts, especially when they hear of who will be entering, and this is before Kai puts his hat into the ring.

It’s subtle, but it’s realistic and very relatable, which is a massive difference when compared to other shounen gaming anime where situations like this would be blown ridiculously out of proportion – like completely over the top tournament announcements, every single player thinking they’re so awesome that there’s no way they’d lose, signing up actually requiring some sort of pre-requisite ‘are you worthy?’ test, including some ridiculous puzzle you have to solve before the end and every step of the tournament being played out like it’s life or death (or the end of the world).

This is a simple local tournament at a small card shop. Cheap posters and fliers were made, signing up was literally just signing up, people had doubts in their abilities and avoided signing up, and in the end this is just a low-key tournament where players are having fun. There are egos, sure – Kishida has this in spades, but it’s realistic.

Now that I’m older, I find more appeal in these toned down gaming shows. I get that explosions and high stakes keep the brains of the children focused on the TV box and buying more toys, but something that always bothered me about playing the real game based on the show game was that it was always disappointing. Even though I got very invested in playing Yugioh, and still play frequently to this day – though most of it’s on Duel Links – it’s still not all that exciting when compared to the insane stuff you’ll see on the show.

I got a Duel Disk for Christmas one year and felt really cool for about ten minutes, but then I kinda felt like a dork, especially since no one else I knew had one and playing the game on it is a bit of a nightmare from hell. Who the frick can get a decent deck, or even a regulation sized deck, into that deck holder slot? The damn plastic piece meant to hold in the cards is so rigid and the space is so small you’d think the creators never realized that a regulation deck holds, at minimum, 40 cards.

However, I believe if I ever played Vanguard, I’d be very content with it because I imagine it’s a very similar experience to playing it on the show. You can exaggerate and pump things up without resorting to magic, evil cults, alternate dimensions and–

card games on motorcylces

That being said, Aichi’s obsession with Kai is getting a bit out of hand. I get that Kai is a measuring stick of progress – a rival to work towards defeating – I also realize that this is a great opportunity for Aichi to battle Kai when he said in the previous episode that Aichi was too weak to challenge a second time. However, he is always asking about Kai, thinking about him, wondering where he is and what he’s doing. And all Kai does is treat him like crap.

There’s an underlying sense of respect or friendship there, but he does treat him terribly. It’s a little awkward sometimes.

While I have been complaining about Aichi’s losing streak, it’s very obvious that the streak ends with this episode. I doubt they’d have a tournament arc where their main character is not a participant, especially since he got all revved up for Kai and considering his opponent is a pompous douchecanoe.

I was very happy when he finally won, and the genuine look of delight on Aichi’s face was, quite frankly, adorable. I was a little uneasy about Kishida pulling one of those infamous antagonist 180s where he’s a jerk the whole time and then becomes nice after the battle’s over. I get that, in the writer’s logic, he has no reason to puff up his chest and try to intimidate anyone anymore, nor would it work after a loss, but I think, realistically, people don’t change that drastically that quickly. It’s whiplash character development.

Rating: 9/10

Next time, the Card Capital Tournament is underway and Aichi’s first match is against Izaki.

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 7

SSBS CFV EP7 TITLE

Plot: Kai has returned, and Kamui is quickly annoyed by his attitude. While Kai rejects a challenge from Aichi, believing he won’t have a chance, he does take Kamui up on his offer. Using the new standing tables at Card Capital, the two have a heated cardfight. Kamui manages to keep pace with Kai, but beating Kai is larger task than he ever anticipated. Is this the end of Kamui’s win streak?

Breakdown: It’s ego vs. ego. GO GO GO!

While I’m still having trouble keeping up with the more fast-paced matches (I even caved and studied a Wiki while watching this) they continue to do a good job explaining the major aspects of the match without needing third-party assistance (Looking at you, Bakugan). I learned some new strategies and aspects of the game, so I don’t feel like I’m getting washed away or anything.

Speaking of new things, Card Capital gets standing card tables, which….I guess are cool? I can kinda see how standing tables would be more immersive than just regular tables you sit at, but is it really that big of a deal? We also learn about soulbursts, which are cool.

Kai vs. Kamui is a match that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to watch. Both characters are full of themselves and dismissive of opponents that they don’t see ‘worthy.’ The only difference is that Kai is stoic, calculating and egotistical while Kamui is loud, thinks more on his feet and is egotistical.

Truth be told, this is the first episode where I basically knew the outcome. Kamui obviously needs to be taken down a peg to help quell his ego and make him mature more as a player. Kai is treated like a Vanguard god, so him losing before the episodes even get into the double digits is unlikely (Even though he already has….) Still, it was a pretty intense match, and I’m thankful they had the match be relatively even the whole time instead of just having Kamui get thrashed from start to finish.

Kai still continues to annoy me, though. I could’ve sworn he was more likable in the first episode, but he’s just a stone-cold ass. If Morikawa was in the second half of this episode, this probably would’ve been the first episode I disliked just on egotistical ass overload.

Rating: 7/10

Next Episode, Aichi wants to sign up for the Card Capital tournament, but needs to face off with a boy named Kishida in order to win the final slot.

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 6

SSBS CFV EP6 TITLE

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 Yugioh, 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 Yugioh 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.

But…

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!

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 5

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Plot: A grade schooler named Kamui is blowing all of the local junior high Vanguard players away. He’s garnered quite the fanbase, and Kamui’s grown quite the ego. He refuses to battle Aichi at first because he perceives him to be weak, but decides to challenge him when he believes Aichi’s little sister, Emi, is actually his girlfriend. Wanting to win her heart, he takes on Aichi. But can Aichi win when he only has one grade three card in his deck? A card he got only a few minutes prior?

Breakdown: I knew it was only a matter of time before this series introduced a character who would gnaw on my nerves. Enter Kamui, an egotistical little brat who….honestly could be a lot worse.

While he was pissing me off at the start, by the end, I found him to at least be more tolerable than Morikawa, who just keeps getting worse to me the more I watch this series.

Morikawa’s an idiot and a crappy Vanguard player, but he acts like he’s the best no matter how many times he loses.

Kamui, on the other hand, may have an ego, but it’s at least deserved, He’s a very knowledgeable and skillful Vanguard player, and he doesn’t throw around much smacktalk in-game. He’s also more than willing to actually teach Aichi different aspects of the game, such as telling him that he can redraw cards once per match if he gets a bad hand, which I’m surprised never came up before now.

Many characters in Kamui’s place in other shows would probably have him telling Aichi BS stuff to sabotage him, but he obviously cares too much about the game and his status as a player to do such a thing.

The match in this episode went by a bit fast for my taste. Length-wise, it was fine, but there was a hell of a lot going on in a short amount of time for me to keep up sometimes. I’m still fuzzy on how drive and damage triggers work and why damage cards need to be flipped upside down sometimes and what that means, but it was a flurry of cards and flipping and wheee.

It was a good battle with a lot of action, but let the newbies keep up.

Outside of all of that, we have the crux of this entire battle, which is yet another person thinking Emi is Aichi’s girlfriend, and I still don’t get it. I’ll forgive Kamui for having a duel for Aichi’s ‘woman’ because he’s a kid, plus the resolution to this whole subplot is kinda funny.

One last minor note – Kamui has a ‘thing’ about getting common sayings and things wrong and people have to correct him. For example, he believes you have to challenge someone to a duel by slapping them in the face with a white bag when it’s supposed to be a glove. It’s not funny.

This episode also deserves some praise for not going the predictable route. Aichi gets his first grade three Vanguard in this episode, and they don’t make a big to-do about it, really. It is his best move in the match, but in the end, Kamui has his own grade three cards and wins. I was surprised, but even Aichi didn’t take this badly. He just thought to himself that he’s happy he gets to fight so many different and skilled players.

Can someone bend the laws of reality and make me friends with Aichi?

Rating: 7.5/10

Next episode, we’re introduced to a hologram version of the game.

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 4

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Plot: Aichi is itching for a rematch with Kai, but is never able to find him. He believes that Kai was just going easy on him during their first match, but with all of the experience he’s gained from playing so often at the card shop, he believes he can face Kai seriously.

Shin tells him that he’ll give Aichi a surprise if he beats Misaki in a Vanguard fight. Problem is, Misaki’s never played the game before.

Aichi, at first, sees Misaki’s clumsiness during the game and believes he needs to go easy on her, but quickly realizes that, having watched many cardfights and learning a lot about the game in order to do her job properly, Misaki is actually very good at Vanguard.

Utilizing the power of a grade three card, Amaterasu, she manages to take Aichi down after a long and tough fight.

Throughout the fight, Aichi realizes that there is much more to the game in terms of strategies and effects than he ever realized, and he was presumptuous to believe he had gotten to Kai’s level so quickly. He decided to buy some new cards and work out some new strategies for his deck so he can continue battling, learning and growing as a Vanguard fighter.

Shin reveals that this lesson was the surprise all along. Newcomers are always eager to take on the tough veterans after they believe they’ve found their groove in the game, but they need to realize that there’s a much wider world of strategies and cards that you need to learn. Then he may be able to finally face Kai again.

——————————–

Contrary to how this may sound, this isn’t an episode where Aichi suddenly grabs his main character powers by the balls and grows an ego-beard so he needs to be beaten in order to knock him down a peg (thank god.)

While Aichi does believe he’s ready to take on Kai again, and, admittedly, does state that he might want to take it easy on new-fighter Misaki, he never gets any sort of ego and never actually goes easy on Misaki. He takes her just as seriously as he does any opponent.

I was disappointed that Misaki was a rookie to the game, but she definitely showed that even on-the-field experience isn’t the end-all solution to being better at something. Learning about it on your own and watching other people do it can be just as powerful. She doesn’t wipe the floor with Aichi, in fact, at the start, he’s winning by a large margin, but Misaki was essentially taking necessary hits until she could get Amaterasu out.

This fight shows us another important aspect of the game – utilizing more complex strategies and grade threes properly. While we have seen some basic strategies, effects, drive triggers and damage triggers, this episode steps it up with even more card effects, draw triggers, and the benefits to drawing more cards….the last one being a lesson I kinda rolled my eyes at.

In what TCG is drawing more cards not beneficial (not counting situations where you might be forced to draw until you run out of cards in your deck, making you lose by default in some games)? And in a game where cards in your hand are used for defense and building up stronger summons, why the hell is Aichi questioning why draw triggers are beneficial?

In this situation, she was using draw triggers for an effect of Amaterasu, but this lesson was also reflected in the scene where Aichi runs out of cards in his hand to defend his Vanguards against her attacks.

Might I also applaud this episode for not taking the obvious and ridiculously annoying route of having the guys all point out her gender? I was worried about this episode slightly because I thought we were in for a bunch of ‘Fight her? But-but, she’s a girl!’ ‘Pfft, what’s she going to play with? A polly pocket deck?’ ‘Won’t her estrogen get in her eyes and make it impossible to see the cards?’ I’m exaggerating, but would you really question it?

They never bring up her being a girl at all—okay once. Aichi’s friend from episode one, Taishi, who is here for absolutely no reason other than to remind us that he exists, says ‘I think this girl knows more about the cards and rules than most of us guys.’

This was a good episode because it helped Aichi learn a bit more about truly improving in anything you’re passionate about, it gave Misaki some time to shine, it allowed the audience to learn more about the game and we got to see a pretty great battle, even though, surprisingly, not much of it took place in the imaginary world. I did enjoy the chibi nun with the minigun though. That was funny.

Next episode, a cocky gradeschooler named Kamui is blowing away all of the middleschoolers at Vanguard. Does Aichi have a shot at breaking his winning streak?

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 3

SSBS CFV EP3 TITLE

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 Central 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 Yugioh, 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 Yugioh, 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 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 Yugioh, this episode reminded me a bit of a plotline in Yugioh. Well, a very small plotline. In the earlier episodes of Yugioh, Jounouchi is chastised by Yugi for having a deck filled with beasts 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, was particularly well done 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’?

Rating: 8.5/10

Next time, Aichi vs. Misaki! Whoo girls can play card games!

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 2

SSBS CFV EP 2 TITLE

Plot: As Aichi and Kai continue their battle, Kai finally remembers who Aichi is. Aichi and Kai met several years ago. Aichi had just been beaten up by a bunch of bullies so Kai decided to give him the Blaster Blade card, urging him to imagine himself as the great paladin fighting on the planet Cray in order to boost his confidence. It worked, kinda, and from then on Aichi developed a great love of the game.

Aichi always wanted to battle Kai again as thanks for giving him something that helped him believe in himself. However, Kai moved away not too long after that. He still looks up to him and is very grateful for what he did for him, but Kai brushes it off and says he just gave him that card so he could kick his butt in Vanguard much worse than those bullies did that day. Anything Aichi thinks he knows about him is a stupid fairy tale he lets himself believe.

Despite this, Aichi manages to nearly defeat Kai, but it was really Kai letting Aichi play right into his hands. He uses the damage cards Aichi racked up on him to give his Dragonic Overlord several attacks, devastating Aichi and nearly defeating him, but he managed to save himself with a healing drive trigger.

Aichi says he doesn’t believe what Kai says about his motivations for giving him Blaster Blade. He knows what he remembers of how he was back then, and that will never change. He makes another attempt to battle with Kai one damage point away from defeat. Kai has more than enough to defend himself against the assault, but Aichi lucks out with a card that allows him to power up his Blaster Blade and knock Kai’s final damage point down.

Kai knocks the Blaster Blade card back to Aichi, with Aichi having now won it back fair and square. He leaves with barely a word, leaving Aichi to believe that he hates him now.

The next day at school, barely anything’s changed. His classmates still all openly mock him for being shy and not knowing answers in school, and Morikawa, the bully who took his Blaster Blade before, is still bullying him. He’s unimpressed with Aichi’s victory over Kai and moreso believes Kai is a weakling who is too embarrassed to ever show his face around the card shop again after losing to “Shy-chi.” He also refuses to battle Aichi or teach him anything at Aichi’s request.

The status quo seems to be returned when Aichi sadly returns to an empty card shop, but his spirits are quickly heightened when Kai, Morikawa and everyone else return to the card shop wanting to battle Aichi.

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This was a pretty good episode, giving us insight into Kai and Aichi’s background, Aichi’s connection with his Blaster Blade and what Vanguard truly means to him.

Like I mentioned in my Episode One-derland segment, instead of having holograms or real monsters in the card battles, all of the battles are imagined by the players, much like how anyone playing a real-world TCG would likely do. However, it’s a bit more than that. Aichi doesn’t just imagine the monsters and battles for the sake of ‘ooh cool, fighting and monsters!’ he imagines it because it gives him confidence and, in a way, gives him a place of belonging.

To many people, Vanguard is just another TCG, but to Aichi, it’s something that he treasures and makes him feel a little better about himself, even if he seemingly never has anyone to play against.

I appreciate that, and I’m sure many viewers would be able to relate to that.

It’s a little obvious that Kai’s lying about his intentions regarding giving Blaster Blade to Aichi. First of all, his claim makes no sense or makes Kai look stupid. He gave him such a rare and powerful card just so Aichi would learn to play the game, battle him, defeat him very badly, I guess, and rub it in his face or something? That’s very convoluted and time-consuming just to say ‘haha, you suck, person who has barely played the game!’ And what if he still never decided to play? That would mean Kai gave away a powerful rare card for nothing.

Second, his demeanor completely changes when he says this, like he’s trying to rile up Aichi on purpose. Though, to what end, I don’t really know. Maybe so Aichi would be less sentimental about the match?

The battle itself was pretty cool and entertaining, but I won’t deny that it has two ‘heart of the cards’ moments. Maybe not that cheesy, but Aichi survives Kai’s assault on pure luck by drawing a healing trigger, which I can take just fine, but he also has the luck to draw another trigger that wins him the game on his next turn.

Aichi’s character is indeed turning out to be pretty unique for a shounen gaming anime protagonist. Yeah he has loads of beginner’s luck, and I hope he doesn’t develop the newbie messiah syndrome, but he’s shy, has little self-confidence, is just starting out with the game for the most part and has few to no friends.

Plus, when he pulls his first major win out of his ass, no one truly seems impressed by him. No rumors go around school, he’s not heralded as ‘that kid who beat Kai’, he’s not developing an ego off of it, he just wins then goes back to his life. It’s almost like, *gasp*, the world and everyone in it don’t revolve around this card game. BLASPHEMY.

He hopes to see and battle Kai again, and even tries to make friends with the bullies who took his Blaster Blade in the first place. He’s almost the exact opposite of every shounen gaming anime protagonist I’ve ever seen. Watch this and something like Bakugan back to back and the contrast will knock you on your ass.

What confuses me a bit is the ending where everyone comes back to the card shop all happy and raring to battle Aichi. Kai I can understand a bit more because he probably wasn’t angry in the first place and just walked away silently because he’s a stoic lone-wolf character and that’s what they do. However, just minutes prior, Morikawa and the other bully just refused to teach Aichi, refused to battle him as well, and mocked Kai for losing to Aichi, mocking Aichi in the process. Then when they get to the card shop it’s all, ‘Hey, if you want to battle Aichi, I’m playing him first!’ and they’re all good friends? Huh?

All in all, a pretty good episode and a solid conclusion to the first episode. Despite some hard to swallow luck, this series is maintaining its easygoing attitude, and I love that.

Rating: 7.5/10

Next Episode, Aichi’s sister, Emi, discovers his love of Vanguard.