Feel like seeing some card game action? Great. But wait a minute, you don’t want it to be bogged down by too much silliness and bad CGI? Then Duel Masters is out? Hold on. You don’t want the over-dramatics and have it be a bit more … realistic? There goes the Yugioh animes. Alas, do not worry. There is a show that is not overly silly nor does it do things that are too dramatic or too far out there . .. like card games on motorcycles. Cardfight Vanguard is for you.
Cardfight Vanguard started as a trading card game that wanted to get rid of spell and trap cards, but still wanted it to be a competitive game that people could play. Cardfight Vanguard, the trading card game, was born from Satoshi Nakamura (creator of Duel Masters), Akira Ito (creator of Yugioh -R manga) and Takaaki Kidani, President of Bushiroad and produced by TMS Entertainment. On January 8, 2011, the popular card game had an anime of its very own. The first season of Cardfight Vanguard hit airwaves while the second season is currently being aired in Japan.
The Cardfight Vanguard anime focuses on four main characters, Aichi Sendou, Toshiki Kai, Misaki Tokura and Kamui Katsuragi. Aichi Sendou starts off as a sly, introverted Junior High School kid who opens up during the course of the season. Toshiki Kai starts off as the normal, withdrawn high schooler at the beginning; even being set up as a rival to Aichi at the beginning of the show. Misaki Tokura begins the show with a somewhat calm yet a little stand offish personality who works at the local card shop which normally setting during the first 26 episodes. Kamui is a smart yet overly excited Vanguard player at the start of the season.
I keep saying at the start of the season cause throughout the first season, viewers will get to see the characters develop and grow. And while each character has growth, Aichi and Misaki have the most growth. Aichi, as stated earlier, was very introverted with little confidence and no real friends when we first meet the character in the first episode. Yet, over the course of the first season, Aichi grows and grows with confidence that many viewers will find realistic and resonate with them. Misaki growth is very outstanding during the course of the series. During episodes 24 and 25, there is a very personal story that deals with why Misaki has the attitude through a tragedy that she has and it really hits the heart strings.
Mixing up wonderful development of these four main characters are a good and colorful cast of supporting characters and antagonists. These characters all help in the development of each of the four main characters, such as manager of the card store called Card Capital named Shin; who also happens to be Misaki’s uncle. There is also Morikawa and Izaki; two students that become friends with Aichi during the course of the first couple of episodes; Miwa; one of the only few people that seems to be close to Kai; Emi; Aichi’s sister who actually gets interested in Vanguard because of how it has helped her older brother.
And the antagonists are also just as colorful: Ultra Rare; a trio of young women who are both an idol group and who work in a mysterious card shop called PSY. Team Asteroid; a somewhat vicious team that has more to it than meets the eye besides the three members we see at first. and Ren; who is the ruthless, manipulative leader of Asteroid, who is obsessed with fighting Kai again.
And while there are all these characters with mystery motivations and varying attitudes, do they have time for card fights? YES! Most episodes deal with building up the card fights or having personal issues or character development happen during the card fights or because of them. One of the better things about this anime in comparison to its competitors is that it actually shows how to play the game correctly. In the first few episodes and sometimes later on within the season, the show will tell viewers how to play the game. It gives explanations as to how to play the game, strategies and even how to uses the cards with their abilities as needed. The card battles have never seemed dull because of the characters dealing with personal feelings, thinking over strategies or excitement really help make the show enjoyable to watch.
On top of exciting and personal card battles, this show provides interesting enough moments of slice of life that keep viewers interest in the characters and their development. Sure, it is great to watch Aichi fight but the personal development of confidence Aichi gets while playing will connect with anyone who watches because it will remind them of themselves or someone they know.
Yet, the English dub of this anime would need to really be able to channel the humanity of these characters and the importance of this game while still seeming realistic. Luckily, Ocean Group hits a home run there with a great cast. Carol-Anne Day, of G Gundam and My Hime fame, takes the role of Misaki while Melissa Dorsey plays the obnoxious but good-hearted Kamui. Ryan Luhning of the Gundam 00 movie and Zoids, rips into people’s souls with a great Toshiki Kai. And giving a very multifaceted Aichi is being played by relative newcomer, James Beach. This cast shines, hit each of their character beats correctly. Not once in watching did the performance of the dub cast feel like it did not feel their character or his/her emotions. The voices of all the characters fit well, letting you really feel emersed in the experience of watching Cardfight Vanguard. No one’s lines felt corny, contrived or misleading. Kudos to Voice Director Karl Willems and the rest of the production crew for working hard on this dub to make it feel right.
Cardfight Vanguard is one of those anime that can truly be enjoyed by everyone. It has a solid story, complex characters, great and colorful conflicts and a solid voice cast that will make you want to cheer, hate or laugh at the characters. One of its best qualities is that if keeps to a more realistic route where monsters are not coming to life. There is no over dramatization of the emotions; just the card battles. While many can feel it to be a giant commercial, this show will actually tug on your heart strings, make you feel sad or even make you laugh; and the reasons for so will resonate with any viewer.
These are all reasons why I give Cardfight Vanguard 5 stars. It is a great ride of human development and fun, awesome card games that you can share with the whole family. Cardfight Vanguard is now available to watch on stream in Crunchyroll and watch it also on Cardfight Vanguard’s Youtube Channel.
So go on. Take a seat. And get ready to RIDE THE VANGUARD!