Cardfight Vanguard is a comic book series based on a successful trading card game. Over in Japan the use of anime and manga to promote card games is nothing new. In recent times the medium has been used to popularise titles such as Duel Masters and Selector Infected WIXOSS. This kind of marketing strategy has been around for years, which I can attest to having grown up watching glorified animated commercials such as GI Joe and He-Man. Sometimes these promotional shows can be surprisingly good (Transformers) although you know toy makers are scraping the barrel when they feel a 150 episode saga is required to sell spinning tops (Beyblade.)
At the time of writing Amazon are selling several volumes of Cardfight Vanguard for around £5.59. The first book presently retails for a slightly dearer £7.39, presumably due to its lengthier opening chapter. Diehard fans can also pick up a special edition of volume one, containing some complimentary cards, for the sum of £13.14. Crikey that seems rather extortionate to me. For that price I could purchase a twenty-four pack of Kit Kats and I’d have more fun chewing them up rather than reading this Yu-Gi-Oh knock off.
The franchise’s similarities to the above mentioned Egyptian card game should come as no surprise given that it was created in part by Akira Itou, who has previously worked on Yu-Gi-Oh R (sadly not an R rated comic were competitors play strip poker using Konami brand cards.) Both mangas resemble each other not only in their card duelling premise, but also in their art style that sports nearly identical character designs. Itou was assisted by a number of artists when producing this book, but thankfully the panels maintain a consistent (if unspectacular) look.
Cardfight’s protagonist is Aichi Sendou, a bashful student who is content to simply collect Vanguard cards, rather than use them for competitive play, as he is a complete pussy. The first chapter sees Aichi fall foul of a bully who nabs his prized Blaster Blade card after some unpleasant physical persuasion. Aichi subsequently tracks the fiend down to a local hobby store, where he discovers that the card has been lost to Toshiki Kai (an expert Vanguard player who acts like a pretentious prick just because he is accomplished at beating children at cards.) In order to recover Blaster Blade our dweeby hero will have to pop his Vanguard cherry and challenge Kai to a match.
Volume one’s remaining chapters have Aichi challenging a trio of players that I presume will become recurring characters. First up is Kamui Katsuragi, a boisterous chap with gravity defying hair, who is intent on besting the hobby shop’s finest players. Next is Misaki the store clerk who has memorised the deck of all her patrons. It’s explained that her photographic memory stems from her insistence to remember her parents who perished at a young age (sniff how touching.) The last tale deals with Aichi befriending Morikawa – the bully who pilfered Buster Blade in the inaugural story. Why Aichi would want to become chums with a jerk is beyond me, but I suppose it comes with the territory. Many mangas targeted at youngsters try to preach the wholesome message that friendship is magical (endorsed by bronies everywhere.)
Despite enjoying the Yu-Gi-Oh anime, during my youth, I can’t say that I was too impressed by Cardfight Vanguard. Yu-Gi-Oh was mildly entertaining thanks to its preposterously campy storylines that made every duel feel like a life or death struggle. Vanguard on the other hand feels like loud kids playing a mediocre game of Old Maid. The first chapter gives readers a crash course in Vanguard’s mechanics and to be honest it doesn’t sound too strategic. Every hand seems to eliminate an opponent’s card leaving encounters to be decided by unexplained rules that Aichi exploits at the most opportune time. The uninspired writing and art make me think that the book will only appeal to fans of the game (who will be more interested in scooping up the bundled cards rather than reading it.) My rating is a two out of five. I would have had more fun spending my time playing Solitaire.