Aichi and his friends have won the National Tournament and decide to go their own ways until a mysterious boy named Takuto Tatsunagi appears. He reveals that the Royal Paladins, Dark Paladins, and Kagero leaders have been captured, and the only way to free Cray is for the Vanguard fighters to use a new power- Limit Break. Because the Royal Paladins lose the ability to fight, Aichi's deck is changed to be a Gold Paladin deck. Aichi and his friends must now win the Vanguard VF Circuit if they are to learn more about the occurrences on Cray and free their old friends.
I happened to look around and realised that out of all the seasons of Vanguard, somehow this has no reviews at all. And I have somewhat of an opinion on this season, so I figured why not?
Ok, ok. I know the score looks bad for a series which got a 7, but hear me out a little.
Warning: Light spoilers ahead but it won’t ruin your experience. Maybe. I assumed you’ve watched the first season, because there’s no reason for you to be watching the second season if you haven’t.
I’m not someone with extremely high standards like some ‘professional anime critique’ out there
who likes picking apart themes and abstract stuff like that. When I watch a show, I just want to enjoy the process, and boy did I enjoy the first season of Cardfight Vanguard.
For someone who does not play the card game, I strangely enjoyed the first season as a teenager when it was clearly a show targeted at kids. It was cheesy to the extremes, but at the very least, there was some sort of development for Aichi. He went from a shy weak boy to a confident one with the card game, something that is pretty commonplace in this kind of show and happens to be a troupe I like, so I was fine with it. Specifically, what I liked from the last season was how Aichi actually went down the wrong path for a while in his pursuit of getting stronger. It was a common storyline, but at least Aichi went through some hardship and reflection before finally emerging stronger and victorious. Aichi changed over the course of the series, and noticeably became a lot more mature. The ability Psyqualia was also hinted to be much more than being able to see or control what was on Cray, which the first season left off on a cliffhanger.
So here I was, all hyped up for the second season, especially when it included ‘visiting’ some Asian countries which included my own, which was an interesting concept. I was curious as to how they would portray my country in an anime, I mean, who else wouldn’t want to see anime characters getting all excited at a tourist attraction and the great food in your country? Plus my country isn’t featured prominently and reused over and over again in any medium whenever characters ‘go overseas’ (Ahem Paris, ahem USA. As if they were the only places in the world to go.). And admittedly, that part where they were just being tourists hanging around was the only part of this second season I enjoyed, because the story continued spiralling downwards into a cheesier mess, so much so that when I reached the end of the season, I was really mad at myself for getting excited in the first place.
So maybe now you think it’s a problem of being biased against the series, that it was a problem of having too high expectations. I admit, yes. I don’t deny that I was waiting for ‘evil Aichi’ to appear again because I loved that him in the last season and guess what happened.
Instead, Aichi turns into this goody-goody justice wielding preacher guy who goes about the whole season apparently teaching people what was right and wrong, and stays basically the same throughout the whole season with no development other than random references to the first season. It makes for a very boring character, and the way his lessons are done is by forcing his ideals onto others. Fine, maybe it’s because pushing morals in the face of its viewers is inherently part of a kids’ show. Fine, maybe they were trying to show the ‘now he’s guiding others onto the path of success when they stray off it because he experienced it before’ kind of moral. The absence of evil Aichi pissed me off, but there was something else pissing me even more altogether. The way things progressed.
See, I get that it’s a card game anime, and everything needs to be done through card fights. And yes, the main character is the main character, so he needs to win his way through the fights so that the plot can progress. But at least make it seem natural! The way Aichi played last season was through specific combination of cards that drew out his ace, Blaster Blade, and built on from there. It was rather interesting to watch, because it seemed more like the tactical game it should be. This was shown especially through Misaki, where the way she played was intriguing because all her moves were aimed at getting a killer combo out of the deck through soul charge, and also relied heavily on her observation of the opponent’s cards when he drew them as triggers. It’s a game of tactics, and the last season sold that idea pretty well. The way the games were played from this season and the following seem to imply Aichi has exponentially ten times the luck anyone else has, because almost every fight when he reached the climax of his lessons he would simply need to draw a card and it would be that particular trump card that somehow overpowers everything else. Wow. No tactics, no combinations, just draw a card for the next turn and, of course, he wins in that same turn. It was like he was winning because the plot demanded him to, where the entire universe revolves around getting him to win through a literal asspull so that the plot can progress.
And anyone can tell those asspulls were meant to be commercials for those cards because they have never been seen before in the show, and Aichi had never been shown in between fights buying new cards to improve on his own deck. Way to ruin a decent character, man.
And yeah, on the technical side, the animation of the show is pretty bad, as with basically all other cardfight vanguard seasons. Stiff animations, awkward angles, etc. At least the characters were varied enough so that they were really distinguishable from each other, but that’s about it.
Music-wise, it’s just really generic BGM that fades off into the background and stuff. The opening was nice because JAM PROJECT, and I guess it does work as hyping up anyone who likes watching the show. The endings were rather nice too.
As you can tell, I really did not enjoy this season, and this was what killed any vague interest I ever had in the franchise. If I were to be someone actually playing the game, I would feel really discouraged because the new season basically renders all the cards I had on hand useless. Limit break broke the game. The real surprise to me is how the game still managed to sell well enough to make another three seasons. I guess the kids were frantic enough to buy up all the new cards, and I don’t blame them for that. But all in all, from a storyline perspective this season screwed up so badly that it’s laughable. If you still want to watch this, by all means go ahead, but don’t expect too much. To give the creators some credit, it was a good idea to focus on what Psyqualia was, but the story ultimately turned out to be lacklustre and the plot backfired on itself into a splatter of melted Swiss cheese.
Thanks for maintaining your attention span up until this point, and feel free to inform me on how I can improve =)
*may include spoilers for season 1, but considering you're looking at this I assume you've already watched it*
I'm slightly frustrated with this so I'm writing an early review. Everything that season 1 did amazingly, season 2 just didn't do. There's so many plot holes and no direction to the plot 20 episodes in (51% of the way in). All he wants to do is meet a boy that did something weird to him and Kai. Then nothing really happens halfway through. After I'd finished season 1, I was excited to continue the series only to be met with disappointment.
Apparently the primary antagonist of season
1 completely forgot why he was the primary antagonist, and apparently so did Kai. He forgot why he hated Ren, but that doesn't even matter, he just goes against what he said in season 1 which leaves you feeling like 'okay then', apparently season 1 never happened. Everyone just happened to forget about psyqualia even though it was the big major plot point for season 1.
Originally I was going to give this a 6, only because I can still enjoy it, even though the story sucks for the first half of the season. But after watching it a bit more it gets a lot better, good enough to give a 7. Season 1 was just, wow, amazing. I loved it. Season 2, Kai, one of the best characters that built up the story and character development for him, Aichi and the rest of Team Q4 (and the supporting characters Miwa and Morikawa), is just not there. But all that is just knocked down and irrelevant as he is missing for half of the season without any references and everything he did in season 1 just didn't matter and the very few fights we see him in last about 30 seconds. The foundation of the story just didn't matter. However, Misaki actually has a good part in Asia Circuit-hen. Which is nice, I've been waiting to see more of her and see her have more impact in the series, other than winning 1 fight against Team Asteroid.
Still, I won't knock the season entirely in this review. Aichi isn't the typical OP protagonist, even though the opportunities are there for him to be OP. The cardfights aren't clichéd, but if you've watched season 1 you can still kind of guess the outcome. I was sad to see the first opening go after the new arc, but the new one isn't all that bad. That being said, I still prefer the first one. The sound tracks, however, are more memorable. I'm not sure if I've become more aware of them considering my last review on the first season wasn't too long ago.
The characters are still great. Ren is a lot more likeable, although his personality is a lot more different compared to season 1. It is to be expected since he's not completely obsessed with the power of psyqualia. Well, kinda. People don't hate each other which is nice to see, but there is still some competitive spirit and clashing/competitive BSing between characters (like Asaka and Misaki, but you can see the get along later on anyway).
To summarise, you won't be watching season 2 for the plot for the first half of the season. But if you don't plan on playing the game, you won't be watching vanguard for the cardfighting game anyway. So, for those plot/character-only people, try to stay patient until around episode 18/19, it gets better and there's some kind of direction and motive for the characters.
Now that I've actually finished it, I can safely bump the story up to 6, but overall it remains at a 7. I think it could have definitely done better and had a strong, proper direction in the beginning.
The ending was indeed thrilling and the last 5 episodes were pretty solid. It was worth the wait.