Cardfight!! Vanguard is an anime based on the manga series and trading card game of the same name. It is produced by Bushiroad, a major collectible card game company in Japan.
The series takes place in a world where card games have become an essential part of life. With millions of these games existing in this world, Vanguard has risen to become the most popular. People would train all their lives to become better, stronger and the best in the world—schools would create clubs and classes for that reason, even the international media has their eyes focused on Vanguard events and tournaments. It has become a lifestyle and an opportunity for people to become known around the world. This is where our story takes place, where Aichi Sendo's tale is told—in which he never thought a card game could change his life forever.
During a card fight the players take on the role of a "Vanguard". The Vanguard serves as the fighter's avatar in the game and can be upgraded to a higher or equal grade card which a player then "Rides", creating their new Vanguard. Players can also summon additional units to boost their Vanguard's power, known as the "Rear Guard". The main goal of the card game is to inflict six damage points on the opposing player's Vanguard. The player can choose to defend their Vanguard with other troops from their hand, known as "Defending", or use it in conjunction with already existing troops in the field, called an "Intercept" . When a player attacks they can draw a card from their deck to check for what's called a "Drive Trigger", something that can help boost their attack and when their Vanguard is attacked a player can check for a "Damage Trigger". A Damage Trigger's effects vary including the healing of damage points, drawing of cards, or addition of attack points. The cards also have special abilities, many of which we'll encounter as the series progresses.
Aichi is the main protagonist of the series and before the events of the main story he was a quiet, shy, lonely boy. He was often bullied and beaten in school, until one day he had a fateful encounter with Kai who at that time was still a cheerful and friendly kid. Kai gave Aichi the Vanguard card Blaster Blade and told the young boy that if he believed in himself he can become as strong as the knight in the card. This gave Aichi hope that one day he will have enough courage to become a powerful card fighter.
Fast forward to the beginning of the series, Aichi is still the same shy and lonely boy (but he's taller now, so that's something). He often looks at Blaster Blade for comfort and encouragement which caught the eye of Morikawa, prompting him to steal the card in order to face a powerful opponent. (Guess who he is.) But this opponent wasn't just some normal player; it was Kai. Morikawa eventually lost to him again, losing Blaster Blade in the process. This eventually leads to Aichi challenging Kai to a match, and despite being his first time he managed to beat the powerful player. (Although Kai was holding back) That first card fight started it all for Aichi; he became more confident and outgoing, even befriending Katsumi Morikawa and Taishi Miwa (and maybe even Kai?).
He slowly grows in confidence and learns to stand up on his own with every single Vanguard match he encounters. Aichi sometimes compares himself with the stronger Vanguard players, but this leads him to doubt his own abilities and see himself as the weak link or the odd one out of the group. He overcomes this by seeking inspiration from his trusty Royal Paladin deck and with his friends that support him. This is what also makes Aichi an outstanding player, because whether he wins or loses he learns from his mistakes and sees every match as a means to become better and stronger. With encouragement coming from Shin Nitta, Aichi eventually participates in the Card Capital shop tournament which would lead to the formation of Team Q4 (Team Quadrifoglio).
His first duel with Kai motivated Aichi to become a stronger player, as he wanted to become good enough to face Kai in full strength. This drive of Aichi leads him to a thirst for power, evolving to a point where he disregards his own health and ignores the warnings of other people. The allure of greater strength might just lead him to the dark side. ("Dun Dun Duuuuuuun!")
Deck and Play style
"Stand up, my avatar! Blaster Blade!"
-Aichi Sendou, whenever he rides Blaster Blade
Aichi sees the people around him—his friends, family, and teammates as a source of strength. This reflects on his play style as a Vanguard player as he uses a Royal Paladin deck which utilizes a strategy mainly focusing on swarming the field with lower leveled troops in order to boost the higher grade units. (United we stand, Divided we fall). His most iconic Vanguard of the series is Blaster Blade.
Well it wouldn't be a card fighting anime without a rival named Kai. He is the strongest player in Card Capital as well as being the most serious faced player in the shop. Kai rarely jokes around and is quiet, cool, and collected. The only time we actually see him talk is when he has remarks on the opposing player's lack of skill or when he has to explain a strategy used by other card fighters.
Kai is proof that a card-playing enthusiast can still be cool and scary, but he's not always like that (though most of the time he is). The first time we see him play against Aichi, Kai even took the time to explain the rules and go easy on him (but after that, he went full beast mode). He is a really confident player famous for his line "Final Turn,"(If you're a player that hears those lines, you know he's the real deal) his insight and extensive knowledge about strategies and play styles make him the most competent player out of team Q4. Though he is the strongest member of the team he doesn't care for his teammates that much and he mostly keeps to himself during matches while remarking on how weak both his opponents and his team members are. To put more emphasis on Kai's skills, he also participates in underground Vanguard fights, where he chooses to face cheating opponents to become even stronger. (Yes, he handily defeats cheaters as well)
Despite his often cold demeanor, Kai still has a close friend—Taishi Miwa who is often the only one to support or defend Kai whenever his opinions might come off a bit too blunt. Though he often denies it, Kai shows to have a soft spot for Aichi. He also speaks like a D and D Dungeon Master and likes to "picture" things.Note: Kai loves onions. (No seriously, he loves onions)
Deck and Play style
"Just watch. This is who I really am! Burn everything in this world to ashes with your apocalyptic fire...Dragonic Overlord!"
-Toshiki Kai, when summoning Dragonic Overlord
Kai uses a deck from the Kagerou clan that mostly consists of dragon-based units. His strategy focuses on defeating his opponent's rear guards in order to gain bonuses from them. His most iconic Vanguard is Dragonic Overlord, who has a special ability to continuously attack the enemy with every successful hit. He is a very versatile player, changing his main Vanguard and play style when the situation requires.
The loud-mouthed, skilled, and energetic member of Team Q4 and despite his young age, Kamui can easily trample opponents several years his senior. His red eyes match his fiery passion for the game for he takes on any opponent that comes his way. (Well, as long they're strong enough in his eyes.)
Before the start of the series, Kamui was often bullied because of his small height, but he found strength with the help of Daimonji Gouki and he eventually realized that true strength doesn't come from one's physical appearance. However, Kamui still hates it when people look down on him because of his height and age, and it's for this exact reason he often fights with Morikawa. He also deeply cares for his teammates even faking his own "quitting" of the team in order for Aichi to have a chance to play in the Vanguard national tournament.
Kamui has a big crush on Aichi's sister Emi Sendou and he constantly does whatever it takes to impress her, even to the point of calling Aichi his "brother." He is always accompanied by two other kids, who often act as color commentators for Kamui. (or abbreviating words that should not be abbreviated). Kamui is also seen to misquote famous phrases or metaphors which makes most of the other characters correct him most of the time. (Haha what a chimp, err I mean chump.)
Deck and Play Style
"I released that raging, evil soul! I ride Brutal Jack!"
-Kamui, when riding Brutal Jack
Kamui would often take the second turn of the games since he plays a strongly offensive strategy— playing second turn would allow him to attack his opponent with heavy-hitting damage early on. Kamui favors the Nova Grappler clan, relying on brute force of units such as Genocide Jack with abilities that can enable him to stand the rearguard which allows him to make multiple attacks. His primary Vanguard is Asura Kaiser, later changing it to Mr. Invincible during the Card Capital tournament.
The female member of Team Q4 with an exceptional memory that is both her blessing and her curse. Misaki is cynical and short-tempered, and she often threatens Morikawa and Kamui whenever they fight and become too noisy. She works as a clerk in Card Capital with her uncle, Shinemon Nitta, the manager of the shop.
Misaki is one the quieter characters in the group and prior to her match against Aichi, she had never played a single Vanguard fight, but was able to learn all its rules and play styles from her time behind the store's counter. She is calm, collected and doesn't really show enthusiasm during card fights. Misaki doesn't really talk much and she mostly keeps to herself, but her quiet attitude usually changes when it comes to maintaining the peace in the shop. She also has perfect memory which she uses well in card fights—but this helpful ability of hers stems from a tragic past.
(Get ready for the feels train!)
When Misaki was still a child she grew up in a loving household—a cheerful and bubbly kid that lived with loving parents. Her father even gave her a special deck and promised to teach her how to play Vanguard one day. Sadly, this did not happen because on a rainy night her parents died in a horrible car accident. Unfortunately for the young Misaki, she arrived at the scene too early and had a few glimpses of her parents' dead bodies. This triggered her perfect memory which would later haunt her during Vanguard fights. The accident also caused her to withdraw from others causing her to silently grieve her parents' deaths alone.
(Feels train over)
Deck and Play Style
"Gentle light that illuminates the darkness...your smile will envelop the world. I ride the Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi!"
-Misaki, when she rides Tsukuyomi
She uses her exceptional memory perfectly during Vanguard fights with her Think-tank based strategy. Her memory allows her to keep track of her own cards as well as her opponents. This enables Misaki to execute attacks and use abilities with perfect timing. Misaki first uses an Oracle Think-tank deck with her main Vanguard being CEO Amaterasu and later changing it to Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyom—a card from the deck her father gave her.
Ren is the leader and best player of team Foo Fighters, a back-to-back National Champion and is probably the only character in the series that can outmatch Kai in terms of confidence and arrogance. He is brutally unforgiving during card fights and often toys with his opponents before beating them.
Ren's personality closely resembles Kai's, albeit being more evil and arrogant. He is first shown being invited for a match in Team Ultra's PSY card shop while using a similar deck to his opponent Kourin. Being the national champion that he is Ren easily defeated Kourin while maintaining a strong card advantage throughout the game and to make it even more impressive the deck he was using was completely new to him. (Scary)
He is former teammates with Kai Tashiki, but after Kai left the team Ren developed an obsessive hatred towards him. Ren is also shown to like inflicting pain on other people and enjoys it when he sees other people's suffering. (No surprise, he does dress like a vampire) He has a special ability called PSY Qualia, which allows Ren to predetermine the outcome of card matches, and coupled with the fact that he is already a skilled player, it makes him even more deadly. (Double Scary)
Deck and Play Style
"Where there is light, there is darkness... That's one of a pair of truths... and light can only be swallowed up by darkness... That's a truth, too! Appear from the everlasting darkness, Dark Spirits! I ride... Blaster Dark!"
-Ren Suzugamori, when he plays Blaster Dark
Though he is a scary and a somewhat sadistic person, Ren's strategy mostly relies on defense as he focuses on outlasting his opponent's attacks until their hands are too small to effectively guard. Once he has his opponents defense properly withered, Ren then uses his main line of Shadow Paladin units that gained power from fallen troops to attack his opponent with devastating effects . This kind of strategy coupled with the prediction ability of Psy Qualia virtually renders Ren unbeatable. His signature Vanguard is Blaster Dark. (Triple Scary)
Team Ultra Rare
A group of sisters that run the mysterious Psy card shop. They are an idol group that performs in Vanguard Tournaments, with many Vanguard players going crazy over them (particularly, Morikawa). They also have a strange connection with PSY Qualia. (Maybe it comes from their singing? Probably not...)
They were first seen inviting Aichi to their card shop, with Kourin "evaluating" his strength in a card fight. Though Kourin proved to be the superior fighter, the match still convinced Suiko to believe in Aichi's abilities and gave him the card King of Knights, Alfred, as a gift. After the match, Kourin encourages Aichi to enter a tournament in order to further improve his card fighting skills.
Deck and Play Style
At the start Kourin is the only one shown to card fight, primarily using a Royal Paladin deck which is centered around Fang of Light, Garmore. Her strategy is to rapidly swarm the field with units while sacrificing her card advantage in order to perform powerful offensive attacks. Later on in the series the three sisters start to participate in more card fights. They mainly use Angel Feather decks.
The strongest card fighter in the series! (Nah, just kidding) He is the "self proclaimed" strongest fighter in Card Capital, an arrogant and overconfident player that has an overwhelming obsession with Grade 3 cards. Starting off as a bully, Morikawa has gradually evolved to being Aichi's closest friend and strongest supporter.
He is first seen stealing Aichi's most precious card, Blaster Blade, in hopes of beating Kai in a card fight. (and of course he loses) Morikawa really loves Grade 3s and does his best to include as many as possible in his deck, which renders it extremely unbalanced and gives him a hard time playing effectively. He would blame his loss on "bad luck" most of the time rather than his poor deck building and ignores others' comments on how to improve his deck.
Morikawa is big fan of Team Ultra Rare's member, Kourin Tatsunagi, often going into frenzy mode whenever she is set to appear in an event. He also accompanies Team Q4 in the National Tournament, but he was mainly there to buy limited edition Team Ultra Rare merchandise rather than supporting his friends.
Deck and Play style
I have no use for anything lower than a Grade 3."
-Morikawa, when expressing his love for Grade 3s
Morikawa uses a rare and hard to master strategy that is stuffing as many Grade 3 units in the deck as possible. Jokes aside, Morikawa doesn't actually have a set clan for his deck or a specific strategy while playing, and he mostly relies on brute force to win the match. (which believe it or not, is not a good strategy). His favorite card is Juggernaut Maximum, but give him any Grade 3 and he will probably love it the same way.
Kai's closest friend, having known him since they were young. Taishi seems to be the only one that knows what's going on Kai's head and is often the one to explain Kai's behavior to the other characters. Unlike his best friend, Taishi is more cheerful and friendly towards other people. He also serves as a bridge between Team Q4 and Kai as he always makes an effort for his friend to open up more to his teammates.
He deeply cares for Kai, as he followed him to the city's underground, where he witnessed Kai's confrontation with the underground Vanguard fighters. Kai was just about to be beaten up in an all-out brawl before Taishi managed to intervene and talked the underground king, Toshiki, out of hurting Kai. This unfortunately lead to Taishi being used as a hostage during Kai and Toshiki's match. After the match his understanding of Kai is further emphasized when he commented how he knew it was Kai's plan to use him as bait to face the underground king.
Deck and Play Style
"Final Turn! I ride Garnet Dragon, "Flash"!"
-Taishi Miwa, whenever he rides his avatar, Garnet Dragon.
Being Kai's constant sparring partner served Taishi well during the second Card Capital shop tournament. He was shown to actually have a good strategy during his match against Aichi, focusing his Kagerou deck on Garnet Dragon, "Flash" and his skill that enables the other Kagerou units to become stronger whenever his attacks hit.
The manage of Card Capital, and Misaki's uncle. Shin is actually the one to bring together the members of Q4 as he was the one to coordinate the shop tournament that eventually led to the team's formation. He acts as the team's coach and though he doesn't play Vanguard, he has great knowledge on most strategies and cards of the game. Shin acts as a mentor for both Aichi and Misaki and helps them overcome their own fears and struggles, he also helps the team develop their own decks and strategies. He is also helpful to new players in his shop and often teaches them how to play the game whenever he has a chance.
Known as Assisticat in the English dub, he is Misaki and Shin's pet and often takes over card shop guarding duties whenever the two are away. He is often seen on the counter of Card Capital and shown to understand human language since he has show to resent being called "sub manager" and only does things whenever he is referred to as "manager."
Deck and Play Style
-Assisticat, practically every time he speaks
Sub manager doesn't own any decks nor does he participate in card fights. (He's cat, what did you expect?)
Of course, this series has more characters living within its world, so if you love yourself a card fight anime that brings both laughs and some life lessons along the way, be sure to check out Cardfight!! Vanguard and tag along with Aichi and the rest of the Card Capital crew.