“I’ve discovered this terrifically fun new game – it’s called ‘cards’. What happens is, you sit round a table with all your friends, you deal out five ‘cards’ each, and then the object of the game is to give all your money away as quickly as possible.” – Prince George (Hugh Laurie in Blackadder)
A little while ago I reviewed the first volume of the manga Cardfight!! Vanguard for MyM Magazine. The manga in question is part of a big trading card franchise. When I reviewed this manga I thought it was totally rubbish.
As far as I was concerned, only the art, which I considered to be OK, prevented me from giving it a 1 out of 10 rating, or even worse for that matter. I planned not to read it again. But for some reason Vertical, the company that publishes the series in English, sent me a copy of volume 2 in the post. It seems that Vertical are gluttons for punishment.
The card game that is part of the series is set on the alien planet “Cray”. In it players call upon “Units” to fight each other with the first player to deal six damage cards on their foe winning. The story begins with Aichi Sendou, a timid boy, getting his favourite card stolen by a bully, who in turn loses it to a stronger player called Kai. Aichi plays Kai to win his card back and succeeds. The story follows Aichi as he makes more friends playing the game.
In this second volume a gang called “Foo Fighter” (nothing to do with the American rock band obviously), starts bullying people and invading clubs, using special gloves while playing that cause a player to feel pain whenever their cards take damage. Kai seems to have some former connection to this group, which is not fully explained in this volume.
The big problem with Cardfight!! Vanguard is that there is so little depth to it. It is just totally commercialised. Admittedly the first volume is worse for this because it has to explain the rules to players, and if you do not play the game, then reading the subsequent volumes is tricky to understand because you forget how to play it. You get the feeling that the manga is just one big advert, and this could just put people off.
To make things worse, this is from Vertical. Vertical is probably the more highbrow of the manga publishers, releasing many of the more obscure works of Osamu Tezuka and more cultish, adult titles. In comparison to those, Cardfight!! Vanguard is cheap and tacky. It would be like a TV channel broadcasting a David Attenborough wildlife documentary, a performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, an double-bill of QI, a detailed history of the Tudor monarchs, and then all of this being followed by an hour-long infomercial for a food blender.
The other issue is that if you want to play a trading card game, then what you do is buy a trading card game, not something that just promotes it. Also, watching people playing a card game is dull. In Sword Art Online Reki Kawahara wrote that: “There’s nothing more boring than watching someone else play an RPG.” I would argue that watching a trading card game is possibly worse, because in RPG there is a lot more action, certainly when compared to people putting cards on a table and shouting out nonsensical instructions.
Having said this, this new plot involving the Foo Fighter group and Kai’s connection with them could be the start of something deeper. I don’t really expect much from it because of the lack of plot in the first two volumes, and the fact that it is hard to follow if you don’t understand the rules. But if something does begin to develop, I am perfectly willing to examine it more closely.