Monday, 1 September 2014

Anime Review - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Link Joker (Eps 105-163) 2013

Right then, so, I've made it to Vanguards 3rd series....Link joker... , although a more accurate translation from the original Japanese would be "Chain joker", but never mind...
At the time of writing, only 48 episodes of the 59 episode series have been Released for free viewing on YouTube in English, so this review is somewhat incomplete, however the storyline is pretty simple to understand.

So, the story takes up some time after Team Q4 are victorious in the Asia circuit tournament, and Aichi has progressed from junior high school to senior high school, but, having switched schools, this means he now only really sees the other members of Team Q4 and his circle of friends when he visits Card Capital. The first few episodes of the series deal with Aichi attempting to start a "Cardfight Club" at his new school (Japanese schools place a heavy emphasis on extra curricular after school activities as a way of increasing student socialisation and learning opportunities) , however he finds that even with his enthusiasm, plus assistance from some of his friends, the prefect of the student council opposes him at every opportunity.
Its at this point the series makes a fairly big change to the established format and group of core characters, as many characters from previous series are relegated to being supporting or background characters, even Aichi himself is missing from several episodes during the mid series, where many of the stories concentrate on other characters facing problems with the series antagonist storyline, the "link joker".
"Link Joker" is the name given to a new aspect of the Void, who was the main enemy throughout series 1 and 2. simply put, the Void has now refined its tactics for conquering the planet Cray by instead of manipulating people who have "PsyQualia" powers, it applies its evil influence to anyone it can find, simply by having a cardfighter that is has possessed beat other players, who it in turn possesses by means of a technique called "Reverse". Those who are "Reversed" generally become evil, and their personality traits become a mirror opposite of their original standing, for example, in Kais case, he goes from enjoying a good game of Vanguard to simply wanting to win at all costs, generally by annihilating his opponents through the use of overpowered card mechanics, or in the case of Kenji, he goes from wanting to spread the message of truth and justice, to becoming a despotic tyrant obsessed with power. Generally, those who have been Reversed can be identified by the fact that their eyes go "dead" and they gain red facial tattoos whenever they use their power.
Only a few people, namely Aichi and Leon, are capable of resisting the power of Reverse, which not only makes the possessed evil, it also replaces cards in their deck with evil Reversed versions of their best cards.
The only way to release someone from being possessed is to bet them at a game of vanguard, which Aichi and Leon, then later joined by some of the others start doing once the Voids evil plot has been discovered.

This series gets really boring halfway through when they go back to having entire double episodes concentrating solely on a card by card play through of games, although this time round the "action" is stretched out by having cut scenes featuring flashbacks which fill in some of the lesser known characters backgrounds, which is pretty good as through this method we find out that Tetsu originally had no interest in vanguard until he met Ren, and that Kenji was originally rather crap at the game until he met  Gai and Yuri and learnt enough from being beaten by them to increase his skills and eventually surpass them.

This series also introduces a couple of new characters into Aichis circle of friends, namely Shingo Komoi, a fan of Aichi and a pretty good Vanguard player, and Naoki Ishida, a young man who originally tried to bully Aichi but was amazed by how confident Aichi became when playing Vanguard, so much to the point that he starts playing Vanguard himself being as he has never had a proper hobby himself before and finds he quite enjoys playing the game both of these characters end up being reversed at one point, and Aichi saves them).
One interesting-ish plot development is a growing attraction between Kourin (of the pop group "Ultra Rare", now a student at Aichis school) and Aichi, something which is played on after she is Reversed and becomes obsessed with Reversing him so they can be together.

So, thus far the series is fair to middlin' in content, although the storyline is basically the same as the YuGiOh! GX "Society of Light" storyline, insofar as an outside power begins beating people at a card game in order to convert them to their cause, with the fate of the world decided by who comes out on top. it really drops the ball mid series though by returning to the long drawn out cardfights between players during which the characters exchange tense and somewhat boring dialogue, again, a departure form series 2s in game dialogue, most of which was actually entertaining and somewhat funny.

My verdict on this series is that they shouldn't have tampered with a winning formula and gone back to the ridiculously over serious tones of the original series, but nontheless it isn't a bad watch.

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