Monday, June 09, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #159: Cardfight!! Vanguard, Vol. 1 by Akira Itou

Watching someone else play a game can be entertaining -- all professional sports is based on that idea, as well as things like televised chess. So it's not all that strange an idea. However, reading a comic in which fictional characters play a game with each other...well, that's a bit weirder.

And that's what Cardfight!! Vanguard, Vol. 1is all about: the series may get wider or stranger as it goes along, since a lot of things do. But, for now, it's the story of a group of young men (and one woman) who play a cardgame called Vanguard in an unnamed Japanese town, in the vaguely near future. Vanguard, you will not be surprised to learn, is an actual card game that exists in our world as well, and, by an amazing coincidence, the author of this manga series, Akira Itou, is one of the major designers of that game. (Itou also has a longer history in manga based on cardgames: he was the primary artist on Yu-Gi-Oh! R and drew a bunch of other things for the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe.) There's also already an anime version, which will probably not surprise anyone.

Young Aichi Sendou is painfully shy, unable to even speak up in class. But he dreams of being a cardfighter, and having his best card stolen by the class bully drives him to the local card shop, where he battles the local top player to get his card back. Can you doubt that this ultra-shy, inexperienced kid wins his very first battle? (If you do, you haven't read many manga -- or any kind of stories for teens, frankly.)

That's the first story in this volume; the rest follow similar plotlines, mostly giving Aichi reasons to battle with other teens (that bully, a young woman who works in the shop but has similarly never played the game, and so on). Itou thankfully doesn't try to insist that Aichi wins every single battle -- but he does win the big ones in every story, which is very close to being the same thing. All of the stories in this book are basically cast-building: connecting the other characters to Aichi, gradually making them all friendlier, and showing a lot of game mechanics to suck in the young audience.

Cardfight!! Vanguard has two potential audiences: one that loves the anime or the game itself, and wants more of that thing, and the other audience of general fighting-manga fans, perhaps lapsed or current Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon (or other similar games) players, that Itou wants to entice into playing his game. I found it a little dull and thin, but I'm very much not the audience. If you like playing this kind of cardgame, reading this book is probably a cheaper way of figuring out if this particular game is for you than buying a bunch of cards, assembling a deck, and playing a few games would be.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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