One last time. Stand up, my Vanguard! Final Turn!
At long last we have reached the culmination of this epic journey that is Cardfight Vanguard. After following the series from its first DVD release from Hanabee, I now stand 65 episodes later in awe. Not only did Cardfight Vanguard shuffle the deck on what makes a good card games anime series, it also dealt out a new hand that veterans of the genre had never seen before.
Cardfight Vanguard is fresher than Will Smith in parachute pants and this final volume only further proves why Vanguard has become the phenomenon it has.
Following on from volume three of the series, we are still witnessing Aichi’s struggle with the darkside that exists within him. After gaining the PSYqualia ability, Aichi began to foresee what was to come in his matches, which of course made him a mighty foe to be reckoned with in the world of Vanguard. But the thing about power is that it tends to go to people’s head. Such was the case with Aichi, our meek hero who became a conceited antagonist over the course of the series.
It was an undoubtedly ballsy direction for Cardfight Vanguard to take and it was one that pays off majorly in this epic final part. Having struggled with the allure of the darkside that perennial bad guy Ren presented to him, Aichi ultimately sees the light with a little help from long time frenemy Kai. This all culminates in an epic high stakes clash between Ren and Aichi.
Perhaps the biggest reveal of the series to date is the fact that the supposedly fantasy world of Planet Cray upon which the Vanguard card game is based is in fact actually real. While I found this revelation to feel somewhat hokey and more than a little bit reaching on the part of the series, it fit well enough into the story direction that it was believable rather than inconceivable. The fact that the fate of the planet hangs in the balance of Aichi and Ren’s cardfight gives more weight to the concept and definitely goes a long way to building tension to the outcome of the battle.
While we have seen both the characters and series itself evolve quite dramatically over the course of this series, its greatest accomplishment is the fact that despite its transition to more fantastical elements such as psychic powers and alien planets, the series still feels so grounded and real. The focus never drifts to far from the game of Vanguard and its well constructed rule set, which gives all of the more magical elements of the show a sense of realism that most series just cannot pull off in such a scenario. Mixing fantasy with reality is never an easy line to straddle but Vanguard does it wonderfully.
Hanabee’s release of volume 4 is another fairly bare bones release to be completely honest. While it does feature the English dub of the series the video quality does feel somewhat dated at times. Despite this there are some excellent animation sequences, it is a shame that the quality of the DVD is choppy at times detracting from some brilliant scenes.
It is worth noting that as of the time of posting this review, this is the last scheduled release of Cardfight Vanguard from Hanabee Entertainment. This release wraps up the series 65 episode long first sesason, but fans of the series know that the show has had multiple follow ups since this original run, such as the Asia Circuit series, Link Joker series, Legion Mate series and of course the brand new G series that has only just begun in Japan. It is unknown whether Hanabee will pick up and of the other Vanguard series, only time will tell.
Cardfight Vanguard’s first season concludes in epic fashion with the long awaited confrontation between Aichi and Ren. The journey to this point has been unforgettable. The story of Team Q4 and their struggles both personally and on the battle field have proved captivating over this 65 episode run. Vanguard is one of the boldest anime series in recent memory, it breaks convention at every turn and plays hands that just haven’t been played before. There is something so thrilling about that and that is what makes Cardfight Vanguard so very special. Vanguard has rearranged the landscape of card games anime forever. This is the benchmark to which everything should be held up to. This is Cardfight Vanguard.
You can pick up a copy of Cardfight Vanguard Volume 4 from Hanabee here.