Sunday, December 11, 2011

Episode Guide; Rides 1 & 2

Game Set Rides 1 & 2: Vanguard of Destiny & Ride to Victory

Story Summary
Aichi and Kai's first fight. Two years ago, Aichi was facing heavy bullying from his peers; at that time Kai appeared to give him confidence, gifting Aichi with the rare Blaster Blade card. While Kai moved shortly after, his lesson stayed with Aichi, and Sendou went on to seek him out over the next two years to finally have a cardfight with Kai. But when Aichi finally finds his missing friend, Kai has been changed by what he saw in his new town...

Story Analysis
We know that Vanguard is at least eight years old from later episodes, and the flashback with Aichi and Kai is from two years ago. Since Blaster Blade is now considered a rare, out of print card and Kai was just a kid when he had it, it's probably two years old rather than the highly-exaggerated eight that Oracle Think Tank gets. Note that Aichi's deck is not a starter deck; he explicitly says that he made it himself to help shut out all the bad things in his life. Aichi probably knew the basics of play before this episode, but like any new player, had to take time to get familiar with the rules once forced into practice.

These two episodes follow a parallel structure. Two years ago, Aichi is feeling suffocated by the world around him, and faces physical pressure from bullies. And now in the present, Aichi is being put down by the world around him, getting home as soon as possible to avoid the kind of humiliation he deals with in Mr. Mark's class. Aichi continues to face pressure from bullies, in the form of Morikawa. And just as his joy in life was taken away from him by bullies two years past, Blaster Blade, which gave him back that joy, is taken by Morikawa; in both cases it is Kai who gives Blaster Blade to Aichi.

This is the only time Kai explicitly tries to push Aichi away or dissuade him from his hero worship. After this episode, Kai never once tries to convince Aichi that he's a bad person. Kai attempting to push Aichi away also coincides with our first hints at PSY Qualia, an enigmatic ability that isn't well defined, but that Kai is definitely able to pick up on. I had originally suggested that Kai was able to force his initial Dragonic Overlord draw through Qualia, but since ride 44 disproved this, that's out now. However, Kai may have seen Aichi tapping into Qualia when he perceived Aichi as Blaster Blade.

Fight Analysis

Each turn analysis will show which character's turn it is, the current field, the number of cards in each character's hand, and if possible which cards are in their hand. Hand size includes that turn's draw. Shield power is written as Sn while power is simply n. Triggers will be abbreviated using the following standard.
CT = Critical Triger
ST = Stand Trigger
DT = Draw Trigger
HT = Heal Trigger
The battlefield will be represented as three rows, with each side separated by “vs.” [R] indicates a rearguard row, [V] indicates a vanguard row.
[V] Stardust Trumpeter(6000) vs Lizard Runner Undeux(6000)
Kai's hand: Six cards. Contains at least Bahr, Aermo and Nehalem.
Kai's damage: 0/6
Triggers: 16
Aichi's hand: Five. Flogal(ST), Flogal(ST), Epona(CT), Wingal, Marron.
Aichi's damage: 0/6
Triggers: 13
Kai rides Bahr (8000). Kai calls Aermo (6000) and ends his turn. Being the first episode, Kai and Aichi are both making the clear mistake of not starting off with Conroe and Barcgal, but we won't get the luxury of seeing those units for some time now. It would have been better for Aichi to redraw those Flogal and Epona cards so he'd have the chance of drawing them during a drive or damage check.

Kai made the logical choice in calling Aermo behind Bahr instead of as a frontline rearguard. Not only can Bahr get a boost here, but Aichi has literally no way of attacking the back row.


[V] Stardust Trumpeter(6000) vs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000)
Kai's hand: Four. Contains Nehalem.
Kai's damage: 0/6
Triggers: 16
Aichi's hand: Six. Flogal(ST), Flogal(ST), Epona(CT), Wingal, Marron and Gallatin.
Aichi's damage: 0/6
Triggers: 13
Aichi draws Gallatin and rides Marron(8000), then calls Wingal(6000) behind her. Aichi attacks(14000) and drive checks another Marron. Kai does not guard and damage checks Dragon Monk, Goku(10000). Aichi probably could have called those two Flogal together and supported them for another damage with no ill effects.
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Little Sage, Marron(8000) vs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000)
Kai's hand: Five. Contains Nehalem and Bahr.
Kai's damage: 1/6
Triggers: 16
Aichi's hand: Five. Flogal(ST), Flogal(ST), Epona(CT), Marron and Gallatin.
Aichi's damage: 0/6
Triggers: 13
Kai draws one card and rides Nehalem(10000). Going by where he pulled it from, Nehalem is the second card he drew on the first turn. Kai calls Bahr(8000) and attacks Marron with it. Since their attack power is equal, Bahr will win; Aichi defends with Epona for a shield of 18000, blocking the attack. Kai attacks with Nehalem boosted by Aermo(16000) and Aichi does not guard. Kai drive checks a Wyvern Strike, Tejas(8000) into his hand and Aichi damage checks a Flash Shield, Iseult(8000).
There's a goof at this part. When Nehalem attacks Marron, her defending power is displayed as 18000 when it should be just 8000. Seems the animators didn't quite understand the rules yet.
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Little Sage, Marron(8000) vs Dragon Knight Nehalem(10000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000).
[R] No rearguardvs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
Kai's hand; Aermo, Jarran, Monica and Monica.
Kai's damage; 1/6
Triggers; 14
Aichi's hand; Six. Flogal(ST), Flogal(ST), Marron, Gallatin, and one other.
Aichi's damage; 2/6
Triggers; 13
Aichi draws, and then rides the Knight of Silence, Gallatin(10000). Aichi then calls to his left rearguard circle Marron(8000) and Flogal(5000) to support her. Boosted by Wingal, Gallatin attacks Kai's vanguard(16000) and goes unguarded. Aichi drive checks another Gallatin and Kai damage checks Dragon Knight Aleph(9000). Aichi then attacks with Marron, boosted by Flogal(13000) but Kai guards with Hope of Flame, Aermo(S15000).
When Aichi draws this turn, he puts the card to his far right in his hand. Gallatin is taken out as the third card in his hand, so Gallatin is his draw from his first turn that until now we've only seen the back of.


[R] Flogal(5000) boosting Little Sage, Marron(8000)
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Knight of Silence, Gallatin(10000) vs Dragon Knight Nehalem(10000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000).
[R] No rearguardvs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000)
Kai's hand: Jarran, Tejas, Monica and Monica.
Kai's damage: 2/6
Triggers: 14
Aichi's hand: Three. Flogal(ST), Gallatin, and one other.
Aichi's damage: 2/6
Triggers: 13
Kai calls to his right rearguard circles Wyvern Strike, Jarran(8000) and Wyvern Strike, Tejas(6000) to boost him. Kai attacks Gallatin with Bahr, making a critical error that Aichi nonetheless guards against with Flogal; Bahr's power is 8000. Gallatin's is 10000. Bahr cannot actually deal damage here. Nonetheless, Aichi guards using Flogal(S20000).
Having wasted Aichi's hand, Kai follows up with a Jarran-Tejas combo on Gallatin. When Jarran supports Tejas, Tejas gets an additional +4000 power, bringing the attack up to 18000. Aichi has nothing to guard with and damage checks a Marron.
Kai finishes his turn by attacking with Nehalem boosted by Aermo, and drive checks Embodiment of Spear, Tahr for +5000 and +1 Critical(21000+1). Aichi damage checks a Wingal and Iseult.




[R] Flogal(5000) boosting Little Sage, Marron(8000) vs Wyvern Strike, Jarran(8000) boosted by Wyvern Strike, Tejas(6000)
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Knight of Silence, Gallatin(10000) vs Dragon Knight Nehalem(10000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000).
[R] No rearguardvs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000)
Kai's hand: Tahr, Monica and Monica.
Kai's damage: 2/6
Triggers: 13
Aichi's hand: Three. Gallatin, Blaster Blade and one other.
Aichi's damage: 4/6
Triggers: 13
Aichi draws and rides Blaster Blade(9000).



Next Episode

Aichi counterblasts 2 and retires Kai's Jarran using Blaster Blade's ability. Aichi calls Gallatin to his left rearguard circle(10000) and attacks Kai's vanguard using a Wingal-supported Blaster Blade. Through Wingal's effect, Blaster Blade gains an extra +6000 power(19000). Aichi drive checks his third Gallatin, while Kai damage checks another Dragon Monk Goku.
Aichi supports Marron with Flogal and attacks again(13000), and Kai damage checks another Nehalem. Finally, Aichi attacks with Gallatin, causing Kai to damage check a Bahr. Things are not going nearly as well as Aichi thinks here.

[R] Flogal(5000) boosting Little Sage, Marron(8000) vs No rearguard boosted by Wyvern Strike, Tejas(6000)
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Blaster Blade(9000) vs Dragon Knight Nehalem(10000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000).
[R] Knight of Silence Gallatin(10000)vs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000)
Kai's hand: Four. Tahr, Monica, Monica and Dragonic Overlord.
Kai's damage: 5/6
Triggers: 13
Aichi's hand: Two. Stardust Trumpeter and Gallatin.
Aichi's damage: 4/6
Triggers: 13
Kai draws and rides Dragonic Overlord(11000). Kai calls two Dragon Dancer Monicas(5000), one to replace Jarran and one to support Bahr. Continuing with his plan from Aichi's turn, Kai counterblasts 3 to activate Dragonic Overlord's ability, increasing his power to 16000. Kai supports Bahr with Monica(13000) and attacks Aichi, forcing Aichi to defend with Stardust Trumpeter(S19000). Kai supports Moncia with Jarran(11000) and attacks Blaster Blade, causing him to use the last of his hand, Gallatin(S14000).
Aichi's hand spent, Kai boosts Dragonic Overlord with Aermo(21000) and attacks Gallatin, drive checking another Dragonic Overlord. Because a rearguard was destroyed, Dragonic Overlord stands, this time targeting Marron; its power reverts to 16000 and Kai drive checks another Dragonic Overlord. Dragonic Overlord stands, finally targeting Blaster Blade, and drive checks into a critical trigger(21000+1). With Aichi being 6/6 he has technically lost at this point, but Aichi damage checks Gallatin and then Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine(HT) allowing him to heal 1 point of damage. Aichi goofs a little and heals an unflipped damage card instead of a flipped one.




[R] Flogal(5000) boosting no rearguard vs Dragon Dancer Monica(5000) boosted by Wyvern Strike, Tejas(6000)
[V] Wingal(6000) boosting Blaster Blade(9000) vs Dragonic Overlord(11000) boosted by Flame of Hope, Aermo(6000).
[R] No rearguardvs Embodiment of Armor, Bahr(8000) boosted by Dragon Dancer Monica(5000)
Kai's hand: Two. Tahr and Tahr.
Kai's damage: 5/6
Triggers: 12
Aichi's hand: One. Elaine.
Aichi's damage: 5/6
Triggers: 12
Aichi draws and calls Elaine(6000) to his left rearguard circle. Aichi supports Elaine with Flogal(11000) and attacks Dragonic Overlord, but Kai guards with Tahr(S21000). Aichi then attacks with Blaster Blade boosted by Wingal(19000) and Kai guards with his last Tahr(S21000) but Aichi drive checks an Epona for +5000 and +1 Critical. 24000+1>21000, causing Aichi to actually deal a total of seven damage to Kai across the whole game, a feat that requires two heal triggers to survive. Kai damage checks Nehalem.
Aichi's victory.



Kai is the first person in the series to get a drive trigger, and the first person to get a critical trigger. He also draws three consecutive Dragonic Overlords.

In a later episode, it's made a big deal of that Aichi has 'mastered' Blaster Blade by superior calling him and using his ability to retire a rearguard. But here, Aichi uses that same ability in episode 1.

Based on Aichi's draw patterns(Consecutive Flogals, Gallatins, Elaines and Marrons) I don't think his deck could have been shuffled very well. How do you do that anime shuffle, anyways?

Decks used in Rides 1 & 2
Aichi's Deck: Shining Swordsman of the Holy Land(20/50 cards)

Grade 0
x2 Stardust Trumpeter
x2 Flogal ST
x2 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x2 Yggdrasil Maiden Elaine HT
Grade 1
x2 Wingal (PR/0007)
x3 Little Sage, Marron
x2 Flash Shield, Iseult
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x1 Blaster Blade

Kai's Deck: Raging Dragon of the Empire(20/50 cards)

Grade 0
x1 Lizard Runner Undeux
x2 Dragon Dancer Monica DT
x2 Embodiment of Spear, Tahr CT
Grade 1
x3 Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
x2 Flame of Hope, Aermo
x1 Wyvern Strike, Jarran
Grade 2
x3 Dragon Knight Nehalem
x1 Wyvern Strike, Tejas
x1 Dragon Knight Aleph
Grade 3
x2 Dragon Monk Goku
x3 Dragonic Overlord (TD02/001)

Play Analysis
Breaking these decks down by grade, there were three options for Royal Paladin starting vanguards at the time of this episode's release; Stardust Trumpeter, Graeme and Barcgal. Trumpeter and Graeme are statistically identical, whereas Barcgal moves to the rearguard when you ride over it, giving you another unit, conserving your hand when doing so, and giving you access to its skill to call yet another unit. This makes Barcgal superior in every way to the other two options--even from an argument of conserving your soul, Barcgal can be used to do a massive soulcharge later on.

Meanwhile Kagerou has two such vanguards to choose from; Lizard Runner Undeux and Lizard Soldier Conroe. While Undeux is a Trumpeter copy, Conroe moves to the rearguard as Barcgal does, and can self-retire to call another unit, giving it far more utility than Undeux.

My apologies to Wingal fans, but as he only has one card he can target, and the boost he gives only rises up to 19000(just 1000 points short of where it needs to be) Wingal's boost is of questionable competitive use when not in combination with Starlight Unicorn's skill. Marron is stuck in much the same department, but is excused by how limited the grade 1 options were in the first booster set. The thing is, there are a series of important numbers; 10K, 15K and 20K. Each one corresponds to an additional card being laid down to guard the attack, so hitting 20K is a serious deal because it absolutely wrecks the opponent's hand. This means that anything between these numbers can be rounded down to the lowest possible 'waypoint' number, i.e. 19K becomes 15K and 22K becomes 20K.

In effect, Wingal and Blaster Blade achieves the same thing as Marron and Blaster Blade; 19K versus 17K. Both of these are for practical purposes 15K, and Marron can target anyone while Wingal can only target Blade.

On the Kagerou side of things, Jarran is much the same deal as Wingal. Its one target has less power than Blade, but ultimately receives the same benefits from having Bahr or Gojo behind it. Meanwhile Joka is the back row card Kagerou has, because not only can she reach 9000 power easily, but her ability stacks so she can also get to 12000 and work in concert with Nehalem to break the 20K barrier.

Aichi is not running a Grade 3, and with only one Blaster Blade in his deck, it's highly unlikely that he would ever draw it in regular games. Kai does not suffer the same Gallatin difficulties that Aichi does, chiefly because Kagerou does not gain an 11000-power grade 2 until the second booster set, and instead uses Joka to make 20K happen. Kai should take out those Gokus as soon as possible--traditional grade ratios contain only 7 grade 3 cards, so he'll only draw another grade 3 17.39% of the time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Links, Censorship Catalog Updated

We have some new friends here at Vanguard US; you'll now find links to the official Vanguard websites, various distributors, other blogs and discussion forums in the sidebar. Today I've added Vanguard Japan and Vanguard English to the official links, as well as links to kumacard and That last link is a great source for current events-type information, while the official sites have listings for all cards currently in their language. Vanguard Rider is at present the best available wiki for the TCG.

For forum links, Neo Ark Cradle is a great forum for both Vanguard and Yu-Gi-Oh! fans. It's the place I trust most for translations, and most of its members are pretty friendly as a bonus. Vanguard Rider also has its own forums that tend to be more active in the buying & trading department.

In addition to this, I've gone ahead and updated the censorship catalog. Some of them are pretty minor, like with Lohengrin becoming Demon Slaying Knight(synonym, not even worth the catalog) while others turn out like...Ring Girl Clara. The most alarming change of all is Genocide Jack becoming Brutal Jack; it's fairly obvious that this is because the holocaust, Rwandan genocide and Pol Pot's killing fields are still sensitive issues, but that doesn't excuse the change. A children's card game is the worst place to look to be offended.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Character Names

(Special thanks to my Japanese teacher for explaining the switch between katakana and hiragana)

Note; the following is a combination of etymology, translation and in some cases interpretation. It also contains spoilers up through ride 47.

With regards to character's names, in the anime and manga almost every character's name has a hidden meaning, because they are written with a kanji surname and katakana given name. For the unfamiliar, Japan has three ways of writing; katakana is usually used to write non-Japanese words, like with Mr. Mark's name;


This is just squiggles to most English speakers, but let's break that down a bit. For starters, マ is read as "Ma," ー marks a long vowel, and ク is "Ku." The "·" mark separates first and last names in katakana. So we read マーク as "Maaku." An 'aa' sound tends to represent an R sound, though the only way to really tell is to hear the word pronounced. In this case it's "Mark." ホ is "Ho," ワ is "Wa," イ is "I"(sounds like eee,) テ is "Te," ン is "N" and グ is "Gu." So sound it out! Ho-wa-i-te-n-gu, which comes out in English as "Whiting."

マーク·ホワイテイング = Mark Whiting

Hiragana is used for Japanese words, so normally you could write Aichi as あ(a)い(i)ち(chi). Kanji are imported Chinese characters which can have as few as one or as many as ten distinct meanings based on how they are read--typically, tiny hiragana or katakana are placed above or next to the kanji to indicate pronunciation.

Having three writing systems may seem extraneous to English speakers, but it's actually quite useful. Katakana and hiragana are how a word "sounds"--they're phonetic alphabets. So you can show very easily how a word sounds in Japanese, because レ(re)ン(n) always sounds like "Ren" no matter what kanji is used for it. When we want to know how something sounds in English though, we have to resort to IPA, which no one outside of a graduate school English program actually understands.

For an example of how this system sees use, the Digimon Xros Wars manga had an instance where the kanji for "Melody" was written, but the katakana said to pronounce it as "Life." The result was that the word in question was both melody and life simultaneously.

However, the current situation where hiragana is for indigenous words and katakana for foreign ones is the opposite of the original system. Prior to World War II, katakana was used to write Japanese words and names where hiragana is used today. Computers from before 1990 still used katakana exclusively. And because katakana was used to write personal names, many elderly people still have katakana given names. So writing a name in katakana can make it seem older and more "historic" the way saying "foreby" instead of "beside" sounds older in English.

What I'm getting at is that Vanguard uses katakana given names and kanji surnames. It's not that unusual in anime, but this is slightly more relevant in that most of the main characters have names that tend toward historical places and events, or archaic words. Let's take a look at Aichi's name;


The kanji for his name is 先導 which reads as "Sendou" and means "leadership." An alternate reading is "Vanguard"(as in the soldiers at the front lines.) The katakana アイチ just reads "Aichi"(though on a more humorous note, my Japanese class loved to confuse the katakana チ with the kanji 千, which is 'sen'(thousand) and not 'chi.') I mentioned before that some Vanguard characters have historically-based names, so where did Aichi's come from? Well, it's the name of a prefecture in Japan, which takes its name from the original name of the tidal flats within it, Ayuchi. The Ayuchi flats are significant for being referenced in a poetry anthology, the Man'yōshū, where the poet Takechi Kurohito compares the calling of a crane to the sound of the waves in Ayuchi. These flats are still around as the Fujimae, but have largely been destroyed by cultivation and reclamation efforts that began in the Edo period.

Unlike with certain names to come(*cough* Kamui and Suzugamori I'll get to you guys in a bit), Aichi/Ayuchi isn't especially relevant to the anime on its own(see below for how it relates to Kai), outside of setting precedents for the other names, but those of you who have watched up to ride 43 or so can certainly see why the destroyed nature of the mudflats could be interpreted as relevant. Sendou of course, is especially on-topic for Vanguard, as it's the title.

Next let's look at Kai Toshiki. And before anything else, listen to the tournament announcer in ride 30; Japanese naming order is surname-forename, so Kai really is his family name.


櫂 refers to a paddle or oar, the kind you use to row a boat. Alternate meanings for Kai are "change," "the action to correct," and "ocean." Kai's surname referring to an oar where Aichi's forename references a body of water, and the first two alternate meanings for Kai, are all too painful when considering rides 40-44. Kai has inspired multiple changes in Aichi, but not all of them are necessarily for the better, and he does have to go back to correct his past mistakes in 44. Consider the following shots, from ride 33:

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Aichi and Kai, both reflected in the water. Kai's appearance in said ride is shown as a ripple moving through the pool's surface, much as an oar makes ripples in the sea. We had a similar lone shot of Aichi in ride 2, minus the ripple, which shows an amazing amount of foresight and planning despite Vanguard originally being approved for just 13 episodes, as it's ride 2 that kicks off his quest for greater strength and ride 33 where he resolves it. Both of these rides use water as a character theme, relating back to Aichi and Kai's names. As an oar spurs water, Kai spurs Aichi to seek greater power, and like a ripple effect sets the stage for the series' plot.

Third, we'll take apart Tokura Misaki's name.


戸倉 contains the kanji for 'door' and 'warehouse/storehouse/treasury.' Misaki's main motif throughout the series is that of the key she lost ten years ago, which is incorporated into her summer and 44-on outfit(she wears it over her clothes in summer and beneath her blouse in winter.) It's therefor fitting that her name would etymologize as something like "door to the treasury1," especially with regards to ride 25, where Misaki finally uses that lost key to open her parents' treasure box.

There are several possible reasons behind ミサキ as a name. When written as 美咲 it means "beautiful blossom," though Misaki never actually used the trial deck of similar name. More relevant, 御先 is an archaic form of Misaki that refers to an animal messenger of the gods(consider two of the Oracle Guardians in her deck, Red-Eye and Blue-Eye2.)This definitely falls in line with her Shinto-themed deck. Interestingly, this form of Misaki shares a kanji with Sendou, 先 and can also be read as the leader in a nobleman's procession...a ceremonial vanguard. Of course, the vanguard meaning only comes out when you translate 御先 to English, but as Vanguard itself is an English word, it's nonetheless a lucky translation.

Katsuragi Kamui;


葛 is the kanji for kudzu or arrowroot, 木 is wood, as in the wood element in Wu Xing. This one I had to sit on for a while, but 木 refers to the growing stage of the five Chinese elements, the "tree" stage. This wood/tree attribute is associated with strength and flexibility, as well as warmth, generosity and cooperation. Now consider that out of the core four, Kamui is the one who does most of the growing. Compare the Kamui we meed in ride 5--a lecherous, self-absorbed and overconfident boy--to the dedicated, earnest fighter who takes over in friends' matches out of concern for their health in ride 44. Kamui initially embodies his attributes the least out of anyone in the cast, being particularly weak in the cooperation and flexibility department. Kamui refuses to work together with Kai and doesn't trust his teammates' judgment, until he finally resolves to be a better fighter in ride 33.

As a note into the 'historical name' idea, 葛木 is a heterograph for both a World War II aircraft carrier and a corvette that was in service during both the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese war. The aircraft carrier bit is particularly amusing, as the Katsuragi carrier never embarked with her intended aircraft, and spent the entire war being shot at while in various ports, before taking on a brief repatriation stint and being quietly retired in 1946. Thus, even more extensively than the Yamato before her, Katsuragi was quite the paper tiger; Kamui himself is built up as an incredibly strong opponent in ride 25, with 29 off-screen victories at the season's start, and yet up through ride 47 he only has 6 full fights, just 3 of which are wins.

As for Kamui's forename, the primary meaning behind カムイ are the kamuy/kamui deities worshiped by the Ainu people, the indigenous population of Japan and Russia. Kamuy were the forerunners of the kami worshiped in the Shinto religion, and were accordingly multitudinous. The Ainu religion is even more specific than Shinto in its deities' areas of expertise, with specific kamuy devoted to undertow and abstract thresholds. This divine etymology fits with Kamui's perception of himself as the one of the strongest fighters, though it's certainly more humorous than some of the other names here.

From the pool of antagonists, Suzugamori Ren;


This is where I first noticed a trend in the names. Out of the core four characters, three of them(Aichi, Misaki and Kamui) have names that relate to the "old" Japan. Ren continues this trend. His name shares its kanji with the Suzugamori execution grounds, a place historically used for the execution of criminals, conspirators against the Tokugawa Shogunate and Christians. Popular methods of execution included crucifixion and immolation at the stake. Over 100,000 people were executed at the Suzugamori grounds over the course of 220 years, so it's quite the ominous name for Vanguard's chief antagonist.

On a lighter note, remember the Megacolony player from ride 8? His name was Kishida Osamu;


His family name contains the kanji for beach and rice paddy. Japanese family names often use a location-based naming structure. Osamu's given name comes from "osamushi," ground beetle, to go with Osamu's bug theme and Megacolony deck. It's a neat touch.

Since this took a couple days to write, I'll close this post with a break down of Morikawa's name;


Morikawa Katsumi. 森川 is another location-based name, referring to a river running through a forest. Katsumi is most probably from "勝つ (katsu)," to win. Here it's intended ironically, as Morikawa has the single worst win ratio in the entire cast; 20 fights and 20 losses.

Game Set!

1This is really flowery and like saying that Alexander comes out as "Defender of Men" or Ariel means "Lion of God" because it's not at all an obvious meaning to a native speaker. Of course, that means exactly nothing to writers, who are wont to know as many etymologies and use them as they please.
2Red-Eye and Blue-Eye are themselves taken from the Shinto pantheon's kitsune, a type of fox spirit that fulfills many different functions based on the particular mythology behind a given tale, but primarily work as messengers of Inari, a god of rice, fertility, agriculture and industry. Inari is still worshiped today as an important deity central to everyday life.

New Pages, Thoughts on Censorship

Now that my image hosting is up again, I've been able to post the under-construction character pages. Vanguard has a huge cast outside of the core four members, so it'll take a while to complete that. I've also started a catalog of censored cards and episodes, listed by country.

To elaborate a bit, I'm conflicted on the issue of censorship. As someone who was born into a family that has always been deeply involved in the arts, any censoring of someone's work, be it painted, written or sung, is appalling to me. However, the censoring of Vanguard cards is bringing some alternate arts that were originally featured only in the anime, before the official art had been decided on, to life. It's a treat to see the alternate artwork for Silent Tom and Demon Eater.

On the other hand, we have terribly sloppy jobs like Lozenge Magus and Cheer Girl, Tiara. These censored releases are really bad and I'd much prefer the original artwork to them. Having taken classes in art history, I feel terrible for every artist who has their work adjusted for the values of a different culture. Vanguard is fundamentally a game, so it has to be modified to become marketable in each area of its release, but that doesn't make censorship right. I'd prefer that society adjust to accommodate art, rather than adjust art to accommodate society.

Obviously, this view is from an artist's perspective, so it's going to be at odds with the beliefs of others. Right now, there isn't a clear answer to the issue of censorship but to judge for yourself, so I've made this comparison gallery for everyone.

Game Set!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cardfight!! Vanguard and the TCG Market

Globally, there are three properties that together form the "Big 3" of the gaming world. Magic: the Gathering as owned and produced by Wizards of the Cost, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game as owned and produced by Konami(formerly distributed by Upper Deck Entertainment) and Pokémon: The Trading Card Game as owned and produced by The Pokémon Company International(formerly distributed by Wizards of the Coast.) The most recent statistics on Magic point to a player base of six million, and while Yu-Gi-Oh! does not have dedicated statistics on its number of players, it is known to be the best-selling card game of all time at more than 22 billion cards. The Pokémon TCG has produced 15 billion cards and has been in operation for 15 years, putting it in third place.

For some scale, you could fit the entire worldwide Magic fandom in the city of San Fransisco and still have room for one million more occupants.

How do things look for Vanguard, just entering international markets? To be honest, there's no feasibly better situation. The industry as a whole isn't anywhere near on its last legs, but it's very weak at the moment, and Bushiroad isn't the only company to capitalize on this. Outside of Vanguard, there is one more underdog team taking the market, the Spin Master company's Redaki. While the popularity of the Big 3 might lead one to resolve the card game industry as mathematically "solved"--and the closure of all of Fantasy Flight Game's TCG properties in December 2009 would only support that view--we are in fact at a breaking point for two of the Big 3. This is the situation as it stands;

Magic: the Gathering -- Fine. As usual, Magic is going strong without any particular leaps or rebounds. The double-faced cards are likely causing some controversy, but they're not going to make anyone hate the game.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game -- In trouble. The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG's national and international competitions are built on the idea that one duelist could be skilled enough to triumph over the others, but in practice the card game is dominated by one-turn kills and archetype decks. People want to play the Duel Monsters game they first saw in the source manga or anime, not the game that Konami has produced. The most loathed aspect of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise isn't ZEXAL--which still has its fans despite the sometimes-questionable writing and design choices--but instead "missing the timing." Don't know what that is? Good, because it's not in the rulebook. And while I said that ZEXAL has fans, they are undoubtedly in the minority. ZEXAL's main writer, Shin Yoshida, is the most controversial name associated with the franchise, with accusations flying wild over the poorly-paced, almost camp writing he gave to ZEXAL, Dadaist character design and rampant commercial structure. In fact, the only solidly good thing everyone can agree upon about ZEXAL is its music.

(Yoshida's also maybe probably responsible for the silent X in the title. We think.)

The other difficulty Yu-Gi-Oh! is facing is the legal disputes over the new anime season. The US distributor, 4kids Entertainment, has become subject to a joint lawsuit for nearly 5 million USD. This lawsuit was filed by TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems for underpayment and under-the-table deals conducted between 4kids and Funimation to garner extra profit from the home video release of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series. 4kids deliberately concealed their extra income in order to pay less to TV Tokyo than they would have otherwise, in direct violation of their contract. A similar deal was struck between 4kids and Majesco Entertainment for the GameBoy Advance Yu-Gi-Oh! videos. In addition to filing a lawsuit, TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems terminated 4kids' rights to the distribution of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, which would have theoretically prevented them from accessing the ZEXAL season of Yu-Gi-Oh!

While 4kids insisted this termination to have no legal or factual basis, the companies involved are still going ahead with this lawsuit. Many people have assumed that 4kids' ongoing dub of ZEXAL means that this case was settled in 4kids' favor, however the lawsuit is in fact under a stay of proceedings, and the rights of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime as a whole have been accordingly frozen. This means that while 4kids' termination is still assumed to take place following the trial, they currently maintain the rights--and until the second phase of the trial is completed, will continue to do so.

Said second phase of the trial concerns whether or not 4kids actually owes TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems money, which they undoubtedly do seeing as they already confessed to it by giving TV Tokyo one million dollars in "good will" money. This is the equivalent to telling your brother in law that he knows you're good for it and you'll have the rest of his money later, but when it is determined that 4kids owes their $5 million, the company will fold. It has already filed for bankruptcy, and will not be able to muster the kind of funding necessary to pay up. The rights to ZEXAL will most probably go to either Funimation or as a cooperative effort between ADK and TV Tokyo. ADK is more likely due to Funimation's entanglement in the 4kids Yu-Gi-Oh! legal scandal, but regardless of who gets the rights, they will have to completely recast and redub existing Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes released from before the trial's second phase ended, throwing ZEXAL back one quarter in the fiscal year and disturbing its flow of episode release. In the meantime, Cardfight!! Vanguard's English release is set to go off on December 3rd, and Bushiroad would be crazy to not take advantage of their rivals' situation and send their own franchise over to US shores.

Pokémon Trading Card Game -- Is suffering nowhere near the amount of losses that Yu-Gi-Oh! is, but it still treading on thin ice. Preceding the previous national championships, the Pokémon Company officially announced that it was retiring the current Diamond and Pearl sets of cards early, ruling out more than half the current card pool to spur people on into using the Black & White cards. The difficult thing about Pokémon is that its metagame has always been poisoned, with just two or three decks appearing in every fight of any given national competition, but knowing this ahead of time makes it a lot easier to ignore. On the plus side, this new era of cards has tended towards mildly-innovative remakes of Base Set and Fossil/Jungle cards modified for the current rules, but that isn't quite enough to counterbalance the Donphan in the living room. Said Donphan is this; at the same time as the pre-national set rotation, the Pokémon Company International issued a ban on the use of foreign-language cards in official competitions. This was a new rule introduced to a game that had allowed non-English cards without limit for the past twelve years in North America. The fan outcry was understandable, and while the restriction was toned down to allow for up to 6% of a deck to consist of non-English cards(6 cards exactly) it's doubtless that this ban can and will eventually be reintroduced in full force.

Both Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon have realized their age, and their respective producers are making efforts to appeal to a much younger audience than before, generally in the 8-13 range. Introducing new players to the game is vital for maintaining a thriving atmosphere and profit. Unlike the previous series, the Zexal season of Yu-Gi-Oh! is staunchly targeted at middle school audiences, and Pokémon kicked off its Black & White sets in Japan with special releases geared towards children, color coded by gender. Prices on booster packs are being adjusted from 300-350円 to 150円, putting them more within a child's expected allowance, rather than inside the budget of a teenager or adult. Even the official websites have been broken down into simplified, step-by-step guides to meet the needs of a child customer.

The thing is, while the Pokémon TCG can conceivably ride out of its current situation and maintain presence as a global game, as most of its problems are localized inside of the English-language releases, Yu-Gi-Oh! is plagued by poor fan reception, an ever-changing banlist and terrible marketing from an anime that to many has overstayed its welcome. Kids are going to wake up and realize that the reason they can't win against players potentially as young as 14 is because their opponents' deck doesn't let them take their turn. Entire essays can be devoted to First-Turn Kills, One-Turn Kills and their merits versus the weaknesses they bring to a game, but the kids know that this is wrong and so does everyone else who doesn't run an FTK deck.

Okay, so two of the Big 3 are in trouble and there isn't an easy replacement for any of them. But just because the established card games are doing badly, that doesn't necessitate that Vanguard actually has anything going for it, right?

Well actually...

Vanguard already has an established western fanbase. Bushiroad signed a deal with Crunchyroll to distribute the series subtitled, online, completely free and with a simultaneous release. In fact, there are currently two active wikis for the series, as well as several means to play online and a number of forums out there to discuss it. The Cardfight!! Vanguard anime is currently available in Japanese, English and Spanish, with an English dub currently airing on Singapore's OKTO TV. The card game is soon to be released in Korea, and its popularity is snowballing rapidly. Through mass online release via Crunchyroll and fan-based advertisement through Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube, Bushiroad has eleven months' worth of advertising completely free. Without lifting a finger, they've ensured that there is an existing market for Vanguard, and we're currently just 19 days from the official release of Vanguard's first English booster pack. Fans are completely prepped to go wild over their first close look at this game.

As icing on the cake, Bushiroad is in marketing terms invincible due to the company's strong ties with Dentsu, an advertising agency which controls 30% of all mass media in Japan. A little under twice the size of its closest domestic rival, Dentsu has been expanding its circle of power to foreign markets since 2000, being the principal backer behind the modern Publicis Groupe, one of the three largest advertising and communications companies alongside Omnicom and WPP. It's because of Bushiroad's close relationship to Dentsu that they are able to make strong, independent moves in the modern market with minimal reprisal. Dentsu currently holds offices in both the United States and Canada, in addition to its Asian and European bases.

In Japan, this game is already the best thing. It's gotten to the point where waterpark advertising is a viable marketing strategy. Unlike with Yu-Gi-Oh!, the presentation is more up front, personal and less commercial. But, having the market prepped and having a product are different beasts. Surely the game can't be that great? Every card game has its breakers, right?

Well actually...

Vanguard currently has four booster packs out, with three more upcoming. It's at the point where fans should be raging over the most recent game breaker. True to form, following the first Japanese Vanguard nationals, fans cried out against these crimes against competitive game balance, and Bushiroad issued a banlist; Barcgal is now restricted from being the first card you put on the table.
Wait what? It's just one card? And you can still run four of it in a deck? And it's a grade 0, the weakest of all cards?

Cardfight!! Vanguard is a game of balance. Where Pokémon can make lots of plusses for you with 2-for-1 card costs, and Magic can make lots of minuses for your opponent with 1-for-5 mill decks, and Yu-Gi-Oh! can end the game before it even starts with first-turn kill archetype decks, Vanguard doesn't let you attack on the first turn. There are no alternate win conditions--you have to either deal 5 damage to your opponent or have them run out of cards, and there's no way to attack the cards in their deck or hand as in Magic. This is a game that's fun, well-marketed, balanced and has enjoyable, well-written material airing alongside it.

I'm not saying that the whole world is just going to give up its favorite card games overnight. But Yu-Gi-Oh!'s position in the Big 3 isn't so certain anymore, nor is the idea that there will be just a Big 3; the most likely scenario right now is for Yu-Gi-Oh! to fall back into last place with Magic and Pokémon taking up the second and third place slots. I could be just flapping my gums here--history could laugh at this blog post. But from where I stand now, Vanguard is worth my money.

Game Set!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog is up!

Second day of project, the first one was spent making background images that were too large for the blog. Technical difficulties!

Welcome to Game Set, the unofficial US Vanguard blog. This is your primary source for English-language Vanguard information and analysis; as the author's statements are purely his opinion, they are completely factual.

What is Vanguard?
Cardfight!! Vanguard is a 2011 multimedia series started in Japan. It is an anime currently geared to end at 65 episodes, a manga authored by Akira Ito, and a Trading Card Game produced by Bushiroad. The anime, manga and TCG are each set in their own separate but subtly linked continuity, and each one isn't necessarily telling the same story as its brother.

That's great, but what's an anime? Manga? TCG?
A manga is any of the right-to-left comic books or other artwork that take after the design choices of 1980s Japanese artist Osamu Tezuka. Although each manga artist has his or her own style, Tezuka is considered the codifier for manga artwork. These are sometimes labeled as graphic novels, because their audience has a much wider scope than American comic books; manga can be about anything from card games and urban fantasy to political intrigue or deeply-plotted romance. The Cardfight!! Vanguard manga is written and produced by Akira Ito, a former understudy of the world-famous Kazuki Takahashi.

Anime is manga transferred to the big screen. Typically in full color rather than the black-and-white panels of manga books, anime has a much wider variance in quality than manga, as different studios have different amounts of funding to allocate per episode, and episodes are usually released on a weekly basis with much less time to focus on individual scenes. Cardfight!! Vanguard is noted as one anime with much higher than average production values.

Trading Card Games are games where you assemble your own, entirely unique deck from a pool of hundreds or thousands of different cards. Much of the appeal of TCGs is that cards that may not work in your deck could work in someone else's, so you could trade with them to make building your deck easier. As such, TCGs are inherently social games. Each year different TCGs will hold their own local, regional, national and international tournaments to determine who the best pro players are--usually with scholarships, trophies and other prizes on the line for the winner. Do not mistake TCGs for gambling; they are games of skill, not luck, they require strategic thinking to play, and ante rules are completely forbidden by every currently existing TCG.
In Vanguard, your deck must consist of exactly 50 cards.

How big is this in Japan?
Right now Cardfight!! Vanguard is second only to Yu-Gi-Oh! in popularity, in large part due to its down-to-earth approach and strong storytelling. Vanguard is much more about the people laying the cards on the table than the game itself. The series has become so popular recently that there are Vanguard waterparks, as well as Vanguard shopping bags, pencil boards, clothing and towels available throughout Japan.
And folding fans. It might be autumn now, but they were really great in the summer!

So who are you?
In Vanguard communities I go by the username Matsuro, Matsura or Touya. I analyze the Vanguard anime and manga, highlight interesting artistic choices, how the game is played and I discuss the overarching storyline. Occasionally I edit the Vanguard wiki. Mainly I'm focusing on Vanguard as it pertains to the United States, but I'll also give some briefer coverage on Korea and Singapore.
In real life I'm a Japanese language student and independent writer from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Character: Tatsunagi Suiko

"We need his power. We don't care whether the results [...] are good or bad. There are some things that only someone with the power can do."

Tatsunagi Suiko/立凪スイコ
Age: 17
Voice Actor(s): Terakawa Aimi(Japanese)1, Nikkita Bradette(English)2
Anime Biography: The eldest of the three sisters which comprise Ultra-Rare, Suiko is their leader and is the one who initially presents Aichi with the King of Knights, Alfred. Ever composed, Suiko balances her sisters' conflicting personalities.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.
Of Ultra-Rare, Suiko is the sister with the most direct involvement in the series' events. While Kourin and Rekka assist her in observing the regional and national competitions, it's Suiko who can sense the potential for PSY Qualia, and her who compels spotted talent to grow stronger.

Though unconfirmed, she is greatly implied to have had a hand in Ren gaining Qualia one year ago. The only point at which Suiko loses her composure is in the presence of Kai, whom was the most hurt by Ren's quest for power. She appears visibly disturbed while watching his fight at the first Kanto regional tournament, is the only one of the girls to keep quiet when match is over, and Kai reinforces this reaction in ride 23 by refusing to go to her card shop. Furthermore, Ren himself is a high profile figure whom Ultra-Rare have ready access to such that they can call him into their shop at will, suggesting that Suiko knew him before his rise to power, and it is she that he approaches when thanking Ultra-Rare for PSY Qualia in ride 49.

Upon meeting with Suzugamori in ride 23, Suiko makes arrangements to speak with him following the national tournament. Having confirmed his PSY Qualia, she states that she will only make her motives clear at that time.

Suiko is all but confirmed to have some form of power that allows her to sense PSY Qualia, as well as Misaki's natural recall abilities. In ride 40 she has a flashback to an event she didn't see--Aichi's vision of Blazers' Pleasures, that he witnessed through a mutual reaction between his and Ren's Qualia.

To her "chosen ones," Suiko is less than transparent. When Kourin suggests explaining themselves to Aichi in ride 43, Suiko shows hesitance, and ultimately doesn't reveal anything of their motives until much later, in ride 58. She is not above using even her own sisters as tools to achieve Ultra-Rare's goals; particularly, when Kourin challenges a PSY Qualia-possessed Aichi, she smiles as Aichi executes her sister using Qualia to induce a hallucination of the planet Cray, satisfied that Sendou has grown stronger. Kourin's commentary after her defeat shows that Suiko is not just the only member of Ultra-Rare to have something approaching Qualia, but is also alone in knowing what they're after. The other girls are searching blind, unaware of the consequences of their actions or what PSY Qualia really is.

While Kourin seeks out Kai Toshiki late in the season, Suiko disapproves of what she calls being "too involved." And while her sister is away, Suiko is approached once again by Suzugamori Ren, to whom she first implies the existence of a third party at work by stating that if he is to be grateful for PSY Qualia, it should be to "Him." Suiko closes ride 50 satisfied by both of her chosen ones, eager to see their conflicting ideals clash.

In ride 52 Suiko has another rare moment of upset, when Ren begins to divulge the nature of PSY Qualia on national television. She later concludes after the fight between Aichi and Koutei that Aichi will not be able to defeat Ren without using his powers. She also states that all that matters is for Ren and Aichi to fight, as it will reveal the "true meaning" of PSY Qualia; when asked if that's "His" will Suiko does not answer.

Finally, that evening Suiko and her sisters approach Suzugamori Ren for one last time, warning him that the "final judgment" is now. Suiko grants him one final stimulus to spur on his growth, offering to contract Ren either a card of darkness or a card of light.

For choosing the card of darkness, Ren is gifted with Phantom Blaster Overlord, the crossridden form of his most favored vanguard. After Ren uses the card of darkness to crush Kai's attempt at bringing him back, he thanks her for it, leading Toshiki and Aichi both to question Suiko's actions. She states only that she needs his power, and that it Ultra-Rare does not care if the outcome is good or bad.

Having finished her business with Ren, Suiko prepares Aichi for the final battle by offering him an equal contract.

"Suzugamori Ren chose a card of darkness. Light that consumes the darkness...Darkness that blankets the light. Sendou Aichi, which do you choose?"
Sendou misses his chance to choose however, and the two cards merge to form Majesty Lord Blaster. Stating only that she believes this card to suit Sendou the most, Suiko retreats with her sisters to observe the final battle. It's at this time that Rekka becomes possessed by "Him" and the true nature of PSY Qualia as the synchronizing force between Cray and Earth is unveiled. Having observed Ren's defeat and the conclusion of the Royal-Shadow civil war from- the surface of Cray itself, Suiko's final instructions for her sisters are to disappear until they are needed again.

Spoilers end here.

In the second season, Suiko leads Ultra-Rare abroad to act as entertainers for the international VF Circuit. Suiko mostly takes a back seat role this season, while Tatsunagi Takuto fills her role as the season's antagonist and chief manipulator.

Manga Biography: Though absent for the majority of the manga, Suiko appears in a flashback to when Ren, Kai and Tetsu were friends. It was she who broke the boys apart, by engaging Ren in a cardfight in which he would first make use of and become absorbed by the power of PSY Qualia.

In volume 6 of the Cardfight!! Vanguard manga, it is revealed when joining Aichi's class that her sister Kourin's surname is Tatsunagi, suggesting her to both be direct family to Tatsunagi Takuto and connected to the Tatsunagi financial group. As Kourin, Rekka and Suiko are all confirmed to be sisters, this also makes each of her siblings Takutos' family.

Spoilers end here.

Fan Culture: Her suspicious behavior and moral ambiguity, as well as her quotes regarding power late in season 1, and the unsettling facial expressions made by her in ride 58 have led Suiko to be compared unfavorably with Kyuubey, a Mephistophelean allegory from the popular 2011 anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This quickly gave rise to the minor recurring meme surrounding Suiko's suspicious behavior and her being a "mastermind" behind anything wrong in the series.

Decks and Play Style
Originally Suiko was only shown to fight once, in the manga, and her specific deck was not shown. Her Japanese voice actor, Terakawa Aimi, cardfights at the pro level3 with a Megacolony deck that she describes as "insect love5." At the Fighter's Road 2012 Seiyuus VF Event Stage, Terakawa fought with the rest of her fellow voice actors (each of them using decks based on their own characters') using her Megacolony deck, which was speculated as pointing to Suiko herself using Megacolony4 .

During the Asia Circuit, Suiko is shown to use an Angel Feather deck, to fit the motif that her sisters established for their idol group. Suiko's particular variation emphasizes the Pegasus series of cards, which gain power when cards are added to the damage zone, and capitalizes on this with Chief Nurse, Shamsiel who can swap cards in and out of the zone when she attacks through her limit break. To support Shamsiel, Suiko includes the Doctroid series of cards, which also add cards to the damage zone in order to bring limit break out early. Her play style is generally more defensive than others, preferring to outlast opponents rather than charge them.

As Rekka herself noted that the clan had just been introduced when the Circuit began, and Kourin fought with a Royal Paladin deck in the first season, the possibility remains that Suiko was only using this deck because the other members of Ultra-Rare were doing so at the time. If she was a cardfighter before the VF Circuit, her original deck would have to have been a clan other than Angel Feather due to it not having existed prior to ride 66.

Rides 92-Current: The Hippocampus of God (23/50 cards)
Grade 0
x1 Hope Child, Turiel (FVG)
x2 Critical Hit Angel CT
x1 Sunny Smile Angel HT
Grade 1
x2 Burst Shot, Bethnael
x3 Pure Keeper, Requiel
x2 Thousand Ray Pegasus
x2 Doctroid Micross
Grade 2
x2 Gatling Shot, Barbiel
x2 Million Ray Pegasus
x2 Doctroid Mechaross
Grade 3
x2 The Phoenix, Calamity Flame
x2 Chief Nurse, Shamsiel

Citations and External Links
1. "Anime Expo 2012." CARDFIGHT!! VANGUARD. Bushiroad, 7 June 2012. Web. 7 June 2012. <>. 
2. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 6. YouTube, 2012. Web. 7 June 2012. <>. 
3. "Aimi Terakawa's Visit to Sabah." World Around Me. Google, 21 December 2012. Web. 31 July 2012. <>
4. "About FR2012 Seiyuus VF Event Stage." (σ・∀・)σ. Tumblr, 23 July 2012. Web. 31 July 2012. <>
5. "A post about the CFV panel yesterday~" A little bit of everything. Tumblr, 2 July 2012. Web. 4 August 2012. <>

Character: "Him"

"If you feel gratitude, please show it to him."

Age: Unconfirmed
Anime Biography: An implied character whom is the root cause of the tragedy one year ago.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.
Suiko first alludes to this person in ride 50, during her conversation with Suzugamori Ren on the planet Cray. Rekka is alarmed to see her mention him, but Suiko appears unconcerned, stating that she's certain that Ren will meet him soon. Later on in ride 56 Kourin becomes confrontational with her sister, asking if the fight between Ren and Aichi is "His" will; Suiko refuses to answer, but as she is unwilling to deny it, this is most likely the case.

Though he has not been seen acting directly, this character's presence is felt throughout the first season, as it is him whom first scouted Ren for PSY Qualia, and is most probably responsible for the funding of the Foo Fighter HQ. Evidence for this is present in Ultra-Rare's familiarity in ride 44 with the model of prototype fight system used by the underground fighters, which is the same model used inside the HQ itself.

Ren's flashback in ride 57 provided the first possible view of "Him." In their third press conference Bushiroad confirmed the existence of a new character in the second season, whom is identical to the one previewed. Whether or not this Tatsunagi Takuto and "Him" are the same person is still an open question.

Ultra-Rare appears to be answerable only to "Him." Though in spite of this, Suiko is shown to be the only one with any amount of knowledge as to who he is, beyond being their benefactor.

In ride 64 "He" makes his proper debut, possessing Rekka to use as a means of long-distance communication between Ultra-Rare and himself. This possession appears similar to the visual effects PSY Qualia brings on to Ren and Aichi, and "His" voice during it sounds similar to, albeit at a slightly lower pitch than, the unseen entity which communicated with Aichi in rides 34 and 65. Wishing to personally witness the synchronization of Cray and Earth, "He" explains that Cray is currently at war and that Sendou and Suzugamori are part of a master plan to resolve Cray's civil war.

Spoilers end here. 

Universal Notes: The actual word used to refer to this person is kata, which is gender-neutral and respectful. Like talking about "that gentleman, that lady." So "Him" could be a man or a woman. Hence, this is why Crunchyroll's subtitles started using "you-know-who" in ride 56. A more typical translation would be "person," because 方 is synonymous with (but more polite than) 人 hito.

Fan Culture: The English fanguard took notice of "Him" almost immediately, latching onto the overly detailed background character in ride 57 as his true identity. The aforementioned change in subtitles lead to "His" will invariably being called the "THE WILL OF VOLDEMORT."

Character: Yahagi Kyou

"The guy with the most ability should stand at the top!"
"The Great Kyou rides General Seifried!"

Yahagi Kyou/矢作キョウ
Age: Unconfirmed
Birthday: July 41
Anime Biography: "Crusher Kyou" is rank 4 of the AL4 members, and tends to overestimate his ability as a Vanguard fighter. Like Asaka he gained his position through raw power, but he lacks her enthusiasm for Ren and none-too-subtly conspires against their leader. He uses a Spike Brothers deck, which superior calls other units while attacking in order to make more attacks per turn, using cards like Sky Diver and General Seifried.2

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.
Kyou is the only member of AL4 to lose at the first national tournament, and for his loss to Kai is thrown out of Foo Fighter. Broken by his defeat and driven to madness after days of wandering on the streets, Kyou seeks revenge against Kai and Ren by rounding up other expelled Foo Fighters. Hoping to break into the national competition independently, Kyou takes his vengeance team to the next Kanto regional, but his overconfidence once again proves to be his undoing.

Kyou is nothing before Sendou Aichi's PSY Qualia, and as the fight goes on Kyou is gradually reigned in under its power, ending in a hallucination of Ren executing him on the planet Cray much as Aichi would later do to Kourin. His team humbled, they lose confidence in their leader--Kyou will hear none of this, but before he can attempt to convince them to continue with their rebellion, an elite Foo Fighter team, Brilliant Stars, appears before his group. Acting as Ren's personal execution squad, their leader Bidou calls in a crowd of FF enforcers to assault Kyou.3

Yahagi makes one more appearance in ride 53, jeering at the Brilliant Stars' own expulsion from Foo Fighter.

Spoilers end here.

During the Asia Circuit, Kyou and his remnant team resurface, acting independent of the current competition.

Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.
Kyou and his compatriots scheme to draw out Kai Toshiki during the VF Circuit, staging a scenario in which Kyou, under the guise of an abominable snowman, defeats famous fighters from around the world. With the rest of his similarly-disguised team leading said fighters to the "snowman," their plan leads to the defeat of many powerful individuals and to the snowman's rumor spreading, eventually bringing Kai to Kyou's snowfield. As part of "Project Yeti," they would defeat Kai, gain an invitation to the Circuit and then become the top fighters in the world.

Project Yeti is sabotaged by his own underestimation of Kai's strength. In their last turn the mountain at the snowfield's back comes apart from the noise, but Kyou, intending to see the fight through even in death, presses on to make his last damage check. Bitterly telling Kai that Toshiki won by luck, he prepares himself to be swallowed by the avalanche.

Kai carries him free of the snow. Kyou curses him for doing so, insisting that Toshiki will come to regret having ever saved his life, and that one day Yahagi will defeat Kai. He and his accomplices then adapt an unnamed jungle as their base of operations, eventually putting together a plot to travel back to Japan and hijack Souryuu Leon's airplane to the Japan stage of the Circuit, accosting him and his bodyguards and attempting to replace the team in the Japan stage. As in his fight with Sendou however, Kyou is defeated by PSY Qualia.

Spoilers end here.

Manga Biography: Kyou is responsible for overtaking Kamui's old card shop, running out its customers and holding the shop hostage with his fight gloves. Kamui eventually brings Aichi back to face off with Kyou. In the manga he's painted as a more sympathetic character, with something of an inferiority complex and a desire to prove himself. Later on, he even appears friendly toward Aichi.

Universal Notes: His family name contains the kanji for arrow and preparation, coming out as "to build arrows." Kyou is a counterpart to Kamui, made obvious by his use of the "Ore-sama" pronoun.

Fan Culture: Kyou is the subject of much fan derision, based on both his initial outfit and his outfit from two years ago, which give him resemblance to a call girl. His flashback outfit influenced a large influx of art on pixiv, leading to the fan nickname "Flashdance Kyou."

Decks and Playstyle
Kyou uses a Spike Brothers deck, with a heavy focus on removing units from the field to superior call others. This lets him push a highly offensive game, making more attacks per turn than his opponents can. His primary rearguard is Sky Diver, which with assistance from Dudley Dan, can form a combo that superior calls multiple units in a turn. Meanwhile his favored vanguard is General Seifried, which superior calls the grade 3 Spike Brothers that it drive checks.

Ride 30-77: Crusher Kyou (32/50 cards)

Grade 0 
x1 Mecha Trainer 
x1 Silence Joker CT
x3 Cheer Girl Tiara HT
x2 Cheerful Lynx DT
x1 Sonic Breaker CT
Grade 1 
x2 Wonder Boy
x2 Spike Brothers Assault Squad
x3 Dudley Dan
x2 Cheer Girl Marilyn
Grade 2
x3 Treasured, Black Panther
x2 Highspeed, Brakki
x3 Devil Summoner
Grade 3 
x3 Sky Diver
x2 Juggernaut Maximum 
x2 General Seifried

Kyou's deck during the Asia Circuit employs new Cavalry of Black Steel cards, most notably Demonic Lord, Dudley Emperor. The Emperor's limit break allows him to superior call two Spike Brothers units when he attacks, but only to open rearguard circles. Kyou works this into his strategy by cycling his rearguards back into the deck before attacking with Emperor, in one case re-calling the very same Juggernaut he just cycled back in using Emperor's skill.

Notably, when this deck is later used against Joker X in ride 94, it shows several cards retained from his season 1 deck, including Yahagi's famous General Siefired.

Rides 77-Current: Avalanche Crush Rush (24/50 cards)
Grade 0
x1 Mecha Trainer (FVG)
x2 Cheerful Lynx DT
x1 Cheer Girl, Tiara HT
x1 Silence Joker CT
Grade 1
x2 Wonder Boy
x1 Reckless Express
x2 Cheer Girl, Marylin
x1 Cyclone Blitz
Grade 2
x2 Dudley Douglas
x2 Treasured, Black Panther
x4 Highspeed, Brakki
x1 Panzer Gale
Grade 3
x3 Juggernaut Maximum
x2 Demonic Lord, Dudley Emperor
x1 Sky Diver
x1 General Siefired

Kyou briefly converts to a Megacolony deck as part of his plot to kidnap and replace Souryuu Leon in the VF Circuit, having been inspired by the strength of insects while traveling through an unidentified jungle. The deck's winning image is based on Megacolony's limit breaker, Martial Arts Mutant Master Beetle, using it and support cards to prevent the opponent's cards from standing with counterblast skills. The deck also takes advantage of the opponent's tendency to use every cards on the field to attack, with Tail Joe and Stealth Millipede, who gain power when all of the opponent's cards are rested, forming 11000-power independent units that can attack opposing cards unboosted, as well as a strong 21000+ line with Master Beetle. Interestingly, the denial nature of this deck is more in line with how he plays in the manga than in the anime. While Kyou's lockdown tactics are highly effective versus Souryuu's Aqua Force deck, he ultimately comes out the loser of the fight and jumps back to Spike Brothers when attempting to sabotage the Japan stage of the Circuit.

Ride 94: Break Time (23/50 cards)
Grade 0
x1 Megacolony Battler C (FVG)
x1 Shrapnel Scorpio CT
x2 Medical Combatant, Lamprey HT
x1 Raider Mantis DT
x1 Shelter Beetle CT
Grade 1
x2 Gloom Flyman
x2 Phantom Black
x3 Paralyze Madonna 
x1 Stealth Millipede
Grade 2
x2 Tail Joe
x1 Bloody Hercules
x2 Lady Bomb
Grade 3
x2 Martial Arts Mutant, Master Beetle
x2 Bewitching Officer, Lady Butterfly

In the manga Kyou uses a Nubatama deck, cutting down the enemy's hand size, but unlike Ninja Master M his particular deck focuses on preventing the opponent from riding. When his Left and Right Arrestors are at rest, the opponents' vanguard cannot stand; Kyou combines this with the skill of Dueling Dragon ZANBAKU, which stops his opponent from riding a grade 3. These effects were not maintained in the conversion from manga to TCG, and his Nubatama cards became their own separate clan, Murakumo.

Chapter 6-Current: Baku Geki Zan (10/50 cards)
Grade 0 
x2 Stealth Beast, Hagakure  
Grade 1 
x1 Stealth Beast, Chigasumi
x1 Stealth Dragon, Dread Master
Grade 2 
x1 Archer, FUSHIMI
x2 Left Arrestor
x1 Right Arrestor
Grade 3 
x1 Dueling Dragon, ZANBAKU
x1 Twin Swordsman, MUSASHI 

1. "Character birthdays." KeroKero Ace Vol. 50 1 Mar. 2012. Print.
2. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 30. Crunchyroll, 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. 
3. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 42. Crunchyroll, 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2012.

Character: Tatsunagi Rekka

"Welcome! You've come to the card shop, PSY!"
"Rekka's Love Love superior ride, Crimson Impact, Metatron!"

Tatsunagi Rekka/立凪レッカ
Age: 131
Voice Actor(s): Nanjou Yoshino3
The youngest of the three sisters comprising Ultra-Rare. Rekka is the most enthusiastic about her job, bringing service with a smile to the idol sisters' show. As the youngest sibling she also appears to carry out their menial work, greeting customers at the door and bringing them coffee.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.
While initially she shows a positive view of him, Rekka's view of Suzugamori Ren changes rapidly as he approaches her sister and her in ride 49. Indignant over his using their shop as a rendezvous point, and having to prepare him coffee, Rekka flips her viewpoint once again when he draws her and Suiko into a vision of Cray. Rekka has little time to be amazed however, as Suiko almost immediately discloses the presence of another party at work in the season's events--this puts Rekka on edge immediately, but Suiko dismisses her fears.

Rekka is present when Suiko contracts Ren his card of darkness, but as she appears to know the least of the three sisters about the events surrounding PSY Qualia, she otherwise plays a background role up until her possession in ride 64.

As the synchronization of Cray and Earth is put underway, Rekka is fashioned into "His" host, becoming a voice for Cray. Though she is apparently unconscious for the duration, Rekka unwittingly assumes leadership of PSY while "He" controls her, and attempts to alleviate Kourin's concerns for the Qualia bearers' rapidly decomposing sanity. It is also through her that this entity transports PSY to Cray in order to witness the planet's unity following the Royal Paladins' victory, personally thanking the other girls.

Spoilers end here.

Manga Biography: Though she has yet to make a proper appearance, in volume 6 of the Cardfight!! Vanguard manga, it is revealed when joining Aichi's class that her sister Kourin's surname is Tatsunagi, suggesting her to both be direct family to Tatsunagi Takuto and connected to the Tatsunagi financial group. As Kourin, Rekka and Suiko are all confirmed to be sisters, this also makes each of her siblings Takutos' family.

Decks and Play Style
Rekka fights with an Angel Feather2 deck, first seen in ride 69 of the Asia Circuit. Her deck utilizes damage-swap tactics to retrieve cards sent to the damage zone, and powerful heal skills that allow her to recover damage outside of checking heal triggers. This particular build is geared toward the Ray and Phoenix series, cards which gain power when other cards are placed into the damage zone, with Kiriel and her limit break as the deck's centerpiece.

Later in the season Rekka incorporates Crimson series superior ride cards as support for Kiriel, increasing the soul to fuel her Lightning Charger's custom boost skill, while also providing an alternative ride of similar strength from Metatron and a way to bring out Kiriel into the rearguard from the damage zone.

Rides 69-Current: The Gifted and the Brilliant (33/50 cards)
Grade 0
x1 Thermometer Angel  (FVG: Rides 69-93)
x1 Crimson Heart, Nahas (FVG: 93-onward)
x1 Critical Hit Angel CT
x2 Sunny Smile Angel HT
x1 Rocket Dash Unicorn CT
x1 Bouquet Toss Messenger DT
x1 Rampage Cart Angel CT
Grade 1
x2 Thousand Ray Pegasus
x1 Crutch Rifle Angel
x1 Pure Keeper, Requiel
x1 Burst Shot, Bethnael
x3 Crimson Mind, Baruch
x1 Lightning Charger
Grade 2
x2 Holy Zone, Penemue
x2 Love Machine Gun, Nociel
x1 Gatling Shot, Barbiel
x2 Iron Heart, Mastema
x2 Crimson Drive, Aphrodite
Grade 3
x2 The Phoenix, Calamity Flame
x3 Circular Saw, Kiriel
x3 Crimson Impact, Metatron

Citations and External Links
1. "ウルトラレア." KeroKero Ace Vol. 45 1 Sept. 2011: 22+. Print.
2. Cardfight!! Vanguard Asia Circuit Hen Ride 68. 22 Apr. 2012.  
3. "Yoshino NANJOU." Anime News Network. Web. 22 Apr. 2012 <>

Character: Mitsusada Kenji

"I have powerful subjects. That's right, just like Caesar, the emperor of Rome, I combine them to receive great strength."
"The righteous spirit is everlasting and blazes up even higher! Superior crossride! Ultimate Dimensional Robo, Great Daiyusha!"
Mitsusada Kenji/光定ケンジ
Age: Unconfirmed; attending high school
The national champion from two years ago, and the captain of Team Caesar. Kenji loves Roman history and models himself on Gaius Julius Caesar; it's for this reason that he's called "Koutei," the emperor of Team Caesar. Despite his public persona being based on the late dictator, his references to Caesar more often refer to the entire line of emperors named "Caesar" rather than Julius Caesar himself.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow. 
Kenji is the first person shown to fight Suzugamori Ren, facing him in the final match of the season's first national. 

Kenji is humiliated in the fight, defeated by an opponent that's still at grade 2. Humbled by Ren's Qualia, Koutei takes note of the one other team to score a win against Ren's team, and arranges to meet with them through their manager, Nitta Shin. At this training camp, Teams Caesar and Q4 form a powerful bond, working together to improve their decks in preparation for the second half of the tournament season.

Having made friends with Q4's Kai Toshiki, Kenji makes his following appearance at the next national, where he eventually ends up pitted against Sendou Aichi. Though Kenji quickly recognizes Aichi's Soul Saver Dragon strategy and prepares accordingly to negate it, he isn't able to anticipate Sendou bringing out Alfred Early. Ultimately, Kenji loses the match, and sits out the remainder of the season on the sidelines. 
Spoilers end here. 

During the Asia Circuit chapter, Kenji goes on to participate in Tatsunagi Takuto's VF Circuit, renewing his position as Team Caesar's leader. While they come out as strong players in the Singapore stage, scoring several points toward their overall performance, Kenji's real time to shine is in the Seoul stage.

Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.
Koutei eventually ends up in a rematch with his old rival Suzugamori Ren, where he demonstrates the skill that earned him his national title by initiating a superior crossride of the Ultimate Dimension Robo, Great Daiyusha while under the effects of their fight's "Stand 3" special rule. By focusing on creating a strong center line in addition to setting up his superior ride sequence, Koutei surpasses Suzugamori with Great Daiyusha's limit break and comes out as the only member of Caesar to win his match against Team NAL4.

Following the events in Seoul however, Koutei chooses to retire from the competitive scene to attend school at the Singapore Institute of Technology, the same school as Team SIT Genius members Christopher Lo, Lee Hsien Loong and Fajr Ali. Although saddened by having to leave his team behind right in the middle of the Circuit, and plagued by the question of whether he even has a future at SIT while trying to compete with such young prodigies, Koutei chooses to make the trip regardless, vowing to not participate in any tournaments until his graduation.
Spoilers end here.

SDRD Biography: According to Bushiroad's April 1st website, in the Super Dimension Robo Daiyusha spinoff anime, Kenji's father commands the Earth Defense Organization "Caesar." Mitsusada is a first-year highschool student at Jigen High1, who loves robots and is obsessed with model kits. Yuri and Gai are his friends from childhood, and Ren recently transferred into his school. He originally mistook the robot Daiyuusha for a fragment of a falling space shuttle, and was saved by it from the Shadow Paladins at the eleventh hour by the Dimensional Robo. He later persuaded Daiyuusha to join his father's group. Kenji has an inner sense of justice that his new robot friend leads him to discover.

Universal Notes: Koutei's surname, Mitsusada, is written using the kanji 光定. Because Japan's writing system was adopted out of China's, kanji have two readings, the Chinese reading and the Japanese reading. As Yuri explained in ride 26, the Chinese reading of Mitsusada is "Koutei" meaning "Emperor." 

Interestingly, the animation for his Great Daiyusha combination sequence shows Goyusha emerging from Daiyusha after purging his original armor components, suggesting it to be a new configuration rather than an add-on to Daiyusha itself.

Decks and Playstyle
Koutei uses a Dimension Police deck, which initially has Workerpod Saturday as its starter. By ride 56 however, he has switched over to Enigman Flow, using the Enigmen line of cards to maintain a combination of grade security and hand advantage. His deck builds up toward Enigman Storm, which like Daiyusha before it, gains an extra critical when other units' skills are used to power it up in preparation for an attack.

As a finishing move, Koutei brings out Commander Laurel, using the grade 1's skill to rest 4 units and stand his vanguard for an additional twin drive. The attack that follows is very nearly unstoppable.

Rides 33-82: Koutei (30/50 cards)
Grade 0
x3 Workerpod Saturday (FVG: Ride 33)
x1 Enigman Flow (FVG: Present)
x1 Justice Cobalt CT
x2 Guide Dolphin ST
x2 Cosmo Fang ST
Grade 1
x1 Karenloid Daisy
x3 Diamond Ace
x1 Glory Maker
x2 Enigman Ripple
x1 Cosmo Roar
x1 Commander Laurel
Grade 2
x1 Masked Police, Grander
x1 Twin Order
x2 Enigman Wave
x1 Platinum Ace
x2 Cosmo Beak
Grade 3
x1 Super Dimensional Robo, Daiyusha
x1 Enigman Shine
x3 Enigman Storm

Kenji's second deck makes use of the combining Dimensional Robo units, patterned after the anime super robot boom, and off of the Brave series in particular. Accordingly, he uses the deck's skills to bring together three vehicle units with his first vanguard Goyusha at the center, creating the deck's GaoGaiGar analogue, Ultimate Dimensional Robo, Great Daiyusha. Like his previous deck, this one focuses on creating a powerful vanguard, utilizing the Dimensional Robo soul skills to create an unstoppable center line.

Rides 82-Current: Dictator Super Combination: Burning Justice Sword! (25/50 cards)
Grade 0
x1 Dimensional Robo, Goyusha
x1 Justice Cobalt CT
x2 Justice Rose HT 
x2 Army Penguin DT
x2 Dimensional Robo, Daibattles CT
Grade 1
x2 Dimensional Robo, Daimariner
x2 Dimensional Robo, Dailander
x2 Speedstar 
x1 Diamond Ace
x1 Glory Maker
Grade 2
x2 Cosmo Beak
x1 Dimensional Robo, Daidragon
x1 Cosmic Rider
Grade 3
x3 Super Dimensional Robo, Daiyusha
x2 Ultimate Dimensional Robo, Great Daiyusha

1. "Jigen" can mean "Dimension."