Friday, March 30, 2012

Evolution of Sendou Aichi's Play Style

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.

Aichi cardfights for most of the early series with a Royal Paladin deck. For the series' initial arc--rides 1 to 13, the first planned episodes--he amasses the cards that go on to become staples of his deck, regardless of build. The very first episode brings out what earns a longtime place for him, Blaster Blade, a highly versatile unit characterized more by the sheer number of cards that search for, act in concert with, or target in some fashion than by its own abilities. This card is a focal point for Aichi.

The first episode where we see Aichi's general playstyle come to light is ride 4; although Aichi ultimately loses this fight, it is a good marker for when his pro tactics first develop. Sendou leans towards taking the second turn in his fights, in contrast to Ren, whose deck is geared more toward going first.

His preference is to ride an 8000-power grade 1, to set a higher threshold for opponents to deal damage, demanding more cards from their hand. At the same time this helps Aichi get his attacks through, able to match and exceed every power level he comes up against. He follows this up by calling units where a different fighter might conserve their hand, aiming always to deal at least 2 damage in the first turn.

Initially he has difficulty with this strategy. As in ride 4 up through 13, it leads to him wasting his hand by bringing out low-grade units in unfavorable positions; starting with ride 16, Sendou begins to use the Barcgal he first incorporated into his deck in ride 8 to superior call Flogal as a booster. However, since Aichi doesn't take the second move again until ride 27, this tactic is developed very late and it takes him time to fully realize how it suits his play style. In ride 6 he rides Iseult and recreates his Marron tactic using Starlight Unicorn to boost her power.

Also note the position of units. Aichi favors his left side during his initial move. Sendou follows up these two lines of thought later in the series, attempting to find a unit that matches his 2-damage style in Morganna. However, Morganna just circles back to his original problem, since her discard requirement is functionally similar to, but leaves him in a worse position than, calling a unit to boost her. By the time ride 64 rolls around Aichi finally establishes a unit that matches his aggressive fighting, the Knight of Friendship, Kay;

Kay's autoskill, costing him nothing while reaching the same level of power as Morganna, matches Sendou's aggressive early game perfectly. The caveat is that it doesn't really suit his grade 1, Marron, which he attempts to cover the difference for with Wingal Brave. Had Suzugamori not retired Kay in their final match, Aichi would have had to voluntarily retire the unit later due to poor placement, showing that while he has found a deck that suits his style, the young fighter is even at the season's end still clumsy with it.

Regarding his 8000-power grade 1, this favoritism toward Marron carries over into his Shadow Paladin deck, where Blaster Javelin fulfills the same 8000-power role but with the benefit of adding a card to his hand as Sendou's first vanguard. His time with this deck from 43-50 solidifies Aichi's established tactics.

His very forward way of fighting is followed up in these episodes, where in his fight with Bidou, Sendou calls Charon in the first turn much as he used to Marron. However, because of Javelin's skill this allows him to have more flexibility, having two 8000-power units on the field without having to mix clans.

Getting back to rides 1-13.

Aichi's initial starter, Stardust Trumpeter, is phased out by ride 8 in favor of Barcgal. While the highdog serves as a strong reinforcement for Alfred and Soul Saver Dragon, building up field advantage for the former and a high soul for the latter, in terms of development Sendou uses Barcgal for Llew's counterblast. The ability to superior ride Blaster Blade is a key factor for Aichi's deck, as his single copy of it makes it difficult for Sendou to get the card into his hand.

Fullbau answers this in Aichi's Shadow Paladin deck by directly adding Blaster Dark to his hand, rather than going through a superior ride sequence. This sparks another chain of thought that ends as Wingal Brave, a unit which while less strict in its skill's conditions, still adds a Blaster unit to his hand--this time any of the three Blasters Sendou runs, be it Blaster Dark as with Fullbau, Blaster Blade as with Barcgal, or the entirely new Majesty Lord Blaster.

Another feature of his openings is the use of Gancelot--first added to his deck in ride 5, Gancelot sees his skills realized in ride 6, by which time Sendou's added in a second copy of him. While this is overshadowed for most of the series by Sendou's Barcgal-superior ride chain, returning Gancelot to the deck to move Blaster Blade into his hand is a signature tactic that Aichi comes to rely on as a standby for supporting his Blaster deck.

In the second turn, his next move is almost invariably to ride Blaster Blade, making use of his retire skill. Aichi's fights seem specifically scripted so that he's able to do this even taking into account Llew's counterblast--he's very used to taking 3 damage in his opponent's first attack regardless of his high power.

Typically this ends in an overall advantage for the boy--superior riding through Barcgal briefly relieves him of having to pay the ride out of his hand, or in the case of using Gancelot to add Blaster Blade in the previous turn, his avatar's retire skill will put his opponent behind one card.

In his Shadow Paladin deck this is reflected with Blaster Dark, who being drawn out from the deck by Fullbau, gives him much the same relief. And unlike Blade, Dark's retire skill is more feasible, as Sendou doesn't require a prior counterblast to ride the new Blaster. Where Blade could only reach 19000 power from one of Aichi's favorite boosters, Wingal, Dark surpasses that to hit 20000 and leave Doranbau around to be sacrificed later.

As in rides 6 and 27, Sendou will follow this up by moving his attacker from the previous turn to the back line in order to call something for it to boost, along with an additional, unboosted grade 2 attacker. His field is not typically full until his third turn. Although 63-65 do not fit this style perfectly, they do fit the general pattern of it, with only the move step being omitted as Brave was already in the back line.

As a Shadow Paladin fighter, this style of play is brought together by the Skull Witch, Nemain whose counterblast 1 helps Aichi make these aggressive calls while minimizing the effect on his hand. His pattern of calling is similar here, moving his unit from the previous turn to the back before calling Nemain in front and then his unboosted grade 2. Nemain's draw skill lets him delay the last step, giving Sendou greater choice in which unit he calls--in every full fight given this is Rugos.

Although Alfred, coupled with Soul Saver Dragon, is easily Aichi's most recognized grade 3, the king and god of knights are both red herrings as far as his development is concerned. Aichi's way of fighting is that his deck is first and foremost a Blaster Blade deck before it is a Royal Paladin deck: it is for this reason, as well as the mechanics backing his favored units across season 1, that Gancelot is Sendou's primary focus. Were this the case with Alfred and Saver, he would have likely gone on to use the Fang of Light, Garmall rather than Gancelot.

Against both Kamui and Kourin Aichi uses a double-counterblast, raising the bar up to +10000 Power +2 Critical. Gancelot serves as Sendou's training wheels, reflecting his play style most directly. Power and critical gains are much more in line with Aichi's style, as the Solitary Knight trains him for what becomes his trump card as a Shadow Paladin fighter, Phantom Blaster Dragon.

For a counterblast 2 and retire 3, the Blaster Dragon has a less dramatic but also less costly gain, +10000 Power +1 Critical. Although Sendou never actually does this, he could have repeated Blaster Dragon's counterblast as he traditionally did with Gancelot, for +20000 Power +2 Critical. Sendou's primary aim with these two grade 3s isn't to actually hit with them, but to wear his opponent's hand out. Note that his matches with Bidou and Gunji are the only times that Damned Charging Lance connects. In the first of his other fights, Sendou merely whittles his opponent's hand away, leaving them crippled and unable to continue the fight. Ride 50 is a case of underestimation, where he is unable to account for the perfect guard sitting in Kai's hand.

As Gancelot leads into Phantom Blaster, the Gigantech Charger that Aichi fights with briefly during the regional arc later influences him into using Badhabh Catha to superior call his Shadow Paladin units. However, Charger came with a problem attached in that if the unit he superior called wasn't a booster, there wasn't much for it to do on the field other than empower Alfred. Catha fixes this problem, as it doesn't matter what Aichi calls--if it's not useful to him, he sacrifices it to his cursed dragon.

After his return to Royals, Aichi goes out from his Phantom Blaster Dragon strategy with a new vanguard that functions as the culmination of everything he's learned. Much as Gancelot and the Blaster Dragon before it, Majesty Lord Blaster gains +10000 Power and +1 Critical, and it is from a sacrifice of rearguards; however, rather than sacrificing them to the drop zone, Majesty sacrifices them to his soul, soulcharging the two for power while utilizing a passive skill that gives him +2000 power when both Blasters are in the soul. This can be considered comparable to how Gancelot requires Blaster Blade to be in the soul for his activate skill to work.

Sendou uses what he learned from Badhabh Catha with Starcall Trumpeter, a lower-graded unit that for a counterblast 2 can specifically target any of his Blaster units. When brought together with Gancelot, this lets him bring both Blade and Dark to the field at will. Like with Catha, Aichi is now superior calling a Shadow Paladin so that it can be sacrificed, tying his development into a Majesty Lord Blaster deck.

As a general summary, Aichi's overall style is to open on the second move with a grade 0 that gives him a Blaster unit to ride on his next turn, using an 8000-power unit as his ride. He then calls a unit to make a second attack with, and on the next turn moves it to the back line after riding his Blaster, then filling two more units into the field, to make three attacks. On the third turn Sendou rides a grade 3 which through its skill gains +10000 Power and +1 Critical, and fills his remaining rearguard circles for an all-out attack.

Spotlight: Yasooka Shouta/八十岡翔太

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Yasooka at the height of his Magic career.
Yasooka Shouta/八十岡翔太
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Sendai Regional Finalist Third Place
Current Status: Sendai Regional Finalist Third Place (Summer 2011)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Lohengrin-SSD)

Yasooka Shouta is a professional Magic: The Gathering player who made his first and only appearance as a cardfighter in the Sendai regional competition, contending with two other finalists. He placed third in the regional, using a swarm-based Royal Paladin deck. Yasooka is primarily known for his success in the Magic 2006 Pro Tour season, in which he was declared Pro Player of the year. He has played over 2500 Magic: The Gathering matches, and currently resides in Shinjuku.

Decks and Play Style
Similar to his other opponents at the time, Yasooka's deck is a Barcgal superior ride build, but rather than being grounded in Alfred like Gotou or Soul Saver Dragon as with Murakami, his centerpiece is Gigantic Charger. His intended vanguard is clearly pinned as Lohengrin or Soul Saver Dragon, but Charger is the deck's main feature in that it immediately and unavoidably fills the field. It comes as a curiosity then, that Yasooka chose not run even a single copy of the King of Knights--his strategy could be broken down into riding from Lohengrin and Soul Saver Dragon, having arranged his field for her Holy Charging Roar beforehand with Charger.

Summer 2011 Regional Tournament, Sendai Seniors Division
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x2 Future Knight, Llew CT
x3 Flogal ST
x3 Margal DT
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x4 Young Pegasus Knight
x4 Pongal
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
Grade 3
x2 Demon-Slaying Knight, Lohengrin
x2 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x2 Soul Saver Dragon
x3 Gigantic Charger

1. "2006 Player of the Year Race: Event Coverage: Daily MTG." Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast, 13 Dec. 2006. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. <>.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spotlight: Kamosaki Mayu/鴨崎真悠

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Kamosaki is at the center, holding the first-place trophy.
Kamosaki Mayu/鴨崎真悠
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Okayama Regional Champion (Junior Class), National Champion (Japan, Junior Class), Hiroshima Regional Finalist Third Place (Senior Class)
Current Status: National Champion (Summer 2011)
Deck Type: Kagerou (Okayama Regional; Dragonic Overlord-Aleph), Royal Paladin (National; Alfred Early-Soul Saver Dragon)

Debuting as champion in the Summer 2011 Okayama Regional, Kamosaki surprised cardfighters around the world when he made a reversal at the following national event. He is one of few competitive fighters known to have successfully switched decks between competitions, overcoming the inherent expense associated with running multiple clans. Although alternating between Kagerou and Royal Paladin has earned him fame, Kamosaki appears to favor the Kagerou side of his play, having invested in multiple trial decks for it.

The young national champion is not yet known to have participated in the following Grand Prix or Team Festival. He did however, reappear one year later at the Fighter's Road 2012 Hiroshima regional tournament, placing third with a new Kagerou deck. By this time Kamosaki was too old to participate in the Juniors Division, and so made his first appearance with the Senior Class league. Unlike Rikino Sakura, he did not make any additional attempts at the championship title in that year.

Decks and Play Style
Kamosaki's first deck was geared toward making grade 3 a turn early using the Embodiment of Victory, Aleph's superior ride chain, or else negating the advantage his opponent would gain from going first. This gave him the dual advantage of being able to use Conroe, Kimnara and Berserk Dragon's counterblasts with impunity until that point, as Aleph could then soulblast the cards used to superior ride it and unflip his damage zone. Overlord was then his finisher in either a rearguard circle or as his next-turn ride, repeatedly taking out the opponent's rearguards to better wound their hand and weaken their overall field presence. This would leave Kamosaki's opposition crippled and unable to continue the fight.

His opponent in the final match was Horikawa Kanata, who fielded Kamosaki's natural enemy, a Royal Paladin deck. Being an Alfred-Soul Saver Dragon deck intended to combo with Barcgal's then-unrestricted superior ride chain, Horikawa would in theory have been the winner in this fight. Instead Kamosaki came out on top with his retire strategy, proving Kagerou's power in the competitive scene--however, it is possible that Kamosaki was shaken by the match, as it appears that he took a leaf from his opponent's book for the national tournament.

Summer 2011 Regional Tournament, Okayama Juniors Division
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Lizard Soldier, Conroe
x4 Embodiment of Spear, Tahr CT
x3 Lizard Runner, Nafud ST
x2 Gatling Claw Dragon DT
x3 Lizard Soldier, Ganlu ST
x4 Demonic Dragon Mage, Raksha CT
Grade 1
x2 Wyvern Guard, Barri
x2 Demonic Dragon Guru, Kimnara
x2 Iron Tail Dragon
x4 Embodiment of Armor, Bahr (TD)
x2 Dragon Monk, Gojo (TD)
x2 Flame of Hope, Aermo
Grade 2
x3 Draogn Knight, Aleph
x4 Dragon Knight, Nehalem (TD)
x4 Berserk Dragon (TD)
x1 Dragon Armored Knight
Grade 3
x2 Embodiment of Victory, Aleph
x1 Seal Dragon, Blockade
x4 Dragonic Overlord (TD)

For his fight with Hirano Hirotarou, Kamosaki brought his own Royal Paladin deck to the table. In addition to the then-standard Barcgal and Soul Saver Dragon chain, Kamosaki included the Giro promo card. This was likely to accommodate for the copies of Alfred Early he ran, a grade 3 which would have pulled soul away normally reserved for Soul Saver Dragon's soulblast. As Kamosaki was primarily a Kagerou cardfighter, he likely brought the copies of Mirubiru into his deck out of experience with Aermo before it. His particular build gave priority to critical and draw triggers, carefully balanced with an exact number of Flogals necessary to not miss his superior ride.

Summer National Championship 2011, Juniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x1 Giro
x4 Future Knight, Llew CT
x3 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x4 Margal DT
x2 Flogal ST
x3 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x2 Lake Maiden, Lien
x3 Pongal
x3 Mirubiru
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x3 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x2 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x3 King of Knights, Alfred
x2 Soul Saver Dragon
x2 Alfred Early 

Kamosaki's third deck returns to his Kagerou tactics of old, rolling out The End as the culmination of his deck's original strategy. Being well aware of the large number of retire units available by this time, Kamosaki included a second Conroe in his deck as an additional deck searcher, likely to get a copy of Barri in hand in the event of facing a persona blast, Majesty Lord Blaster or powerful on-hit skill. With Burning Horn Dragon as Overlord's offensive support and an irregular body of triggers, Kamosaki's new deck is an aggressive and unpredictable build that fights back against card counting and uses Gojo and Aermo to further sift through the deck in search of a second copy of The End. Unfortunately, this decklist was not able to carry him through the competition.

Summer 2012 Regional Tournament, Hiroshima Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-EB03, PR 0001-0066
Grade 0
x2 Lizard Soldier, Conroe
x3 Embodiment of Spear, Tahr CT
x1 Dragon Dancer, Monica DT
x4 Dragon Monk, Genjo HT
x4 Gatling Claw Dragon DT
x4 Blue-Ray Dracokid CT
Grade 1
x4 Wyvern Guard, Barri
x4 Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
x2 Dragon Monk, Gojo
x2 Demonic Dragon Mage, Kimnara
x1 Flame of Hope, Aermo
Grade 2
x4 Burning Horn Dragon
x3 Bellicosity Dragon
x1 Cross Shot, Gap
x3 Berserk Dragon
Grade 3
x4 Dragonic Overlord
x4 Dragonic Overlord The End

Additional Images

Kamosaki is at the left center, next to Daigo and in front of Shitakawachi.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

News: Vanguard Fight Team Festival 2012 Regional Champions

Eight teams in Japan have just today been acknowledged on the official Cardfight!! Vanguard official website. Representing three districts of Japan, these cardfighters offer a good look at the current competitive situation behind Vanguard.

Tokyo Regional Tournament, A Block
Championship Team
Kakizawa Kou Keita/柿沢倖太
Deck Type: Nova Grappler (Asura Kaiser-Perfect Raiser)

Sakamoto Jun'ichi/坂本純一
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Majesty Lord Blaster)

Noguchi Tomohiro/野口智弘
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Runners Up
Asano Ami/浅野亜美
Deck Type: Shadow Paladin (Phantom Blaster Dragon-Overlord)

Yada Yumi/矢田友美
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (King of Knights, Alfred-Soul Saver Dragon)

Nosaka Haruka/野坂春香
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Tokyo Regional Tournament, B Block
Championship Team
Ikeda Yusuke/池田優介
Deck Type: Oracle Think Tank (Amaterasu - Tsukuyomi)

Ishikawa Kouki/石川江樹
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (King of Knights, Alfred - Majesty Lord Blaster)

Unno Tomoki/海野智輝
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Runners Up
Tomori Ryuuta/友利竜太
Deck Type: Nova Grappler (Asura Kaiser-Stern Blaukruger)

Ozaki Yousuke/小崎陽介
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Soul Saver Dragon-Majesty Lord Blaster)

Hirata Shinji/平田晋士
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Osaka Regional Tournament
Championship Team
Sawada Yuu/澤田勇友
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End) 

Kakuhara Misaki/角原美咲
Deck Type: Shadow Paladin (Phantom Blaster Dragon-Overlord)

Watanabe Genki/渡辺元気
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Majesty Lord Blaster-King of Knights, Alfred)

Runners Up
Maeda Naoki/前田直紀
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Gisuji Shunpei/宜壽次隼平
Deck Type: Oracle Think Tank (Amaterasu-Tsukuyomi)

Arisawa Ryuuichiro/有澤竜一郎
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (King of Knights, Alfred-Soul Saver Dragon-Majesty Lord Blaster-Alfred Early)

Hakata Regional Tournament
Championship Team
Masaki Daigo/正木大吾
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End) 

Niibori Kentarou/新堀健太郎 
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Majesty Lord Blaster)

Takagi Tatsuki/高木龍輝
Deck Type: Shadow Paladin (Phantom Blaster Dragon-Overlord)

Runners Up
Kudou Yuuki/工藤祐己
Deck Type: Neo Nectar (Maiden of Trailing Rose-Forerunner Battle Maiden, Laurel)

Nagata Yuki/永田友紀
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Baromedes-Majesty Lord Blaster)

Nishida Kazuki/西田一輝
Deck Type: Kagerou (Dragonic Overlord-The End)

Spotlight: Gotou Hirotaka/後藤裕隆

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Gotou Hirotaka/後藤裕隆
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Sendai Regional Runner-Up (Senior Class)
Current Status: Sendai Senior Runner-Up (Summer 2011)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Alfred)
Gotou Hirotaka was a finalist in one of the first official Vanguard tournaments, the Sendai regional. Coming up in second place against Murakami Kazuya, he has not been seen since. Gotou was the primary opponent against Murakami's Soul Saver Dragon strategy, bringing with him an Alfred built that served as its counterargument.

He has not appeared on the list of participants for the Sendai Grand Prix or National Grand Prix. It is unknown if Gotou has merely not qualified for the final matches of these competitions or if he can be presumed to have retired from the competitive scene. However, his Alfred-centric strategy survives him and can be seen in many decks today.

Decks and Play Style
Compared to Murakami, Gotou's deck is lower on counterblasts, and is more heavily geared towards trial deck cards. While they share a superior ride chain, Gotou was less enthusiastic for it and had a more draw-oriented Paladin build. Outside of the requisite perfect guards, his grade 1s are clearly selected to empower Bors properly for a 20000-power attack, favoring Starlight Unicorn over other potential rearguards like Young Pegasus Knight.

Summer 2011 Regional Tournament, Sendai Seniors Division
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x3 Future Knight, Llew CT
x2 Flogal ST
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x4 Margal DT
x3 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x4 Lake Maiden, Lien
x3 Starlight Unicorn
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x2 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x4 Knight of Conviction, Bors

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spotlight: Murakami Kazuya/村上和也

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Murakami is to the right, holding the second place trophy.
Murakami Kazuya/村上和也
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Sendai Regional Champion (Senior Class), National Runner-Up (Japan, Senior Class)
Current Status: National Runner-Up (Summer 2011)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Alfred-Soul Saver Dragon)
Murakami made his first appearance in the competitive scene at the Summer 2011 Sendai Regional, in June of 2011. Taking first place with his Royal Paladin deck, he proceeded on to face Shitakawachi in the first ever national-level Vanguard competition, held in August. However, Murakami ultimately lost this fight, placing as the runner-up. It is unknown if he participated during the following Grand Prix; he has not appeared on official listings since then.

Decks and Play Style
Murakami is noted primarily for paving the way for much of Japan's competitive scene, as Sendai was the first ward of Japan to have a tournament. As such, its results were available ahead of the other tournaments. He's also recognized as one of the earliest advocates for the Royal Paladin clan, defining what are internationally known as its primary strategies with his first decklist. Ironically, the very strategies that Murakami originated became the basis for the deck that would defeat him in the Summer of 2011.

His opponent in the final rounds of the Sendai tournament was Gotou Hirotaka. Unlike Murakami, Gotou advocated for a more heavily Alfred-centric build, using Bors for support in their fight. Murakami's strategy was to superior ride from Barcgal into Blaster Blade, building up the soul for Soul Saver Dragon's soulblast; High Dog Breeder, Akane and Pongal were additional support cards for his strategy. His grade 1s included just three copies of the Flash Shield, Iseult--typical for the time, as Murakami only ran 2 draw triggers--Lien for her deck-searching capability, Marron as a universal booster, and Lionmane Stallion to support a rearguard Alfred. As Lionmane was also a viable target for Akane, Murakami could take advantage of this to use Alfred to superior call Akane and Akane to superior call Lionmane, building up for the turn in which he would ride Soul Saver Dragon.

Murakami's initial decklist included 3 copies of Blaster Blade, with one Gancelot to make up the difference--thus accounting both for the possibility of his Barcgal being retired, and that one may end up in the damage zone. While the build was somewhat rough for the time and likely ruled by budget, it was nonetheless able to either gain card advantage through superior ride and call, or else punish the opponent that attempted to break this advantage with retire skills.

Summer 2011 Regional Tournament, Sendai Seniors Division
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x4 Future Knight, Llew CT
x3 Flogal ST (TD)
x2 Margal DT
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT (TD)
x3 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT (TD)
Grade 1
x3 Flash Shield, Iseult
x3 Lake Maiden, Lien
x4 Pongal
x4 Little Sage, Marron (BT)
x1 Lionmane Stallion
Grade 2
x3 Blaster Blade (BT)
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x2 High-Dog Breeder, Akane
x2 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x1 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x2 Soul Saver Dragon

The revised deck Murakami brought to Japan's summer national was, unfortunately, not up to par. Between the two decks, Murakami removed one of his Soul Saver Dragons and ditched Gancelot in favor of an additional Blaster Blade. With just five grade 3s and Akane absent from the deck, he would theoretically be dealing with ride problems in the finals--whether this was actually the case or not is unknown. Murakami appears to have substituted out several of his key cards in favor of other, less useful units--cutting Akane for Randolf and additional Gordons, and Margal for another Flogal, the changes are drastic enough that it becomes ambiguous if this Murakami Kazuya is indeed the same Murakami Kazuya from Sendai.

Murakami appears to have rather strangely cut the trial deck Marrons and Elaines in the transition, but on account of the identical kanji(there are around eight ways to write Murakami in Japanese, similar to the Fisher-Fischer shift in English) and the requirements for national participation, it must be concluded that these two cardfighters are in fact the same person.

Summer National Championship 2011, Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT02, PR 0001-0018
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x4 Future Knight, Llew CT
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x4 Flogal ST
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x3 Lake Maiden, Lien
x4 Pongal
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x1 Covenant Knight, Randolf
x4 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x1 Soul Saver Dragon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Starting Vanguards: Gold Paladin

As the new kids on the block for vanguard, the Gold Paladins are bound to leave long time players with plenty of questions as to their utility. Succeeding both Aichi and Ren's primary clans is a daunting task, so it's best to get a good look at what the new paladins are capable of as they roll off the line.

Gold Paladin
Options: Grassland Breeze, Sagramore, Coongal, Crimson Lion Cub, Kyrph, Little Fighter, Cron, Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer
Review: Grassland Breeze, Sagramore brings us to the same slow start as past Stardust Trumpeters. That high power and shield won't do him much good in the vanguard circle, where he's almost always going to be replaced, and he has no skills to compel his use. He's cute, but ineffectual--you don't bring a kitten to a catfight.

Coongal is essentially the same deal, except he at least has a use in the hand. Since Coongal moves to the soul when sent from the guard circle to the drop zone, he has some use as a defensive wall. Still not first vanguard material.
Crimson Lion Cub, Kyrph is the Gold Paladins' skilled starter. He comes prepatched with a familiar autoskill, moving to the rearguard when ridden with a unit of the same clan.

His secondary skill is another standard favorite, a superior ride; when the vanguard is "Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains," Kyrph can soulcharge himself and the Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth from your rearguard circles to superior ride the Burning Lion, Blonde Ezel. This is what defines Kyrph as starter--he's virtually costless. While the skill does require that Gareth and Beaumains be out, and it's specific enough to remain balanced, it's not a skill to be underestimated since this gives Ezel a soul of 4 to fuel Silver Fang Witch or Charjgal.

Next in line is the Little Fighter, Cron. Like Kyrph, Cron moves to the rearguard when ridden. Rather than coming as an almost-free superior ride, Cron's skill is a counterblast 1 and soulcharge himself to search the top 5 cards of the deck for a grade 3 Gold Paladin. This skill should be familiar to Bermuda Triangle cardfighters--if you can get a grade 3 out of that, then it goes straight to your hand. While this combines well with a grade 3-heavy Lucan build, for most fighters Cron will be a substitute until you pull Kyrph from a pack. Given that Kyrph is just an R, this won't be long.

In general I would run Kyrph before I would Cron, both for the superior ride and additional soul.

Finally, we have the other half of the Gold Paladin equation, Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer. Although bearing less power than Kyrph, his skills are overall less conditional.

The first is developed out from his immediate predecessor, Fullbau; When you ride Scout of Darkness, Vortimer, you can look at the top seven cards of your deck and search for up to one Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer or a Spectral Duke Dragon and add it to your hand. Unlike Fullbau, Vortimer has two target cards he can search for, up to which four of each may be present in the deck at any one time. Although the evolving ride is not a guarantee as with Fullbau, Vortimer compensates for this with his second skill--if you ride any other Gold Paladin unit, you may move him to one of your rearguard circles.

While the possibility of his initial skill failing to find any such cards is definitely troubling, the skill is inclusive enough that not finding your target cards typically means that they're already in your hand. While missing the initial Darkness ride would make things considerably more difficult, the Black Dragon Whelp still offers the convenience of a rearguard that can be used to help pay Spectral's cost further down the line.

Vortimer and Kyrph are together easily the best of the Royal Paladin starters. Which one you run depends on whether you want to create a deck focused on Ezel or Spectral Duke Dragon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Electronic Standing Fight Table Spotted

Here it is, the first fully electronic standing fight table. With a color light-up display and inbuilt sound effects, this table scouted from the Japanese store Card Kingdom can appear a little intimidating at first glance. It's still the same Vanguard cardfighters across the earthsphere are already familiar with though, just flashier. A video of the table in operation can be viewed below.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bermuda △ Starter Deck Confirmed

Release Date: 3/18
A new Cardfight!! Vanguard starter deck has been released; this one however, has a more complicated story behind its creation than most VG products.
Rather than being the unannounced TD07, the new Bermuda Triangle deck spotlighting Sendou Emi is an original creation of the card shop, Card Kingdom. Listed as VG-CK(VanGuard-CardKingdom), the new deck does in fact appear to be a licensed product. Much like the GameStop exclusives seen on the western side of the video game industry, VG-CK is a Card Kingdom exclusive.

Although a complete decklist is unavailable at this time, the following fifteen cards were seen in a video tutorial CK uploaded on the deck;

Grade 0
x1 Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Shizuku
x1 Drive Quartet, Shuplu CT
x2 Drive Quartet, Bubblin DT
x1 Drive Quartet, Flows HT
Grade 1
x1 Turquoise Blue, Tyrrhenian
x1 Navy Dolphin, Ameer
x1 Mermaid Idol, Sedna
Grade 2
x1 Snow White of the Corals, Claire
x1 Diva of the Clear Seas, Izumi
x1 Intelli Idol, Melville
Grade 3
x2 Velvet Voice, Raindear
x1 Rainbow Light, Carine
x1 Top Idol, Flores

Update: Bushiroad has confirmed on their blog that while the cards sold in the deck are official, the packaged deck was composed entirely by Card Kingdom. The mockup seen above was done to promote the deck, which when sold, comes packaged in a plastic shrink wrap or case rather than a full box. This mockup was made possible by personal ties between the CEO of Card Kingdom, Mr. Ikeda and Bushiroad's CEO, Mr. Kidani.

Major League Baseball Advertises Cardfight!! Vanguard

Today was a surprise for many thousands of baseball fans, both in the bleachers and viewing at home, as they were treated to an advertisement for Cardfight!! Vanguard in the backdrop of a Texas Rangers' game. The advertisement depicts series protagonist Sendou Aichi in the outfit designed for his debut at Asia Circuit, Vanguard's second season. Although the first season has yet to air in the United States, many fans are already familiar with the show through CrunchyRoll's simulcast of it, and this appears to be part of a marketing strategy coinciding with Bushiroad's release of the second season trial decks and booster packs in the USA.

While this may come off as surprising to some, Vanguard's publisher works closely with Dentsu, which is both the largest domestic advertising firm in Japan and a major figure in the international scene. Having recently covered the advertisement of the 2012 book-turned-film The Lorax, Dentsu's most current move was its closing of ties with the Publicis Groupe, a French multinational company with a similar historic background.

They had previously held a strong strategic alliance from 2002 until February of this year, when Dentsu withdrew from its relationship with Publicis and sold off most of the stock it held in the company. Together with Omnicom and WPB, the Publicis Groupe fought for total domination of the world market, but it can now be taken as a sign of the times that Dentsu is a large enough player to stand on their own in the international scene. During their time with Publicis, Dentsu owned almost 10% of the company's shares, now lying at around 2%. Despite this move, Dentsu and Publicis have both publicly expressed a desire to continue working together and maintaining a strong professional relationship.

It isn't quite to the level of televised matches, but Cardfight has certainly made its way into the competitive stadium. The advertisement can be seen in the video below from 0:16 to 0:19

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Vanguard CM Previews Asia Circuit's OP03 "Limit Break"

A new Vanguard commercial has sprung up on NicoNico Douga, featuring JAM Project's new song "Limit Break" as the background music. The commercial showcases the Gold Paladin and Narukami trial decks, and was made in cooperation with the 2012 World Table Tennis Championships(世界卓球 Sekai Takkyū). The video will require a Nico Nico Douga account to view.

Yonaga Tsubasa and Satou Takuya contributed some in-character commentary to the CM;

Aichi: ぼくのあたらしなかまとともに。
Boku no atarashi nakama totomoni!
"Together with my new allies!"

Kai: これがおれのあらたちから。
Kore ga ore no arata chikara!
 "This is my new power!"

Aichi: みんあでいっしょにファイトしろ。
Minna de isshoni FAITO shiro!
"Everyone, let's all fight together!"

UPDATE: The video is now available via YouTube;

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BT07: "Rampage of the Beast King," Ride 64 preview leaked

Release Date: June 07, 2012
This booster will be based on the units that Aichi and his friends face in the Asia Circuit. It will feature the return of Great Nature and Oracle Think Tank; the former clan had its growth initially halted at BT02, and returns as a focal point for the seventh booster pack. Previous Great Nature cards have centered around "overloading" rearguards with power boosts so that they retire at the end of the turn. It is unknown how Bushiroad will continue to build on this theme.

Much as with 57 and 63, information on ride 64 has been leaked from TV-Aichi:

"In response to Ren's overwhelming strength of his PsyQualia, Aichi was forced to use his own even though he tried to suppress it. At last, the truth will be revealed. What is the true purpose of PsyQualia...?"
(Translation by FelGrand)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Deckbuilding: Winning Image

Deckbuilding Step 3: Winning Image
Yuri described this well enough in the anime. To truly know how to build your deck, you need to decide ahead of time what you're trying to do with it. Most decks have their image set up around a grade 3 unit, because speaking realistically, the process of dealing damage takes enough time that you aren't going to win until you hit grade 3.

In addition to the time factor, grade 3s have their greatest strength built into them. Twin Drive as a skill provides raw card advantage, as well as the possibility of multiple triggers activating. With very limited exception, most grade 3s have incredible skills unique to them that can completely turn around the tide of a match.

As many grade 3s make the most of their skills when supported by rearguards designed for them--Soul Saver Dragon and Pongal, Tyrant Deathrex and Dragon Egg--these units should be, along with one's starting vanguard, among the first cards placed in a deck. The winning image brings your strategy together, as most cards do not stand on their own but instead stand together. While there are certainly exceptions like Oracle Guardian Apollon, who can be brought into any deck and doesn't rely on specific clan skills, this is the ultimate core of Vanguard's strategy.

Cardfight is not a game of which cards are the strongest; it's a game of making the best of a particular strategy. While it is possible to combine Blazing Flare Dragon and Dragonic Overlord The End, a deck which focuses on one of them in particular and plays those cards to the best of its ability will always do better than a deck which clumsily attempts to unite these.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Confirmed: EN BT03=JP BT06

 I said I wouldn't work on my birthday but this is a little too big for that...

In what initially resembled a hoax, recently it was alleged in a forum post that Bushiroad had responded to an email confirming that the card list of the English-language booster set 3 would be identical to the Japanese-language booster set 6. This was confirmed by a French store which stocks the game, Parkage, who were aware of the plan as early as three months ago.

This means skipping ahead past key cards for every existing clan, the entire Pale Moon, Bermuda Triangle and Shadow Paladin clans, as well as the Kamui and Misaki trial decks. Although the subject has yet to be approached in an official capacity at the time of this article's writing, the current speculation is that boosters 3-5 and extra boosters 1-2 will be released in alternating sets between the new boosters.

The news has been corroborated on Gamers' Haven, which is selling English trial decks--VGE-TD03 and VGE-TD04 correspond to Slash of Silver Wolf and Resonance of Thunder Dragon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Announcement: Vanguard Wiki Plagiarism

Within the past week it came to my attention that this Cardfight!! Vanguard fan wiki has been plagiarizing my work. Articles from my website's character section have in some places been copied wholesale onto their resource, without citations inline or otherwise.

I have already obtained a confession and apology from the user who originally plagiarized my work. This user has issued a statement that it was his account being used by another person. Regardless of whether or not that is true, it is his account that is now associated with the plagiarism.

Game Set is a for profit website. When you copy and/or modify articles from this website without my permission or citations, you are stealing. And no matter how you attempt to rationalize it, you are using my work in a way that is both unethical and illegal. Reposting these articles elsewhere without citation or reference back to the original author means that you are now claiming to own my writing. You don't.

The articles on Game Set are freely available to everyone, but they are not free for redistribution--reposting of these articles in any capacity requires that you provide proper citation leading back to my work. This isn't just for me, this goes for anyone. When you write an academic paper, you cite your sources and make sure that the original author gets credit for the effort they've put into it. Not doing this will can and will get you thrown out of school.

I have already gone through many articles on the offending wiki and replaced their plagiarism with cited, 100-word summaries, and external links leading back to the original articles. You may have my articles this way, or you may have them none at all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Comparisons between Vanguard and Ito's earlier work

Spoiler warning: details for Cardfight!! Vanguard Season 1 and Yu-Gi-Oh! R Volumes 1-5 follow.

Although he certainly didn't get the same amount of recognition before the first volume of Cardfight!! Vanguard was published, the mysterious Ito Akira did not simply appear out of thin air and start pumping out this storyline. While we know almost nothing of his identity, brief indexes of his work are available throughout the net. Most prominently, he did all of the artwork for Yu-Gi-Oh! R with Takahashi Kazuki's writing and direction at the helm. Here's a summary of his work;
  • He was on the team for the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, though his exact role isn't specified.
  • Ito did key animation for episode 9 of Mirai Nikki, as well as some side work for Samurai Champloo.
  • Over the course of four years, he personally drew every panel of Yu-Gi-Oh! R, and is also said to have some hand in the story, even though Takahashi is listed as the main writer.
  • Ito also assisted in the creation of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
Volume 5 of Yu-Gi-Oh! R is his most lauded individual work, as it's an absolutely massive 256-page manga that showcases incredible writing and art. As each individual volume of the manga had already made its way onto the New York Times best seller list, a certain measure of quality was to be expected--ultimately however, Ito exceeded any expectations the readers could have had up to that point. This appears to have kickstarted his career as an independent artist, as the final page of the Japanese release says to look forward to his next project, which would turn out to be Cardfight!! Vanguard two years after volume 5's conclusion.

What this article is concerned with though, is the recurring themes and design choices common between R and Vanguard. Sharing both a writer and artist, it's natural that these manifest. For the intents of this article, it should be clear that I am in no way suggesting a lack of originality, or of Vanguard being a "rip-off" of Yu-Gi-Oh!; the two series are different beasts that follow different rules.

Consider first, the most natural of symmetries; the art. A number of characters in Vanguard can draw their origins back to R, and the most prominent of them all is the series' antagonist, Suzugamori Ren. His design is made to directly evoke the same presence of Tenma Yako, having similarly patterned hair and eye shape as well as the coat Yako was so fond of sporting;

The characters even make identical facial expressions.

As in R, in Vanguard people are not the ultimate source of evil. Perfectly well-meaning ideals are made to be compromised by forces from outside the characters' context.

In R, Tenma Yako's desire to resurrect Pegasus J. Crawford, is twisted by his means of doing so--the Wicked Gods--into a mindless lashing out at Pegasus' perceived murderer, Mutou Yugi.

This has its own parallel in Vanguard; Suzugamori Ren's longing for the strength to support his friends is engineered by the power of PSY Qualia into a lust for humiliating his opponents. Both characters have lost sight of their original goals, and are instead given to a desire to, in Ren's own words, "take everything."

And both of these characters have their foils, who stay by their former ideals but reconstruct them to adjust for reality. Unlike his twin, Tenma Gekko is not so vested in reviving Pegasus that he would sacrifice innocent lives to do so. Though he disagreed with Yako, Gekko still kept by his brother's side up until Yako's Project R.A. was brought underway. Similarly, Shinjou Tetsu initially continues to stand by his old friend Ren, becoming a Foo Fighter where Kai chose to run from Suzugamori's plot.

Just as Gekko eventually turns away from the Rebirth of Avatar altogether, and rebels against his brother believing that Pegasus' death has made them stronger, Shinjou Tetsu expresses a gradual shift in the aftermath of his match with Kamui. Where he should have felt triumphant over his victory, Kamui's comments on the meaning of a team prompts Tetsu to look up at Kai in the stands and seemingly reevaluate his position. Though Vanguard's first season has not yet finished airing, it is fair to say that this may be the extent of Tetsu's development towards Gekko's decision--because Gekko's role is actually split between two characters, Tetsu and Kai.

While Tetsu represents the Gekko that chose to stay with his brother, as well as the overall attitude of Richie Merced and Depre Scott, Kai Toshiki is the Gekko that opposed Yako. And for that, Ren resents him, as Yako did--though unlike with Merced in R, it's ultimately Ren himself who puts Kai on his knees.

Tetsu and Kai are composite characters. Where Tetsu represents Pegasus' four adopted children--Yako, Richie, Depre and the antagonist aspects of Gekko--Kai is a composite of Gekko's protagonist traits and Yugi himself. While Ren and Yako both have an ultimate goal, they are ceaselessly distracted from it by the source of their hatred and motivation. In addition to being the objects of the antagonists' loathing, both Yugi and Kai are drawn similarly by Ito;

Despite how the iris is depicted, Kai seems to have inherited Yugi's general eye and ear shape, as well as facial structure. Though Ito owns nothing of Yugi's uniform design, the style in which the uniforms are drawn is significantly similar--Ito himself has a very defined, angular way of drawing these clothes. This form is unique to himself.

And although the comparisons are frequent, where he serves the same function for Ren that Yugi did for Yako, Kai ultimately resembles Seto Kaiba in design alone. Kaiba's coldness towards others is because of an antagonistic personality and lack of respect for people, but Kai is a genuinely nice person whose childhood experiences have left him socially awkward. Ironically, a large portion of Kai's fan following can be derived from misinterpretation of his lack of social skills as self-confidence.

Compare as to how he also resembles the initial counterpart I introduced, Gekko. The absence of color throughout much of the Vanguard manga leads to decidedly similar artwork for each of them, both featuring predominantly dark, white-trimmed jackets over an interior white shirt and downturned collars. The buttons on Yako's double-breasted suit act as twin highlights beneath the shoulders to Kai's school uniform, which causes them to be shaded similarly under different light levels.

Aside from the artwork, both are close individuals to the primary antagonist who, having defected from his group, act to correct their past mistakes while remain secondary characters to the protagonist.

So if Ren is Yako, and Tetsu and Kai are together Gekko, then who is Bandit Keith Howard? Surprisingly enough, compare Suiko's actions with Howard's; she works in an advisory role to the antagonist, feeding him stimuli that compel him to clash with the protagonists. As Keith deceived Yako into believing that Yugi was Pegasus' murderer, Suiko was content with hooking Ren on the power of PSY Qualia, granting him Phantom Blaster Overlord to temper that strength and encourage his growth. The two avoid endangering themselves in straightforward battle, preferring to use others first, and then become confrontational only as their goal approaches.

Setting wise, Yu-Gi-Oh! R's Kaiba Corp tower bears a distinct resemblance to the Foo Fighter HQ; the Foo Fighters themselves are the series' equivalents to the card professors guild. As such, the HQ serves much the same purpose as Kaiba Corp, being the antagonists' home ground.

Volume 5 of R brings about a surprising turn of events which Vanguard eventually revisits; Yako uses the Fiend's Sanctuary magic card, which creates a monster with attack points equal to the opponents' remaining life points--in game terms, any one hit from such a monster would instantly win the game, though it would be either extremely weak or extremely strong depending on how much damage the opponent had already sustained. The monster the Sanctuary creates takes on the shape of the protagonist Mutou Yugi, and is used in the narrative as an allegory for Mutou's feelings towards the "Other Yugi" he became the host to at the very start of the series. This Other, an amnesiac ghost sealed within a memento from Mutou's grandfather, inhabits his body during duels, and so fights for him in times of need.

What Yako uses the Fiend's Sanctuary card to illustrate, is that Yugi can only resent his Other, who has stood in his place and gradually taken over his life by fighting his battles for him. Mutou Yugi is not himself the titular "King of Games"(Yu Gi Ou)--the nameless spirit he's become the host for has, and it is the spirit who has been living his life.

While Yugi himself takes control of his body once more to refute Yako's claim, believing firmly that his Other is his friend and that it is because of the Other Yugi that he grew as a person and met so many people, this point does not go unvisited by Cardfight!! Vanguard. As the series progresses, the protagonist Sendou Aichi learns to "hear" his cards' voices, an ability eventually identified as PSY Qualia. A completed state of PSY Qualia is marked by auras appearing in the wielder's eyes during periods of use, and is accompanied by ever-expanding arrogance on part of the wielder that bears marked similarity to the personality traits exemplified by the Other Yugi in Yu-Gi-Oh!'s earlier chapters. Every known bearer of PSY Qualia gained it by craving power to please their friends; ride 50 epitomizes this during Sendou's fight with Kai.

"Why? Why won't you understand?! I'm strong! I got strong!"

In an interview with Time the original creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Takahashi Kazuki, presented the Other Yugi as an allegory for transformation. Yugi's literal transformation into his Other that takes place once per chapter carries with it a message of becoming something else, a type of "transformation" that Takahashi felt was very prominent with children. This "transformation" or henshin has itself become inundated in Japanese culture, not just through Yu-Gi-Oh! but also through the Super Sentai television shows that the west would later bring over as Power Rangers, the masked heroes of Kamen Rider and the magical girl genre anime and manga like Sailor Moon or Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Takahashi would go on to reiterate his stance on transformation in a postscript statement;

"I believe that everyone has an 'other self' inside them. It may be your ideal self, someone who it's your goal to become. But when you're pressured to be a certain way by the expectations of your parents or the world, the burden may be too much to bear and you may lose sight of yourself. In other words, your 'other self' is something you have to create, not that people can force upon you. I think it's best to take it easy and keep an eye on your 'other self,' and aim for that goal. But don't stress out about reaching it right away."

But where Takahashi embraces transformation as a tool of growth, Ito refutes it. Rides 43-50 of Cardfight!! Vanguard are a vicious deconstruction of transformation, and the superpowers which pervade comparable anime. PSY Qualia is ultimately rejected, as it is no longer the player that is fighting but supernatural forces from outside their control--and so the player is no longer playing at all. Rather than transformation being a necessary, positive change, it is instead a denial of the self while blindly attempting to live up to the expectations of one's peers, thereby compelling them to "grow stronger." This is not growth at all, but a furthered dependency on others.

PSY Qualia is however only one half of the total stimuli that made Aichi's transformation a reality. The other half, the Shadow Paladin deck that Ren gave to Aichi, is not without its own R equivalent. Compare how the Wicked Gods line up with Phantom Blaster Dragon;

Ito consistently depicts the Wicked Gods as malevolent, shrouded monsters emerging from a human figure, an artistic decision which contrasts his narrative attitude that evil does not find its source in human forms. Phantom Blaster Dragon is similarly depicted as emerging from the humanoid Blaster Dark, whom in a previous panel was established as taking on Ren's appearance. In going with R's ending, it could be said that while evil does not originate from people, the fault still lies in human beings for taking the paths they march upon. Regardless of the influence of the Wicked Gods on Yako and PSY Qualia on Ren and later Aichi, these characters ultimately chose to lend their ears to these outside forces.

I have discussed the word "bunshin" and the difficulty in translating it before, and R is yet another example of this term coming into play. When Yako summons the third and final Wicked God in volume 5, he declares The Wicked Avatar(or as the original Japanese manga has it "THE DEVILS AVATAR") as his own "bunshin," what Vanguard and R both translate as avatar. While Takahashi had the stronger presence in R's overall writing, there is no doubt that Ito's time spent working on this project and his involvement in it would go on to influence his own concept of avatar in Vanguard, particularly Suzugamori Ren and Aichi's own "devil's avatar," Blaster Dark.

Reinforcing this comparison is how the Wicked Gods are portrayed becoming active in Yako's deck versus how the Shadow Paladins are active in Aichi's third deck.

Both depictions show the active force as shadowy tendrils emerging from the cards themselves, disturbing the color and clarity of image around them. Just as The Wicked Avatar seems to "jump" from his deck into Yako's hand after this scene takes place, Vanguard seems to have taken the idea of making one's avatar appear at will and converted it into a game mechanic, through card skills that add specific avatars to the hand. The general train of thought that Vanguard follows out of R is that of corrupting force which preys on emotional need, and eschewing dependency on the supernatural in favor of personal strength as a mortal human being.

So what can we conclude from these artistic parallels? As stated before, in both R and Vanguard people are not the ultimate source of evil. Evil takes place when an external force corrupts good intentions. Just as R concluded with Yako repenting for his actions, letting go of Pegasus and being grateful that he did not "take away [Yugi's] smile," Ren will likely realize the error of his ways. Previews for the second season, Asia Circuit, showcase Suzugamori as joining Team Q4 on their overseas trip, which would support this theory. The primary conflict in both series is fundamentally an emotional one, where unprepared young people must cope with the deaths of parents and the betrayal of friends. For season 1's conflict to be concluded satisfactorily, Ren and Kai need only apologize to one another.