Sunday, April 29, 2012

Is Vanguard Set in Shinjuku?

Recently these images, a comparison of Vanguard's 69th episode with a photo taken from Google maps, have been garnering attention via social media websites. The photo depicts Shinjuku Station in Shinjuku, one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, likewise located in Shinjuku, has also appeared in the anime.

Although it was confirmed earlier in the series' regional tournament arc that Aichi and his friends live in the Kanto region (a region of the Japanese mainland, Honshu) the geographic similarities between Vanguard's scenery and the real world suggest that they live in Tokyo. As Tokyo is one of the seven prefectures encompassed by the Kanto region, the information does line up with what little was already known.

If true, then the park that Misaki, Aichi and Kamui stopped at in ride 69 would be Shinjuku Central Park. Based on demographics, their home town may be one of the neighboring cities.

(via matibari)
Update: Additional photos of the Metropolitan Building have been added. (via floreange)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Episode Guide: Asia Circuit, Ride 69: The Challenge from PSY

This article is under construction.

Fight Analysis
Tokura Misaki vs Rekka
Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.

Story Synopsis: The episode opens at the Sendou household. Aichi asks his sister Emi and his mother Shizuka for permission to go overseas and attend the Asia Circuit. Emi opposes this, believing that Aichi will get lost, but after careful thought Shizuka allows him to travel with Q4.

Later, Aichi goes shopping with Misaki and Kamui in preparation for their trip. Aichi explains that Kai will not be attending the Circuit on their team. At Sendou's suggestion, the three of them take a train to the card shop PSY--while Kamui thinks that it's to prepare their decks for the tournament, Sendou has personal reasons to go. He intends to confront Ultra-Rare about the cards they gave him, the King of Knights, Alfred and Majesty Lord Blaster, as well as those cards' disappearance and just what the Gold Paladins are. Despite Kamui initially wondering if it's okay for a Card Capital employee to be visiting a rival shop, Misaki insists that it's fine.

At PSY they find Rekka struggling to pack the idols' suitcase in preparation for the Circuit. Suiko explains that the shop will be closed for some time, while the three of them take leave for Singapore. Aichi quickly slips in a question to Kourin about if she still uses a Royal Paladin deck, but Kourin is unable to recall any such clan. While Ultra-Rare has no issues with Aichi going, Rekka mocks his choice of teammates, challenging Misaki to a fight. Kourin protests, but Suiko gives her approval and the two begin a confrontation at the shop's fight system.

(Note that based on Suiko's behavior, she may still recall the Royal Paladins. However, nothing was explicitly said regarding whether she does or does not remember them.)

Rekka floors Misaki with her Angel Feather deck, maintaining total control of the fight throughout. As the group leaves Rekka wishes them well, but assures Team Q4 that they "definitely won't win."

"Have fun at the Circuit! Though, I don't think you'll have much..."

The episode preview shows the return of Team Caesar, the introduction of the brand-new Team Genius, Takuto's scheming and Burning Lion, Blonde Eisele.

Today's Card was the Great Silver Wolf, Garmore. Aichi went over his limit break skill.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Official Novel to Retail for $10

More information has surfaced on the official Cardfight!! Vanguard novel, written by Bandana Aoi and set to be released on May 15th, 2012. The novel's cover art is by TMS, the studio behind the anime series, and its internal illustrations are drawn by Adachi Yousuke, who has previously illustrated cards for the TCG including Durangal, Wingal Brave, Pixie Fife and Drum and others. His gallery can be viewed here.

The paperback, spanning 224 pages, is an official product licensed by Bushiroad and published by Tokyo-based Kadokawa Shoten. It follows Sendou Aichi as he meets a new character, Hamane Hiro (浜音ヒロ). Hiro is a lonely boy and a newcomer to Vanguard, who Sendou reaches out to. 

The novel is currently available for preorder on Amazon Japan for 777 yen, roughly equivalent to $10, and it is currently eligible for free shipping.

Winning Image: Gold Paladin (BT06-EB03)

Options: Knight of Fury, Agravain, Knight of Endurance, Lucan, Burning Lion, Blonde Eisele, Great Silver Wolf Garmore, Spectral Duke Dragon
Review: The clan megablaster for the Gold Paladins is Knight of Fury, Agravain. Unlike many of the previous cards in this series of skill, Agravain does not need his attack to connect for his skill to activate. At a soulblast 8 and counterblast 5, Agravain gains +1000 power for each of your Gold Paladin rearguards, and +1 critical--as an additional bonus, the power and critical gain is a continuous effect that lasts for the rest of the game.

Maxing out at +5000 power, this effect continues even on the opponent's turn, turning Agravain into a powerful wall. While the gain may appear tempting, this skill is far too cumbersome to justify its use, as this brand of paladin does not have a strong soul engine and they are already heavily counterblast and soul-reliant. Agravain's power will also fluctuate based on your opponent's ability to retire your rearguards. Most of the other images gain +5000 power via a less costly skill, albeit not during the opponent's turn. Agravain has no limit break skill, and absolutely no use in the rearguard. His build is, unlike the below cards, too inconsistent to see pure Gold Paladin play, although he may have some potential in a Gold-Royal mixed deck. I would recommend Lucan before I would him.

Second is a face that any veteran Royal fighter will be familiar with; Knight of Endurance, Lucan. Lacking a limit break, Lucan gains +5000 power when he drive checks a grade 3 Gold Paladin unit. This skill once again lends itself to a particular build that members of the old guard have been long relying on, and the Gold Paladins have certainly started off this tournament season with a vastly higher count of grade 3s to support it, but their superior ride abilities are not quite ready for such a lopsided deck. I would recommend Lucan as a substitute until Satellite-Fall, Battlefield Storm or any of the units described below can be obtained.

The Burning Lion, Blonde Eisele is the centerpiece the new paladins are craving. There are three factors driving this; first, Eisele is the sole target of the Crimson Little Lion, Kilif's superior ride skill, allowing access to grade 3 one turn early. As this skill requires Gareth to be in the rearguard and Beaumains as the vanguard, and thus balances itself with Eisele's twin drive, it can nonetheless easily overwhelm a lower-graded opponent.

Second and third are Eisele's skills. When at 4 or greater damage, Eisele's limit break kicks in--by counterblasting 2, he can check the top card of the deck, and if it's a Gold Paladin, it can then be called to an empty rearguard circle. As this is an activate skill, Eisele can use it repeatedly to fill the field, and it combines with both its secondary effect of giving him power equal to that of the unit called, and with his continuous skill, gaining +1000 power during your turn for each Gold Paladin in the rearguard.

This turns Eisele into a small but highly efficient Alfred, with less steep of a cost associated in exchange for less precision. The superior ride and his ability to rapidly gain field advantage, which itself combos nicely with on-call and on-boost skills like those of Silver Fang Witch, Blessing Owl and Waving Owl, makes Blonde Eisele easily the best of the initially introduced images available for Gold Paladin. If the Witch is called it's like getting an extra draw trigger in, if Blessing Owl is called it makes Eisele an immediate +9000, and if Waving is called it can be bounced into the hand to aid with guarding. No matter what unit comes out by this skill though, it will give Eisele a bare minimum of +5000 power for that turn.

Accompanying Eisele is the Great Silver Wolf, Garmore. He's gained some tricks since retiring his Fang of Light title--at limit break 4, Garmore will gain +5000 power when attacking a vanguard. And when entered into the vanguard circle, Garmore can counterblast 2 to superior call one grade 2 or lower Gold Paladin, including the famous Witch or his own custom support unit, Charjgal.

Garmore's weakness is shared with Eisele, in having no particular skills that lend to his use in the rearguard, but for Garmore this is offset by Charjgal. Since Charjgal is not especially particular about where Garmore is, as long as you have the soul to fuel the high dog's soulblast, you have a 20000-power attacker. Overall, I would recommend Eisele over Garmore due to the sheer utility of his skills and highly convenient superior ride, but that superior ride itself means that you only need two or so copies of Eisele. As such, Garmore comes in as a good backup and even better followup unit, and he can even find a place in other Paladin deck types--like for example, the long-awaited Spectral Duke Dragon.

As the successor to Phantom Blaster Dragon, Spectral has a certain reputation to live up to. And immediately, he's on the right track; at limit break 4, for a counterblast 2 and retire 3, he can stand himself at the price of twin drive. This does not rely on his attack hitting. As such, if the opponent drops a perfect guard on the attack, it's entirely possible to pull off Spectral's limit break and try again. This ability can be repeated on your following turn, and even the turn after that if you get a heal trigger, making it a devastating maneuver for any opponent to face. Furthermore, it allows for three trigger checks in all.

Spectral's autoskill gives him +1000 power during either player's turn when he has the Gold's Blaster Dark equivalent, Knight of the Dark Dragon, Vortimer in his soul. This puts added pressure on the opponent's hand and helps force his attacks through.

Spectral Duke Dragon easily measures up to Eisele. Gold Paladin cardfighters have the freedom to choose either unit as their winning image, and Garmore can be brought in as an alternative vanguard for both lines.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Episode Guide: Asia Circuit, Ride 68: Team Q4 Again

Fight Analysis
Sendou Aichi vs Katsuragi Kamui

The fight opens on Aichi's turn, riding from Prairie Wind, Sagramore (6000) to Knight of Divine Skill, Gareth (8000).

Kamui rides from Beast God, White Tiger (5000) to the Screamin and Dancin' Announcer, Shout (7000), moving Tiger to his left front rearguard circle. He then calls two Almighty Reporters (6000) as boosters. Kamui first attacks with Tiger boosted by Reporter (11000), using Reporter's skill to return it to his hand when Tiger's attack hits. Aichi damage checks Weapons Dealer, Gwydion (DT +5000 Draw 1) giving the effect to his vanguard (13000) and drawing 1 card. Shout (13000) drive checks Genocide Jack, and the second Reporter returns to his hand.

Aichi rides the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman (10000) then calls Assaulting Chariot Knight (9000) with Chargegal (6000) as Bohman's booster. Chariot Knight attacks, gaining +3000 power due to Aichi's hand being lower than Kamui's. Kamui damage checks Prometheus (CT +5000 +1 Critical) giving all effects to his vanguard (13000.) Bohman (16000) drive checks the Vanquishing Knight, Hougang.

Kamui rides Marvelous Honey (7000), calling Genocide Jack (11000) and two Almighty Reporters (6000) as boosters for Tiger and Honey. Kamui counterblasts 1 to rev Jack into full gear, then attacks with him. Aichi guards with Weapons Dealer, Gwydion (S15000). Marvelous Honey (13000) is guarded by Elixir Sommelier (S20000) but drive checks a new, unidentified stand trigger (ST +5000 Stand 1), standing Jack and giving the power to White Tiger. White Tiger (16000) attacks, and Aichi damage checks Silent Punisher (CT +5000 +1 Critical) giving all effects to his vanguard (S15000). Almighty Reporter returns to Kamui's hand. Genocide Jack retires Assaulting Chariot Knight.

Aichi rides the Great Silver Wolf, Garmall (10000) and counterblasts 2 to superior call the Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemea Lion (8000.) He then calls Storm of the Battlefield, Sagramore (10000). Nemea is guarded by Almighty Reporter (S12000). Chargegal boosts Garmall; Sendou soulblasts Sagramore to activate Chargegal's skill, giving Garmall +4000 power in addition to Chargegal's boost. Garmall (210000) twin drives into the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman and Weapons Dealer, Gwydion (DT +5000 Draw 1), giving the power to Sagramore and drawing one card. Aichi counterblasts 1 for Sagramore as he attacks, giving it +3000 power (18000), and Kamui damage checks Tough Boy.

Kamui rides Asura Kaiser (11000) then moves White Tiger to the back and calls Moai the Great (10000), as well as Tough Boy (8000) for Jack's support and Almighty Reporter (6000) for Asura Kaiser. Genocide Jack (18000) is guarded by Nemea's especial intercept (S20000). Asura Kaiser twin drives into Moai the Great and Asura Kaiser, using his Kaiser's skill to stand both Genocide Jack and Tough Boy. Almighty Reporter returns to Katsuragi's hand. Aichi damage checks Vanquishing Knight, Hougang. Genocide Jack attacks once more, and Aichi damage checks Assaulting Chariot Knight. Moai the Great gains +2000 power when boosted by a Nova Grappler (17000 total), but Aichi guards with Haugang and Gwydion (S20000).

Aichi calls Bohman (10000) with Gareth (8000) as his support, then Blessing Owl (6000) for Sagramore, using Blessing's skill to give Sagramore +2000 power. Bohman (18000) is guarded by Kamui's new stand trigger (S21000). Garmall attacks with Chargegal's skill soulblasting Gareth for +4000 additional power, and limit breaks for +5000 power (26000). The Great Silver Wolf twin drives into Slaygal Double-Edge and Elixir Sommelier (HT +5000 Heal 1), giving the power to Sagramore (17000) and healing one damage. Kamui damage checks Genocide Jack. Boosted by Blessing Owl, Sagramore counterblasts 1 for +3000 additional power (21000); Kamui damage checks Death Army Guy.

Aichi's victory.

Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.

Story Synopsis: Aichi, Shin, Misaki, Morikawa and Izaki marvel over the invitation to the VF Circuit, a competition where fighters from all across the world will gather. Aichi asks the manager to let them participate; however, Shin points out that Aichi needs to assemble two more members for Team Q4, as the team has not technically been established since the end of the previous national. The rules of the invitation are that it extends to the team it is given, so the final lineup to attend the Circuit must consist of at least 1 original member--the other two can be anybody. Misaki quickly agrees at his request, but Sendou is shocked to learn that Kamui has left to join Team Handsome.

Returning to Handsome's shop for the first time in a year, Aichi shows Kamui the invitation. Although filled with dreams of glory, Kamui is obligated to stay with his current teammates and participate in the domestic competition. Daimonji Gouki makes Aichi an offer; if he can best both Gouki and Nagisa in a fight, then Kamui will be able to join Q4 at the Circuit. Instead of Gouki or Nagisa challenging Aichi however, Kamui insists on going against his former captain himself.

During their fight, Kamui gets a sense of deja vu, but can't place just what's wrong with this fight. Sendou surprises them all with his Garmall's limit break skill. Defeated but excited to see the Circuit with his own eyes, Katsuragi is relinquished to Q4.

Important note: The episode preview shows Rekka cardfighting Misaki in ride 69, using the Angel Feather clan. The grade 3 unit she checks is not one of the revealed Angel Feathers that we know of; its name contains kanji not present in Adriel or Gunieru and it doesn't resemble Feather Palace or Kiriel in the slightest. The katakana in the name appears to read "Calamity Flame" but this is from squinting at pixels.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cardfight!! Vanguard TV Drama Trailer

The first piece of news on Daigo's starring role since its announcement last March has finally surfaced, in the form of the drama's trailer.

Due to his appearance in the drama differing from the previous teaser information, it is uncertain if Daigo is actually intended to play the role of Sendou Aichi in the drama, or if this is as a new character altogether. Certain key cards can be seen briefly, such as a Majesty Lord Blaster deck Daigo is using, with a Murakumo deck as his opponent's build, and a Shadow Paladin deck used by an unseen cardfighter.

The drama will premier on May 3th, 8:30 AM JST.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

News: Status of Asia Circuit and Crunchyroll

Alarm bells rang off this week when it appeared that the final TBA spot for Crunchyroll's Spring 2012 lineup had filled, with no second season of Vanguard in sight. This was after nearly a week's silence on the part of Bushiroad, and the airing of ride 67, the second episode of Vanguard's second season. With the license for Asia Circuit seemingly up in the air, fans have continued to petition Bushiroad for more information.

Today, the company published a statement on their official English blog, that due to conditions having changed since the first season, problems have surfaced between the involved parties. No further updates on the matter can be posted until the issues between companies have been resolved, however Bushiroad is clearly still working to make Asia Circuit available through Crunchyroll. Exactly which company is the source of the disagreement is unknown--the prime suspect forum outcry is arising against is Crunchyroll itself.

In the interim, many fans both individual and in groups are working to release their own subtitles for Asia Circuit. Fansubs, while widely known as being profitable in the long term as free advertisement for both the company and viewers, are associated with the same problems of any uncontrolled method of distribution. While it would be impossible to obscure authorship of Vanguard without the deliberate intent to do so, the short-term profits gained from ad cross-promotion tend to suffer the most where fansubs are concerned. It has been demonstrated in the past however, that unless an official alternative is provided fans will continue to create their own methods of distribution.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winning Image: Royal Paladin (BT01)

Royal Paladin
Options: Crimson Butterfly, Brigitte, Solitary Knight, Gancelot, Stardrive Dragon, King of Knights Alfred, Demon Slayer Knight Lohengrin, Alfred Early

Review: Though silly looking, the Crimson Butterfly's build is a genuinely devastating deck that can wreck even with best of Vanguard's power creep. This is rooted in Brigitte's skill; it effectively turns every grade 3 remaining in the deck into a trigger unit, and right from the same trial deck there is one card in particular which combos amazingly with this ability. Gancelot's first skill is to return himself to the deck to search for a Blaster Blade and add it to the hand, but according to the official Q&A #50, since the first thing you do is add Gancelot to the top of the deck, if after looking at the deck the card you are searching for is not present, Gancelot does not return to the hand. You shuffle the deck and put it back down. This means that even with no Blades to search for, Gancelot can be added to the deck late in the game where there are very few cards remaining.

In addition to this combo, simply building the deck correctly can make Brigitte lethal. Grade ratios can be freely thrown out the window with the proper skills--for example, including Blaster Blade, Gancelot and the Barcgal-Flogal-Llew setup combined with 12 total grade 1s will guarantee safe riding from grades 1-2. Then, fill the remaining deck space with Royal Paladin grade 3s, in a build that would look something like this;
Grade 0
x1 Barcgal
x4 Future Knight, Llew CT
x4 Flogal ST
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
Grade 1
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x4 Lake Maiden, Lien
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
Grade 3
x4 Crimson Butterfly, Brigitte
x4 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x2 Knight of Conviction, Bors
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x3 Demon Slayer Knight, Lohengrin
With 17 cards in the deck being grade 3s, this more than doubles the regular trigger count. In this build, with a ride every turn, there will be approximately 36 cards left in the deck at the time of riding Brigitte(assuming that Lien is not used, although she most certainly will be.) These odds work very well in Brigitte's favor, as the odds of checking a grade 3 are actually higher than that of a trigger unit. Brigitte will be crossing the 20000-power borderline nearly every turn, acting as a significant power-up--while the checked cards work as excellent fuel for Lien's skill to further thin the deck and add Gancelots back to it.

To expand on the other end of the trial deck's image, Gancelot's greatest utility is as a decksearcher for Blaster Blade. This is the equivalent to being able to run 8 of him, as it turns a Gancelot draw into a Blaster Blade draw, albeit with the restriction that you need to use his ability the turn before you intend to ride Blade(said skill only works in the main phase, which the ride phase precedes.) Between these two cards, Blaster Blade is very nearly a guarantee. Even if you have no intentions of riding Blaster Blade through this skill, the ability is still useful as it ties into other units like Brigitte and Majesty Lord Blaster, while providing you with an additional intercept or guard.

In terms of his offense, Gancelot is a visible precursor to Phantom Blaster Dragon. The difference being that Gancelot does not carry the same incentive with him that the Blaster Dragon does; for a counterblast 4 Gancelot can give himself 19000 power +2 Critical, while the Blaster Dragon can gain for the same CB reach 30000 power +2 critical. Gancelot is much easier to defend against, his skill is more conditional, and his clan is already so expensive in terms of counterblasts that this type of attack is inadvisable unless one is absolutely certain that the opponent cannot defend against it. For the most part, Bors already achieves the same effect on the opponent's hand, but as a rearguard for a measly counterblast 1. However, Gancelot could be thought of as "training" for learning to use Phantom Blaster and Majesty Lord.

The Solitary Knight's highly inoffensive power also makes him difficult to protect. Against 20000-power columns, Gancelot requires a minimum of two cards to defend against already. When the opponent starts really powering up with Holy Charging Roar or Damned Charging Lance, this problem only advances.

Sadly, Stardrive Dragon carries even less offensive use than Gancelot. Being a difficult to obtain promotional card, it is rather lackluster considering its rarity, as it's a 10000-power unit without a skill. It can easily sub in for some of the more difficult-to-obtain cards presented in the Brigitte build above, and most likely will if you participated in a workshop where Stardrive was given out since Alfred it is RRR, but is otherwise fuel for Lake Maiden, Lien. There is no such thing as a useless card--if you love it, Star Drive Dragon can be a great card for you. However, it will require a perfectly built deck of support to keep working, and so there is little reason to use it outside of playing favorites.

Alfred is where things heat up for the Paladins. As a vanguard he cannot be boosted, but gains +2000 power for each Royal Paladin rearguard. This, combined with his innate ability to swarm the field using a counterblast 3, and the general ability of other Royal Paladin units to call out their allies, makes his vanguard effect solid and easy to fill. Strangely, I've never seen this combined with a double Barcgal build, chiefly because people act as though it's a criminal act to include more than 1 nontrigger grade 0 in a deck. 

In a x2 Barcgal setup, once riding Alfred you would CB3 to superior call the second Barcgal behind him, whom you would then rest to superior call Flogal. That's an immediate +4000 power boost, and two less units that need to be called from the hand to fill Alfred's power. Since stand triggers are of dubious utility to Royals, particularly during the damage step, it makes sense to bring out Flogal over Llew as a free booster--while she won't be bringing anyone over the absolute borderline, this build is going for cheap rather than earth-shaking. Come BT03, this strategy isn't of particular effect due to cards like Still Vampir being around, but the reasoning behind it is still worth consideration.

While his real strengths are brought out by BT02 with cards like Gigantic Charger and High Dog Breeder Akane, those cards are best dealt with in their own articles. For now, consider that unlike Brigitte and Gancelot, Alfred has use as both a vanguard and rearguard, since his ability to superior call is present regardless of which circle he is brought into. And if called as a rearguard, Alfred can be boosted, by Lionmane Stallion, up into a full 20000-power unit for a soulblast 1.

The Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin tends to be outshone by his more unique contemporaries, but as the clan megablaster he shouldn't be underestimated. His soulcharge autoskill will tune up the Royal Paladins from BT02 and BT03 to be highly consistent. The same skill also gives him +2000 power, which with Marron will let him stand just at the 20000 borderline, and his megablast(soulblast 8 counterblast 5) retires all of the opponent's rearguards when his attack hits, placing heavy pressure on the opponent to willingly sacrifice their hand. Since his megablast works as both a vanguard and rearguard, Lohengrin carries the same basic level of utility as the King of Knights.

Closing this update is the promo vanguard, Alfred Early. This I would rank as one of the most underappreciated cards. His skill is twofold, simultaneously superior calling Blaster Blade from the soul while allowing a reuse or first use of Blade's skill. While Early does not have nearly the same level of use as his King of Knights counterpart, his skill is also without cost and can potentially thin the enemy's field. Furthermore, it mitigates the loss to one's hand made when riding, by adding a card to the field. In this way, the cardfighter running Early has played two cards for the price of one, and in particular if Blaster Blade was superior ridden through Llew's skill, then this is the second time that their ride was "costless," since the gain negated the loss. Functionally, all this is comparable to adding cards to one's hand.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Official Gold Paladin Translation Leaked

As seen at right, the unit that has given so many fan translators trouble is being officially named Blond Eisele. Eisele is from a short form of the name Isenhart, an Old High German surname that draws its roots back to the words for "iron" and "hardy" or "strong." This confirms the connection previously speculated on between Blond Eisele and Arthurian myth. In Le Morte D'Arthur, Sir Ironside was an antagonistic character who was persuaded by Gareth to join the Knights of the Round Table, a character connected by allegory to Vanguard's Knight of Fine Skill, Gareth. Ironside was also known as the Red Knight, just as Eisele is known as the Burning Lion and the grade 0 associated with him is the Crimson Little Lion, Cliff.

Followup: Ohio Walmart Selling Cardfight!! Vanguard, Toys R Us Confirmed

The photo at left was taken from inside a Walmart store in Cincinnati, Ohio, confirming that Cardfight!! Vanguard has spread into the midwestern United States. Combined with the previous information established regarding where the game is being stocked, and recent sightings in Georgia, Vanguard's territory now encompasses at least six of the fifty states. As Ohio is the first confirmed location to not be a border state, this suggest that the game has a much larger presence than can be reasonably estimated from the current information.

These packs are retailing for $3.98 apiece, a dollar more than most retailers would sell the cards for. However, as Walmart is not in the business of selling singles, they do not as some suppliers do, weigh their boxes beforehand in order to keep RRR and SP rarity cards out of their customers' hands and on the shelves.

Furthermore, a source whom will remain anonymous to protect their privacy has recently confirmed that a Toys R Us in Cerritos, California was seen selling Cardfight!! Vanguard booster packs individually for $4.99. Neither of these stores have been confirmed as stocking the second booster set or trial decks.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Episode Guide: Asia Circuit, Ride 67: Activate! Limit Break!

Fight Analysis
Sendou Aichi vs Kai Toshiki

The fight opens on Kai's turn, riding from Lizard Soldier, Sisin (6000) to Red River Dragoon (8000).

The turn passes to Aichi. He opens with Prairie Wind, Sagramore (6000) riding into Vanquishing Swordsman, Hougang (7000) then calling Whirlwind of the Cliffside, Sagramore (6000) as his support, and the Knight of Fine Skill, Gareth (8000) as a rearguard attacker. Hougang (13000) drive checks Chargegal, Kai damage checks Lightning Stone Jinn. Sagramore's skill activates, and Aichi drops Chargegal to draw one card. Gareth goes unguarded, and Kai damage checks Thunder of Hope, Helena.

Kai rides Thunder Storm Dragoon (10000), calling Gale Thunderclap Jinn (8000) and Bright Jet Dragon (8000). Bright Jet gains +3000 power while attacking via his skill. Aichi damage checks Slaygal Sword. Thunder Storm Dragoon (10000) drive checks Lizard Soldier, Riki. Aichi damage checks Assaulting Chariot Knight. Gale Thunderclap is guarded with Blessing Owl.

Aichi rides the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman. Gareth moves to the back rearguard, and Sendou calls Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemea Lion (8000) in front of Gareth. Nemea (16000) is guarded by Wind Marquis Boy, Hayate (S20000). Bohman (16000) goes unguarded, and Kai damage checks Old Dragon Mage (DT +5000 Draw 1), applying the power to Dragoon and drawing one card.

Kai rides Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion (11000), calling Lizard Soldier, Riki (7000) to support Vermillion. Bright Jet is guarded by Whirlwind of the Cliffside, Sagramore (S20000). Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion (18000) twin drives into Red River Dragoon and Yellow Gem Carbuncle (CT +5000 +1 Critical), giving the power to his Jinn and the critical to Kaiser. Aichi damage checks Storm of the Battlefield, Sagramore and Fortune Bell (ST +5000 Stand 1), standing Nemea and giving the power to Bohman (15000). Gale Thunderclap Jinn attacks and gains +2000 power through its skill (15000). Aichi damage checks the Vanquishing Knight, Hougang.

Aichi rides the Storm of the Battlefield, Sagramore (10000), calling Slaygal Sword (9000) to his right with Elixir Sommelier (5000) as its support. Aichi counterblasts 4 for Slaygal Sword's skill, four times over; because he controls at least 4 Gold Paladin units, Sword gains +2000 power four times. Slaygal Sword (22000) attacks, Kai damage checks Thunder Break Dragon. Sagramore (16000) is guarded by Yellow Gem Carbuncle and Wyvern Transport Corps (S26000). He twin drives Knight of Fine Skill, Gareth and Silent Punisher (CT +5000 +1 Critical). Aichi gives all effects to Nemea (15000 +1 Critical). Nemea (21000 +1 Critical) is guarded by Old Dragon Mage and Red River Dragoon, as well as Bright Jet's intercept (S26000).

Kai calls Lightning Stone Jinn (7000) to the back and calls Plasma Bite Dragon (10000) in front of it. For Kaiser Vermillion, he limit breaks 4, counterblasts 3 for +2000 power. Vermillion attacks all of Aichi's frontline units, twin driving into Shield Blade Dragoon and Thunder Storm Dragoon. Sendou damage checks Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemea Lion.

Kai's victory. 

Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.

Story Synopsis: The day begins with Emi waking Aichi up as normal, albeit in her new outfit. Appearing drained and unenthusiastic, Aichi mulls over his new Gold Paladin deck, Garmall in particular. Disappointed that his deck is really gone, Sendou skips breakfast and walks to Card Capital--but, pausing at the door, heads for the park (the same one seen in rides 2 and 33) instead. Like in previous episodes, Kai finds him here, but when shown Sendou's new deck, he merely asks what's wrong with it. Like the rest of the cast, Kai has no memory of Aichi ever using a different clan.

Looking at Kai's deck, Aichi is shocked to find that it's not his friend's Kagerou deck, but a Narukami deck. Aichi asks if Kai remembers using a different clan--but Kai denies this, stating that this has always been his deck. Still, he appears to feel ambiguous about what he's remembering, and the two go to a nearby stage to cardfight.

In their battle Kai's old memories briefly resurface. When Aichi rides the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman, he anticipates Blaster Blade instead of Bohman, and recalls the unit's visual appearance as Aichi's avatar. However, this does not last, and Kai ultimately cannot recall the Royal Paladins. Insisting that Sendou needs to consider his own limits, Kai calls final turn on the boy and brings out Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion's limit break to finish their fight.

As it draws to a close, the screen at their backs lights up, and none other than Tatsunagi Takuto appears to advertise the upcoming Vanguard Fight Circuit in Singapore. Aichi pleads with Toshiki to remember, but Kai walks away from him, unable to remember the past Sendou is recalling, and saying that Sendou should find his own path to Takuto as Kai is finding his. Ride 67 ends with Aichi at Card Capital, learning that Team Q4 has received a formal invitation to the VF Circuit.

(In the event that the viewer is unaware of Singapore's location, the anime helpfully points it out)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Winning Image: Nova Grappler (BT01)

Nova Grappler
Options: Asura Kaiser, Mr. Invincible
Review: The Nova Grapplers are not a lackluster clan. The difficulty involved with them is their lack of cards rather than the utility or power behind any particular unit. For a Grappler cardfighter, the main problem is being overwhelmed by extremely good cards that nonetheless have no place in their particular build.

This is evident right from their debut set, where Asura Kaiser introduces himself as an unrelenting stand engine. Although his primary skill is only active in the vanguard circle, the army backing Kaiser's title is his 11000 power. Because in vanguard, only units of greater than or equal to power than their target can successfully retire or damage a given unit on attack, this 11000 power makes the Kaiser virtually invincible in straightforward battle. If the opponent calls a boosting unit to help retire a rearguard Kaiser, then the opponent has just used two units to eliminate 1--wearing their hand down. Furthermore, 11000-power units have an inherent advantage in every circle concerning how easy it is to shield them from attacks. If a 20000-power column attacks the Kaiser, it takes a single critical trigger or especial intercept from NGM Prototype to block their attack, versus the critical and draw that 10000-power vanguards require. This protects the hand and firmly cements Kaiser as the throne of the Nova Grapplers.

Following on his heels is Mr. Invincible, this clan's other old standby. Although Amaterasu precedes him in the setlist, many consider Invincible the originator of the megablast strategy because of his unique skill setup. Invincible is not just the crown of the Grappler throne, but a prized unit in many mixed builds both for his ability to unflip damage via soulcharge and his counterblast 5 soulblast 8 megablast skill. This skill, standing all rearguards, makes Invincible dangerous to combat even when unboosted, as his skill will still activate as long as his attack connects, regardless of whether that attack was on the vanguard or rearguard. While the Nova Grapplers lack the same amount of dedicated soulcharging as Oracle Think Tank and the Royal Paladins, Invincible's skill is not the most difficult to pull off and oftentimes the threat of it precedes its use in importance.

Unlike with some other clans, both of these cards have an immediate use in the vanguard and rearguard. Their skills combo well--using Kaiser's skill to stand an Invincible that has already attacked is only going to give the opponent their worst day--and their disadvantages are tuned just so that a pure Nova fighter won't even need to consider them. It's more of a challenge to find a Nova deck that these two can't bring a strong image to.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

News: Cardfight!! Vanguard Novel Announced

Licensed by Bushiroad and published by Tokyo-based company Kadokawa Shoten, a Cardfight!! Vanguard novel has been announced. The author is Bandana Aoi (番棚葵), who is like many names for Cardfight, a fresh face in his field. According to his blog, he was born on October 24th. The novel will be in paperback form.

The novel is to follow Sendou Aichi as he meets a new character, Hamane Hiro (浜音ヒロ). Like the Aichi of years past, Hiro is a lonely boy and a newcomer to Vanguard. Sendou reaches out to teach him the fun of Vanguard. Worth noting, Hiro's surname contains the kanji for beach and sound.

"Cardfight!! Vanguard" will be available on Japanese shelves on May 15th, 2012. It will retail for 714 yen, about equal to $9. The book's ISBN is 978-4-04-631239-6-C8293.


Update: The author's name is Bandana Aoi, not Hatana Mamoru as previously stated. Furthermore, Hamao Hiro is actually Hamane Hiro. The confusion stems from the possible readings of their kanji. Bandana Aoi appears to be a pseudonym.

Followup: Major League Baseball Advertises Cardfight!! Vanguard

(A Nico Nico Douga account is required to watch the video)
Following the events of Game Set's previous article, it appears that the President and CEO of Bushiroad, Mr. Kidani Takaaki, made an appearance at this Texas Rangers game to throw the first pitch. Leaving his business suit behind for a baseball jersey, Mr. Kidani proved surprisingly comfortable out in the field;

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Episode Guide: Asia Circuit, Ride 66: Gold Paladin

Fight Analysis 
Tatsunagi Takuto vs Kai Toshiki
The scene opens on Kai's turn; both he and Takuto are at grade 2, Kai as Nehalem (10000) and Takuto the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman (10000). Kai rides Dragonic Overlord (11000) but whatever moves he makes on this turn are repelled. Takuto proceeds to ride an unseen grade 3, ending the fight.

Tatsunagi Takuto vs Sendou Aichi
This fight starts on Takuto's turn. He opens with Prairie Wind, Sagramore (6000) and rides the Knight of Fine Play, Gareth (8000) before passing the turn over to Aichi.

Sendou opens his own turn with Wingal Brave (5000). He rides the Little Sage Marron (8000); Brave's skill calls it to the back rearguard circle to Marron's left. Sendou calls the Knight of Friendship, Kay (7000) who with Wingal's boost (12000) attacks Gareth. Takuto damage checks Vanquishing Swordsman, Hougang. Marron drive checks the Lake Maiden, Lien, and Takuto damage checks Slaygal Sword.

Tatsunagi rides the Knight of Divine Skill, Bohman (10000) and calls Guardian Holy Beast, Nemea Lion (8000). Bohman drive checks Silent Punisher (CT +5000 +1 Critical) giving the critical to Bohman and the power to his Lion. Aichi damage checks Solitary Knight, Gancelot and Blaster Dark. Nemea Lion (13000) attacks but is guarded by Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine (S18000).

Back to Aichi. Sendou rides Blaster Blade (9000) and counterblasts 2 to retire Nemea Lion, then calls Lien for Blaster's support. Blaster Blade attacks (16000) and drive checks the Bringer of Good Luck, Epona (CT +5000 +1 Critical) giving the critical to Blaster Blade and the power to Kay. Takuto damage checks Assaulting Chariot Knight and Blessing Owl. Boosted by Brave, Kay attacks, using his own skill to gain +3000 power (20000); Takuto guards with Weapons Dealer, Gwydion and Silent Punisher (S25000).

Takuto rides Great Silver Wolf, Garmall (10000) and activates his limit break (4). The fight ends prematurely.

Spoiler warning: Asia Circuit details follow.

Story Synopsis:  The episode opens with a fight between Kai Toshiki and Tatsunagi Takuto. However, it ends when Takuto rides his grade 3 unit, and Kai's Kagerou deck is transformed into a Narukami deck.

Later at Card Capital, Aichi encounters Takuto as well. Tatsunagi introduces himself as a first-time player with a Gold Paladin deck. Having just settled back into his normal routine after coming home the national champion, Aichi offers to teach Takuto the rules. Takuto, wielding the new limit-breaking clan, passes off Sendou's play style as "old."

As their fight goes on Aichi is drawn by Takuto into a vision of the planet Cray, where he witnesses firsthand the sealing of the Shadow Paladins, Royal Paladins and Kagerou clans. When Sendou awakens, he finds himself in a strange alternate timeline; his Royal Paladin deck has been replaced by a Gold Paladin deck, Takuto is nowhere in sight, and his friends are convinced that Aichi has always used a Gold Paladin deck. Unsure of what to do, the episode closes with Sendou overwhelmed by this strange turn of events.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

News: Walmart Now Selling Cardfight!! Vanguard, Site Updates

Various Walmart stores throughout New Jersey, Maryland and southern California have been sporadically confirmed as stocking the Cardfight!! Vanguard trading card game. Other general purpose stores, such as Target, Meijer, and even professional toy chains like Toys R Us have been slow on this uptake.

Regarding site maintenance, I've been repairing some broken links so that they direct to the correct pages. Inserting the proper changes to make the character pages up to date is difficult to work the time in for; you've probably noticed by now that the pages are updated from top to bottom, with articles higher up on the list getting priority first. While I've made some immediate exceptions for the Foo Fighters and most decklists, the general priority goes from Aichi reading down. This is why Sendou's article is always the most up to date one.

We've been tackling some difficult material in my classes lately, so I don't have as much time for the blog. Don't worry--this is the same type of hiccup that happened around finals week. Game Set isn't going anywhere.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spotlight: Kagami Takuya/鏡味拓也

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

Kagami is on the left, between Daigo and Shitakawachi; his trophy is masked by his certification.
Kagami Takuya/鏡味拓也
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Nagoya Regional Champion (Senior Class), National Finalist Third Place (Japan, Senior Class)
Current Status: National Finalist Third Place (Summer 2011)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Alfred-SSD-Bors)

Kagami made his debut in the Nagoya finals, being the only national finalist to have not faced a pure Royal Paladin deck in his regional. His competition, Kamachi Yutaka, used a mix of Royal Paladin, Oracle Think Tank and Bermuda Triangle cards. She used draw power in an attempt to close the difference between her and her opponent's more expensive deck. However, Kagami's deck was more fluid and its synergy eventually saw him to Japan's first national tournament, where he would take third place after his loss to Shitakawachi.

He is not known to have participated in the Grand Prix.

Decks and Play Style
Kagami's decks are regarded as being very cut and dry Royal Paladin, always giving precedence to Alfred with Soul Saver support. For the regional, his choices in cards were very practical and made in light of what had been known to work at the time, as Nagoya was the sixth regional to be completed, running behind the two Tokyo blocks for the last spot. Gordon's especial intercept is used for defense, Randolf to make unboosted attacks on 11000-power units, Soul Guiding Elf and Marron to boost Bors, Pongal to search Soul Saver Dragon, and Barcgal to superior ride.

Nagoya 2011 Regional Tournament, Nagoya Seniors Division
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
x4 Pongal
x2 Soul Guiding Elf
Grade 2
x2 Blaster Blade
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x2 Covenant Knight, Randolf
x3 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x2 Soul Saver Dragon
x2 Knight of Conviction, Bors

Kagami made only a few changes to his decklist for the national, introducing Lien while cutting Randolf and Soul Guiding Elf. Notably, the deck is identical in every way to Shitakawachi's save for card ratios; the determining factor in their fight was how many of each card the national champion chose to use.
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
x2 Little Sage, Marron
x4 Lake Maiden, Lien
x4 Pongal
Grade 2
x3 Blaster Blade
x4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x4 Knight of Truth, Gordon
Grade 3
x4 King of Knights, Alfred
x3 Soul Saver Dragon
x1 Knight of Conviction, Bors

Monday, April 2, 2012

Term: PSY Qualia

"I hear the voice of the cards!"
-- Suzugamori Ren1
"When a cat knows a mouse can't get away, it lets it do what it wants for a while."
-- Miwa Taishi2

PSY Qualia is a state of amplified cognitive function that improves an individual's intuition and perception.3 While its effects are varied between individuals, the most common characteristic are a state of overconfidence and an ability to "see" one's victory in a Vanguard fight ahead of time. Both in the anime and manga, PSY Qualia is the root driving force behind Cardfight!! Vanguard's conflicts.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 details follow.

PSY Qualia comes from a combination of terms; "Psy" from the Greek word psychikos ("of the mind") and the Latin term qualia, meaning "what sort" or "what kind." Qualia (singular quale) is used to describe subjective conscious feelings. An example of a quale is the sensation of looking at a color.

As qualia is a plural term, PSY Qualia can be taken as a description of many feelings, such as the voices that lead its user through battle. PSY Qualia are then "feelings of the mind."

In chapter 10 of the manga Tetsu gives the formal spelling of PSY Qualia, PSYクオリア(Romaji; PSY kuoria.)3 This spelling is agreed with by how the anime presents the card shop PSY's logo on its sign.

Individuals identified with Qualia are shown to experience periods of emotional high during their Vanguard fights, where they become extremely competent regardless of individual skill, and do not need to think their moves out ahead of time. According to both Suzugamori Ren and Sendou Aichi, a user can "hear" their cards speaking to them, showing them how to defeat their opponents. In the manga Tetsu defines this as "perceive[ing] the relationships between the inhabitants of the Planet Cray [...] depicted on [the] cards."3

As shown in ride 23, those with even very underdeveloped PSY Qualia can sense other Qualia bearers, and for Sendou this is physically painful.

Early encounters with Qualia are typically described as hearing a voice from Vanguard cards, a form of paracusia comparable to schizophrenia or mania. Afflicted persons tend to see their cards "fly" before them.1

Though often described as a "power," PSY Qualia more closely resembles an acute psychosis.

Side Effects
Prolonged use of PSY Qualia is shown to end in severe withdrawal symptoms. In rides 41, 42 and 45 Sendou Aichi collapsed after overextending himself while fighting with Qualia, and in the latter half of his match with Bidou Kiriya he demonstrates severe addiction to it. This addiction is expanded on by Suzugamori Ren in ride 43, where he states that Sendou will eventually be so drunk in power that he will be unable to fight without Qualia's support.

Although he does not suffer these particular effects today, in ride 40's brief flashback Ren was shown to have fainted at least once from post-Qualia sickness.

Qualia's hold over its wielder can be intensified by emotional need. Through rides 43 up to 50 Sendou becomes gradually consumed by his desire for Kai Toshiki's recognition, ignoring Bidou's pleas for mercy while thinking only of growing stronger. This hold is extremely difficult to break, and promotes further use of the power.

In rides 63-65 Ren undergoes a progressive degeneration in sanity, contorting his facial features beyond the limits of human muscle structure, and in these episodes as well as the past of ride 47, begins to make increasingly delusional comments. He states a desire to expand Foo Fighter to overseas regions, believing it to be "simplicity itself" in using his power to do so, earlier stated as "taking over the world." Ren follows this by saying that "all people will fall on their knees before my power." Suzugamori also accuses Tetsu of being unjustly afraid of PSY Qualia, and torments him with a vision of Phantom Blaster Overlord as punishment.

During his final match with Aichi, Ren expresses phantom limb-type feelings, that he swung a sword while standing perfectly still and that abstract power fills his body when it does his Overlord. Unlike in his previous use of Qualia as a torture mechanism, Suzugamori appears to have felt either purely hallucinogenic side effects, or the end result of Cray's synchronization with Earth.

True Purpose
Revealed by "Him" in ride 64, PSY Qualia's true purpose is to synchronize events on Earth with events on the planet Cray. Individuals compatible with the power are selected and aligned to conflicting sides, so that when one aligned side on Cray falls, so will the human fighter; more importantly, the reverse is also true. It is because of this that Aichi and Ren were given their power, to resolve the battle between the Royal and Shadow Paladins. "He" also states that PSY Qualia was previously foretold in Cray's legends, suggesting that there have been bearers before these two.

Following the resolution of this conflict in 65, Aichi states that he can no longer feel the presence of--and presumably, cannot access any longer--PSY Qualia. This is possibly attributed to Cray no longer requiring Earth's synchronization, as their war was already over by that time.

In the Japanese language track of Vanguard's first season finale, Sendou uses "もう一人の僕 mou hitori no boku" to describe himself in a state of PSY Qualia. This is a phrase originated by Yu-Gi-Oh!, a 1990s manga series for which Vanguard's primary creator, Ito Akira, originally worked on as an understudy to Takahashi Kazuki. Commonly translated as "the other me," the phrasing in the original text was used to differentiate Mutou Yugi from the nameless spirit that would possess him in card duels. While it was used fondly in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Ito's use of it in Vanguard lends credence to the idea of PSY Qualia as a criticism of the "other me," as Sendou's persona under PSY Qualia is a vicious, power-hungry individual. While Aichi ultimately accepts this other side of himself as a fault that he was running away from, what Vanguard has already established of Qualia continues to stand, and he himself does not continue fight with PSY Qualia after accepting this self.

Notable Individuals
Suzugamori Ren -- Chronologically, the first afflicted with PSY Qualia, and the first to be shown on-screen. Ren has been known to foresee the outcome of fights, send others into a hallucinatory state, torture the defeated with sourceless pain and glimpse up to several hours into the future.

Sendou Aichi -- The second afflicted person, Sendou first felt his power in ride 22, and began to utilize it fully starting in 34. Like Ren, Aichi has used his power to foresee his victory and induce hallucinations, but perhaps due to its relatively undeveloped nature, he has not actively used it outside of cardfights. Unlike Ren, Aichi's Qualia develops into an entirely separate personality over time, and this becomes a source of guilt for him late in the first season.

Shinjou Tetsu -- The first person known to have PSY Qualia used on him, by Ren. Tetsu is afraid of Suzugamori's Qualia. In the manga, he suggests himself to also be afflicted.

Suiko -- Highly implied though not outright confirmed to have PSY Qualia. Suiko is able to sense individuals possessing PSY Qualia or the people for it, as well as Misaki's photographic memory, and in ride 40 she recalls a vision of Cray that only Aichi was a witness to. In the manga, it was Suiko who first hooked Ren on the power.

Citations and External Links
1. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 57. Crunchyroll, 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
2. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 48. Crunchyroll, 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
3. Ito, Akira. Cardfight!! Vanguard Volume 2. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2011. N. pag. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. 
4. Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride 57. Crunchyroll, 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.