Cardfight!! Vanguard (vols. 1-2) by Akira Itou, translated by Satsuki Yamashita and Shizuki Yamashita
So I’m feeling especially last-century today … until now, I’d never heard of cardfighting, or public venues devoted to such. I thought the whole kiddie gaming industry had gone 110% digital and virtual, but how refreshing to learn that kids somewhere actually gather in person to play games which still require paper! The whole arena seems a bit like a retro throwback! Whoo hooo! Yes, I’m showing my age!
Okay, so surprise aside, I seem to have also stumbled on a whole empire here. In addition to this new-in-English-translation manga series that debuted Stateside this year, Cardfight!! Vanguard is already a massive media franchise that includes a multi-season anime series, official trading card game (each manga volume comes with a limited edition playing card!), and live-action film. Being a leftover Luddite, my superpower has to do with reading without a screen (or stuck in the ears, when possible) … and based on the first two volumes, the manga is empowering entertainment indeed.
Young Aichi Sendou isn’t a kid who stands out. Except maybe when he’s disheveled and cowering, trying desperately not to get noticed again. But when the class bully, Morikawa, steals a certain special possession – a valuable playing card given to Aichi by Kai, one of the coolest kids ever – Aichi’s fighting spirit is finally released. He follows Morikawa to the neighborhood card shop, Card Capital, where the name of the game is Vanguard. Shocking all the kids there, Aichi loudly demands what’s his. Although he’s never tried cardfighting before, he proves to be a natural, begrudgingly guided by top fighter Kai.
By volume 2, Aichi is a respected member of the Card Capital regulars. Although still the Vanguard newbie, he’s turning out to be quite the master player; meanwhile his quiet prowess is winning him friends – and rivals, both. When his after-school haven is threatened by the Foo Fighters – a rough gang of players who take Vanguard to a violent, painful level – Aichi won’t let his new friends be bullied.
I must admit that in spite of the English translation, I still felt a bit as if I was reading in a foreign language. That said, for younger brains able to learn new tricks, volume 1 offers an extensive “Play Guide” with an encouraging “You’ll enjoy the manga more when you learn the rules!!” To that end, unless you’re already familiar with Vanguard-by-other-means, might I suggest starting at the end and reading the guide before embarking on the fast-moving adventures. Knowing the basic moves will surely be to your advantage, then “Stand up, the Vanguard!” and let the games begin!
Readers: Middle Grade
Published: 2011, 2013 (Japan), 2014 (United States)