English Dub Season Review: Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress Season One

 

Overview: Up and coming cardplayer, Yu-yu Kondo (James Higuchi), develops a love for the competitive game of Vanguard. With the help of Danji (Josh Meredith) and his other newfound friends and teammates, Megumi (Lily Ki), Zakusa (Hans Wackershauser) and Tomari (Brianna Johnston), Yu-yu cultivates his skills and forges new relationships. 

Our Take: Card game based series have been off my radar for quite some time and have not really been there since my casual liking of Yu-Gi-Oh back in the early 2000’s when it would air on Kids’ WB. And in a lot of ways Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress feels like a blast from a pizza bagel and Mario Kart: Double Dash filled past. However, like your uncle pulling out an old funky colored Hawaiian shirt from the attic, dated issues are dredged up along with it that should have remained in a bygone era. 

Although it lives in the past in some respects, the most progressive aspect of the show lies in how it treats its characters. The show’s shaggy blue-haired leading man, Yu-yu Kondo, in the beginning of the series, finds himself in the position of crossdressing, much to his chagrin. One of the later antagonists, Shinobu, is a boy that projects a feminine energy and some clothes and accessories he wears, while Yu-yu’s mentor/friend, Danji, enjoys coddling Kondo and was enticed by Yu-yu while he was dressed as a girl. Even Megumi, one of Danji’s best friends who secretly has feelings for him, believed there to be a romantic relationship between the two. Then there’s Zakusa, a member of Yu-yu’s Vanguard team, who is, as long as you don’t piss him off, an elegant and poised man who enjoys painting. The one throughline with all of them being how all of it is accepted as a natural quality of people nor are these facets of their personality pointed out aggressively and are the entire extent of who they are as characters. The varying types of male portrayals and beliefs are forward-thinking and positively refreshing.  

The star player, Yu-yu, along with his friends in Team Blackout are mostly decently likable. Yu-yu is a shy kid who has a knack for Vanguard and slowly but surely starts to develop a love for it and become comfortable with his newfound friends and teammates. While it can be melodramatic in the beginning, seeing his passion and friendships build over time is one of his charming traits. Danji, the big brother of Team Blackout and teacher to Yu-yu, is encouraging and kind to all. Zakusa is mature and dignified but can quickly transition to fun as a hell to watch when his old thug persona rears its ugly head. Tomari is the strong and dominant type which is both attractive and scary. There are also a few characters that are excellently developed with more sincerity and dealt with the utmost gravity such as an frenemy Tohya, and his personal trauma that influences what is right vs what he wants. Or friend and team member, Megumi, who was once close with her older brother dealing with a fractured and distant relationship. With that being said, even those few critical character cultivations, unfortunately, transition into being mediocre and generic at times that range from being underdeveloped to formulaic to nonsensical or even all of the above that can make all of it feel like a childish endeavor. Also there is a severe lack of other central characters getting their due limelight and complex storylines, such as Danji, Yu-yu (the main freaking character), Zakusa, and Tomari. 

Three animation studios between themselves are in charge of animation in that of Kinema Citrus, GIFTAnimation and Studio Jemi. These are all brand new names to me as far as studios go and my first impressions of them are nothing short of great in the fights that are present. Put simply, they are short but sweet scenes that generally act as the bookend for card fight matches and whenever one occurs it’s always something special with bright colors that blaze and burst off the screen and the crazy designs that have these slick mech fantasy styles to them. Unfortunately though they are far and few between with long dry spouts without any well-animated bouts, or even any in general, with many matches just ending abruptly and jarringly anticlimactic. Although at least the elegant designs by Clamp give us some pretty people to look at softening the blow even if just a little

The issues don’t end with the stale animation, though, like a quality 4kids dub, there are plenty of battle cries and lines that sound like Joel Schumacher rejects. And the English cast is solid across the board but can only do so much with such cheesy and melodramatic script at times. Outside of the main cast, the side characters in Team Blackout are merely here to pad out the group in numbers and are so forgettable that I can’t remember any of their names at the top of my head. And worse, as someone who is a newcomer to the Cardfight!! Vanguard franchise, no attempt is ever made to explain the rules and card types to people like myself. It left me scratching my head constantly and reduced to always going, “Ooo look at all the pretty colors,” or “Damn that was a rad fight.” 

Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress is the equivalent to a cup of noodles on a Friday night. It may not be the most tastefully exciting and at this point you have had it a million times, but it comes through in a pinch with just enough warmth and salty delight. The core characters are never fully utilized or even developed, and even the few that are more so, leave much to be desired in their execution. Bold and modern portrayals are much appreciated but contrarily has features dated writing. But at the end of the day, the sporadically bombastic battles throughout, fun personalities as well as potential for more in-depth character building make this an enjoyable side diversion, even if just for a little while. 

Michael Triay

Gifted with the ability to always watch the next episode, to always the beat the next level, and to always read the next chapter and only requiring coffee and some Persona soundtracks on repeat.

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